was an obscure
shamanqueen of Yamataikokuin ancient Wa (Japan). Early Chinese dynastic Twenty-Four Historieschronicle tributary relations between Queen Himiko and the Cao WeiKingdom (220-265 AD), and record that the Yayoi periodpeople chose her as ruler following decades of warfare among the kings of Wa. Early Japanese histories do not mention Himiko, but historians associate her with legendary figures such as Empress Consort Jingū, who was Regent (ca. 200-269 AD) in roughly the same era as Himiko. Scholarly debates over the identity of Himiko and the location of her domain Yamatai have raged since the late Edo period, with opinions divided between northern Kyūshūor traditional Yamato provincein present-day Kinki. "The Yamatai controversy", writes Keiji Imamura (1996:188), is "the greatest debate over the ancient history of Japan."
The shaman Queen Himiko is recorded in various ancient histories, dating back to 3rd century CE China, 8th century Japan, and 12th century Korea.
The first historical records of Himiko are found in a
Chinese classic text, the ca. 297 CE " Records of Three Kingdoms" ("Sanguo Zhi" 三國志). Its "Records of Wei" ("Wei Zhi" 魏志), which covers the Cao Weikingdom (220-265 CE) history, has a "Worenchuan" (倭人傳 "Account of the Wa People", Japanese "Wajinden" 倭人伝) section with the oldest description of Himiko (or Pimiko 卑彌呼) and Yamatai.
The people of Wa [倭人] dwell in the middle of the ocean on the mountainous islands southeast of [the prefecture of] Tai-fang. They formerly comprised more than one hundred communities. During the Han dynasty, [Wa envoys] appeared at the Court; today, thirty of their communities maintain intercourse [with us] through envoys and scribes. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:8)This early history describes how Himiko came to the throne.
The country formerly had a man as ruler. For some seventy or eighty years after that there were disturbances and warfare. Thereupon the people agreed upon a woman for their ruler. Her name was Pimiko [卑彌呼] . She occupied herself with magic and sorcery, bewitching the people. Though mature in age, she remained unmarried. She had a younger brother who assisted her in ruling the country. After she became the ruler, there were few who saw her. She had one thousand women as attendants, but only one man. He served her food and drink and acted as a medium of communication. She resided in a palace surrounded by towers and stockades, with armed guards in a state of constant vigilance. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:13)The "Records of Wei" also records envoys travelling between the Wa and Wei courts. Himiko's emissaries first visited the court of Wei emperor
Cao Ruiin 238, and he replied.
Herein we address Pimiko, Queen of Wa, whom we now officially call a friend of Wei. [… Your envoys] have arrived here with your tribute, consisting of four male slaves and six female slaves, together with two pieces of cloth with designs, each twenty feet in length. You live very far away across the sea; yet you have sent an embassy with tribute. Your loyalty and filial piety we appreciate exceedingly. We confer upon you, therefore, the title "Queen of Wa Friendly to Wei," together with the decoration of the gold seal with purple ribbon. The latter, properly encased, is to be sent to you through the Governor. We expect you, O Queen, to rule your people in peace and to endeavor to be devoted and obedient. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:14)Finally, the "Records of Wei" (tr. Tsunoda 1951:15) records that in 247 when a new governor arrived at
Daifang Commanderyin Korea, Queen Pimiko officially complained of hostilities with Pimikukku (卑彌弓呼) the King of Kunu (狗奴, literally "dog slave"). The governor dispatched "Chang Chêng, acting Secretary of the Border Guard" with a "proclamation advising reconciliation", and subsequently,
When Pimiko passed away, a great mound was raised, more than a hundred paces in diameter. Over a hundred male and female attendants followed her to the grave. Then a king was placed on the throne, but the people would not obey him. Assassination and murder followed; more than one thousand were thus slain. A relative of Pimiko named Iyo [壹與] , a girl of thirteen, was [then] made queen and order was restored. Chêng issued a proclamation to the effect that Iyo was the ruler. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:16)Commentators take this "Iyo" (壹與, with "one", an old variant of ) as a miscopy of Toyo (臺與, with "platform; terrace"), paralleling the "Wei Zhi" writing "Yamatai" 邪馬臺 as "Yamaichi" 邪馬壹.
Two other Chinese dynastic histories mentioned Himiko. While both clearly incorporated the above "Wei Zhi" reports, they made some changes, such as specifying the "some seventy or eighty years" of Wa wars occurred between 146 and 189 CE, during the reigns of Han Emperors Huan and Ling. The ca. 432 CE "
Book of Later Han" ("Hou Han Shu" 後漢書) says "The King of Great Wa resides in the country of Yamadai" (tr. Tusnoda 1951:1), rather than the Queen.
During the reigns of Huan-di (147-168) and Ling-di (168-189), the country of Wa was in a state of great confusion, war and conflict raging on all sides. For a number of years, there was no ruler. Then a woman named Pimiko appeared. Remaining unmarried, she occupied herself with magic and sorcery and bewitched the populace. Thereupon they placed her on the throne. She kept one thousand female attendants, but few people saw her. There was only one man who was in charge of her wardrobe and meals and acted as the medium of communication. She resided in a palace surrounded by towers and stockades with the protection of armed guards. The laws and customs were strict and stern. (tr. Tusnoda 1951:2-3)The 636 CE "
Book of Sui" ("Sui Shu" 隋書) changes the number of Himiko's male attendants.
During the reigns of the Emperors Huan and Ling, that country was in great disorder, and there was no ruler for a period of years. [Then] a woman named Pimiko attracted the populace by means of the practice of magic. The country became unified and made her queen. A younger brother assisted Pimiko in the administration of the country. Queen [Pimiko] kept one thousands maids in attendance. Her person was seldom seen. She had only two men [attendants] . They served her food and drink and acted as intermediaries. The Queen lived in a palace, which was surrounded by walls and stockades protected by armed guards; their discipline was extremely strict. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:28-29)
Neither of the two oldest Japanese histories, the ca. 712 CE "
Kojiki" (古事記 "Records of Ancient Matters", tr. Basil Hall Chamberlain1919) and ca. 720 CE " Nihon Shoki" (日本書紀 "Chronicles of Japan", tr. William George Aston1924), mentions Queen Himiko. However, they include three imperial-family shamans identified with her: Yamato-totohi-momoso, the aunt of Emperor Sujin(legendary 10th Japanese emperor, r. 97-30 BCE); Yamatohime-no-mikoto, the daughter of Emperor Suinin(legendary 11th, r. 29 BCE-70 CE); and Empress Jingū(r. ca. 209-269 CE), the wife of Emperor Chūai(legendary 14th emperor, r. 192-200 CE). These dates, however, are not historically verified.
One remarkable exception to early Japanese histories overlooking Himiko is the "Nihon Shoki" quoting the "Wei Zhi" three times. In 239 CE, "the Queen [女王] of Wa" sent envoys to Wei; in 240, they returned "charged with an Imperial rescript and a seal and ribbon"; and in 243, "The Ruler [王 "king"] of Wa again sent high officers as envoys with tribute" (tr. Aston 1924:245-6). It is revealing that the "Nihon Shoki" editors chose to omit the "Wei Zhi" particulars about Himiko.
Yamato-totohi-momoso (倭迹迹日百襲), the shaman aunt of Emperor Sujin, supposedly committed suicide after learning her husband was a trickster snake-god. The "Kojiki" does not mention her, but the "Nihon Shoki" describes her as "the Emperor's aunt by the father's side, a shrewd and intelligent person, who could foresee the future" (tr. Aston 1924:156). After a series of national calamities, the Emperor "assembled the 80 myriads of Deities" and inquired by divination. Yamato-totohi-momoso was inspired by Ōmononushi-nushi ("Great Deity of All Deities and Spirits", tr. Hori 1968:193) to say."Why is the Emperor grieved at the disordered state of the country? If he duly did us reverent worship it would assuredly become pacified of itself." The Emperor inquired, saying: "What God is it that thus instructs me?" The answer was: "I am the God who dwells within the borders of the land of Yamato, and my name is Oho-mono-nushi no Kami." (tr. Aston 1924:152) While imperial worship of this god (from
Mount Miwa) was "without effect", Yamato-totohi-momoso later married him.
After this Yamato-toto-hi-momo-so-bime no Mikoto became the wife of Oho-mono-nushi no Kami. This God, however, was never seen in the day-time, but at night. Yamato-toto-hi-momo-so-bime no Mikoto said to her husband: "As my Lord is never seen in the day-time, I am unable to view his august countenance distinctly; I beseech him therefore to delay a while, that in the morning I may look upon the majesty of his beauty. The Great God answered and said: "What thou sayest is clearly right. To-morrow morning I will enter thy toilet-case and stay there. I pray thee be not alarmed at my form." Yamato-toto-hi-momo-so-bime no Mikoto wondered secretly in her heart at this. Waiting until daybreak, she looked into her toilet-case. There was there a beautiful little snake, of the length and thickness of the cord of a garment. Thereupon she was frightened, and uttered an exclamation. The Great God was ashamed, and changing suddenly into human form, spake to his wife, and said: "Thou didst not contain thyself, but hast caused me shame; I will in my turn put thee to shame." So treading the Great Void, he ascended to Mount Mimoro. Hereupon Yamato-toto-hi-momo-so-bime no Mikoto looked up and had remorse. She flopped down on a seat and with a chopstick stabbed herself in the pudenda so that she died. She was buried at Oho-chi. Therefore the men of that time called her tomb the Hashi no haka [Chopstick Tomb] . (tr. Aston 1924:158-9)The Hashihaka (箸墓 "Chopstick Tomb") Kofun in
Sakurai, Narais associated with this legend.
Yamatohime-no-mikoto (倭姫命), the daughter of Emperor Suinin, supposedly founded the
Ise Shrineto the sun-goddess Amaterasu. The "Kojiki" records her as the fourth of Suinin's five children, "Her Augustness Yamato-hime, (was the high-priestess of the temple of the Great Deity of Ise)" (tr. Chamberlain 1919:227). The "Nihon Shoki" likewise records "Yamato-hime no Mikoto" (tr. Aston 1924:150) and provides more details. The Emperor assigned Yamatohime to find a permanent location for Amaterasu's shrine, and after wandering for years, the sun-goddess instructed her to build it at Ise "where she first descended from Heaven" (tr. Aston 1924:176).
Empress Consort Jingū (or Jingō 神功) supposedly served as Regent after the death of her husband Emperor Chūai (ca. 200 CE) until the accession of her son
Emperor Ōjin(legendary 15th emperor, r. 270-310 CE). The "Kojiki" (Chamberlain 1919:283-332) and "Nihon Shoki" (Aston 1924:217-271) have similar accounts. Emperor Chūai wanted to invade Kumaso, and while he was consulting with his ministers, Jingū conveyed a shamanistic message that he should invade Sillainstead. Compare these.
Her Augustness Princess Okinaga-tarashi, was at that time, divinely possessed … charged him with this instruction and counsel: "There is a land to the Westward, and in that land is abundance of various treasures dazzling to the eye, from gold and silver downwards. I will now bestow this land upon thee." (tr. Chamberlain 1919:284-5).
At this time a certain God inspired the Empress and instructed her, saying: "Why should the Emperor be troubled because the Kumaso do not yield submission? It is a land wanting in backbone. Is it worth while raising an army to attack it? There is a better land than this, a land of treasure, which may be compared to the aspect of a beautiful woman – the land of Mukatsu [Opposite; Across] , dazzling to the eyes. In that land there are gold and silver and bright colours in plenty. It is called the Land of Silla of the coverlet of paper-mulberry. If thou worshippest me aright, the land will assuredly yield submission freely, and the edge of thy sword shall not be all stained with blood." (tr. Aston 1924:221).(The 2005:284 reprint of Chamberlain adds a footnote after "possessed": "Himeko [sic] in the Chinese historical notices of Japan was skilled in magic, with which she deluded the people.") The Emperor thought the gods were lying, said he had only seen ocean to the West, and then died, either immediately ("Kojiki") or after invading Kumaso ("Nihon Shoki"). Jingū allegedly discovered she was pregnant, personally planned and led a successful conquest of Silla, gave birth to the future emperor, and returned to rule Yamato. The "Nihon Shoki" (tr. Aston 1924:225) adds that since Jingū wanted to learn which gods had cursed Chūai, she constructed a shamanic "Palace of worship", "discharged in person the office of priest", and heard the gods reveal themselves as coming from Ise (Amaterasu) and Mukatsu (an unnamed Korean divinity). Although the "Kojiki" and "Nihon Shoki" myth-histories called Jingū first of the
Japanese empresses, Meiji periodhistorians removed her from the List of Emperors of Japan, leaving Empress Suiko(r. 593-628 CE) as the first historically verifiable female Japanese ruler.
The oldest Korean history book, the 1145 "
Samguk Sagi" (三國史記 "Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms") records that Queen Himiko sent an emissaryto King Adalla of Silla in May 172 CE. The veracity of this 2nd-century envoy is uncertain, considering that the "Samguk Sagi" was written ten centuries afterwards.
Interpretations of Himiko
Researchers have struggled to reconcile Himiko/Pimiko between the Chinese and Japanese historical sources above. While the "Wei Zhi" described her as an important ruler in 3rd-century Japan, early Japanese historians purposely avoided naming Himiko, even when the "Nihon Shoki" quoted the "Wei Zhi" about envoys from Wa.
Chinese characters卑彌呼 or 卑弥呼 transcribing the Wa regent's name are read "himiko" or "hibiko" in Modern Japanese and "bēimíhū" or "bìmíhū" in Modern Standard Chinese. However, these contemporary readings differ considerably from how "Himiko" was pronounced in the 3rd century, both by speakers of the unknown Wa-language and by Chinese scribes who transcribed it. While transliteration into Chinese charactersof foreign words is complex, choosing these three particular was puzzling, with literal meanings "low; inferior; humble", (traditional) or (simplified) "fill, cover; full; whole, complete", and "breathe out; exhale; cry out; call".
In terms of
historical Chinese phonology, modern "beimihu" (卑彌呼) is simpler than its presumed 3rd-century late Old Chineseor early Middle Chinesepronunciation. Compare the following reconstructions of the name 卑彌呼 in "Archaic" or "Middle Chinese" ( Bernhard Karlgren, Li Fanggui, and William H. Baxter), "Early Middle Chinese" (Edwin G. Pulleyblank), and, historically closest, "Late Han Chinese" (Axel Schuessler).
*"pjimjiχIPA|ɔ" or "pjiIPA|ə̌mjiIPA|ə̌χIPA|ɔ" (Pulleyblank)
*"piemiehIPA|ɑ" (Schuessler) To simplify without using
IPAsymbols, the first two syllables with "p(j)-" and "m(j)-" initial consonants share "-i(e)" final vowels, and the third has a either a voiceless fricative"X-" or a voicedfricative "h-" plus a back mid vowel"-u(o)". Thus, "Himiko" could be hypothetically reconstructed as *"P(j)i(e)m(j)i(e)hu(o)".
In terms of historical
Japanese phonology, "himiko" would regularly correspond to Old Japanese "*Fimeko". However, Roy Andrew Millersays "*Fimeko" is a lexicographic errorderiving from the "Wei Zhi" transcriptions.
Most perplexing of the entire list is the name of the queen of the Yeh-ma-t'ai community, "Pi-mi-hu", Middle Chinese "pjiIPA|ḙ-mjiIPA|ḙ-χuo". This has traditionally been explained and understood in Japan as a transcription of a supposed Old Japanese form "*Fimeko", said to be an early term meaning "high born woman; princess," and to derive from Old Japanese "Fime" [or "Fi1me1"] (also sometimes "Fimë" ["Fi1me1"] ), a laudatory title for women going with "Fiko" ["Fi1ko1"] for men. Later "Fime" comes to mean "princess," but this meaning is anachronistic for the earlier texts. … The difficulty concerns the supposed Old Japanese word "*Fimeko". Even though such a form has found its way into a few modern Japanese dictionaries (for example even Kindaiichi's otherwise generally reliable "Jikai"), it is in fact simply one of the ghost words of Japanese lexicography; when it does appear in modern lexical sources, it is a "made-up" form listed there solely on the basis of the "Wei chih" account of early Japan. There never was an Old Japanese "*Fimeko"; furthermore, the Middle Chinese spirant "χ" of the transcription suggests that the final element of the unknown original term did not correspond to Old Japanese "-ko" ["-ko1"] , which is rendered elsewhere – in "Fiko" ["Fi1ko1"] , for example – with Middle Chinese "-k-" as one would expect. The final element of this transcription, then, remains obscure, thought there is certainly a good chance that the first portion does correspond to a form related to Old Japanese "Fime". Beyond that, it is at present impossible to go. (1967:22)"Hime" < Old Japanese "Fi1me1" ( "young noblewoman; princess"), explains Miller, etymologically derives from "hi" < "Fi2" ( "sun") and "nyo" < "me1" ( "woman").
Tsunoda (1951:5) notes "Pimiko is from an archaic Japanese title, "himeko", meaning 'princess'," that is, "hime" with the female name suffix "-ko" ( "child", viz. the uncommon
given name Himeko). Other Amaterasu-related etymological proposals for the Japanese nameHimiko involve "hi" (日 "sun") and " miko" ( or 巫女 "shamanka, shamaness; shrine maiden; priestess"); or their combination "hime-miko" "princess-priestess".
Besides the original Queen of Wa, the name Himiko is also used in Japanese
popular culture. Himiko (卑弥呼) is a train on the Amagi Railway Amagi Lineand a water bus of Tokyo Cruise Shipdesigned by Leiji Matsumoto. The House of Himiko("Mezon do Himiko" メゾン・ド・ヒミコ) is a 2005 movie starring Kō Shibasaki. The Legend of Himiko(" Himiko-Den" 火魅子伝) is an animeseries, manga, and computer game. Two other anime-manga characters are Himiko (ひみこ) in Kyoshiro and the Eternal Sky, and Himiko Kudo(工藤卑弥呼) in Get Backers.
Identity and historicity
Identifying Himiko/Pimiko of Wa is straightforward within the
History of China, but problematic within the History of Japan. The 3rd-century CE Chinese "Wei Zhi" ("Records of Wei") provides details about shaman Queen Himiko and her communications with Emperors Cao Ruiand Cao Fang. The 8th-century CE Japanese "Kojiki" ("Records of Ancient Matters") and "Nihon Shoki" ("Chronicles of Japan", which quotes the "Wei Zhi") disregard Himiko, unless she was the subtextbehind their accounts of Empress Jingū, Yamatohime-no-mikoto, or Yamato-totohi-momoso.
None of these three legendary Japanese royal shamans adequately corresponds with the Chinese chronology and description of Himiko. Assuming the "Wei Zhi" account that Himiko died around 248 CE, if one accepts the dubious Japanese traditional dating, then she was closer to the 3rd-century CE Empress Jingū than to the 1st-century BCE Yamatohime-no-mikoto and Yamato-totohi-momoso-hime. On the other hand, if one accepts the postdating adjustments prior to the 4th century, then Himiko was closer to these Yamato-named shamans. Neither "Kojiki" nor "Nihon Shoki" mentions Himiko or any of the salient topics that she was unmarried, was chosen as ruler by the people, had a younger brother who helped rule (unless this refers to Jingū's son), or had numerous (figuratively "1000") female attendants.
William Wayne Farris (1998:15-54) reviews the history of scholarly debates over Himiko and her domain Yamatai. The
Edo Periodphilosophers Arai Hakusekiand Motoori Norinagabegan the controversies over whether Yamatai was located in Kyushu or Yamato and whether the "Wei Zhi" or the "Nihon Shoki" was historically more trustworthy. The ConfucianistArai accepted the Chinese history as more reliable, and first equated Himiko with Jingū and Yamatai with Yamato. The Kokugakuscholar Motoori accepted the traditional Japanese myth-history as more reliable, and dismissed its "Wei Zhi" quotations as later accretions. He hypothesized that a king from Kumaso sent emissaries who masqueraded as Jingū's officials to the Wei court, thus mistaking the Empress for Himiko. Farris (1998:16) says, "Motoori's usurpation hypothesis ("gisen setsu") carried great weight for the next century."
Meiji Restorationin 1868, Japanese historians adopted European historical scholarship, especially the source-based methodology of Leopold von Ranke. Naka Michiyo believed the "Nihon Shoki" chronology was inaccurate prior to the 4th century CE, and thus (Farris 1998:17) "Jingū became a fourth-century queen whose reign could not possibly have coincided with Himiko's." The sinologist Shiratori Kurakichi proposed the "Nihon Shoki" compilers were tempted to associate Jingū with the religious powers of Himiko. Naitō Torajirōargued that Himiko was the high priestess of the Ise shrine Yamatohime-no-mikoto and that Wa armies obtained control of southern Korea.
One scholar [Higo Kazuo] asserted that Himiko was really Yamato-toto-momo-so-hime-no-mikoto, aunt of the legendary Emperor Sūjin on his father's side, because her supposed tomb at Hashihaka in Nara measured about a hundred paces in diameter, the measurement given for Himiko's grave. This theory gained adherents in the postwar period. Another [Shida Fudomaru] saw in Himiko an expression of women's political authority in early Japan. (Farris 1998:20)Some later Japanese historians reframed Himiko in terms of
Marxist historiography. Masaaki Ueda argued that "Himiko's was a despotic state with a generalized slave system" (Farris 1998:21), while Mitsusada Inoue idealized Yamatai as a "balance of small states" with communal property and popular political expression. Following the late 1960s "Yamatai boom" when numerous Japanese historians, linguists, and archeologists published reevaluations of Himiko and Yamatai, the debate was joined by Japanese nationalists, mystery writers, and amateur scholars.
In Japanese historical and archeological periodization, the 2nd-3rd century CE era of Queen Himiko was between late
Yayoi periodand early Kofun period. "Kofun" (古墳 "old tumulus") refers to characteristic keyhole-shaped burial mounds, and the "Wei Zhi" noting "a great mound was raised, more than a hundred paces in diameter" for Pimiko's tomb, may well be the earliest written record of a "kofun". Archeological excavations of Yayoi and Kofun sites, notably the Yoshinogari site, have revealed Chinese-style bronze mirrors, called " shinju-kyo" (神獣鏡 "mirror decorated with gods and animals"). Scholars such as Walter Edwards (1998, 1999) associate these "shinju-kyo" with the "one hundred bronze mirrors" that the "Wei Zhi" (tr. Tsunoda 1951:15) records Emperor Cao Rui presented to Queen Himiko.
The early Chinese records of Himiko/Pimiko and her Yamatai polity remain something of a
Rorschach test. To different interpreters, this early Japanese shaman queen can appear as evidence of: communalism(Marxists), Jōmonpriestess rulers ( Feminist history), Japanese conquest of Korea (Akima 1993), Korean conquest of Japan (Namio Egami's "horserider theory"), the imperial system originating with tandem rule by a female shaman and male monarch (Mori 1979), the "patriarchal revolution" replacing female deities and priestesses with male counterparts (Ellwood 1990), or a shamanic advisor to the federation of Wa chieftains who "must have looked like a ruling queen to Chinese envoys" (Matsumoto 1983).
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* [http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/japan_heads.htm Japan Heads of State] , Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership
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Yomiuri Shimbun: [http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20080628TDY01306.htm Himikio -- 90% name recognition amongst primary school students in Japan] , 2008.
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