restricted access Chapter 2 The Wei Zhi and the Wa People
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8 Much discussion regarding the origin and meaning of the term “Wa”1 cannot evade the Chinese intention: it identified little people or dwarfs, and from the Chinese vantage point in north China doubtless had some implications for the relative stature of the people to China’s south and east.The Japanese continually tried to escape the burden of this appellation and, by referring to themselves as people of Nippon (Ch: Riben), the (land of the) sunrise, achieved some success from at least the seventh century. Once Japanese scholars of recent centuries began to seriously study the Chinese text, they resented their relegation to second-class status and allowed the inferences to influence their attitude toward its content.Apparently the Chinese did not want to or could not distinguish between the inhabitants of the southern half of the Korean peninsula and those on the Japanese islands, making “Wa” a culturally sweeping term for people living as far east as central Honshu.Inoue thinks the term, used essentially for barbarians virtually surrounding China, changed from its original meaning of barbarians to a somewhat more dignified “people who live in the sea,” its initial implications lost.2 All of the Japanese names and titles in the Wei zhi have been minutely and endlessly analyzed without common agreement.The name “Yamatai” as such does not actually appear in the Wei zhi, and what has been transposed to Yamatai is there only once. Going south from the guo of Toma, one arrives at the guo of Xie-ma-i (J: Yamaichi), a name, it says, meaning literally “depraved-horse-one.” In the Hou Han shu, however, the third, twelve-stroke character i is written as the fourteen-stroke tai (pedestal,platform,tableland),the difference only in the lower part.Since it was used only once—as most references are simply to “the queen’s polity” (nu wang guo/joòkoku )—rather than several times in which an error would have been caught, early Chinese scholars reasoned that it was a clerk’s slip that had been recognized by the time the Hou Han shu was written.3 Later books use Xie-ma-tai. With minor variations , such as “Yamadai” in Tsunoda and Goodrich,Yamatai is in standard use, the written form of tai now simplified to five strokes. The name or title Bei-mi-hu appears four times, and then only toward the end of the Wei zhi text, and is evidently a Chinese effort to give a phonetic equivalent to Japanese words. It was probably a title, but has been applied to no other but this CHAPTER 2 The Wei Zhi and the Wa People woman, so by practice has become Himiko’s name. Because it is not in any extant Japanese text, the problem is arriving at the correct original. Several have been used.4 Archaic Japanese was probably close to Pimeko. Himiko is widely accepted today. Hime, princess, historically a term connoting divinity and frequently used for female offspring of Yamato rulers, is often seen in names of female kami in the mythological period, and hime-miko are generically female kami in contrast to hikomiko , male kami. The title was carried into the historical period. Jingû, whose own name was Okinaga-tarashi-hime, was associated with many deities in many places, owing a special debt to theThree Female Deities of Munakata, the water spirits that guarded her when she was attacking south Korea:Tagore-hime of the Okitsu (Inner) Shrine on the sacred island of Okinoshima,Tagitsu-hime of the Nakatsu (Middle) Shrine on the island of Òshima, and Ichikishima-hime of the Hetsu (Outer) Shrine (also called MunakataTaisha) on the island of Kyushu in Genkai-chò, Fukuoka prefecture .5 It may be assumed, then, that hime as a title had venerable antiquity, and the writers of the Nihon shoki had little reason not to identify Himiko with Jingû. In view of the unwieldy names of the time, the title was adopted as one. The ubiquitous and loosely used guo (koku or kuni)—mandatory for the cover of every Japanese book on the topic:Yamatai-koku—requires patience with its imprecision and forbearance for imaginative translations.To Chinese historians it was a political unit of undefined size and unclear structure with some degree of autonomy. For instance, in introducing the description of Japan in the Wei zhi, Wa once consisted of one hundred guo; now thirty are in contact with Wei.And later, about twenty guo are subject to Himiko, who...