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The Alternative Chinatown: Lewchew (Ryukyu) Kume Village and “36 Min Families” (另類唐人街 -「閩人三十六姓」與琉球久米村)

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Kumemura Village, or Kuninda, has been known as the community of Chinese immigrants with a more than five-hundred year background of scholar-bureaucrat aristocracy in Lewchew, or Ryukyu. They supposedly originated from a group of 36 families from the Southern Chinese Min (閩) ethnic group since 1392. Although much research has been conducted on the subject matter throughout the years, there is almost no scholar who would tackle it on the concept of a “Chinatown.” There are basically two reasons to account for such tendency in academics. Firstly, unlike most Chinese immigrant groups in other parts of the world, the 36 Min Families who had moved to Lewchew did not leave the country of their own accord, for neither private nor economic reasons, but in fact, were ordered by Emperor Hongwu to emigrate for political reasons. Furthermore, Kuninda-chu, the descendants of 36 Min Families, have almost, in the same way as other Okinawa people regard them over the years, never seen themselves as “overseas Chinese.”However, this paper argues that there are still plenty of similarities between Kuninda-chu and other overseas Chinese in the world. The two main points for this paper are: firstly, Kuninda-chu relied excessively on the Chinese World Order and tributary system for its maintenance, so its survival rested primarily on the existence of this political structure, and was eventually disintegrated upon the collapse of the system. Secondly, Chinese culture was largely brought by Kuninda-chu to Ryukyu during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, but it is still kept alive and observed in Okinawa society to this day and in stark contrast with the Yamaonchu, the Japanese in the mainland of Japan, it directly helped shaping and forming the Okinawa people’s self-identity as Uchinan-chu.Truly, Kuninda no longer exists in the Okinawa society today, but Kuninda-chu’s descendants have been upholding their unique ethic image through various traditional activities organized by different groups, Kume-Sosekai notwithstanding. Moreover, Kuninda-chu is also one of the earliest overseas Chinese groups who had assimilated successfully into the local Okinawa community. It is clear that Kuninda is one of the most paramount alternative cases for the studies of overseas Chinese.過去有關琉球「久米村」的歷史研究,鮮有學者以「唐人街」的概念來探討它的歷史與社會形態。其原因係「久米村人」或稱「閩人三十六姓」擁有有別於一般認知的華僑特徵。其一、儘管「久米村人」來自於中國著名僑鄉福建,然而這些移民最初並非個人的意志,亦非家庭因素而來到琉球,因爲他們是「官派」移民。其二、早期第一代閩僑「出外」的目的,乃以經濟為主要誘因,然「閩人三十六姓」則是受明太祖洪武帝派遣,前來琉球以輔助王國之營運及維繫與中國的關係,其政治目的十分清晰。其三、「閩人三十六姓」的子孫之間幾乎不存在「華僑」意識,更多的視自己為琉球人的一部分,而其他琉球人亦如此視之。然而本文認爲「久米村人」與一般認知上的華僑、華人還是有許多共通之處。本文聚焦兩個主要面向,來探討「久米村」及「久米村人」在僑居地琉球的變遷與影響。兩大論點包括一、儘管「久米村」對琉球王國的發展功不可沒,然而過於仰賴「中華世界體系」的存在,故因該體制的興起而生,亦因該體制的衰亡而瓦解;二、「久米村人」是將中國文化大量帶進琉球的重要推手,中國文化至今仍在沖繩社會傳承,並在沖繩人形塑自我認同上發揮不可或缺的重要影響。儘管「久米村」已不復存在,然而擁有500年歷史的「久米村」留下了龐大有跡可尋的歷史紀錄,而「久米村人」的後裔至今仍透過許多聯誼組織,低調地繼續維繫著在琉球社會中獨特族群的形象,而「久米村人」也是歷史上華僑最早「落地生根」的族群之一,提供了華僑、華人研究不可多得的重要個案。 (This article is in Chinese.)

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica ; 2: 中央研究院近代史研究所


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