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Gregory Smits - Author

About the Author

Books by Gregory Smits

Maritime Ryukyu, 1050-1650

Maritime Ryukyu, 1050-1650

Author: Gregory Smits Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 28/02/2020

Why do Ryukyu's official histories locate the origins of its early dynastic founders in Iheya and Izena, small islands located northwest of Okinawa? Why did the Ming court extend favorable trade terms to Ryukyuan rulers? What was the nature of Okinawa's enigmatic principalities, Sannan, Chuzan, and Hokuzan? When and how did the Ryukyu islands become united under a single ruler? Was this Ryukyuan state an empire, why did it go to war with the powerful Japanese domain of Satsuma in 1609, and what actually happened during that war? Answers to these and other key questions concerning early Ryukyuan history can be found in this bold reappraisal by a leading authority on the subject.Conventional portrayals of early Ryukyu are based on official histories written between 1650 and 1750. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Gregory Smits makes extensive use of scholarship in archaeology and anthropology and leverages unconventional sources such as the Omoro soshi (a collection of ancient songs) to present a fundamental rethinking of early Ryukyu. Instead of treating Ryukyu as a natural, self-contained cultural or political community, he examines it as part of a maritime network extending from coastal Korea to the islands of Tsushima and Iki, along the western shore of Kyushu, and through the Ryukyu Arc to coastal China. Smits asserts that Ryukyuan culture did not spring from the soil of Okinawa: He highlights Ryukyu's northern roots and the role of wako (pirate-merchant seafarers) in the formation of power centers throughout the islands, uncovering their close historical connections with the coastal areas of western Japan and Korea. Unlike conventional Ryukyuan histories that open with Okinawa, Maritime Ryukyu starts with the northern island of Kikai, an international crossroads during the eleventh century. It also focuses on other important but often overlooked territories such as the Tokara islands and Kumejima, in addition to bringing the northern and southern Ryukyu islands into a story that all too often centers almost exclusively on Okinawa. Readers interested in the history of the Ryukyu islands, premodern Japan, and East Asia, as well as maritime history, will welcome this original and persuasive volume.

Maritime Ryukyu, 1050-1650

Maritime Ryukyu, 1050-1650

Author: Gregory Smits Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/12/2018

Why do Ryukyu's official histories locate the origins of its early dynastic founders in Iheya and Izena, small islands located northwest of Okinawa? Why did the Ming court extend favorable trade terms to Ryukyuan rulers? What was the nature of Okinawa's enigmatic principalities, Sannan, Chuzan, and Hokuzan? When and how did the Ryukyu islands become united under a single ruler? Was this Ryukyuan state an empire, why did it go to war with the powerful Japanese domain of Satsuma in 1609, and what actually happened during that war? Answers to these and other key questions concerning early Ryukyuan history can be found in this bold reappraisal by a leading authority on the subject. Conventional portrayals of early Ryukyu are based on official histories written between 1650 and 1750. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Gregory Smits makes extensive use of scholarship in archaeology and anthropology and leverages unconventional sources such as the Omoro soshi (a collection of ancient songs) to present a fundamental rethinking of early Ryukyu. Instead of treating Ryukyu as a natural, self-contained cultural or political community, he examines it as part of a maritime network extending from coastal Korea to the islands of Tsushima and Iki, along the western shore of Kyushu, and through the Ryukyu Arc to coastal China. Smits asserts that Ryukyuan culture did not spring from the soil of Okinawa: He highlights Ryukyu's northern roots and the role of wako (pirate-merchant seafarers) in the formation of power centers throughout the islands, uncovering their close historical connections with the coastal areas of western Japan and Korea. Unlike conventional Ryukyuan histories that open with Okinawa, Maritime Ryukyu starts with the northern island of Kikai, an international crossroads during the eleventh century. It also focuses on other important but often overlooked territories such as the Tokara islands and Kumejima, in addition to bringing the northern and southern Ryukyu islands into a story that all too often centers almost exclusively on Okinawa. Readers interested in the history of the Ryukyu islands, premodern Japan, and East Asia, as well as maritime history, will welcome this original and persuasive volume.

Visions of Ryukyu Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics

Visions of Ryukyu Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics

Author: Gregory Smits Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 30/11/2017

Between 1609 and 1879, the geographical, political, and ideological status of the Kingdom of Ryukyu (modern Okinawa) was characterized by its ambiguity. It was subordinate to its larger neighbors, China and Japan, yet an integral part of neither. A Japanese invasion force from Satsuma had conquered the kingdom in 1609, resulting in its partial incorporation into Tokugawa Japan's bakuhan state. Given Ryukyu's long-standing ties with China and East Asian foreign relations following the rise of the Qing dynasty, however, the bakufu maintained only an indirect link with Ryukyu from the mid-seventeenth century onward. Thus Ryukyu was able to exist as a quasi-independent kingdom for more than two centuries-albeit amidst a complex web of trade and diplomatic agreements involving the bakufu, Satsuma, Fujian, and Beijing. During this time, Ryukyu's ambiguous position relative to China and Japan prompted its elites to fashion their own visions of Ryukyuan identity. Created in a dialogic relationship to both a Chinese and Japanese Other, these visions informed political programs intended to remake Ryukyu. In this innovative and provocative study, Gregory Smits explores early-modern perceptions of Ryukyu and their effect on its political culture and institutions. He describes the major historical circumstances that informed early-modern discourses of Ryukyuan identity and examines the strategies used by leading intellectual and political figures to fashion, promote, and implement their visions of Ryukyu. Early-modern visions of Ryukyu were based on Confucianism, Buddhism, and other ideologies of the time. Eventually one vision prevailed, becoming the theoretical basis of the early-modern state by the middle of the eighteenth century. Employing elements of Confucianism, the scholar and government official Sai On (1682-1761) argued that the kingdom's destiny lay primarily with Ryukyuans themselves and that moral parity with Japan and China was within its grasp. Despite Satsuma's control over its diplomatic and economic affairs, Sai envisioned Ryukyu as an ideal Confucian state with government and state rituals based on the Chinese model. In examining Sai's thought and political program, this volume sheds new light on Confucian praxis and, conversely, uncovers one variety of an East Asian prenational imagined political/cultural community.

When the Earth Roars Lessons from the History of Earthquakes in Japan

When the Earth Roars Lessons from the History of Earthquakes in Japan

Author: Gregory Smits Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 10/11/2017

Japan, which is among the most earthquake-prone regions in the world, has a long history of responding to seismic disasters. However, despite advances in earthquake-related safety technologies, the destructiveness of the magnitude 9 class earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on 3/11 raised profound questions about how societies can deal effectively with seismic hazards. This important book places the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown disaster in historical perspective, examining conceptions of earthquakes since the seventeenth century, the diverse ways actual earthquakes and their aftermath played out, and their enduring social and scientific significance. By looking backward, Gregory Smits identifies future pitfalls to avoid and assesses the allocation of resources for dealing with future earthquake and tsunami disasters. He criticizes Japan's postwar quest for earthquake prediction and the concept of characteristic earthquakes. Smits argues that earthquakes are so chaotic as to be unpredictable, not only geologically but also in their social and cultural effects. Therefore, he contends, the best hope for future disaster mitigation is antiseismic engineering and flexible disaster-relief capabilities. As the first sustained historical analysis of destructive earthquakes and tsunamis, this book is an essential resource for anyone interested in Japan, natural disasters, seismology, and environmental history.

When the Earth Roars Lessons from the History of Earthquakes in Japan

When the Earth Roars Lessons from the History of Earthquakes in Japan

Author: Gregory Smits Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/03/2014

Japan, which is among the most earthquake-prone regions in the world, has a long history of responding to seismic disasters. However, despite advances in earthquake-related safety technologies, the destructiveness of the magnitude 9 class earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on 3/11 raised profound questions about how societies can deal effectively with seismic hazards. This important book places the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown disaster in historical perspective, examining conceptions of earthquakes since the seventeenth century, the diverse ways actual earthquakes and their aftermath played out, and their enduring social and scientific significance. By looking backward, Gregory Smits identifies future pitfalls to avoid and assesses the allocation of resources for dealing with future earthquake and tsunami disasters. He criticizes Japan's postwar quest for earthquake prediction and the concept of characteristic earthquakes. Smits argues that earthquakes are so chaotic as to be unpredictable, not only geologically but also in their social and cultural effects. Therefore, he contends, the best hope for future disaster mitigation is antiseismic engineering and flexible disaster-relief capabilities. As the first sustained historical analysis of destructive earthquakes and tsunamis, this book is an essential resource for anyone interested in Japan, natural disasters, seismology, and environmental history.

Seismic Japan The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake

Seismic Japan The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake

Author: Gregory Smits Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/11/2013

What are we to make of contemporary newspapers in Japan speculating about the possible connection between aquatic creatures and earthquakes? Of a city council deciding to issue evacuation advice based on observed animal behaviour? Why, between 1977 and 1993, did Japan's government spend taxpayer money to observe catfish in aquariums as part of its mandate to fund earthquake prediction research? All of these actions are direct legacies of the 1855 Ansei Edo earthquake, one of the major natural disasters of the period. In his investigation of the science, politics, and lore of seismic events in Japan, Gregory Smits examines this earthquake in a broad historical context. The Ansei Edo earthquake shook the shogun's capital during a year of special religious significance and at a time of particularly vigorous seismic activity. It was also a turning point because, according to the prevailing understanding of earthquakes at the time, it should never have happened. Many Japanese, therefore, became receptive to new ideas about the causes of earthquakes as well as to the notion that by observing some phenomena-for example, the behaviour of catfish-one might determine when an earthquake would strike. All subsequent major earthquakes in Japan resulted in claims, always made after the fact, that certain phenomena had been signs of the impending catastrophe. Indeed, earthquake prediction in Japan from 1855 to the present has largely consisted of amassing collections of alleged or possible precursor phenomena. In addition, the Ansei Edo earthquake served as a catalyst accelerating socio-political trends already underway. It revealed bakufu military weaknesses and enhanced the prestige of the imperial deity Amaterasu at the expense of the bakufu deity Kashima.