The Figures of Kōho and Li-mi-i, and the Origins of the Case for a Christian Missionary Presence in Tenpyō Era Japan

James Harry Morris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

In 1916 P.Y. Saeki devoted a page of his book The Nestorian Monument in China, to a short thought experiment which linked a Persian by the name of Li-mi-i (Greek passage) who was present in Emperor Shōmu's (Greek passage) court and whose arrival was mentioned in the Shoku Nihongi (Greek passage) with a priest named on the Nestorian Stele. Since that first suggestion, several scholars have expounded the idea that Li-mi-i and another figure who arrived alongside him, Kōho Tōchō (Greek passage), were Christians and/or missionaries. In this paper I assess these claims, returning to the Shoku Nihongi in order to suggest that there is a lack of data to establish them as true. I then seek to explore the origins of this theory situating it within the joint context of Japan's imperial expansion and her modernization. Whilst the latter cannot be conclusive, I hope that it may shed light on the significance of the theory which can be seen as a search to discover Japanese history, a statement of the equality between Japanese and Western histories, or an attempt to justify imperial aims in China academically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-323
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Volume27
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Apr 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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