Thomas Donald Conlan
- Princeton University
In the sixteenth century, the Ōuchi family were kings in all but name over much of the Japanese archipelago. Immensely wealthy, they controlled sea lanes stretching from Japan to Korea and China, while their city of Yamaguchi functioned as an important regional entrepôt, with an expanding population and a host of temples and shrines. The family claimed ethnic descent from Korean kings, and—remarkably for this time—such claims were recognized in both Korea and Japan. Their unique position, coupled with dominance over strategic ports and mines, allowed them to facilitate trade throughout East and Southeast Asia. They played a key cultural role, in disseminating Confucian texts, Buddhist sutras, ink paintings, and pottery, and in creating a distinctive, hybrid culture that fused Japanese, Korean, and Chinese beliefs, objects, and customs. This project provides a new understanding of medieval Japanese and East Asian history through its history of the Ōuchi family.