Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, Japan - 2015
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Entrance gate to the Shuri Palace called "Shurei no mon" (courtesy gate to the "Land of propriety") used to welcome the Chinese embassies.
Five hundred years of Ryukyuan history (12th-17th centuries) are represented by this group of sites and monuments.
The nine component parts of the property include the sites and archaeological ruins of two stone monuments, five castles, and two cultural landscapes. They are scattered across Okinawa Island, collectively covering 54.9 ha. The surrounding buffer zone covers a total area of 559.7 ha.
In the 10th-12th centuries, Ryukyuan farming communities (gusuku) began to enclose their villages with simple stone walls for protection. From the 12th century onwards powerful groups known as aji began to emerge. They enlarged the defences of their own settlements, converting them into fortresses for their own households; these adopted the term gusuku to describe these formidable castles.
The castle ruins of the Gusuku sites on imposing elevated locations, are evidence for the social structure over much of that period, while the sacred sites provide mute testimony to the rare survival of an ancient form of religion into the modern age. The wide-ranging economic and cultural contacts of the Ryukyu Islands over that period gave rise to a unique culture.