Encyclopedia: Queen Himiko

Queen Himiko; Name is Japanese; 卑彌呼

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You are viewing the profile of Queen Himiko (卑彌呼) born in Possibly born in Yamatai, an ancient state-like formation which may have been located in either modern-day Yamato or in northern Kyushu of Japan.. “Queen Himiko was the female ruler of pre-Japan’s Yamatai region. Contacted Wei in AD 238.” Queen Himiko was affiliated with and Yamatai. Return to the Three Kingdoms Encyclopedia to learn more or explore our Encyclopedia Directory to browse by kingdom or category.

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Queen Himiko 卑彌呼

Lived: AD c.175–248

Biographies:
None Available

Served: Yamatai

Queen Himiko was the female ruler of pre-Japan’s Yamatai region. Contacted Wei in AD 238.

Officer Details

Wade-Giles: Name is Japanese
Simplified Chinese: N/A

Birthplace: Possibly born in Yamatai, an ancient state-like formation which may have been located in either modern-day Yamato or in northern Kyushu of Japan.

Name Notes: Sometime also called Pimiku or Pimiko. Precise pronunciation of her name is unknown as the kanji of her name were written prior to mid-20th century kanji reforms. Himiko may be a Chinese corruption of himemiko (princess priestess or lady shaman), which translates to ‘Sun Child’.

Rank and Titles

Queen of Wa (AD 240)

Family and Relationships

Perhaps Saishi Uwo (assisted with government affairs) assisted with government affairs (Son); Iyo (Secondary Heir and Possibly a Distant Niece)

Fact vs. Fiction

Differences Between Fact and Common Fiction

  • Hou Han shu replaces much of her role with that of an unnamed ‘King of Wa’. Chen Shou’s Wei zhi, Hou Han shu’s primary source, deliberately records her role as Pimiko, Queen of Wa. (See Biography)

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Biography

Historic (Confirmed)

Himiko was the female ruler of an early pre-Japan political region known as Yamatai which was believed to have existed either in the Yamato region or northern Kyushu of modern-day Japan. Her territory was observed by the Chinese as having no oxen, horses, tigers, leopards, sheep or magpies, and it was noted that Himiko’s countrymen tattooed their faces. Himiko never married though she is recorded as having a son who aided her with state affairs and diplomatic missions which included maintaining a relationship with the Chinese kingdom of Wei (AD 220–265). It is recorded that she kept 1,000 female attendants, that there was only one man in charge of changing her wardrobe and providing her meals, and that she was rarely seen in public.

(1): Sometimes Yamadai. Yamaichi in Chen Shou’s Wei zhu

Much of HImiko’s relation with China is recorded in the Three Kingdoms Wei Chronicles (Wei zhi), written by Chen Shou between AD 280–297 by Chen Shou and later used in the Three Kingdoms history, Sanguozhi, and based on reports made by Chinese envoys sent to the northern parts of Kyu shu between AD 239 and 248. It is written that Himiko was a shaman queen who controlled people spanning over 100 communities and “occupied herself with magic and sorcery bewitching the people.” Chinese envoys maintained contact with over thirty of these communities and record the inhabitants universally by the name Wa, which literally translates to ‘Little People’. While she may not have controlled her people through supernatural ability, Queen Himiko was certainly looked up to by them as a spiritual leader.

Chen Shou’s Wei zhi is drawn upon extensively in the Hou Han shu, but one key element differs between the records. In Wei zhi Queen Himiko is regarded as the leader of her people and the target of contact between the two countries. In Hou Han shu Himiko’s role is replaced with the ‘King of Wa’ and the hundred communities are recorded as having been ruled by separate kings with hereditary positions. This presents the possibility that Himiko may have been nothing more than a religious leader and contact for the Chinese people functioning inside a King-ruled country, but the specific mention of Queen Himiko’s appointment in Wei zhi combined with her apparent importance in the community do serve to maintain the popular interpretation of history. In addition some historians believe the nature of Japanese culture at the time of Hou Han shu’s writing may have influenced the presentation of the book’s text (i.e. the use of ‘King’ instead of ‘Queen’) and it is also important to note that Chen Shou was alive during the period of these interactions while the authors of Hou Han shu were obviously drawing upon historic reference.

As recorded in Wei zhi, in AD 238 Queen Himiko sent the grandee Nashonmi and others to visit the Chinese prefecture of Tai-fang where they asked to proceed to the Emperor’s court with tribute (160 slaves as recorded in Hou Han shu). Governor Liu Xia dispatched an officer to accompany them. In the twelfth month of the same year the Emperor issued a decree addressing her, and officially calling her a ‘Friend of Wei’ and titling her ‘Queen of Wa’. The Chinese first established contact with Himiko’s people in AD 240 when governor Gong Zun sent Ti Zhun, a commandant of the Imperial Guard, with imperial rescript and ribbon seal to visit the Yamatai country. When asked of their origins by the Wei embassy, the people of Wa claimed to be descendants of King Taibo of Wu, a historic figure who founded the first Wu kingdom (吳國) around the Yangtze Delta of China (2).

(2): Original name from Wei zhi: 倭人自謂太伯之後

In AD 247 Wang Qi assumed office as governor of Tai-fang. Queen Himiko was presently at odds with the King of Kunu, Pimikuku. Kunu spanned the territories south of Queen Himiko’s communities. It is hypothesized that the cause for this disagreement was based around cultural differences and immigration issues. She dispatched Saishi Uwo of her people to report in person regarding the conflict.

Himiko died in AD 248 due to unknown causes. When Queen Himiko passed away a king was replaced on the throne in her stead but the people would not obey him, and he was soon assassinated. It was only when a relative of Queen Himiko, a thirteen-year-old girl by the name of Iyo, was placed on the throne that the situation calmed down. It is recorded in alternate history that a tribal king posthumously titled Emperor Shujin (3), raised a military host against either Queen Himiko or her successor (4), ultimately conquering them and replacing her culture with male rule, based out of central Japan.

(3): Pimikuku?

(4) Recorded as a niece, a relative, or another shaman. Iyo?

In addition to China, Himiko’s people also maintained contact with Korean countries and she even sent an emissary to King Adalla of Silla in May AD 172.

In Nihonshoki, a Japanese history which was completed in AD 720, it is noted that Himiko was actually Empress Jingu Kogo, mother of Emperor Ojin, but many historians disagree with this conclusion. Still others speculate that she is the entity from which the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu was created (‘Hi’ means ‘Sun’ and ‘Miko’ 弥呼 means ‘Priestess’).

It is believed by some that Himiko would have been a ruler during the Jomon period of Japanese pre-history which functioned under a goddess-based faith, as suggested by archaeological finds. Unfortunately, these finds date from about 300 BC at the latest, about five centuries prior to Himiko’s reign. As such, any correlation is unlikely. Other evidence tentatively links her to proto-Yamato people who migrated to Japan in the late Jamon and early Yayoi periods. Traditions of Jomon culture including reverence to female godheads, priestess-led society, and small tribal groups functioning as units of power in a proto-agricultural economic setting may have influenced the societies of Yayoi settles and the cultural structure of Himiko’s society. (5)

(5): Cultural background information rooted in her Wikipedia article (verified).

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May 13, 2014