Daniel - your most recent paper was a tremendously exhaustive study of a different kind, one that shed a whole new light on anthropology and evolution. Since I tend to interpret old writings in a literal sense, I am under the impression that the "land of the immortals" bit may not simply be referring to 100 year old human inhabitants of these islands; though the researchers seem to take this stance.When my brother and I first arrived in Okinawa, we came across an ancient copper bell, hanging in a little-used corner of the old prefectural museum. It is known as the Bankoku Shinryo No Kane, or the "Bridge Between Nations" bell, and it used to hang in front of the state hall of Shuri Castle, the former residence of the king of the Ryukyus. The bell was cast in 1458, and bears the following inscription in ancient Chinese characters:
"Ryukyu [Okinawa] is located in a favorable position in the southern seas. This nation has gathered the wisdom of Korea and maintains close, mutually dependent relations with China and Japan. Situated between these two nations, it is the ideal land where the immortals dwell (horai-jima). With its ships, Ryukyu acts as a bridge between the nations, and thus abounds with exotic produce and great treasures."
Upon reading the inscription, we were struck by the similarity of the words to the ancient Chinese writings about a "land of immortals." The Chinese had searched for a Shangri-la in the East China Sea for more than 800 years. Was this a reference to that ancient paradise? When we told Dr. Suzuki of our "great find", he smiled and told us that our translation of the ancient words horai-jima was more complex than just "land of the immortals." He deftly brought out his handhled computer translator and punched in the Chinese characters. The literal translation was "a peaceful paradise , a land of immortals, a Shangri-la."
In all of your study, have you come across any information pertaining the "immortals" residing in the Kingdom of the Ryukyus?