Mongol Intentions towards Japan in 1266: Evidence from a Mongol Letter to the Sung
By Kenneth W. Chase
Sino-Japanese Studies Journal, Vol.9:2 (1990)
Introduction: The Mongol emperor Khubilai first decided to dispatch an envoy to Japan in the year 1265. The Yuan shih implies that this was the first time that the Mongols had heard of Japan, or at least the first time that they had heard that communications with it might be possible: “In the second year of [the reign period] Chih-yuan of Yuan Shih-tsu [Khubilai], because the Korean Cho Yi and others said that the country of Japan could be communicated with, it was decided that an envoy could be sent.”
Two envoys, Hei-ti and Yin Hung, set out from the Mongol court with a letter in the eighth month of 1266. They arrived in the Korean capital of Kangdo three months later, and continued on with two guides the following month. After reaching the island of Kojedo in the first month of 1267 they balked at making the crossing to Japan, and they returned without completing their mission.
In the eighth month of 1267 the same two envoys again left the Mongol court for Korea, where they entrusted the letter to a Korean official named Pan Pu. Pan Pu arrived in Hakata in the first month of 1268 and presented the shugo of Chikuzen, Shoni Sukeyoshi, with three letters: the Mongol letter, a letter from the king of Korea, and a letter of his own. The shugo sent all three letters to Kamakura in the following month, the intercalary first month.