Gafusei (ivory tally system) (牙符制)

Gafusei was one of the systems of examining and certificating an envoy (endorsement). The system was implemented in the trade between Japan and Yi Dynasty of Korea (the Japan-Korea trade) during the Muromachi period. Like kangofusei (tally system) in the Japan-Ming trade, Gafusei was a system where a tally was split into two halves and used for certifying an envoy where the communication tally called gafu (seal tally) or zogefu (ivory tally) was used in place of the kangofu.


Gafu was an inscribed ivory tally split into halves, each of which was 13.6 cm round with one of the halves inscribed with 'Korean communication' in Tensho characters and the other half inscribed with the year issued '1474.'
Ten sets of tallies were prepared by the Yi-Dynasty with serial numbers from one to ten, and the left halves were kept by the Yi-Dynasty and the right halves were kept by the Japan side. The envoy dispatched from Japan brought any of the halves, that were to be matched with the other half kept by Yi-Dynasty as an endorsement. Later, the sets of tallies were renewed, then the left halves were kept by the Japan side and the right halves were kept by Yi-Dynasty this time. No ivory tally remains, and its existence was only confirmed by documents.

Gafusei was intended for the King of Japan envoy and Ojo-daijin (the ministers of the capital) envoy. The medieval Japan-Korea trade was limited trade, and only the recipients of copper seals called toso (tosho in Japanese) were allowed to have diplomatic relations with the Yi dynasty. Those who were to start interaction carried shokei (letter of introduction) sealed with toso so that he could be certified by using the stamp seal. Since the Muromachi bakufu was on an equal footing with the Yi-Dynasty, it need not be allowed to have diplomatic relations with the Yi Dynasty; therefore, the Muromachi bakufu was permitted to freely have diplomatic relations with the Yi Dynasty. The Ojo-daijin envoy was also treated the same as the King of Japan envoy. For that reason, no such endorsement as toso was applied to the envoys. It was Gafusei that granted endorsement to the King of Japan and Ojo envoys.

Gafusei was started by the eighth seii taishogun (Commander in chief) of the Muromachi bakufu (shogunate government), Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA. By grasping kangofu, the Muromachi bakufu placed the Japan-Ming trade under control and made it as a source of revenue. Yoshimasa also sought to make the Japan-Yi dynasty trade as a source of revenue and made a proposal to the Yi-Dynasty to introduce Gafusei. Since the pseudo Ojo-daijin envoy had interaction with Korea during this period, the Yoshimasa's proposal matched the intention of the Yi Dynasty that wanted to subdue the pseudo envoys, Gafusei was to be introduced.

In 1474, the Yi-Dynasty issued Gafu to the Muromachi bakufu. In 1482, the Gafu came into effect when the first King of Japan envoy carrying Gafu had diplomatic relations with the Yi-Dynasty. In 1504, Gafu was renewed. The Gafusei was observed until Bunroku Keicho no Eki (The Bunroku Keicho Period Wars, 1592 - 1598).


Since the Medieval Japan-Korea trade was limited trade, for those who sought to open up or expand their trade, the pseudo envoy was an effective option. No endorsement for the King of Japan envoy nor the Ojo-daijin envoy existed until Gafusei was introduced, and from the 1450s, pseudo envoys representing the Ojo-daijin envoy appeared with the intention of acquiring the rights and interests of trading, and in the 1470s, diplomatic boom by pseudo envoys called 'sending of diplomatic missions to Korea boom' occurred.

It was considered that a coalition of the So clan in Tsushima and merchants in Hakata dispatched the pseudo envoys. As for toso, the powers to dispatch the pseudo envoys had advanced counterfeiting techniques such as stealing the seal and producing a wooden seal; however, they could not counterfeit Gafu. For fear of having Gafusei come into effect, the powers to dispatch the pseudo envoys attempted to disturb the effectuation by catching the King of Japan envoy who had received Gafu in 1474 at Tsushima, or dispatching the pseudo Ojo-daijin envoys to Korea in 1480 to spread a false rumor that the Gafu were scattered. Gafusei came into effect when the King of Japan carrying Gafu visited Korea in 1482; thereafter, the Ojo-daijin envoy stopped and the pseudo envoy powers had been contained.

Yoshimasa regarded controlling over the right of Japan-Korea trade as important such that he secretly owned Gafu and did not allow even the influential shugo (military governor) living in the capital to dispatch the Ojo-daijin envoy. After Yoshimasa died, the family in line to inherit the shogunate divided into two in the Meio no seihen (Meio disturbance), Gafu flew out as they were sold by the piece for winning the influential shugo to their own side, and in 1501, the pseudo envoys schemed by the Ouchi clan, were dispatched. Yoshizumi ASHIKAGA and Masamoto HOSOKAWA, who deprived Yoshitane ASHIKAGA of the position of shogun in the Meio disturbance, planned to invalidate Gafu owned by Yoshioki Ouchi, who supported Yoshitane, and in 1504, asked the Yi-Dynasty to renew Gafu. Only two or three halves of the Gafu seemed to have been left under Yoshizumi's hand at that moment. The Yi-Dynasty accepted Yoshizumi's requirement and issued new set of ten Gafu, whereby the scattered old Gafu were invalidated.

Even with the renewal of Gafu, Yoshizumi and Masamoto could not take control of the Japan-Korea trade. Yoshizumi and Masamoto needed cooperation of the Otomo clan to oppose Yoshioki Ouchi -- It was considered that at least two halves of Gafu were given to the Otomo clan. Later, even if the period and route were unknown, the Ouchi clan also obtained Gafu numbered four. After the fall of the Ouchi clan, this Gafu numbered four was inherited by the Mori clan. Other than four, it had been confirmed that Gafu numbered three also flew. Those Gafu owned by the Ouchi clan, the Otomo clan, and the Mori clan were lent out to the So clan, who used them in dispatching the pseudo King of Japan envoy and the pseudo Ojo-daijin envoy. It was considered that Gafu were always placed in Tsushima around 1540. It could be concluded that most of the Kings of Japan envoys and the Ojo-daijin envoys dispatched to Korea after 1540 were pseudo envoys.

Although Gafusei was effective in controlling dispatch of envoys at the beginning, Gafu flew after the Meio no ran and lost its effect. As a result, Yoshimasa's plan to place Japan-Korea trade under the control of the Muromachi bakufu failed, but Gafusei was observed until Bunroku Keicho no Eki.