Lin Kinor Riu Kiu Loo Choo Islands, a chain of islands in the N. Pacific, between lat. 24° and 29° N., and Ion. 123° and 130° E. They are about 36 in number, besides many islets, and stretch from N. E..to S. W. between Japan and the island of Formosa. They contained in 1872 a population of 166,789. Okinawa, or Great Loo Choo, the principal island, is about 65 m. long. It extends N. E. and S. W., and is intersected by a range of hills attaining an elevation of 1,100 ft. The surface rock in the S. part of the island is argillaceous; further N. it is of talcose slate and granite. The surface is intersected by limestone dikes or ridges, which form a remarkable feature of the scenery, rising into peaks, which at a little distance look like castellated towers. The argillaceous rock is often broken into bare faces with perpendicular sides, over which at the heads of thevalleys waterfalls are sometimes precipitated. There are great masses of coral rocks even on the inland hilltops. The soil is variable, but the island abounds in grass and trees, and is picturesque and beautiful, the shores resembling the richest scenery of England. The heat is never excessive, though there are sometimes injurious droughts and typhoons.
The land all belongs to the government, which lets it to large tenants, who sublet to small farmers. The system of cultivation is primitive; the implements are rude, and the soil is generally tilled by hand. Rice is one of the chief staples; among the other productions are sugar cane, wheat, cotton, barley, tobacco, millet, sago, and the watermelon, fig, peach, banana, and wild raspberry. Grass is not cultivated as a crop. The most abundant trees are the pine and banian, which line the highways. The banian is also used for hedges, and planted on the tops of the coral walls which surround the house, and pruned into symmetrical forms. Other trees are the vegetable ivory, ebony, mulberry, orange, lemon, and palm. The bamboo grows abundantly, and supplies food, clothing, shade, and building materials. The ferns are very fine, some of them being tree ferns. Fowls, ducks, geese, pigs, goats, and a small black ox abound, and there is a small but strong and active breed of horses. Wild boars are found in the forests, especially in the N. part of the island. - The people generally live in villages, which are embowered with arching lanes of bamboo, the tops of which interlace and form shady avenues.
In the largest villages are buildings called cung-quas, neat wooden dwellings with tiled roofs and gardens, for the accommodation of the agents of the government in their official journeys through the island. The houses in the country are thatched with rice straw. The principal seaport is Napa, a town of considerable size, on a small island in the bay near the S. W. point of the island. Shuri, or Shoori, the capital and residence of the king, is a short distance inland from Napa; it is about a mile and a half in length, and contains a castle built of large blocks of limestone. Besides these there are about 40 other towns. The population consists of two races, the Japanese and the Loo Chooans proper, who are of the same stock, and greatly resemble each other, though the Loo Chooans are more effeminate and less intelligent. Unlike the Malays and Chinese, they have a full black beard. Their complexion is a dusky olive, the hair generally black, worn long at the sides and back, while the middle of the head is shaved bare, and the rest of the hair drawn into the vacant space, plaited into the form of a circular comb, and kept in place by two large hair pins, one of which has a star-shaped head of gold, silver, brass, lead, or pewter, according to the rank and wealth of the wearer.
Their dress is a loose wide-sleeved robe, gathered at the waist with a girdle. The better classes wear white stockings and straw sandals. The women, who are kept very secluded, dress much like the men, but do not shave the head. The books, learning, and religion are for the most part Chinese, and the higher classes are well instructed. The principal occupation is agriculture, but a coarse sugar, salt, sake (a beer brewed from rice), cotton and grass cloth, paper, pottery, and lac-quered ware are manufactured. Rude paint' ings and sculptures are found among them, and the bridges, viaducts, and roads, and the citadel at Shuri, show some architectural skill. They appear to have no money of their own, but understand its use and value. They export some sugar and sake to Japan. The government is administered in the name of a king, and is in the hands of an aristocracy consisting, as in China, of the literary class, who appear to live in idleness, while the poor are greatly oppressed. - These islands are said by the Chinese to have been discovered under the Tsin dynasty, about A. D. 600. About 400 years ago the principal island was divided into three kingdoms, which subsequently were united and became tributary to China, and afterward to Japan. The island was visited by Capt. Basil Hall and Mr. McLeod in 1816, and in 1852 by Commodore Perry, who included Loo Choo in the treaty made with Japan.