The Ryukyuan notation system known as the kunkunshī is an adaptation of the Chinese gongche system (see China, §II, 4, and Table 2). However, whereas the gongche system is an absolute pitch notation, the kunkunshī is a tablature notation specifically for the sanshin. The starting point for the adaptation was the Tō-nu-tsindami tuning, and the names assigned to the pitches of the open strings correspond in the two systems. The symbols, together with their readings and relative pitches in the two major tunings, are shown in ex.20. The name kunkunshī is based on the Sino-Ryukyuan readings of the first three characters of the piece that prefaces the earliest extant edition of the kunkunshī, the mid-18th century Yakabi kunkunshī of Yakabi Chōki. Notated in the gongche system, this is the well-known Chinese piece Lao Baban (also Baban, Liuban).
The kunkunshī system became increasingly precise over the two centuries following the Yakabi kunkunshī. Whereas Yakabi Chōki specified sanshin pitches alone with no indication of metre, the kunkunshī of his pupil Chinen Sekkō included circles to indicate single-beat rests and small characters and proportional notation to indicate motion with up to four subdivisions of a beat. The Chinen kunkunshī was also the first to employ a basic layout of 12 characters to the vertical column. The Nomura kunkunshī built on Chinen's innovation by placing each beat in a box, with 12 boxes and beats to a column and seven columns to a page. (In Chinen's system, the non-proportional placement of rests meant that the columns had varying numbers of beats.) The first edition of the Nomura kunkunshī to include vocal notation was produced by the Okinawan musicologist Serei Kunio (1897–1950) and published between 1935 and 1941. It was based on the performance of the foremost Nomura school musician of the day, Isagawa Seizui (1872–1937).
Other kunkunshī anthologies include those of the Tansui school (1872) and the Afuso school (1912). Kunkunshī anthologies for the koto also exist, but these are notated in an adaptation of standard koto notation.