Ispah rebellion

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Ispah rebellion
Date 1357-1366
Location Quanzhou, Fujian
Result Yuan Mongol victory
Mongol Yuan Dynasty Semu Muslim Rebels
Commanders and leaders
Ukhaantu Khan, Emperor Huizong of Yuan
Chen Youding
Saif ad-Din[disambiguation needed]
Amir ad-Din
Yuan Mongol Army Muslim rebels

The Ispah rebellion (Chinese: 亦思巴奚兵乱; pinyin: Yìsībāxī Bīngluàn) was a series of civil wars in Fukien (Fujian) of the Great Yuan Empire (present day China), occurring in the middle of 14th century. The term Ispah might derive from the Persian word "سپاه" (sepâh) meaning "army" or "Sepoy". Thus, the rebellion is also known as the Persian Sepoy rebellion (波斯戍兵之乱; Bōsī Shùbīng zhī Luàn) in Chinese documents.

The situation of Hsing-hua in 1362 during Islamic Ispah Rebellion.

Under Mongolian rule, the number of Arabic and Persian Muslims residing in the Chinese seaport city of Quanzhou was greatly boosted. In 1357, an army of predominantly Muslims led by two Quanzhou Muslims, Saif ad-Din (赛甫丁) and Amir ad-Din (阿迷里丁), revolted against the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. In defiance of Imperial forces, the army seized hold of Quanzhou, Xinghua (present day Putian), and even overreached themselves to the provincial capital Fuzhou.

In 1362, the Ispah army collapsed into internal conflict and was eventually crushed in 1366 by the Yuan commander Chen Youding (陈友定).[1] Chen was an ethnic Han.

Historical Background[edit]

From the 13th century to the early 14th century in the Yuan Dynasty, overseas trade was extremely prosperous in Fujian. As the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road, Quanzhou was China's, and maybe even the world's, largest port. It was also the largest city in Fujian, with a population exceeding the Fujian's administrative center, Fuzhou. The Arabs called it "Tiger's claw", which has been used by merchants in Europe and elsewhere. At the time, Quanzhou's population exceeded 2 million, with a wall as long as 30 miles. Jinjiang's river and its harbor had 10,000 ships docked, with highly developed trade. Quanzhou exported luxuries such as silk, ceramics, copper, and iron, as well as Quanzhou's satin, while imports include pearls, ivory, rhino horns, frankincense, etc. The most important imports were spices and herbs.

The Origin of the Name Ispah[edit]

There are multiple theories about the origin of the word "Ispah". Some think that "Ispah" originated from the Persian word "سپاه"(sepâh), which means militia, calvary, or some derived version. It could also be the Persian equivalent of "mercenaries" or borrowed from the name of a city, Isfahan, given that most of the people came from that city. Others believe that Ispah is used for designating troops, instead of as an actual name.

Massacre of foreigners[edit]

Many of the foreign Arab and Persian merchants were massacred when the uprising was crushed and their graves desecrated, forcing many of them to flee Quanzhou. Some of the massacres and grave desecrations were reprisals against the descendants of Pu Shougeng, who had defected and surrendered the cities to the Mongols during their invasion of the Song dynasty.

See also[edit]


  • Reid, Anthony (2006): Hybrid Identities in the Fifteenth-Century Straits of Malacca