Ispah rebellion

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Ispah rebellion
Date 1357-1366
Location Quanzhou, Fujian
Result Yuan victory
Mongol Yuan dynasty Semu Muslim Rebels
Commanders and leaders
Toghon Temür
Chen Youding
Sayf ad-Din
Amir ad-Din
Yuan army Muslim rebels

The Ispah rebellion (Chinese: 亦思巴奚兵乱; pinyin: Yìsībāxī Bīngluàn) was a series of civil wars occurring in the middle of 14th century in Fujian under the Yuan dynasty. 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 in Xinghua in 1362 during the Ispah Rebellion.

Under Mongol rule, the number of Arab and Persian Muslims residing in the Chinese port city of Quanzhou was greatly boosted. In 1357, an army of predominantly Muslims led by two Quanzhou Muslims, Sayf ad-Din (赛甫丁) and Amir ad-Din (阿迷里丁), revolted against the Yuan dynasty. In defiance of imperial forces, the army seized hold of Quanzhou (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 Han Chinese commander Chen Youding (陈友定).[1]

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. [2][3] It was also the largest city in Fujian, with a population exceeding Fujian's administrative center, Fuzhou. [4] 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. [4][5] 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. Quanzhou had many foreign residents, such as Arabs, Persians, Europeans, Jews, Indians, Africans, etc. There were around 100 different languages being used. The Quanzhou people labeled these foreigners as Fan ("蕃" or "番"). Due to the massive number of foreigners coming in, Quanzhou didn't want foreigners to stay and interfere with the locals' lifestyles in the beginning. Quanzhou had massive foreigner neighborhoods ("蕃坊", "蕃人巷"), and foreigners and natives often had married and gave birth to mixed children (often labeled "半南蕃"). [6] Although foreigners and natives had some cultural intermingling, the foreigners still practiced and spread their own religions, such as Islam, Christianity, Manichaeism, Hinduism, etc. These mixed living conditions made management much harder. [7]

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
  1. ^
  2. ^ 伊本・白图泰(著)、马金鹏(译),《伊本・白图泰游记》,宁夏人民出版社,2005年
  3. ^ "中国网事:千年古港福建"泉州港"被整合改名引网民争议". 新华网. Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  4. ^ a b 徐晓望,福建通史,福建人民出版社,2006年
  5. ^ (意)雅各・德安科纳 原著、(英)塞尔本 编译、(泉州海交馆)李玉昆、陈丽华、叶恩典 缩写,《光明之城》缩写本,中国泉州学研究
  6. ^ 王四达,宋元泉州外侨社区的兴衰及其启示,《东南文化》2008年第1期
  7. ^ 泉州市地方志编纂委员会,《泉州市志》,中国社会科学出版社,2000.5