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, a predominantly Muslim army 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 control of Quanzhou, Putian, and even reached 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), who was loyal to the Yuan dynasty.[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, possibly the world's, largest port.[2][3] It was also the largest city in Fujian, with a population exceeding that of Fuzhou, Fujian's administrative center,[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 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"), with foreigners and natives often intermarrying and giving birth to mixed children (often labeled Half Southern Fan or "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, cavalry, 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.


In the early Yuan dynasty, the Mongols gave the Islamic Sunni Semu Pu Shougeng (蒲寿庚) family public support, since they helped rebel against the Song dynasty and establish the Yuan dynasty. As a result, this family became stronger and had more influence over politics and the economy, the Sunni Muslims in Quanzhou became more dominant in Quanzhou and excluded the Shiites, causing growing resentment among them. In 1282 (the 19th year of the Yuan dynasty), the Yuan dynasty stationed 3000 Shiite forces in Quanzhou, but even then there were still too few Shiites in Quanzhou,[8] near the end of the Yuan Dynasty, the government struggled to deal with various armed rebellions. The Quanzhou Shiite Persians organized the Ispah army to defend their ethnic group, which already had a large Persian population with growing strength; in March 1357, Sayf ad-Din and Amir ad-Din, the commanders of the Ispah army, seized the opportunity to control Quanzhou, [9] and suppressed the formerly dominant Sunni. The Ispah army became one of the strongest forces in Fujian.

Massacre of foreigners[edit]

Afterwards 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
  8. ^ 张忠君、兰陈妍,也论元末亦思巴奚战乱的性质,《黔东南民族师范高等专科学校学报》2003年第21卷第5期
  9. ^ 《元史》·卷四十五