In getting up to speed on the Uighur riots in China, we’ve been spending appreciable time delving into the history of the nation’s numerous Muslim rebellions. No 19th-century history of China is complete without an extensive section about these uprisings, which were eventually put down in the most brutal fashion imaginable. We’re particularly enamored with Hodong Kim’s Holy War in China, a preview of which is available here.
Kim traces the region’s tensions back to the military campaigns of the Qing Dynasty, which resulted in the sacking of several key cities. Until that time, the Muslims of Western China had enjoyed relative autonomy, as well as close cultural and commercial links to Central Asia. But the Qing tried to pull the Muslims into Peking’s orbit, with tragic (and all-too-familiar) results:
As if it were a celestial calamity or a divine punishment, one night all of a sudden some Tungans were perturbed and set fire to the suburban bazaar in the city of Kucha, killing infidels and whomever they caught. At that moment, Allahyar Khan Beg, son of the governor of Yangihissar, leading some heartbroken Muslims, joined with the Tungans. All the Tungans and Muslims allied together with one mind and set fires to the buildings of the amban official. Til dawn they slaughtered many infidels. As son as it became the daybreak, the [Qing] officials came out [of the fort] with troops to fight. But they could not stand and were defeated. Tungans and Muslims were victorious while the Chinese were vanquished. It happened on the Saturday night, the first day of Muharram, 1281, in the Jawza season in the year of the Snake.
We’ll have more on Western China soon, for sure. Like the political turmoil in Iran, this is a story that won’t be going away anytime soon.