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The Panthay Rebellion (1856–1873), known in Chinese as the Du Wenxiu Rebellion ( ) was a separatist movement of the Hui people and Chinese Muslim against the imperial Qing Dynastymarker in southwestern Yunnan Provincemarker, Chinamarker, as part of a wave of Hui-led multi-ethnic unrest.

The name "Panthay" is a Burmese word, which is said to be identical with the Shan word Pang hse. It was the name by which the Burmese called the Chinese Muslims who came with caravans to Burma from the Chinese province of Yunnanmarker. The name was not used or known in Yunnan itself.


The discrimination with which the Hui were treated by the imperial administration was the cause of their rebellions. Some suggest that the Panthay Rebellion originated solely as a conflict between Han and Muslim miners in 1853, but Han-Hui tensions existed for decades prior to that including a three-day massacre of Hui by Han and Qing officials in 1845.

In 1856, a massacre of Muslims was organized by the Qingmarker officials responsible for suppressing the revolt in the provincial capital of Kunming sparked a province-wide multi-ethnic insurrgency. In the western Yunnan of Dali, an independent kingdom was established and lead by a man called Du Wenxiu (杜文秀; pinyin: Dù Wénxiù) (1823–1872), an ethnic Hui born in Yongchangmarker.

Revolution slogans of Du Wenxiu

  • Have Peace with Han Chinese, Down with Qing court (Chinese: 安汉反清)

  • To unite Hui and Han people as one, To erect flag of rebellion, To get rid of Manchu barbarians, To resurrect Zhonghua, To cut away corruptions, To save people from water and fire. "Chinese: 连回、汉为一体,竖立义旗,驱逐鞑虏,恢复中华,剪除贪污,出民水火"

Course of the war

The rebellion started as widespread local uprisings in virtually every region of the province. It was the rebels in western Yunnan under the leadership of Du Wenxiu who by gaining the control of Dali in 1856 (which they retained until its fall in 1872) who became the major military and political center of opposition to the Qing government. They turned their fury on the local mandarins and ended up challenging the central government in Beijing.

The Imperial Government was handicapped by a profusion of problems in various parts of the sprawling empire, the Taiping rebellion being one of them. It was a time when China was still suffering from the shocks caused by the first series of unequal treaties, such as the Treaty of Nanking. These circumstances favored the ascendancy of the Muslims in Yunnan.

The Pacified Southern Kingdom

The rebellion successfully captured the city of Dalimarker, which became the base for the rebels' operations, and they declared themselves a separate political entity from China. The rebels identified their nation as Pingnan Guo (平南国 The Pacified Southern Kingdom); their leader Sulayman ibn `Abd ar-Rahman, known as Du Wenxiu [originally Yang Xiu]) (died 1873) was styled Qa´id Jami al-Muslimin ('Leader of the Community of Muslims'), but is usually referred to in foreign sources as Sultan) and ruled 1856 - 26 December 1872.

Governorships of the sultanate were also created in a few important cities, such as Momein (Tengyuemarker), which were a few stages from the Burmese border town of Bhamo. The sultanate reached the high watermark of their power and glory in 1860.

The eight years from 1860 to 1868 were the heyday of the Sultanate. The Yunnanese Muslim rebels had either taken or destroyed forty towns and one hundred villages.

Various rebel forces besieged the city of Kunmingmarker repeatedly: in 1857, 1861, 1863, and 1868. Ma Rulong, a Hui rebel leader from southern Yunnanmarker, besieged the city in 1862, but he defected to the central government's forces after being offered a military post. His decision to quit the siege was not accepted by his followers, who took the opportunity of his absence to kill the Governor-General (Pan Duo) and to wrest control of the city from the Qing in 1863, with the intention of handing the city over to Du Wenxiu. However, before Du's forces could arrive, Ma Rulong — with the assistance of a rising Qing military officier, Cen Yuying — raced back to Kunming and regained control of the provincial capital.


The Sultanate's power declined after 1868. The Chinese Imperial Government had succeeded in reinvigorating itself. By 1871, it was directing a campaign for the annihilation of the obdurate Hui Muslims of Yunnanmarker. By degrees the Imperial Government had tightened the cordon around the Sultanate. The Sultanate proved unstable as soon as the Imperial Government made a regular and determined attack on it. Town after town fell under well-organized attacks made by the imperial troops. Dali itself was besieged by the imperial Chinese. Sultan Sulayman found himself caged in by the walls of his capital. He now desperately looked for outside help. He turned to the British for military assistance. He realized that only British military intervention could have saved his Sultanate.

The Sultan had reasons for his turning to the British for military aid. The British authorities in India and British Burma had sent a mission led by Major Sladen to Momien from May to July 1868. The Sladen mission had stayed seven weeks at Momien meeting with rebel officials. The main purpose of the mission was to revive the Ambassador Route between Bhamo and Yunnanmarker and resuscitate border trade, which had almost ceased since 1855 mainly because of the Yunnan Muslims' rebellion.

Taking advantage of the friendly relations resulting from Sladen's visit, Sultan Sulayman now, in his fight for the survival of the Pingnan Guo Sultanate, turned to the the British Empire for formal recognition and for military assistance. In 1872 he sent his adopted son Prince Hassan, to England, with a personal letter to Queen Victoria, via Burma, requesting British military assistance. The Hassan Mission was accorded courtesy and hospitality in both British Burma and England. However, the British politely, but firmly, refused to intervene militarily in Yunnan against Peking. Indeed, the mission was too little too late. While Hassan and his party were abroad, Dali was captured by the Imperial troops in January 1873.

The Imperial Government had waged an all-out war against the Sultanate with the help of French artillery experts. Their modern equipment, trained personnel and numerical superiority were no match for the ill-equipped rebels with no allies. Thus, in less than two decades of its rise, the power of the Panthays in Yunnan fell. Seeing no escape and no mercy from his relentless foe, Sultan Sulayman tried to take his own life before the fall of Dali. But, before the poison he drank took effect fully, he was beheaded by his enemies. The Sultan's head was preserved in honey and then dispatched to the Imperial Court in Peking as a trophy and a testimony to the decisive nature of the victory of the Imperial Chinese over the Muslims of Yunnan. His body is entombed in Xiadui outside of Dali.

The scattered remnants of the Pingnan Guo troops continue their resistance after the fall of Dali. But when Momien was next besieged and stormed by the imperial troops in May 1873, their resistance broke completely. Governor Ta-sa-kon was captured and executed by the order of the Imperial Government.



Though largely forgotten, the bloody rebellion caused the deaths of up to a million people in Yunnanmarker. Many adherents to the Yunnanese Muslim cause were persecuted by the imperial Manchus. Wholesale massacres of Yunnanese Muslims followed. Many fled with their families across the Burmese border and took refuge in the Wa State where, about 1875, they set up the exclusively Hui town of Panglong.

For a period of perhaps ten to fifteen years following the collapse of the Panthay Rebellion, the province's Hui minority was widely discriminated against by the victorious Qing, especially in the western frontier districts contiguous with Burma. During these years the refugee Hui settled across the frontier within Burma gradually established themselves in their traditional callings – as merchants, caravaneers, miners, restaurateurs and (for those who chose or were forced to live beyond the law) as smugglers and mercenaries and became known in Burma as the Panthay.

At least 15 years after the collapse of the Panthay Rebellion , the original Panthay settlements in Burma had grown to include numbers of Shan and other hill peoples.

Impact on Burma

The rebellion had a significant negative impact on the Burmese Konbaung Dynasty. After losing lower Burma to the British, Burma lost access to vast tracts of rice-growing land. Not wishing to upset China, the Burmese kingdom agreed to refuse trade with the Pingnan Guo rebels in accordance with China's demands. Without the ability to import rice from China, Burma was forced to import rice from the British. In addition, the Burmese economy had relied heavily on cotton exports to China, and suddenly lost access to the vast Chinese market. Many surviving Hui refugees escaped over the border to neighboring countries, Burmamarker, Thailandmarker and Laosmarker, forming the basis of a minority Chinese Hui population in those nations.

See also


  1. (Scott, 1900, 607)
  2. (Yule & Burnell, 1968, 669)
  3. Historical Sketch of the Hui Muslims of China
  4. (Anderson, 1876, 343)
  5. (Thaung, 1961, 481)
  6. (Thaung, 1961, 482)
  7. (Scott, 1901, 740)


  • Atwill, David G., The Chinese Sultanate: Islam, Ethnicity and the Panthay Rebellion in Southwest China, 1856-1873, ISBN 0-8047-5159-5
  • Fitzgerald, C.P., The Southern Expansion of the Chinese People, ISBN 974-8495-81-7
  • Scott, J. George, GUBSS, 1, i ( Rangoon Government Printing, 1900).
  • Thant Myint-U, The Making of Modern Burma, ISBN 0-521-79914-7
  • WorldStatesmen - China
  • "Religious toleration in China" Contemporary Review v. 86 (July 1904)
  • Yule, Col. Henry & Burnell, A. C., Hobson-Jobson- A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical And Discursive (Delhi-.Munshiran Manoharlal, 1968), Reprint.

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