Episode #8 of the course “Biggest wars in history”
Date: 1862 – 1877
Estimated casualties: 8,000,000 – 10,000,000
Wars with religious affiliations are common, and they tend to divide people by ethnic ties. The Dungan Revolt, one example of this phenomenon, took place between 1862 and 1877, and there was actually another Dungan Revolt in 1895. However, the major revolt began in 1862. This war was mainly based on ethnic disputes—it started over a simple argument over bamboo poles, where a Han merchant was selling poles to a Hui who did not pay the amount that the merchant demanded.
The Hui people of China are a predominantly Muslim group usually found in the northwestern provinces and the central plain, but they are dispersed throughout the country as well. The Han people are not Muslim but rather an ethnic group that is native to East Asia.
The uprising of the Hui people occurred along the banks of the Yellow River in Gansu, Ningzia, and Shaanxi. The ultimate goal was to create a new Muslim country in these areas. It was a relatively unorganized assault, but it still had bloody results. Roughly 2 million Hui people were killed and about 6 million Han people died, which meant that more than 50% of the region’s population vanished.
This was during the Qing Dynasty, and the Qing generals eventually acted to end the ethnic war. They retook Xinjiang and that stopped the rebellion in 1877. Some of the Hui people fled to imperial Russia, and two of the Hui leaders’ corpses were burned in full view of the public. By the end of the 15-year war, some estimate that 12 million people lost their lives.
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