The holy war of the Afaqi Khoja (Pre-Dungan)

This article is also available in: Italiano

To better understand a war, you need to know what it was that triggered it, so you can have a global and overall picture on issues that upset the lives of millions of people. Precisely for this reason, we begin with the holy war of the Afaq Khoja, which was fought a few years before the great Dungan revolt.

Black and white Sufis

In the 16th century, Central Asia became increasingly linked to the Islamic world and in particular to that of the Naqshbandi Sufis who, with the figure of Ahmad Kasani, also managed to become political authority in what is now Xinjiang. With the death of the latter, however, two different orders will be born: the Afaqi Khoja (or “white highlanders”) and the Ishaqi Khoja (the “black highlanders”) who will challenge each other for 80 years to come, giving away to increasingly strong instability in the region.


The turning point will take place a few years before the arrival of the Qing, with the definitive victory of the Ishaqi and the consequent exile of the Afaqi, who, however, will return a few years later to regain the lands taken from them. Unfortunately, only a few years later China will make its final entry into these territories.

Holy war

Some members of this sect / clan, however, took refuge in the nearby Kokand Khanate, organizing a rebellion that found increasing consensus because of the barbaric treatments of the Qing occupiers towards the population and, in particular, women. The legendary “fraternization” of the imperial soldiers with the latter led to growing tensions, even going so far as to start several revolts.


Starting in 1826, Jahangir Khoja will launch his first revolt against the Chinese authorities, succeeding in freeing several strongholds and obtaining military support from the Khan of Kokand, but not from the entire population. Because of their excesses, in fact, the Afaqi Khoja were always seen as a kind of external agents, not so much liberators of the suffering but rather as external conquerors. Precisely for this reason, in 1827 Jahangir was captured and executed in Beijing, but the clashes continued until 1832, the year in which the Qing promised extremely favorable conditions in Kokand in exchange for non-belligerence. This will lead to an initial pacification of the region, destined to ignite only 15 years later.

Total war

In 1847, in fact, descendants of Jahangir will resume their war for the liberation of Xinjiang, without however the support of the Uzbek city, which no longer supported in any way the effort of the Sufi congregation.

The tomb of Afaq Khoja in Kashgar, Xinjiang

These clashes will go on for years without a real conclusion, as they will then merge with the growing tensions throughout China, then leading to the outbreak of the Dungan Revolts starting from 1862. In the next few days we will also make a prologue on the other regions that will be protagonists, so as to really understand the political situation that prevailed then in the country.

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