Utsul, Utsat, Utset, Huihui, Hui or Hainan Cham
Total population
At least 8,500[1]
Regions with significant populations
Sanya, Hainan
Tsat, Standard Chinese, Hainanese
Predominantly Sunni Islam

The Utsuls ([hu˩ t͡saːn˧˨]; traditional Chinese: 回輝人; simplified Chinese: 回辉人; pinyin: Huíhuīrén) are a Chamic-speaking East Asian ethnic group which lives on the island of Hainan and are considered one of the People's Republic of China's unrecognized ethnic groups. They are found on the southernmost tip of Hainan near the city of Sanya.


The Utsuls are thought to be descendants of Cham refugees who fled their homeland of Champa in what is now modern Central Vietnam to escape the Vietnamese invasion.[2] After the Vietnamese completed the conquest of Cham in 1471, sacking Vijaya, the last capital of the Cham kingdom, a Cham prince and about 1,000 followers moved to Hainan, where the Ming dynasty allowed them to stay.[3] Several Chinese accounts record Cham arriving on Hainan even earlier, from 986, shortly after the Vietnamese captured the earlier Cham capital of Indrapura in 982, while other Cham refugees settled in Guangzhou.[4][5]

While most of the Chams who fled Champa to Cambodia, a small business class fled northwards. How they came to acquire the name Utsul is unknown.[citation needed]

Their population was greatly reduced during World War II by the Japanese that more than 4,000 Chams were killed in Sanya as Chinese armies were hiding among them from the invading Japanese.[6] Hundreds of Utsul Muslim houses and mosques in Sanya were destroyed by the Japanese in order to build an airport.[7]


See also: Islamophobia in China

In 2020, it was reported that Beijing had started a religious crackdown aimed at the Utsul community as part of their political efforts. Restrictions included limiting the size of mosques, requiring a Chinese Communist Party member on mosque management committees, forbidding the use of Arabic words on food stalls (such as "halal"), and forbidding the wearing of hijab.[8][9][10]


Although they are culturally, ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Hui, the Chinese government nevertheless classifies them as Hui due to their Islamic faith. From reports by Hans Stübel, the German ethnographer who made contact with them in the 1930s, however, their language is completely unrelated to any other language spoken in mainland China.[11]


A genetic study by Li et al. (2013) suggested that the surviving Utsat were genetically much closer to the indigenous Hlai people than to the Cham and other mainland southeast Asian populations. The study suggests that there was high assimilation of the indigenous Hlai in the formation of the Utsat.[12]

Family names

Some common Utsul family names include Chen, Ha, Hai, Jiang, Li, Liu and Pu.[13]

Famous people

See also


  1. ^ Gladney, Dru C., ed. (1998). Making Majorities: Constituting the Nation in Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Fiji, Turkey, and the United States. Stanford University Press. p. 122. ISBN 9780804730488.
  2. ^ Olson, James Stuart (1998). An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 0-313-28853-4.
  3. ^ Nhung Tuyet Tran (2006). Vịêt Nam: Borderless Histories. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 104. ISBN 0-299-21774-4.
  4. ^ Grant, Anthony; Sidwell, Paul, eds. (2005). Chamic and Beyond: Studies in Mainland Austronesian Languages. Pacific Linguistics. p. 247. doi:10.15144/PL-569. hdl:1885/146271. ISBN 0-85883-561-4.
  5. ^ Andaya, Leonard Y. (2008). Leaves of the Same Tree: Trade and Ethnicity in the Straits of Melaka. University of Hawaii Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-8248-3189-9. cham hainan.
  6. ^ 海南岛农业地理 - Volume 51 - Page 44
  7. ^ Thurgood, Graham; Thurgood, Ela; Li, Fengxiang (2014). A Grammatical Sketch of Hainan Cham: History, Contact, and Phonology. Vol. 643 of Pacific Linguistics [PL] (reprint ed.). Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 20. ISBN 978-1614516040.
  8. ^ Seibt, Sébastian (2020-09-30). "Beijing's Crackdown on Religious Minorities Takes Aim at 10,000 Muslim Utsuls". France 24. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  9. ^ Baptista, Eduardo (2020-09-28). "Tiny Muslim Community Becomes Latest Target for China's Religious Crackdown". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  10. ^ Bradsher, Keith; Qin, Amy (2021-02-14). "China's Crackdown on Muslims Extends to a Resort Island". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  11. ^ Ramsey, S. Robert (1987). The Languages of China. Princeton University Press. p. 168. ISBN 0-691-06694-9.
  12. ^ Li, Dong-Na; Wang, Chuan-Chao; Yang, Kun; et al. (2013). "Substitution of Hainan Indigenous Genetic Lineage in the Utsat People, Exiles of the Champa Kingdom: Genetic Structure of Hainan Utsat People". Journal of Systematics and Evolution. 51 (3): 287–294. doi:10.1111/jse.12000.
  13. ^ Thurgood, Graham; Thurgood, Ela; Fengxiang, Li (2014). A Grammatical Sketch of Hainan Cham: History, Contact, and Phonology (reprint ed.). De Gruyter Mouton. p. 12. ISBN 9781614516040.
  14. ^ Choong Kwee Kim (22 December 2003). "PM Meets Relatives from China". The Star. Retrieved 2021-04-18.