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Utsul, Utsat, Utset, Huihui, Hui or Hainan Cham
Total population
at least 8,500[1]
Regions with significant populations
Sanya, Hainan
Tsat (native)
Mandarin, Hainanese
Predominantly Islam
Related ethnic groups
Li people, Chams, Malay people and other Austronesian peoples

The Utsuls ([hu˩ t͡saːn˧˨]; traditional Chinese: 回輝人; simplified Chinese: 回辉人; pinyin: Huíhuī rén) or Hainan Hui (Chinese: 海南回族; pinyin: Hǎinán huízú), 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 some 1,000 followers moved to Hainan, where the Ming dynasty allowed them to set up a kingdom-in-exile.[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 went to neighbouring Cambodia, a small business class fled northwards. How they came to acquire the name Utsul is unknown.

Their population was greatly reduced during World War II by the Japanese who slaughtered more than 4,000 of them in their massacres of ethnic minorities in western Hainan and Sanya as Chinese armies were hiding among them from the invading japanese.[6]

On September 30, 2010, it was reported that Beijing had started a religious crackdown aimed at the Utsuls.[7][8]


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.[9] About 3,500 of them are speakers of the Tsat language, which is one of the few Malayo-Polynesian languages that are tonal. Whereas other Hui people are Muslims who do not have a distinct mother tongue or language that separates them from the Han, the Utsuls do have their own language, which is regarded as separate and distinct from Sinitic dialects. As a result, their classification as Hui people is controversial.


Dongna Li and Chuan-Chao Wang have typed paternal Y chromosome and maternal mitochondrial DNA markers in 102 Utsat people to gain a better understanding of the genetic history of this population. High frequencies of the Y chromosome haplogroup O1a*-M119 and mtDNA lineages D4, F2a, F1b, F1a1, B5a, M8a, M*, D5, and B4a exhibit a pattern similar to that seen in the neighboring indigenous Li ethnic minority. Cluster analyses (principal component analyses and networks) of the Utsat, Cham, and other ethnic groups in East Asia indicate that the Utsat are much closer to the Hainan indigenous Li people than to the Cham and other mainland southeast Asian populations. These findings suggest that the origins of the Utsat likely involved massive assimilation of indigenous ethnic groups. During the assimilation process, the language of Utsat has been structurally changed to a tonal language; their Islamic beliefs may have helped to keep their culture and self-identification.[10]

Family names[edit]

Some common Utsul family names include Chen, Ha, Hai, Jiang, Li, Liu and Pu.[11]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ James Stuart Olson (1998). An ethnohistorical dictionary of China. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 0-313-28853-4. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  3. ^ Nhung Tuyet Tran (2006). Vịêt Nam: borderless histories. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 104. ISBN 0-299-21774-4. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  4. ^ Anthony Grant, Paul Sidwell, Australian National University. Pacific Linguistics (2005). Chamic and beyond: studies in mainland Austronesian languages. Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. p. 247. ISBN 0-85883-561-4. Retrieved 2010-11-28.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Leonard Y. Andaya (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. Retrieved 2010-11-28. cham hainan.
  6. ^ 海南岛农业地理 - Volume 51 - Page 44
  7. ^ "Beijing's crackdown on religious minorities takes aim at 10,000 Muslim Utsuls". France 24. 2020-09-30. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  8. ^ "Tiny Muslim community becomes latest target for China's religious crackdown". South China Morning Post. 2020-09-28. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  9. ^ S. Robert Ramsey (1987). The Languages of China. Princeton University Press. p. 168. ISBN 0-691-06694-9. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
  10. ^ Li DN*, Wang CC*, Yang K, Qin ZD, Lu Y, Lin XJ, Li H, the Genographic Consortium. Substitution of Hainan indigenous genetic lineage in the Utsat people, exiles of the Champa kingdom. J Syst Evol. 2013, 51(3):287–294.
  11. ^ Graham Thurgood; Ela Thurgood; Li Fengxiang (2014). A Grammatical Sketch of Hainan Cham: History, Contact, and Phonology (reprint ed.). Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 12. ISBN 9781614516040.