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Phenotypic evolution of Crohn's disease occurs in whites but has never been described in other populations. The Montreal classification may describe phenotypes more precisely. The aim of this study was to validate the Montreal classification through a longitudinal sensitivity analysis in detecting phenotypic variation compared to the Vienna classification.This was a retrospective longitudinal study of consecutive Chinese Crohn's disease patients. All cases were classified by the Montreal classification and the Vienna classification for behavior and location. The evolution of these characteristics and the need for surgery were evaluated.A total of 109 patients were recruited (median follow-up: 4 years, range: 6 months–18 years). Crohn's disease behavior changed 3 years after diagnosis (P = 0.025), with an increase in stricturing and penetrating phenotypes, as determined by the Montreal classification, but was only detected by the Vienna classification after 5 years (P = 0.015). Disease location remained stable on follow-up in both classifications. Thirty-four patients (31%) underwent major surgery during the follow-up period with the stricturing [P = 0.002; hazard ratio (HR): 3.3; 95% CI: 1.5–7.0] and penetrating (P = 0.03; HR: 5.8; 95% CI: 1.2–28.2) phenotypes according to the Montreal classification associated with the need for major surgery. In contrast, colonic disease was protective against a major operation (P = 0.02; HR: 0.3; 95% CI: 0.08–0.8).This is the first study demonstrating phenotypic evolution of Crohn's disease in a nonwhite population. The Montreal classification is more sensitive to behavior phenotypic changes than is the Vienna classification after excluding perianal disease from the penetrating disease category and was useful in predicting course and the need for surgery.