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Thread: How the Han Chinese became the biggest tribe

  1. #1
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    How the Han Chinese became the biggest tribe

    The Han Chinese, the world's biggest ethnic group, owe their rise thanks to massive southward migration from northern China led by the men of their tribe, according to a new study.

    Chinese tradition says that the Han sprung from the ancient Huaxia communities of northern China and that their influence then spread south.

    But the question is whether this was a migration of people or simply a cultural export -- whether the Han language, beliefs and other values were adopted by static communities who then handed it on to their southerly neighbours.

    Genetic sleuthing by Chinese researchers may have found the answer.

    Scientists led by Li Jin of Shanghai's Fudan University took blood samples from 871 individuals living in 17 communities across China.

    They analysed the blood for telltale sequences in the Y chromosome, which only males have, and for variations of mitochondrial DNA, which is only handed down by women.

    Little difference was found in the Y-chromosome fingerprint, but there were broad variations in the mitochondrial sequences. In other words, there was a clear Han lineage, determined by the males who initially came out of the north.

    These men crossed the Yangtze River that until some 2,000 years ago was the country's ethnic divide. They then fanned out, progressively heading to the southwest, the southeast and due south, eventually to the tropical island of Hainan.

    Li's team says the genetic evidence supports historical records which point to "continuous southward movements" of the Han due to warfare and famine in the north.

    In the past two millennia, there have been three big migratory waves that pushed progressively further southwards, in AD 265-316, in 618-907, and in 1127-1279, with smaller migrations in between, according to the evidence from ancient scrolls and tablets.

    "Our genetic observation is thus in line with the historical accounts," Li's team writes in Thursday's issue of Nature, the weekly British science journal.

    "The massive movement of the northern immigrants led to a change in genetic makeup in southern China, and resulted in the demographic expansion of Han people as well as their culture."

    In addition, gene flow between northern Hans, southern Hans and southern natives, also contributed to the genetic mix which shapes the distinctive genetic profile of China's populace today.

    Han migrations:

    Y chromosome and mtDNA

    The study in pdf:

    Y-chromosome haplogroup O3 is a common DNA marker in Han Chinese, as it appeared in China in prehistoric times. It is found in more than 50% of Chinese males, and ranging up to over 80% in certain regional subgroups of the Han ethnicity. However, the mitochondrial DNA of Han Chinese increases in diversity as one looks from northern to southern China, which suggests that some male migrants from northern China married with women from local peoples after arriving in Guangdong, Fujian, and other regions of southern China. Despite this, tests comparing the genetic profiles of northern Han, southern Han and southern natives determined that haplogroups O1b-M110, O2a1-M88 and O3d-M7, which are prevalent in southern natives, were only observed in some southern Hans (4% on average), but not in northern Hans. Therefore, this proves that the male contribution of southern natives in southern Hans is limited. In contrast, there are consistent strong genetic similarities in the Y chromosome haplogroup distribution between the southern and northern Chinese population, and the result of principal component analysis indicates almost all Han populations form a tight cluster in their Y chromosome. Additionally, the estimated contribution of northern Hans to southern Hans is substantial in both paternal and maternal lineages and a geographic cline exists for mtDNA. As a result, the northern Hans are the primary contributors to the gene pool of the southern Hans. However, it is noteworthy that the expansion process was dominated by males, as is shown by a greater contribution to the Y-chromosome than the mtDNA from northern Hans to southern Hans. These genetic observations are in line with historical records of continuous and large migratory waves of northern China inhabitants escaping warfare and famine, to southern China. Aside from these large migratory waves, other smaller southward migrations also occurred during almost all periods in the past two millennia. Moreover, a study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences into the gene frequency data of Han subpopulations and ethnic minorities in China, showed that Han subpopulations in different regions are also genetically close to the local ethnic minorities, and it means that in many cases blood of ethnic minorities has mixed into Han, while at the same time, blood of Han also has mixed into the local ethnicities.

    The Han Chinese is the largest single ethnic group in the world, consisting of ten Chinese branches. With the exception of the Pinghua branch, the genetic structure of this group has been studied extensively, and Y chromosome and mitochondrial (mt)DNA data have demonstrated a coherent genetic structure of all Han Chinese

    Using over 350,000 genome-wide autosomal SNPs in over 6000 Han Chinese samples from ten provinces of China, our study revealed a one-dimensional “north-south” population structure and a close correlation between geography and the genetic structure of the Han Chinese. The north-south population structure is consistent with the historical migration pattern of the Han Chinese population. Metropolitan cities in China were, however, more diffused “outliers,” probably because of the impact of modern migration of peoples. At a very local scale within the Guangdong province, we observed evidence of population structure among dialect groups, probably on account of endogamy within these dialects. Via simulation, we show that empirical levels of population structure observed across modern China can cause spurious associations in GWAS if not properly handled. In the Han Chinese, geographic matching is a good proxy for genetic matching, particularly in validation and candidate-gene studies in which population stratification cannot be directly accessed and accounted for because of the lack of genome-wide data, with the exception of the metropolitan cities, where geographical location is no longer a good indicator of ancestral origin. Our findings are important for designing GWAS in the Chinese population, an activity that is expected to intensify greatly in the near future.

    An ethnolinguist map of China with the distribution of the Han (& other groups):

    Last edited by Piquerobi; 07-17-2016 at 02:16 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Don't know too much about this I'm afraid. Is "Han" a category like "Indo-European" or like e.g. "Germanic" et sim.? I thought the local languages of North and South China were mutually unintelligible or almost...

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  5. #3

    Haplogroup O3-M122 is associated with Han Chinese and the O3-M122 lineage is dominant in East Asians (41.8%) especially in Han Chinese (52.06% in northern Han and 53.72% in southern Han). Yan et al. (2013) found that up to 40% of modern Chinese belong to the three descendant haplogroups (O3-M117, O3-F46, O3-F11). The expansion date of O3-F11 (6.8 kya) coincides with the Yangshao Culture (6.9 kya) in Central Yellow River Basin, when intensive agriculture was introduced in North China.

    Demographic change of human populations is one of the central questions for delving into the past of human beings. To identify major population expansions related to male lineages, we sequenced 78 East Asian Y chromosomes at 3.9 Mbp of the non-recombining region, discovered >4,000 new SNPs, and identified many new clades. The relative divergence dates can be estimated much more precisely using a molecular clock. We found that all the Paleolithic divergences were binary; however, three strong star-like Neolithic expansions at ∼6 kya (thousand years ago) (assuming a constant substitution rate of 1×10−9/bp/year) indicates that ∼40% of modern Chinese are patrilineal descendants of only three super-grandfathers at that time. This observation suggests that the main patrilineal expansion in China occurred in the Neolithic Era and might be related to the development of agriculture. The expansion dates are estimated 5.4 kya for Oα, 6.5 for Oβ, and 6.8 for Oγ (Fig. 1), after the shift to intensive agriculture in North China (since 6.8 kya) [25], [26], in particular, during the Yangshao Culture (6.9–4.9 kya) in Central Yellow River Basin, Majiayao Culture (6.0–4.9 kya) in the Upper Yellow River Basin, and the Beixin (7.4–6.2 kya) – Dawenkou Culture (6.2–4.6 kya) in the Lower Yellow River Basin [27]. We therefore propose that in the late Neolithic Age, the three rapidly expanding clans established the founding patrilineal spectrum of the predecessors in East Asia. Since all the sequenced Han Chinese M117+ samples are under the Oα expansion, and M117+ subclade exists in moderate to very high frequency in many Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups [28], [29], [30], it would be of interest to know when the M117+ individuals in other ethnic groups diverged with the ones in Han Chinese, and whether they are also under the Oα expansion, in order to trace the origin and early history of Sino-Tibetan language family.
    Last edited by ThirdTerm; 07-18-2016 at 04:55 AM.
    Давайте вместе снова сделаем мир великий!

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  7. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    Don't know too much about this I'm afraid. Is "Han" a category like "Indo-European" or like e.g. "Germanic" et sim.? I thought the local languages of North and South China were mutually unintelligible or almost...
    There are several mutually unintelligible languages (or rather groups of dialects) and even the dialects of one "language" can be pretty far apart. But at the same time there is a certain unity.

    I imagine that if the Roman Empire kept reconstituting itself from time to time and all the French, Spanish, Italians, etc thought of themselves not only as these things but also as Latins, it would be something similar. But I could be wrong.

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  9. #5
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    But are "the Han" really "one tribe", or several groups with a common identity? Check this video:

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