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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Feb 10, 2023

On this episode of Unsupervised Learning Razib explores the history of China through the lens of genetics and ancient DNA. This podcast is a companion to the recent two pieces, Genetic history with Chinese characteristics and Venerable Ancestors: untangling the Chinese people's hybrid Pleistocene origins. Today 92% of the citizens of the People’s Republic of China are ethnic Han, accounting for 16% of humanity. With China’s new prominence in genomics over the last decade, the genetic structure and relatedness of the Han and other ethnic groups in modern China have been extensively mapped. While India is fractured into thousands of endogamous groups, the Han Chinese are surprisingly homogeneous, with most variation dividing the North Chinese from the South Chinese. 

Though the Chinese claim “5,000 years of history,” Razib probes deeper, back to the arrival of modern humans to East Asia more than 40,000 years ago, perhaps as early as 50,000 years ago. The monologue recounts the discovery and implications of the first modern human genome from East Asia, Tianyun Man, and how he relates to the region's peoples today and their Pleistocene diversification and Holocene homogenization. Finally, Razib reflects on how science differs from the narrative the modern Chinese tell about their origins and how they relate to their neighboring nations.