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Chinese kawaii girls
DNA studies have shown that all Asians descend from two common lineages: 1) one more common in southern Asia, particularly among Vietnamese, Malays and New Guineans; and 2) one more common in northern Asia, particularly among Tibetans, Koreans and Siberians.

An exhaustive analysis of the genes of 8,200 ethnic Chinese has revealed subtle genetic difference in Chinese that live in northern China and those that live in southern China. A study by Liu Jianjun of the Science, Technology and Research Agency of Singapore, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, revealed variants between the two groups that are somewhat consistent with those of historical migrations to the two regions.

In December 2009 Lui told Reuter, “This genetic map...tells us how people differ from each other, or how people are more closely linked to each other...We don't know what these variants are responsible for. Some have clinical outcomes and influence disease development. This is what we are interested in genetic variation."

The scientist also found genetic difference between Chinese dialect groups. Liu told Reuters, “Different dialect groups are definitely not identical...language is a reflection of our evolution, that's why you see the differences."

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Uighur girl
Books: Human Variation, Races, Types and Ethnic Groups by Stephen Molnar (Prentice Hall, 1992); The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould (Norton, 1991); The Evolution of Racism by Pat Shipmen (Simon & Schuster, 1994); and Human Biodiversity by Jonathan Marks of Yale University (Walter Gruyter).

Good Websites and Sources: Chinese Personality book on PDF file Book: Understanding the Chinese Personality ; Chinese Personality and Work ; Negotiating and Building Relationships with Chinese by Sidney Rittenberg ; Understanding Chinese Business Culture ; Status of Chinese People Blog ; Chinese Human Genome Diversity Project ; Difference Between Chinese and Japanese, a Blog Report ; Opinions on Asian Fetish ; Wikipedia article on the Mongoloid Race Wikipedia ; Chinese Personality Constructs ; Old Chinese jokes China Vista ; Essay on Humor, China and Japan


Chinese Physical Characteristics

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Tibetan girl
People classified as Asians are physically different in some ways from people of European descent. In almost all cases Asians have straight, black hair and dark eyes. They also tend to have less body hair, less facial hair, flatter faces, smaller noses, wider cheekbones, and "shovel-shaped" incisor teeth (front teeth whose back side has a slightly scooped out shape)..

Asians are less likely to get some diseases than Westerners and more likely to get others. Many Asians get acne at a later age than Westerners. Fewer Asian men go bald than European men. There also appears to be less Asians with grey hair, but it is not clear whether this is because they get grey hair at a later age or dye their hair. Many Asian children find red and blonde hair and hairy arms and legs to be fascinatingand can’t resist tugging on it or rubbing their hands on it.

Northern Asians are generally stockier and have lighter skin and thinner eyes than southern Asians. All skin contains about the same number of melanocytes but the amount of melanin they produce varies. Dark skinned people produce more melanin and light skin people produce less.

Some people think that differences between Asians and Europeans have existed for some time. While holding a cast of a Peking Man skull, Chinese archeologist Jia Lan told National Geographic, "This skull has some characteristic of modern Chinese people. For instance, the nose bone of Peking man was low and cheeks were flat, as in Asians today."

Yellow Skin

Asians are sometimes referred to as having yellow skin. It is not clear where the term comes from especially when one rarely sees an Asian with yellow skin unless they have jaundice. Biologists who deal with such matters classify most Asians as having the same skin color as people living in northern North America.

Some trace its origins to the term “yellow peril”---fear of Oriental hordes overwhelming the West---which first appeared shortly after Japan defeated China in 1895 and has been attributed to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II but was used before him by the Hungarian General Turr in an assessment of Bismark. Several American newspapers used the term, including the Ohio paper The Sandsuky Register, which ran a story in June 1895 with the following passage: “The “yellow peril” is more threatening than ever. Japan has made in a few years as much progress as other nations have made in centuries.”

Westerners rarely use the term yellow or yellow skin in association with Asians anymore but sometimes Asians do. Chinese athlete Liu Xiang dedicated the gold medal he won in 110 meter hurdles at the 2004 Summer Olympics to “all the yellow-skinned people” and called his performance a “miracle.” “Because I’m Chinese,” he said, “and have the physiology of the Asian race to me this is a miracle. But because of it I expect more miracles in the future.” In China Liu is nicknamed the “The Yellow Bullet”.


Skin Color and Zebrafish

The are number of theories that attempt to explain why there are difference in skin color. One theory holds that lighter skin evolved as an adaption to weaker sunlight and the need to extract more sunlight to manufacture Vitamin D. Pale skin makes this easier when the sun’s rays are not particularly strong. But unfortunately for people with pale skin malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is more common among lighter skinned people than darker skinned ones.

In 2005, scientists discovered a tiny mutation in a gene that plays a key role in determining skin color, with Caucasians inheriting a different version than other groups. The gene---named slc245a5---was discovered in a cancer research study using zebrafish, which have the same gene and come in dark and light skin versions. Slc245a is believed to be responsible for between 25 and 38 percent of the color variation between Europeans and Africans.

Researchers found that people in Africa and China have one variation of slc245a5 and people of European ancestry have another. The research indicated that the dark version was the original and the light version evolved as humans migrated from Africa into northern areas and is consistent with a theory that lighter skin evolved as an adaption to weaker sunlight.

On the relevance of this finding to race, Gregory Barsh of Stanford University told the Times of London: “The paper indicates how the genetics of skin color variation is quite different from, and not be confused with, the concept of race...One of the most obvious characteristics that distinguishes different humans is nothing more than a simple change in the activity of a protein expressed in pigment cells. Skin color does not equal race period.”

double eyelid, the result of a common cosmetic surgery procedure in Asia, See Cosmetic Surgery in China

Chinese Eyes, Ears and Squatting

The small webs of skin over the corners of Asian eyes are described by scientists as epicanthic folds. It is not understood why Asians have them and Europeans don't. Most Asians have a dry kind of ear wax that is relatively odorless while Africans and Europeans have wet and sticky ear wax that gives off more smell.

Many Asians also don't have a crease around the top of their eyelid like Westerners do. Some Asian women consider an eyelid with a crease to be more beautiful than an eyelid without one and spend a lot of money for "double slit operation," to have a crease surgically incised into their eyelid. Many Asians also consider round eyes to be more beautiful than almond-shaped eyes.

Asians are more comfortable squatting and crouching than Westerners. In many Asian countries people relax and rest for long periods of time in a squatting position that many Westerners find unbearably uncomfortable after only a few seconds. Some scientists claim that the squatting position is better for digestion. Many Asians also prefer sitting on the floor than on chairs and couches, which Westerners prefer.

Asian Blood and Body Odor

Type B blood is more common among East Asians and Africans than it is among Europeans. Asians generally do not have Rh-negative blood and hospitals do not store it for transfusions. Foreign travelers who have O Rh negative are in big trouble because they can only accept O negative blood, which generally isn't available.

Deodorants are sometimes difficult to find in Asia although they have become more common in recent years, in part through marketing efforts by deodorant makers. Body odor is produced by apocrine glands in the armpits and genital area. Men have more and larger apocrine glands than women, and Caucasians and Africans have more and larger glands than Asians.

Milk, Butter and Lactase Races

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procedure in Asia, Before
Lactase persistence (ability to digest milk) exists in more than 90 percent of Scandinavians but only 1 percent of Chinese. The trait is more common in places where people drink a lot of milk and the herding of goats, camels and cattle is common.

Some Asians don't like cheese, butter, milk or other dairy prodcuts and in some cases get physically sick if they consume them. In the old days, many Asian didn't even like their smell. Nineteenth century Japanese described Europeans traders as bata-kusai ("stinks of butter").

The aversion for dairy products is partly the result of the fact that many Asians lose lactase, an the enzyme which helps in digestion of milk sugar, as they get older. Groups that don't possess the lactase enzyme are called lactase negative races and those that have it are called lactase positive races.

After cosmetic surgery
Almost all mammalian milk contains lactose, a complex sugar that is broken down in the body of most people into simpler sugars like glucose by lactase. If people who lack lactase consume a lot of dairy products, undigested lactose accumulates in their large intestines, ferments, and emits gas. This leads to bloating and diarrhea.

Most adult animals can not tolerate lactose. Over time through evolution humans have developed a tolerance to lactose. Around 8000 years ago most people were lactase negative because they stopped consuming milk when they were weaned form their mothers. Beginning around 4000 B.C. some groups of people began drinking milk from domesticated animals, and later milk became an important food source for people in northern and central Europe, Arabia and parts of West Africa. Natural selection enabled these people to retain the lactase enzyme into adulthood while groups that didn't drink milk lost the enzyme in childhood.

Exposure to American food like pizza and cheeseburgers have made dairy products more palatable to young Asians.

Height, Red Faces and Mongolia Birth Marks

About half of all Asians lack an active enzyme which breaks down acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical derived from ethanol found in most forms of alcohol. As a result, when they drink they often get sick to their stomach or turn red in the face. Most westerners have this enzyme, and consequently they need to drink much more to get drunk or turn red.

jaw work, common cosmetic surgery
procedure in Asia, before
Some Asians turn bright red after only a few sips of alcohol. If they continue drinking they often vomit because their bodies reject the alcohol.

Almost all Japanese, Korean, Mongolians, and some Chinese are born with a Mongolian birthmark, a small patch of brown pigment located on their butts or lower back. The marks vary in size and usually disappear within a few years. Indians in North, Central and South Americas also have these marks. Some scientists have suggested that these marks are evidence that these people originated from Asia. "Mongolian spots" are also found in southern African Bushmen.

Asians on average are also generally thinner and shorter than Westerners but they are getting taller and fatter. Some believe that at least some of the differences are explained by diet. See Chinese People

Asian Traits Found Among Other Groups

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Khoisians ("bushmen") from southern Africa also have epicanthic folds and Mongolian birthmarkes. Many Swedes and native Americans have shovel shaped incisors. Many American Indians also have lack enzyme that helps the body metabolize alcohol.

Lactase negative races include east Asians, some African blacks, American Indians, southern Europeans and Australian aborigines. Lactase positive races include northern and central Europeans, Arabians and some West African groups such as the Fulani.

Explanation for Physical Differences

No one knows why Asians have thin eyes or flat facial profiles. None of these traits appear to give groups or individuals any kind of evolutionary advantage or provide a particular adaption to a particular environment. Epicanthic folds and thin eyes, some scientist have speculated, may have developed in northern Asia as a way of protecting the eyes from cold and glare off the snow.

Some anthropologists believe that people in northern climates developed stockier bodies because they have less surface area and retain internal heat better than long thin bodies with long limbs which have more surface area to dissipate heat. This may be why many Africans in hot climates have long thin bodies, while eskimos and some northern Asians are stocky and squat.

Small noses are commonly found among Asians who live in humid tropical areas. Long noses are common among North Africans in dry climates and among northern Europeans in cold or dry climates. One of the main purposes of the nose is to moisten air that enters the body (an excess amount of dry air is harmful to lungs) and therefore long noes may be an adaption among people in dry climates to moisturize air.

Variations in Skin Color and Other Traits

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"By definition we are all capable of interbreeding with all other human beings of the opposite sex to produce fertile offspring," wrote James Shreeve in Discover magazine. "In practice, however, people do not mate randomly; they normally choose their partners from within a social group or population immediately at hand and have been doing so for hundreds of generations."

More so than today, people in the past were divided into specific geographical regions by mountain ranges, deserts and oceans. They generally stayed pretty close to their homelands until the beginning of European colonialism in the 16th century, when people from far away regions began mixing and interbreeding. People still seem to prefer their own kind. Studies have shown that people tend to mate with people who resembles themselves in term of things like eye, hair and skin color.

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"As a result," Sheeve wrote, "the physical expressions of the genes inherited for an expanding chain of parents and grandparents---most of whom lived in the same region as one another---also tend to cluster, so that there is a great deal of variation from one geographical region to another in skin color, hair form, facial morphology, body proportion and a host of immediately less obvious traits."

History of the Concept of Race

Early explorers like Marco Polo traveled by camel or boat over relatively short distances each day. "It never occurred to them to categorize people, because they had seen everything in between," University of Michigan anthropologist Loring Brace told Discover magazine. "That changed when you could get into a boat, sail for months, and wind up in a different continent entirely."

The notion of using science to define race can be traced back to Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish biologist who helped develop the modern system of classifying living things into genus and species. In 1758, Linnaeus took the radical step of establishing Homo sapiens as a species within a group of animals called primates and then divided mankind into four races: 1) Europeans, 2) Native Americans, 3) Asians and 4) Africans. He also mentioned two other categories: monstous (hairy creatures with tails described by explorers) and ferus ("wild boys"). Members of the latter group were occasionally found in the forest and were believed to have been raised by animals (most were actually mentally ill or retarded youngsters abandoned by their parents).

Linnaeus then went a step further and defined four races in terms of personality and dress. He said Native Americans were "red, choleric, upright" and "ruled by habit"; Europeans were "white, sanguine, muscular" and "ruled by custom"; Asians were "pale yellow, melancholy, stiff" and "ruled by belief"; and Africans were "black, phlegmatic, relaxed" and "ruled by caprice." About a century after Linnaeus, Charles Darwin attributed the difference in human races to sexual preference in his second most influential book, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex.

Problems with the Concept of Race

"Race is supposed to be a strictly biological category, equivalent to animal subspecies," Yale anthropologist Jonathan Marks told Discover magazine. "The problem is that humans also use it as a cultural category, and it is difficult if not impossible, to separate those two things from each other."

Racial categories based on skin color and geography often doesn't make any sense. Indians from India, for example, have dark skin (like "blacks") and Europeanlike facial features (like "Caucasians") but they inhabit the continent of Asia (like "Asians").

About 70 percent of cultural anthropologists and half of physical anthropologists have rejected the concept or race as a biological category according to a 1989 Central Michigan University study. Even so, many anthropology textbooks still define five major races: "whites," "African blacks," "Mongoloids," "aboriginal Australians," and "Khoisans." These in turn are divided into various numbers of sub-races. American Indians fall into the Mongoloid category.

Modern Science, Race and Physical Characteristics

Much of the information that scientists use to study genetics and "race" is ascertained from the analysis of blood types and specific antigens, antibodies and other proteins found in blood. Stanford University population geneticist Luca Cavalili-Sforza, author of The History and Geography of Human Genes, has attempted to put together a genetic map of the world by analyzing blood samples taken from different places around the globe.

Studies in the United States have shown that many people with mostly European DNA look black and East Asian DNA is common in native Americans.

Diversity Among Peoples

From a genetic perspective, grouping people by skin color or "race" doesn't have a foundation in science. Blacks from the United States, Ghana and Somalia, for example are no more similar to each other than they are to Arabs, Swedes or Greeks.

Many physical traits have nor correlation to skin color or race. Groups with a predominance of "loops" in the fingerprint patterns include most Europeans, black Africans and east Asians, while groups with mostly "whorls" include Mongolians and Australian aborigines. Groups with "arches" include Khoisians and some central Europeans.

Black Americans generally have higher rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) than white Americans but Finns and Russians also have high rates of hypertension while black Africans generally have remarkably low rates of the disease.

Unlike the United States, which has clear difference between whites, blacks and Asians, people in most of the world, says Harvard biologists Orlando make social and class "distinctions based on gradation of color."

Racial Differences and What It Means

In 1972, Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin studied 17 genetic markers in 168 different populations (such as Germans, Thais and Apaches) and concluded "there is more genetic difference within race than there is between that race and another" and "only 6.3 percent of genetic differences could be explained by the individual's belonging to different races."

In regard to physical differences between groups of people, Cavalili-Sforza has said that once surface traits such as skin color, hair texture, and shape of the nose, eyes and body are discounted, human races are remarkable alike. The diversity among individuals, he said, is "so enormous that the whole concept of race becomes meaningless at a genetic level."

In 1994, the Human Genome Diversity Project concluded that "genetic variation from one individual to another of the same 'race' swamps the average difference between racial groupings." Hampshire College's Alan Goodman told Newsweek that grouping people by geographical origin (ethnicity) "is more correct both in a statistical sense and in understanding the history of human variations."

Some law enforcement authorities and doctors put the concept of race to positive use. Forensic experts examining murder cases can usually determine whether or not the victim was black, white or Asian based on the measurements of certain bones. Some groups are more likely to get certain diseases than other groups (blacks and sickle cell anemia, for example) and thus doctors can direct preventive measures towards these groups.

Text Sources: Wiki Commons,

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated February 2017

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