Common ancestor of Han Chinese, Japanese and Koreans dated to 3000 – 3600 years ago

New research published in Hereditas has dated the most recent common ancestor of the three major East Asian ethnic groups to the time of the Shang dynasty using a genome-wide study. Here to tell us about their findings and the specific genetic connections and distinctions between these populations is Dr. Shuhua Xu, one of the authors of the study.


Chinese, Japanese, Korean, what is the difference? It is usually difficult to tell which of the three East Asian groups a person comes from just by looking at their appearance. Indeed, these three influential ethnic groups, i.e., Han Chinese, Japanese, and Korean share many similarities in appearance, language and culture.

Such similarities are also reflected in our genetic data. The genetic difference between any of the three groups is less than 1% of their total genetic diversity, which is much smaller than that between any of the groups and a European population (~10%). Accordingly, the three groups separated from each other from their recent common ancestor only 3,000 ~ 3,600 years ago, roughly corresponding to the Shang Dynasty in Chinese history.

These estimations based on genomic data indicate Han Chinese, Japanese and Korean people are genetically closely-related and derived their ancestry from a common gene pool.

On the other hand genome-wide variation data can largely distinguish Han Chinese, Japanese and Korean individuals without much ambiguity (see the image below).

This image displays that genome-wide variation data separate Han Chinese (red and green dots), Korean (blue dots), and Japanese individuals (yellow dots) into distinct clusters. Moreover, the genetic clusters almost perfectly correspond to the geographical locations where individuals are living.
Image taken from article.

Since the population diverged, the present-day Han Chinese, Japanese and Korean populations have built their own gene pools and formed distinct genetic makeups. This means that individual ethnicity of the three East Asian groups is distinguishable in genetics if personal genome data are available. In general, genetic differences between Japanese and Han Chinese are larger than that between Korean and Han Chinese.

In general, genetic differences between Japanese and Han Chinese are larger than that between Korean and Han Chinese.

The genetic distinctions among the three East Asian groups initially resulted from population divergence due to pre-historical or historical migrations. Subsequently, different geographical locations where the three populations are living, the mainland of China, the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese archipelago, respectively, apparently facilitated population differentiation.

Apart from the overall genome-wide differentiation, genes showing considerable differences have also been identified among the three groups. For example, several highly differentiated variants are enriched in the CD46 gene which is located on chromosome 1. It’s thought that this gene might be associated with human adaptation to pathogens in different local regions. In addition, the protein encoded by this gene may be involved in the fusion of the spermatozoa with the oocyte during fertilization and thus might be related to reproductive traits, although further studies are necessary to validate these signals and interpretations.

This study does not fully address the initial settlement of people in these three countries; further research is needed to disentangle the complex history of the three most influential ethnic groups in East Asia. Genetic basis of distinct phenotypic variations among the three ethnic groups also remains to be resolved by future studies.

Dr. Shuhua Xu

Dr. Shuhua Xu is a population geneticist at the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology. His research has focused on population genomics research of human admixture history and biological adaptation to local environment. The ultimate goal of his research is to understand microevolution mechanisms in human, while genetic admixture was taken as a cut-in point to pursue this ambition.
The Population Genomics Group led by Dr. Xu is using computational approaches and developing new methods to dissect genetic architecture of human populations, quantitatively characterize their admixture features, and reveal their migration history and adaptive divergence.

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First of all, There is NO PURE GENE in East Asia! Stop trying to seperate the genetic groups, Japanese had Jomon(uniquely hairy indiegeous), Ainu, Yayoi(korean, Han) and others. Korean had Han and Manchu, they were neighbours with the manchurian and Mongolian for 3 thousands years! can’t say there’s no mix! Han is the LARGEST MIXED ETHNIC GROUP in East Asia, there’s not such thing is Han look, they look very very different from north to south, west to the east, and there’s defo no such thing is CHINESE LOOK! there are 56 ethnic groups living in China, you completely left them out of this map! The Mongols and the Manchurians were cousins, neighbour with each other and fought with each other for 3000 yrs! Tibetan and Turkic also fought, and many Uygher have Tibetan, siberian russian, mongol blood. So, NO SUCH THING IS PURE GENE!

mr obvious

Disagree. First of all, its just a theory, and so is yours and mine. You can have a “Pure Gene” and you can create one. Mexicans, there you go, a new age “pure gene”, or you can break it down. Stop trying to separate genetic groups? Why? We separate to learn, understand, and study. You say Korean had Han and Manchu? There is more to it than that. In the English language and culture, when someone says, “Chinese”, they mean Han people, generally. There IS such thing as a “Chinese Look”. It’s called generalization, and it depends on the context mostly.. Of course there are 56+ ethnic groups in China, and we are looking at HAN people only, for those who consider themselves as “Han Chinese”. Such ambiguity can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, and unnecessary hatred.

Stephen m Pollington

You are absolutely WRONG in your assumption that you can have a “PURE” gene.

Every human carries a set of common genes that tie us back to one common ancestor so in that regard there is no purity.

Within genetic groups, there is differentiation of genetic makeup. One Han may carry 10 to 20% more Korean genes than his cousin does, yet he’s still referred to as a Han genetically because of a preponderance of his genetic makeup.
Which brings me to my conclusion the classification of race is based on a preponderance of your Genetic makeup and location.
Even a race of humans that has been isolated for over 200,000 years would still carry many genes from Mitochondrial Eve aka last common ancestor and would, therefore, carry genes that we have and still not make that race “pure.” It would certainly give them a high concentration of particular genes that were not found anywhere else but that is much different than saying that they are “Pure”, they are not.
So what are we talking about when we speak of race? We are talking about the concentration of particular genes within mass populations separated by location.
You may ask, why is location important?
Because you may have a person who has a 50/50 Han and Korean gene mixture. If they fall on the Han Chinese side of the border then you would consider them to be Han. Why? Because they come from that culture and are separated by geographical borders which means that over time they would tend to interbreed with other more predominantly Han people which would guarantee that their offspring would retain at least 50% Han gene mixture or greater.
Finally, all Asians have a common ancestor so there can pure no “Purity” of genetic makeup, only varying concentrations of particular genes that make some racial classifications more distinct than others.
Regardless of those distinctions, All humans share 99.9% of the same DNA.

The 3 race classifications of Han, Korean and Japanese share more than 99.9% common DNA between them or possibly more.
The only purity of GENE makeup that exists clearly exists between ALL humans since the difference of DNA between one to the next is astronomically small, only .1%

Therefore race classification is made using the smallest measurable differences between races.
That measurement is .1% or less if you’re a Han, Korean or Japanese.

The “Pure Gene” theory isn’t even remotely possible because human genes are always mutating.

The Japanese of today weren’t exactly the same Japanese of 1500 years ago because their DNA profile has been slightly altered from gradual mutations over the centuries along with foreign DNA introduction.

Even identical twins have small genetic differences. Their DNA begin differentiating, in very small ways immediately after the zygote splits into two embryos.

After looking at this data do you still believe that “Pure Genes” exists? There’s may be genes that are seen as exclusive but the overall genetic code within humans and between humans can never be “pure.”
Genetics doesn’t work that way.


The paper didn’t say anything about pure gene. I think you are injecting personal opinion on this. It just says they are 99% similar. The 1% difference can come from the Ainu, Manchu, mongol who are somewhat closely related to Han/Korean/jpn anyway. Stop trying to polarize


Nothing in this article said it’s pure, and the genetic drift applies to Mongolians and Uyghers, as the former is also on the map on this article. Chill dd, you’ve got a chip on your shoulder about perceptions of Han, but this article ain’t your battle.


3500 years ago there was no Chinese or Korean, and if you look at the map presented at the article above, it doesn’t covers most parts of China but prominently Northeast parts and Eastern parts closer to Korea i.e. Shandong. According to history, approx 3,000 years ago, Qin Kingdom of ancient China conquered most of China that we know today, there’s written records suggesting there were several smaller kingdoms at East coast of China that fled to Choson kingdom of Korea, and if this is true then this does make some sense, these smaller kingdoms at far east side of China weren’t Han Chinese, the term Han Chinese derived from much later period after 14th century to group people by their ethnic origins by the Mongols who conquered rest of China. Stop spreading lies, they were nothing to do with modern population of China today.

Tina W

Chinese propaganda again. Japanese r not related to chinese! Chinese originated neat tibet and Burma, its origonal capital was Xian, it’s language is a southeast asian language. Manchu r related to japanese, Han Chinese not to much


So Chinese developed independently of Japanese but somehow grew facial features closest to them?

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