7. China: Racial and Cultural Beginnings

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Human Evolution in China

Homo erectus was the first species of Genus Homo, our genetic ancestors, to reach China. Because their remains were found near Peking, the common name for this species is Peking man. These early hominids probably inhabited China between 800,000 to 400,000 BCE. Migrating from the south, Peking man, while small boned, was a great hunter and is suspected of cannibalism. Although similar, Peking man has distinct genetic differences from homo erectus of Europe and Africa.

They were replaced by archaic hominids, possibly the immediate predecessor to modern humans. These archaic hominids, although larger than homo erectus, did not surpass them in hunting skills. However, they seemed to have established a more sophisticated social structure and technology. They lived in China from 450,000 to 100,000 BC. (The Human Dawn, p 23) Again these archaic hominids differed from those in Africa, Europe and Java.

China is so isolated geographically from the rest of the world that their human species even evolved in a unique fashion. Separated by huge mountains from the rest of the world, China has always done things its own way. Due to their relative isolation, the Chinese have also developed a unique race and culture.

Eventually the modern human, homo sapiens sapiens, replaced the earlier hominids, presumably because they were more fit evolutionarily. About 100,000 years ago, they evolved in Africa and then spread north down the Nile Valley into western Asia. From these early locations, they migrated northwest into Europe and eastward deeper into Asia.

Climatic Changes have had a huge effect upon human evolution

For the last 500 years, the earth’s climate has been relatively consistent. Due to this consistency, it is easy to think that the weather is relatively constant. Indeed until a little over 100 years ago, a basic human assumption was that the climate and geography of the Earth was unchanging. (See Ice Ages for a more in depth coverage of this topic.)

However, the climate of the earth has not remained constant for the last 100,000 years. Instead our planet is dynamic, both geologically and climatically. The geologic time scale is slow enough that geologic activity has not really had an effect upon our evolution. Geologically the earth has been a relative constant since modern humans evolved. An earthquake here and there, perhaps an occasional volcano changing local geography, but no continental drift to displace the human species on different land masses.

While geological changes have exerted little effect, climatic changes have exerted a tremendous effect upon the human species in our short duration upon this planet. The main weather change that has had an enormous effect upon our evolution has been the Ice Ages. The temperature fluctuations associated with the alternation of Ice Ages change habitable geography and adaptation strategies.

Recent Ice Ages, first 125,000 years ago

There have been two Ice Ages since modern humans evolved in Africa approximately 100,000 years ago. About 125,000 years ago the northern ice sheets began to expand. An archaic hominid, the Neanderthal man, had adapted to the increasingly frigid northern climates of Europe and Central Asia.

60,000 years ago the Ice sheets retreat

60,000 years ago the ice sheets began to retreat. Modern man migrated north from Africa and began supplanting the competing species, Homo sapiens, about 40,000 years ago. Not only did this new subspecies replace the other, but also expanded the inhabited territory in this relatively warm interglacial time. (pp. 22-3, Ice Ages, Time-Life Books, 1983)

35,000 years ago the last major Ice Age begins

About 35,000 years ago the ice sheets began to expand again. By this time, humans had spread to Siberia. The encroaching ice sheets isolated pockets of humanity. To adapt to the extreme climate, the inhabitants of the area changed genetically. They didn't evolve into a new species, but instead a brand new race of humans.

Northern Mongoloid Race develops in isolation

Trapped east of Lake Baikal, north of China, and west of Alaska

During the warmer interglacial period, humans migrated from the Middle East over the hills and steppes of Central Asia. They eventually established settlements north of Lake Baikal. For Central Asia, this enormous lake provides a natural geographical barrier during times of extreme temperatures like an Ice Age.

When the ice sheets expanded, the northwestern route to a warmer clime was cut off for the prehistoric humans. Glaciated parts of the Kunlun Mountains also cut off their southeastern route to warmth. They were trapped in the frigid north.

They expanded to fill the habitable areas: north, south, and northeast. This would have included Mongolia, Siberia, Manchuria, and Beringia. The glaciation of the Aleutian Islands blocked their eastward expansion, effectively containing the humans from moving past its semi-circular glacial bay.

Siberia icy cold but no water

Although Siberia was icy cold, it didn’t have enough water to glaciate and form ice sheets. The Arctic Ocean froze, preventing the release of water. The Scandinavian Ice Sheets sucked up all the water from the Atlantic. The Himalayas blocked any water from the Indian Ocean. The water from the Pacific Ocean was blown eastward into the enormous North American Ice Sheet. While cold and windswept, the Siberian plains were not covered by ice and were therefore habitable by the evolving Mongoloid racial type.

Humans Isolated in Siberia become Mongoloids

The isolation of humans in the severe north produced the Mongoloid racial type. This race is best suited to survive extreme cold, with stocky build, small extremities, relatively little body or facial hair, flat faces, and fat padded eyes.

“The primary Mongoloid stock is found principally in North Asia, which includes the Eskimo, the Buryat Mongols, the Tunguses of Manchuria, and a number of Siberian tribes.” (p. 73, The Origins of Oriental Civilization, Fairservis)

Subdivisions result of interbreeding

Due to interbreeding, there are also a variety of subdivisions of the Mongoloid race. These include the northern Chinese, the American Indians, some Polynesians and Indonesians.

Lake Baikal, a Geographical Divide

Oldest and largest fresh-water lake in the world

Due to its significance, let us put Lake Baikal into a geographical perspective. Lake Baikal holds 20% of the fresh water of the world, as much as all of the Great Lakes of North America combined. In terms of surface area, it is only the fifth largest lake on the planet. However it is a mile deep, almost 5 times deeper than any of the Great Lakes.

Splits Asia in two

According to some scientists, Lake Baikal is part of a widening rift that will eventually split Asia in two. This huge fresh water lake is also the dividing line between two types of human culture, the nomadic to the west and the hunter to the east. Humans trapped east of Lake Baikal turned into the Mongolian race. They developed sophisticated hunting and fishing technologies.  Humans on the western side developed a pastoral nomadic life style to adapt to the arid steppes and grasslands.

Moderates temperature

The enormous amount of water in Lake Baikal moderates the temperatures in the surrounding countryside like an ocean. The temperatures around the lake are almost 20 degrees lower or higher than the extreme temperatures of adjacent areas. It ranges from 64 degrees at its hottest in the summer to 60 degrees below in the winter at its coldest. While frigid, surrounding areas can get down to almost 80 degrees below zero. Due to the more temperate weather, it is likely that the humans separated by the Ice Age would locate next to Lake Baikal.

Thriving eco-system

Furthermore Lake Baikal is a thriving eco-system. While the Great Lakes were formed during the last Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago, Lake Baikal is the oldest lake in the world at some 25 million years old. Because of its age, many unique species have evolved there. Of the 1700 unique species of plants and animals that inhabit the lake, over 1000 are unique to Lake Baikal. (Rivers and Lakes, Time-Life Planet Earth 1985, p 158)

Arctic Oasis

It is evident that this thriving eco-system, which had survived and evolved for 25 million years, would also be able to support human life, even under the most extreme conditions. Due to the aridity of Central Asia, Lake Baikal would have been like an arctic oasis to these primitive humans – moderating the extreme cold, providing fresh water and plenty of game.

Huge Basin

336 rivers and streams drain into Lake Baikal. The combined drainage of these rivers includes 13% more surface area than the river drainage of all the Great Lakes combined. Half of the water comes from the Selenga River out of northern Mongolia. The only outlet for Lake Baikal is the Angara River, which flows north into the 2,364-mile long Yenisei, which in turn flows into the Arctic Ocean. Seemingly all rivers in Central Asia flow into or out of Lake Baikal.

Ice age cultures survive on lower coastal plains

Dropping water levels and greater coastal plains

While Lake Baikal provided the western boundary for the evolving Mongoloids, their eastern boundary was growing. As the Ice Age increased in intensity, the water levels dropped. 18,000 years ago the ice sheets reached their greatest expansion. At their peak, so much water had been absorbed into the ice sheets of the poles that water levels had dropped some 400 feet around the world.

This meant that the coastal plains were some 250 miles wider. The Bering Strait between Asia and North America at the time was 1000 miles wide. Due to its enormity, scientists refer to it as the Beringia landmass during this period. In addition, “the archipelago of islands that stretches southeast from the Malay Peninsula became an unbroken land form linking Sumatra, Java and the Philippines with the Asian mainland.” As a sidelight, Ireland, England and France were also connected.

Cultures thrived in land that is underwater now

The migrations and settlements of these evolving Mongoloids were in areas that were at lower altitudes, which were warmer in temperature. The warmer areas of choice were probably the 250 miles of coastland that is underwater now. On the landmass of Beringia, it is very likely that there was a thriving culture that had spread from Asia.

Retreat to higher ground

As the ice sheets began to retreat, they released massive amounts of water into the oceans. This caused the ocean levels to rise. As the geological tide rose, these truly ancient cultures retreated to higher land. Due to rising water levels, some existing landmasses were divided into separated entities. Isolated from each other, each culture evolved in its own way on its own continent. These ancient societies suffered the drastic effects of global warming, which caused enormous amounts of habitable land to be permanently flooded. The tide rose forever upon these cultures.

Beringian culture spreads south

Beringian culture spreads south on both continents

Once the glaciers began receding, the Beringian culture was forced to spread south onto both continents. Some of the Beringians retreated back into Siberia, while others proceeded south along the wider coastal plains of North America.

Ice ages act as migrational pump

The expansion and contraction of the Glacial Ice Sheets acted like a migrational pump, turning different areas habitable and uninhabitable in alternate cycles. The glacier action first connects and then disconnects areas, giving rise to periodic waves of migration.

Beringia, above and below the waves

The presently submerged landmass of Beringia fits this pattern. Now it is uninhabitable. From 25,000 to 13,000 BC, it was above the waves and livable, at least as a land bridge. It was also above the ocean between 50,000 to 40,000 BC. Because of charcoal from a hearth in Brazil that seems to be 40,000 years old, many specialists are shifting to the idea that humans migrated to the Americas in this earlier period. (Human Dawn, Time-Life p 77)

Paleolithic Hunter-gatherers: 20,000 BC

Whichever migratory pattern is more accurate, with the end of the last major Ice Age, we find archaeological traces of a hunting and gathering society from about 20,000 BC. These traces are found in China, Mongolia, Manchuria, and the Americas. It is assumed that this is the culture that inhabited and migrated over the Bering Straits when it was still a land bridge called Beringia. (The Arts of China by Hugh Munsterberg, Charles E. Tuttle Company 1972 p20) Furthermore dental evidence connects the Beringian culture of Asia and the Americas.

“Dental evidence from skeletal remains confirms the view that native Americans all originated in northeast Asia, in the Siberian triangle formed by Beringia, northern China, and Lake Baikal.” (Time Frame: The Human Dawn, p. 77)

Foreshadowing the Shang/ Siberian connection

We mention these facts primarily to indicate the interaction of the peoples of this area of the Earth even unto the most ancient times. We will return to the Siberian connection to North China, when we examine the Shang culture.

Cultural collision with indigenous people

Mongoloid stock evolved north of China in Siberia

Regardless of when they arrived, it seems that Native Americans of both continents are from the Mongoloid stock coming from the triangle of Lake Baikal, Beringia and North China. Furthermore, the Mongoloid race did not evolve in China, but in northern Asia.

Indigenous Chinese evolved in the south

The original Chinese were derived racially from another culture centered below the Malay Peninsula, which spread north and south also. The extreme linguistic differences between the inhabitants of northeast Asia and China could have its roots in these glacial times. A separation that produced racial differentiation would be likely to also produce linguistic differentiation.

Mongoloids move south into northern China

The glaciation that separated the Mongolian plain from the Yellow River Valley of China thawed relatively early compared to the frigid but dry north. Furthermore the tide was coming in on the expanded coastal plains of China. Population pressures due to shrinking land combined with a new post glacial geography pushed and allowed these nomadic Mongoloids to migrate south into the Yellow River Valley. By the second millennium BCE, the Northern Chinese were a blend of Mongoloid and native Chinese stock.

Northern Mongoloid supplant Southern aborigines

The image we get is of a southern Indo-Chinese culture populating and spreading into the China plains. Then separately the Mongoloid race evolved in Siberia. With the end of the last Ice Age, these hardy northern peoples moved south, supplanting and breeding with the indigenous people. Moving across the Pass of the Mongolian desert and south along coastal Manchuria, the sparse, though aggressive, settlers left their native language behind to adopt the uniquely Chinese persona.

“In all probability, the aboriginal groups in southwest and south China were the original inhabitants of the continent and were driven out or replaced by and amalgamated with the Chinese, much like the American Indians with reference to the American and the Ainus with reference to the Japanese.” (EB; China, p 540d)

Siberians toughened by Ice Age

Surviving the Ice Age toughened the Siberian culture to the north. The southern culture had a much easier time. Due to these different circumstances, it is likely that the northern culture would easily dominate the southern culture.

China, a cultural fracture zone

During this early time, China was a cultural fracture zone between the Siberian/Mongolian culture to the north and the Southeast Asian cultures to the south. While the original cultures were predominantly southern, the dominating culture would be the Mongoloids from the north. This is a common Chinese theme – the sparsely populated, but aggressive, nomadic northern peoples dominating the settled southern cultures.

Chinese: a blend of northern Mongoloid and Southeast Asian

China’s natural geographic isolation has led to cultural, genetic and linguistic characteristics that are uniquely Chinese. The merger of the northern Mongoloid and southern indigenous peoples created a distinctive, though indefinable, Chinese race. After thousands of years of interbreedin*,)+(+GVy/(1)%)+)3)7*$*'*&*%)7)5)7)9)7)/),)+)))*)/)9*)*/*9+'*9*7+)+5-,1+5*7'7,757,7/7,7/71777/7,7+7*7(977%%95/5$17/*,'*9+,+7+1+)+%{5(*(*(+(1)&)')$(5(7(9(5(,'7')'$&9&7&7&9&9'$'%'('*95')+9'+'3($('(*(3)'),),)-)*(7(''1','3(&(1)%)%(9(5(-()($'1'+'(''')'/'7($($|)&(9(7(9)%)')&)$(7(3(,(+(*((('($'5'5(&(,)$)+)1)5)5)33,3%1*/9///+/(/%/&/%-3-(,-+9+1+5,',*,,,*,&+5+,+)93+($9+'+)+,+3+9,',*,+,*{')&)%(7(-(''9'3'/''','9(((((&(%('(%(&(*)$)/)9*$)9)-)'(1(1)$(7(('/')'&'*'7('(5)**-+5,1,5,**7(9')&-%1%-%,%-%5&$&*&9'+'1('(5)- |)&(7)%+(---,,-,*,+,5-'-),7,+,(,',$+1*5)7)()&)*))(5)$(9(5(3(7(3(+()('(&(*(1(1(-(+(((%('(-(9)%(7(1(/(-(/(1(1(5)$)&)()*)+)/)9*%Gg{*)*))))+'-535719(9-9'9'9(9(9)9(979%+9737-71797+5*3(1,1)1$/5/1/'-,-(-+-1/%/*/+/-1+3/5/7+737/717-71779$9&9$7979777%5$1)---%-+ |)$()'9'5'-','+'-'9(%(*(7)5***()$(%(1)9*-+(+3,(,-,),'-$1%5,7*757579797779777979737/977,**7*7*7)7(7)7&59575(333-3+3,3,3(3*3+3(Gn{&(5(1(3(-(+(3)')-)-)3)7)3)3)5)1)/*$***-**)9)*(9(3(3(5)%)')&(9(7(5(1(-(-(3)(