Han Chinese
汉族; 漢族
Total population
1.4 billion[1]
Regions with significant populations
China1.29 billion[2]
Taiwan22 million[3][4]
Thailand7.05 million[5]
Malaysia6.91 million[6]
United States3.80–5.79 million[7][8]
Indonesia2.83 million[9]
Singapore2.67 million[10]
Myanmar1.64 million[11]
Canada1.47 million[12]
Philippines1.35 million[13]
Australia1.21 million[14]
Irreligion, Buddhism, Chinese folk religion, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Han Chinese
Traditional Chinese漢族
Simplified Chinese汉族
Literal meaningHan ethnic group

The Han Chinese or Han people[a] and colloquially known as the Chinese[17] are an East Asian ethnic group native to Greater China. They are the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 17.5% of the global population.

The Han Chinese are the largest ethnic group in China — including mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau — with a global population of over 1.4 billion. They have had the greatest influence on the development and growth of Chinese civilization.[2] In Taiwan, Han Taiwanese make up about 97% of the population.[18][19] People of Han Chinese descent also make up around 75 percent of Singapore's population.[20] The term "Han" not only refers to a specific ethnic collective, but also represents an identity belonging to a distinctive people denoted with a particular set of behavioral attributes, cultural traits, genetic markers, historical background, mutual ancestral commonalities, shared fates, and societal characteristics which has exerted a significant formative influence in shaping the development and growth of Chinese civilization.[21][22][23]

Originating from Northern China, the Han Chinese trace their ancestry to the Huaxia, a confederation of agricultural tribes that lived along the Yellow River.[24][25][26] They had their origins along the Central Plains around the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River in Northern China.[27][28][29][26] These confederation of tribes were the ancestors of the modern Han Chinese people as well as the progenitors of Chinese civilization.[30]

The term "Huaxia" was used by the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius's contemporaries, during the Warring States era, to elucidate the shared ethnicity of all Chinese;[31] Chinese people called themselves Hua Ren.[32] Within the course of the Warring States period led to the emergence of the early discernible consciousness of the Zhou-era Chinese referring to themselves as being Huaxia (literally, "the beautiful grandeur"), which was distinctively used to adumbrate a "civilized" culture in contrast to what were perceived as "barbaric" towards the adjacent and adjoining vicinities bordering the Zhou Kingdoms that were inhabited by different non-Han Chinese peoples around them.[33][28][34][35] People of Han Chinese ancestry who possess foreign citizenship of a different country are commonly referred as Hua people (华人; 華人; Huárén) or Huazu (华族; 華族; Huázú). The two respective aforementioned terms are applied solely to those with a Han ethnic background that is semantically distinct from Zhongguo Ren (中国人; 中國人) which has connotations and implications limited to being citizens and nationals of China, especially with regards to people of non-Han Chinese ethnicity.[36][37][22]

The Huaxia tribes in Northern China continuously expanded into Southern China over the past two millennia, via military conquests and colonisation.[38][39] Huaxia culture spread southward from its northern heartland in the Yellow River Basin into the south, absorbing various non-Han ethnic groups that became sinicised over the centuries at various points in Chinese history.[40][39][28]

The name "Han people" first appeared during the era of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, and was inspired by the Han dynasty, which is considered to be one of the first golden ages in Chinese history. As a unified and cohesive empire, Han China emerged as the center of East Asian geopolitical influence at the time, projecting much of its hegemony onto its East Asian neighbours and was comparable with the contemporary Roman Empire in population size, geographical and cultural reach.[41][42][43][44] The Han dynasty's prestige and prominence influenced many of the ancient Huaxia to identify themselves as "The People of Han."[33][45][46][47][48] To this day, the Han Chinese have since taken their ethnic name from this dynasty and the Chinese script is referred to as "Han characters."[42][49][47]


The name Han was derived from the name of the eponymous dynasty,[50] which succeeded the short-lived Qin dynasty and is historically considered to be the first golden age of China's Imperial era due to the geopolitical power and influence it projected over much of East Asia. As a result of the dynasty's prominence in inter-ethnic and pre-modern international influence on Chinese civilization, the Chinese of the post-Qin era identified themselves as the "people of Han" (漢人; 汉人; Hànrén),[45][46][51] a name that has been carried down to this day. Similarly, the Chinese language also came to be named and alluded to as the "Han language" (漢語; 汉语; Hànyǔ) ever since. On Oxford Dictionaries, the Han are defined as "The dominant ethnic group in China".[52] In the Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, the Han are called the dominant population in "China, as well as in Taiwan and Singapore."[53] According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Han are "the Chinese peoples especially as distinguished from non-Chinese (such as Mongolian) elements in the population".[54]

The Han dynasty's founding emperor, Liu Bang, was made king of the Hanzhong region after the fall of the Qin dynasty, a title that was later shortened to "the King of Han" (漢王; 汉王) during the Chu–Han Contention. The name "Hanzhong", in turn, was derived from the Han River,[23] which flows through the region's plains.

Prior to the Han dynasty, ancient Chinese scholars used the term Huaxia (華夏; 华夏; Huá Xià) in texts to describe China proper, while the Chinese populace were referred to as either the "various Hua" (諸華; 诸华, Zhūhuá) or the "various Xia" (诸夏; 諸夏, Zhūxià). This gave rise to a term commonly used nowadays by Overseas Chinese as an ethnic identity for the Chinese diaspora – Huaren (華人; 华人; Huá Rén, "ethnic Chinese people"), Huaqiao (华侨; 華僑; Huáqiáo, "the Chinese immigrant" meaning Overseas Chinese)[22] as well as a literary name for ChinaZhonghua (中華; 中华; Zhōnghuá, "Central China").[23] Zhonghua refers more to Chinese culture, although it may also be seen as equivalent to Zhonghua minzu.[36] Some Overseas Chinese communities use Huaren or Huaqiao instead of Zhongguoren (中國人; 中国人), which has limited connotations and implications that are applied solely to those with ethnic Han ancestry while "Chinese" or Zhongguo Ren (中國人; 中国人) refers to any Chinese citizen and national regardless of their ethnic origins, due to their differing political views about the state.[37]

Among some southern Han Chinese varieties such as Cantonese, Hakka and Minnan, a different term exists – Tang Chinese (Chinese: 唐人; pinyin: Táng Rén, literally "the people of Tang"), derived from the later Tang dynasty, regarded as another golden age and high point in Chinese civilization. The term is used in everyday colloquial discourse and is also an element in one of the words for Chinatown: "street of the Tang people" (Chinese: 唐人街; pinyin: Táng Rén Jiē; Jyutping: tong4 jan4 gaai1).[55] The phrase Huá Bù, 華埠; 华埠 is also used to denote the same area.


Main article: Han Chinese subgroups

Across China's vast geographical expanse, the Han Chinese can be divided into various subgroups based on their respective cultural, ethnic, genetic, linguistic, and regional features.[56][57] The historical migrations that have occurred throughout China's vast geographical expanse over the last three millennia has engendered the evolution, emergence, and encapsulation in the diverse multiplicity of assorted Han Chinese ethnic subsidiary groups found throughout the various regions of modern China today.[56][57][58][59][60]


The eight main dialect areas of Mandarin in mainland China

Mainland China

Main articles: Chinese people, Demographics of China, and Han Chinese subgroups

The vast majority of Han Chinese – over 1.2 billion – live in the People's Republic of China (PRC), where they constitute about 90% of its overall population.[61] Han Chinese in China have been a culturally, economically and politically dominant majority vis-à-vis the non-Han minorities throughout most of China's recorded history.[62][63] Han Chinese are almost the majority in every Chinese province, municipality and autonomous region except for the autonomous regions of Xinjiang (38% or 40% in 2010) and Tibet Autonomous Region (8% in 2014), where Uighurs and Tibetans are the majority, respectively.

Hong Kong and Macau

Main articles: Hongkongers, Macau people, Demographics of Hong Kong, and Demographics of Macau

Han Chinese also constitute the majority in both of the special administrative regions of the PRC – about 92.2% and 88.4% of the population of Hong Kong and Macau, respectively.[64][65][failed verification] The Han Chinese in Hong Kong and Macau have been culturally, economically and politically dominant majority vis-à-vis the non-Han minorities.[66][67]

Southeast Asia

Main article: Overseas Chinese § Southeast Asia

Nearly 30 to 40 million people of Han Chinese descent live in Southeast Asia.[68] According to a population genetic study, Singapore is "the country with the biggest proportion of Hans" in Southeast Asia.[69] Singapore is the only nation in the world where Overseas Chinese constitute a majority of the population and remain the country's cultural, economic and politically dominant arbiters vis-à-vis their non-Han minority counterparts.[67][70][66] Up until the past few decades, overseas Han communities originated predominantly from areas in Eastern and Southeastern China (especially the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi, Yunnan and Zhejiang in particular).[69]


Main articles: Han Taiwanese, Taiwanese people, and Demographics of Taiwan

Lungshan Temple of Manka in Taipei

There are over 22 million people of Han Chinese ancestry in living in Taiwan.[71] At first, these migrants chose to settle in locations that bore a resemblance to the areas they had left behind in mainland China, regardless of whether they arrived in the north or south of Taiwan. Hoklo immigrants from Quanzhou settled in coastal regions and those from Zhangzhou tended to gather on inland plains, while the Hakka inhabited hilly areas.

Clashes and tensions between the two groups over land, water, ethno-racial, and cultural differences led to the relocation of some communities and over time, varying degrees of intermarriage and assimilation took place. In Taiwan, Han Chinese (including both the earlier Han Taiwanese settlers and the recent mainland Chinese that arrived in Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek in 1949) constitute over 95% of the population. They have also been a politically, culturally and economically dominant majority vis-à-vis the non-Han indigenous Taiwanese peoples.[67][66]


Main article: Overseas Chinese

The total overseas Chinese population worldwide number some 60 million people.[72][73][74] Overseas Han Chinese have settled in numerous countries across the globe, particularly within the Western World where nearly 4 million people of Han Chinese descent live in the United States (about 1.5% of the population),[75] over 1 million in Australia (5.6%)[14][failed verification] and about 1.5 million in Canada (5.1%),[76][77][failed verification] nearly 231,000 in New Zealand (4.9%),[78][failed verification] and as many as 750,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa.[79]


Main article: History of China

The Han Chinese have a rich history that spans thousands of years, with their historical roots dating back to the days of ancient China. Throughout Han history, China has been governed by dynasties, with periods during which it has seen cycles of expansion, contraction, unity, and fragmentation. Due to the overwhelming numerical and cultural dominance of Han culture in China, most of the written history of China can be read as "a history of the Han Chinese," hinted and tinged with only passing references to its ethnic non-Han minority counterparts.[80][25]


Main articles: Huaxia and Yanhuang

Yellow Emperor
Yan Emperor
Han Chinese refer to themselves as "Descendants of Yan and Huang"

The prehistory of the Han Chinese is closely intertwined with both archaeology, biology, historical textual records and mythology. The ethnic stock to which the Han Chinese originally trace their ancestry from were confederations of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age agricultural tribes known as the Huaxia that lived along the Guanzhong and Yellow River basins in Northern China.[81][82][83][84][38][85][86][87] In addition, numerous ethnic groups were assimilated and absorbed by the Han Chinese at various points in China's history.[85][88][81] Like many modern ethnic groups, the ethnogenesis of Han Chinese was a lengthy process that involved the expansion of the successive Chinese dynasties and their assimilation of various non-Han ethnic groups that became sinicised over the centuries.[89][90][91][92]

During the Western Zhou and Han dynasties, Han Chinese writers established genealogical lineages by drawing from legendary materials originating from the Shang dynasty,[93] while the Han dynasty historian Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian places the reign of the Yellow Emperor, the legendary leader of Youxiong tribes (有熊氏), at the beginning of Chinese history. The Yellow Emperor is traditionally credited to have united with the neighbouring Shennong tribes after defeating their leader, the Yan Emperor, at the Battle of Banquan. The newly merged Yanhuang tribes then combined forces to defeat their common enemy from the east, Chiyou of the Jiuli (九黎) tribes, at the Battle of Zhuolu and established their cultural dominance in the Central Plain region. To this day, modern Han Chinese refer themselves as "Descendants of Yan and Huang".

Although study of this period of history is complicated by the absence of contemporary records, the discovery of archaeological sites has enabled a succession of Neolithic cultures to be identified along the Yellow River. Along the central reaches of the Yellow River were the Jiahu culture (c. 7000 to 6600 BCE), the Yangshao culture (c. 5000 to 3000 BCE) and the Longshan culture (c. 3000 to 2000 BCE). Along the lower reaches of the river were the Qingliangang culture (c. 5400 to 4000 BCE), the Dawenkou culture (c. 4300 to 2500 BCE) and the Yueshi culture (c. 1900 to 1500 BCE).

Early history

Main article: Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors

Early ancient Chinese history is largely legendary, consisting of mythical tales intertwined with sporadic annals written centuries to millennia later. Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian recorded a period following the Battle of Zhuolu, during the reign of successive generations of confederate overlords (Chinese: 共主) known as the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors (c. 2852–2070 BCE), who, allegedly, were elected to power among the tribes. This is a period for which scant reliable archaeological evidence exists – these sovereigns are largely regarded as cultural heroes.

Xia dynasty

Main article: Xia dynasty

The first dynasty to be described in Chinese historical records is the Xia dynasty (c. 2070–1600 BCE), established by Yu the Great after Emperor Shun abdicated leadership to reward Yu's work in taming the Great Flood. Yu's son, Qi, managed to not only install himself as the next ruler, but also dictated his sons as heirs by default, making the Xia dynasty the first in recorded history where genealogical succession was the norm. The civilizational prosperity of the Xia dynasty at this time is thought to have given rise to the name "Huaxia" (simplified Chinese: 华夏; traditional Chinese: 華夏; pinyin: Huá Xià, "the magnificent Xia"), a term that was used ubiquitously throughout history to define the Chinese nation.[94]

Conclusive archaeological evidence predating the 16th century BCE is, however, rarely available. Recent efforts of the Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project drew the connection between the Erlitou culture and the Xia dynasty, but scholars could not reach a consensus regarding the reliability of such history.

Shang dynasty

Main article: Shang dynasty

The Xia dynasty was overthrown after the Battle of Mingtiao, around 1600 BCE, by Cheng Tang, who established the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE). The earliest archaeological examples of Chinese writing date back to this period – from characters inscribed on oracle bones used for divination – but the well-developed characters hint at a much earlier origin of writing in China.

During the Shang dynasty, people of the Wu area in the Yangtze River Delta were considered a different tribe, and described as being scantily dressed, tattooed and speaking a distinct language. Later, Taibo, elder uncle of Ji Chang – on realising that his younger brother, Jili, was wiser and deserved to inherit the throne – fled to Wu[95] and settled there. Three generations later, King Wu of the Zhou dynasty defeated King Zhou (the last Shang king), and enfeoffed the descendants of Taibo in Wu[95] – mirroring the later history of Nanyue, where a Chinese king and his soldiers ruled a non-Han population and mixed with locals, who were sinicized over time.

Zhou dynasty

Main article: Zhou dynasty

After the Battle of Muye, the Shang dynasty was overthrown by Zhou (led by Ji Fa), which had emerged as a western state along the Wei River in the 2nd millennium BCE. The Zhou dynasty shared the language and culture of the Shang people, and extended their reach to encompass much of the area north of the Yangtze River.[96] Through conquest and colonization, much of this area came under the influence of sinicization and this culture extended south. However, the power of the Zhou kings fragmented not long afterwards, and many autonomous vassal states emerged. This dynasty is traditionally divided into two eras – the Western Zhou (1046–771 BCE) and the Eastern Zhou (770–256 BCE) – with the latter further divided into the Spring and Autumn (770–476 BCE) and the Warring States (476–221 BCE) periods. It was a period of significant cultural and philosophical diversification (known as the Hundred Schools of Thought) and Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism are among the most important surviving philosophies from this era.[citation needed]

Imperial history

Qin dynasty

Main article: Qin dynasty

The chaotic Warring States period of the Eastern Zhou dynasty came to an end with the unification of China by the western state of Qin after its conquest of all other rival states[when?] under King Ying Zheng. King Zheng then gave himself a new title "First Emperor of Qin" (Chinese: 秦始皇帝; pinyin: Qín Shǐ Huángdì), setting the precedent for the next two millennia. To consolidate administrative control over the newly conquered parts of the country, the First Emperor decreed a nationwide standardization of currency, writing scripts and measurement units, to unify the country economically and culturally. He also ordered large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Great Wall, the Lingqu Canal and the Qin road system to militarily fortify the frontiers. In effect, he established a centralized bureaucratic state to replace the old feudal confederation system of preceding dynasties, making Qin the first imperial dynasty in Chinese history.

This dynasty, sometimes phonetically spelt as the "Ch'in dynasty", has been proposed in the 17th century by Martino Martini and supported by later scholars such as Paul Pelliot and Berthold Laufer to be the etymological origin of the modern English word "China".

Han dynasty

Main article: Han dynasty

A female servant and male advisor dressed in silk robes, ceramic figurines from the Western Han era

The reign of the first imperial dynasty was to be short-lived. Due to the First Emperor's autocratic rule and his massive labor projects, which fomented rebellion among the populace, the Qin dynasty fell into chaos soon after his death. Under the corrupt rule of his son and successor Huhai, the Qin dynasty collapsed a mere three years later. The Han dynasty (206 BC–220 CE) then emerged from the ensuing civil wars and succeeded in establishing a much longer-lasting dynasty. It continued many of the institutions created by the Qin dynasty, but adopted a more moderate rule. Under the Han dynasty, arts and culture flourished, while the Han Empire expanded militarily in all directions. Many Chinese scholars such as Ho Ping-ti believe that the concept (ethnogenesis) of Han ethnicity, though an ancient one, was formally entrenched in the Han dynasty.[97] The Han dynasty is considered one of the golden ages of Chinese history, and to this day, the modern Han Chinese people have since taken their ethnic name from this dynasty and the Chinese script is referred to as "Han characters".[49]

Three Kingdoms to Tang

Main articles: Three Kingdoms, Sixteen Kingdoms, Northern and Southern dynasties, Sui dynasty, and Tang dynasty

Map of Tang Empire in 742, showing the major provinces of the empire

The fall of the Han dynasty was followed by an age of fragmentation and several centuries of disunity amid warfare among rival kingdoms. During this time, areas of northern China were overrun by various non-Han nomadic peoples, which came to establish kingdoms of their own, the most successful of which was Northern Wei (established by the Xianbei). From this period, the native population of China proper was referred to as Hanren, or the "People of Han", to distinguish them from the nomads from the steppe. Warfare and invasion led to one of the first great migrations of Han populations in history, as they fled south to the Yangzi and beyond, shifting the Chinese demographic center and speeding up sinicization of the far south. At the same time most of the nomads in northern China came to be sinicized as they ruled over large Chinese populations and adopted elements of their culture and administration. Of note, the Xianbei rulers of Northern Wei ordered a policy of systematic sinicization, adopting Han surnames, institutions and culture, so the Xianbei became Han Chinese.

The Sui (581–618) and Tang (618–907) dynasties saw the continuation of the complete sinicization of the south coast of what is now China proper, including what are now the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. The later part of the Tang era, as well as the Five Dynasties period that followed, saw continual warfare in north and central China; the relative stability of the south coast made it an attractive destination for refugees.

Song to Qing

Main articles: Song dynasty, Yuan dynasty, Ming dynasty, and Qing dynasty

The next few centuries saw successive invasions of Han and non-Han peoples from the north. In 1279, the Mongols conquered all of China, becoming the first non-Han ethnic group to do so, and established the Yuan dynasty. Emigration, seen as disloyal to ancestors and ancestral land, was banned by the Song and Yuan dynasties.[98]

Zhu Yuanzhang, who had Han-centered concept of China and regarded expelling "barbarians" and restoring Han people's China as mission, established the Ming dynasty in 1368 after the Red Turban Rebellions. During this period, China referred to the Ming Empire and to the Han people living in them, and non-Han communities were separated from China.[99]

Early Manchu rulers treated China as equivalent to both the Ming Empire and to the Han group.[99] In 1644, the Ming capital, Beijing, was captured by Li Zicheng's peasant rebels and the Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide. The Manchus of the Qing dynasty then allied with former Ming general Wu Sangui and seized control of Beijing. Remnant Ming forces led by Koxinga fled to Taiwan and established the Kingdom of Tungning, which eventually capitulated to Qing forces in 1683. Taiwan, previously inhabited mostly by non-Han aborigines, was sinicized during this period via large-scale migration accompanied by assimilation, despite efforts by the Manchus to prevent this, as they found it difficult to maintain control over the island. In 1681, the Kangxi Emperor ordered construction of the Willow Palisade to prevent Han Chinese migration to the three northeastern provinces, which nevertheless had harbored a significant Chinese population for centuries, especially in the southern Liaodong area. The Manchus designated Jilin and Heilongjiang as the Manchu homeland, to which the Manchus could hypothetically escape and regroup if the Qing dynasty fell.[100] Because of increasing Russian territorial encroachment and annexation of neighboring territory, the Qing later reversed its policy and allowed the consolidation of a demographic Han majority in northeast China. The Han Chinese anti-Manchu violent revolt Taiping Rebellion erupted in 1850 is one of the bloodiest conflicts in history that killed at least twenty million people.[101] Late Qing revolutionary intellectual Zou Rong famously proclaimed that "China is the China of the Chinese. We compatriots should identify ourselves with the China of the Han Chinese."[102]

Republic history

Main articles: History of the Republic of China and History of the People's Republic of China

Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China

The Han nationalist revolutionary Sun Yat-sen made Han Chinese superiority a basic tenet of the Chinese revolution in the early 1900s.[103] In Sun's revolutionary philosophical view, Han identity is exclusively possessed by the so-called civilized Hua Xia people who originated from the Central Plains and were also the former subjects of the Celestial empire and evangelists of Confucianism.[102] Restoring Chinese rule to the Han majority was one of the motivations for supporters of the 1911 Revolution to overthrow the Manchu-led Qing dynasty in 1912 which led to the establishment of the Han-dominated Republic of China.[104]

Mao Zedong and his People's Republic of China ("China" or "Mainland China") founded in 1949 was critical of Han chauvinism.[101] In the latter half of the 20th century, official policy of the communist Mainland China marked Han chauvinism as anti-Marxist.[103] Today, the tension between the dominant Han Chinese majority and ethnic minorities remains contentious, as the deterioration in ethnic relations has compounded by China's contemporary ethnic policies in favor of ethnic minorities since its founding.[102] Han chauvinism has been gaining mainstream popularity throughout China since the 2000s, as the cause of which has been attributed to the discontent toward these ethnic policies instituted by the Chinese government.[105][106] The contemporary dissatisfaction and discord between the dominant Han Chinese mainstream and its non-Han minorities has led the Chinese government in scaling back on preferential treatment for ethnic minorities under the Xi Jinping administration.[107]

Culture and society

Main article: Chinese culture

Chinese civilization is one of the world's oldest and most complex civilizations, whose culture dates back thousands of years. Overseas Han Chinese maintain cultural affinities to Chinese territories outside of their host locale through ancestor worship and clan associations, which often identify famous figures from Chinese history or myth as ancestors of current members.[108] Such patriarchs include the Yellow Emperor and the Yan Emperor, who according to legend lived thousands of years ago and gave Han people the sobriquet "Descendants of Yan and Huang Emperor" (炎黃子孫, 炎黄子孙), a phrase which has reverberative connotations in a divisive political climate, as in that of major contentions between Mainland China and Taiwan.

Zhang Zeduan's painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival captures the daily life of people from the Song dynasty at the capital, Bianjing, today's Kaifeng.

The Han Chinese also share a distinct set of cultural practices, traditions, and beliefs that have evolved over centuries. Traditional Han customs, art, dietary habits, literature, religious beliefs, and value systems have not only deeply influenced Han culture itself, but also the cultures of its East Asian neighbors as well.[109][110][111][112][113][114][115][116][117][118][119] Chinese art, Chinese architecture, Chinese cuisine, Chinese dance, Chinese fashion, Chinese festivals, Chinese holidays, Chinese language, Chinese literature, Chinese music, Chinese mythology, Chinese numerology, Chinese philosophy, and Chinese theatre all have undergone thousands of years of development and growth, while numerous Chinese sites, such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army, are World Heritage Sites. Since this program was launched in 2001, aspects of Chinese culture have been listed by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Throughout the history of China, Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by Confucianism. Credited with shaping much of Chinese philosophical thought, Confucianism was the official state philosophical doctrine throughout most of Imperial China's history, institutionalizing values such as filial piety, which implied the performance of certain shared rituals. Thus, villagers lavished on funeral and wedding ceremonies that imitated the Confucian standards of the Emperors.[108] Educational achievement and academic success gained through years of arduous study and mastery of classical Confucian texts was an imperative duty for defending and protecting one's family honor while also providing the primary qualifying basis criterion for entry among ambitious individuals who sought to hold high ranking and influential government positions of distinguished authority, importance, responsibility, and power within the upper echelons of the imperial bureaucracy.[120][121][122] But even among successful test takers and degree-holders who did not enter the imperial bureaucracy or who left it opting out to pursue other careers experienced significant improvements with respect to their credibility, pedigree, respectability, social status, and societal influence, resulting in a considerable amelioration with regards to the esteem, glory, honor, prestige, and recognition that they brought and garnered to their families, social circles, and the localities that they hailed from. This elevation in their social standing, respectability, and pedigree was greatly augmented both within their own family circles, as well as among their neighbors and peers compared with the regular levels of recognition that they would have typically enjoyed had they only chosen to remain as mere commoners back in their ancestral regions. Yet even such a dynamic social phenomenon has greatly influenced Han society, leading to the homogenization of the Han populace. Additionally, it has played a crucial role in the formation of a socially cohesive and distinct shared Han culture as well as the overall growth and integration of Han society. This development has been facilitated by various extraneous factors, including periods of rapid urbanization and sprouts of geographically extensive yet interconnected commodity markets.[108]


Main article: Chinese language

See also: Standard Chinese

Han Chinese speak various forms of the Chinese language that are descended from a common early language;[108] one of the names of the language groups is Hanyu (simplified Chinese: 汉语; traditional Chinese: 漢語), literally the "Han language". Similarly, Chinese characters, used to write the language, are called Hanzi (simplified Chinese: 汉字; traditional Chinese: 漢字) or "Han characters".

In the late imperial period, more than two-thirds of the Han Chinese population used a variant of Mandarin Chinese as their native tongue.[108] However, there was a larger variety of languages in certain areas of Southeast China, like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Guangxi.[108] Since the Qin dynasty, which standardized the various forms of writing that existed in China, a standard literary Chinese had emerged with vocabulary and grammar that was significantly different from the various forms of spoken Chinese. A simplified and elaborated version of this written standard was used in business contracts, notes for Chinese opera, ritual texts for Chinese folk religion and other daily documents for educated people.[108]

During the early 20th century, written vernacular Chinese based on Mandarin dialects, which had been developing for several centuries, was standardized and adopted to replace literary Chinese. While written vernacular forms of other varieties of Chinese exist, such as written Cantonese, written Chinese based on Mandarin is widely understood by speakers of all varieties and has taken up the dominant position among written forms, formerly occupied by literary Chinese. Thus, although residents of different regions would not necessarily understand each other's speech, they generally share a common written language, Standard Written Chinese and Literary Chinese (these two writing styles can merge into a 半白半文 writing style).

From the 1950s, Simplified Chinese characters were adopted in mainland China and later in Singapore and Malaysia, while Chinese communities in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and overseas countries continue to use Traditional Chinese characters.[123] Although significant differences exist between the two character sets, they are largely mutually intelligible.


Main articles: Chinese name and List of common Chinese surnames

Through China, the notion of hundred surnames (百家姓) is crucial identity point of the Han people.[124]


Main articles: Chinese clothing and Hanfu

A Song dynasty Chinese painting Night Revels of Han Xizai showing scholars in scholar's robes and musicians dressed in a Hanfu variant, 12th-century remake of a 10th-century original by Gu Hongzhong.

Han Chinese clothing has been shaped through its dynastic traditions as well as foreign influences.[125] Han Chinese clothing showcases the traditional fashion sensibilities of Chinese clothing traditions and forms one of the major cultural facets of Chinese civilization.[126] Hanfu (漢服) or traditional Han clothing comprises all traditional clothing classifications of the Han Chinese with a recorded history of more than three millennia until the end of the Ming Dynasty. During the Qing dynasty, Hanfu clothing was mostly replaced by the Manchu style until the dynasty's fall in 1911, yet Han women continued to wear clothing from Ming dynasty. Manchu and Han fashions of women's clothing coexisted during the Qing dynasty.[127][128] Moreover, neither Taoist priests nor Buddhist monks were required to wear the queue by the Qing; they continued to wear their traditional hairstyles, completely shaved heads for Buddhist monks, and long hair in the traditional Chinese topknot for Taoist priests.[129][130] During the Republic of China period, fashion styles and forms of traditional Qing costumes gradually changed, influenced by fashion sensibilities from the Western World resulting modern Han Chinese wearing Western style clothing as a part of everyday dress.[131][126]

Han Chinese clothing has continued to play an influential role within the realm of traditional East Asian fashion as both the Japanese Kimono and the Korean Hanbok were influenced by Han Chinese clothing designs.[132][133][134][135][136]


Han Chinese families throughout China have had certain traditionally prescribed roles, such as the family head (家長, jiāzhǎng), who represents the family to the outside world and the family manager (當家, dāngjiā), who is in charge of the revenues. Because farmland was commonly bought, sold or mortgaged, families were run like enterprises, with set rules for the allocation (分家, fēnjiā) of pooled earnings and assets.[108]

Han Chinese houses differ from place to place. In Beijing, the whole family traditionally lived together in a large rectangle-shaped house called a siheyuan. Such houses had four rooms at the front – guest room, kitchen, lavatory and servants' quarters. Across large double doors was a wing for the elderly in the family. This wing consisted of three rooms: a central room where the four tablets – heaven, earth, ancestor and teacher – were worshipped and two rooms attached to the left and right, which were bedrooms for the grandparents. The east wing of the house was inhabited by the eldest son and his family, while the west wing sheltered the second son and his family. Each wing had a veranda; some had a "sunroom" made with surrounding fabric and supported by a wooden or bamboo frame. Every wing was also built around a central courtyard that was used for study, exercise or nature viewing.[137]


Main article: Chinese cuisine

There is no one specific uniform cuisine of the Han Chinese since the culinary traditions and food consumed varies from Sichuan's famously spicy food to Guangdong's dim sum and fresh seafood.[138] Analyses throughout the reaches of Northern and Southern China have revealed their main staple to be rice (more likely to consumed by Southerners) as well as noodles and other wheat-based food items (which are more likely to be eaten by Northerners).[139] During China's Neolithic period, southwestern rice growers transitioned to millet from the northwest, when they could not find a suitable northwestern ecology – which was typically dry and cold – to sustain the generous yields of their staple as well as it did in other areas, such as along the eastern Chinese coast.[140]


Main article: Chinese literature

Lu Xun is one of the founding figures of modern Chinese literature.[141]

With a rich historical literary heritage spanning over three thousand years, the Han Chinese have continued to push the boundaries that have circumscribed the standards of literary excellence by showcasing an unwaveringly exceptional caliber and extensive wealth of literary accomplishments throughout the ages. The Han Chinese possess a vast catalogue of classical literature that can be traced back as far as three millennia, with a body of literature encompassing significant early works such as the Classic of Poetry, Analects of Confucius, I Ching, Tao Te Ching and the Art of War. Canonical works of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism alongside historical writings, philosophical works, treatises, poetry, drama, and fiction have been revered and immortalized as timeless cultural masterpieces within the vast expanse of Chinese literature. Historically, ambitious individuals who aspired to seek top government positions of distinguished authority, importance, and power were mandated to demonstrate their proficiency in the Confucian classics assessed through rigorous examinations in Imperial China.[120][121] Such comprehensive examinations were not only employed as the prevailing universal standards to evaluate a candidate's ethical behavior and virtuous conduct, but were also deployed as a measure of academic aptitude that determined a candidate's caliber, credibility, and eligibility for such esteemed roles of great influence and responsibility, extending beyond their prevailing entrance as a gateway into the imperial bureaucracy. Han literature itself has a rich tradition dating back thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature vernacular fiction novels that arose during the Ming dynasty which were employed as a source of cultural pleasure to entertain the masses of literate Chinese. Some of the most important Han Chinese poets in the pre-modern era were Li Bai, Du Fu and Su Dongpo. The most esteemed and noteworthy novels of great literary significance in Chinese literature, otherwise known as the Four Great Classical Novels are: Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West.

Drawing upon their extensive literary heritage rooted in a historical legacy spanning over three thousand years, the Han Chinese have continued to demonstrate a uniformly high level of literary achievement throughout the modern era as the reputation of contemporary Chinese literature continues to be internationally recognized. Erudite literary scholars who are well-versed in Chinese literature continue to remain highly esteemed in contemporary Chinese society. Liu Cixin's San Ti series won the Hugo Award.[142] Gao Xingjian became the first Chinese novelist to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000. In 2012, the novelist and short story writer Mo Yan also received the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 2015, children's writer Cao Wenxuan was bestowed with the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the first Chinese recipient of the esteemed international children's book prize.[143]

Science and technology

Main articles: List of Chinese inventions and List of Chinese discoveries

The Han Chinese have made significant contributions to various fields in the advancement and progress of human civilization, including business and economy, culture and society, governance, and science and technology, both historically and in the modern era. They have also played a pivotal role in being at the forefront of shaping the evolutionary trajectory of Chinese civilization and significantly influenced the advancement of East Asian civilization in concurrence with the broader region of East Asia as a whole. The invention of paper, printing, the compass and gunpowder are celebrated in Chinese society as the Four Great Inventions.[144] The innovations of Yi Xing (683-727), a polymathic Buddhist monk, mathematician, and mechanical engineer of the Tang dynasty is acknowledged for applying the earliest-known escapement mechanism to a water-powered celestial globe.[145][146][147][148] The accomplishments and advancements of the Song dynasty polymath Su Song (1020-1101) is recognized for inventing a hydro-mechanical astronomical clock tower in medieval Kaifeng, which employed an early escapement mechanism.[149][150][151][145] The work of medieval Chinese polymath Shen Kuo (1031–1095) of the Song dynasty theorized that the sun and moon were spherical and wrote of planetary motions such as retrogradation as well as postulating theories for the processes of geological land formation.[152] Medieval Han Chinese astronomers were also among the first peoples to record observations of a cosmic supernova in 1054 AD, the remnants of which would form the Crab Nebula.[152]

Throughout much of Chinese history, successive Chinese dynasties have exerted enormous influence on its East Asian neighbors in the areas of business and economy, culture and society, governance, and science and technology. In modern times, the Han Chinese form the largest ethnic group in China, while an overseas Han Chinese diaspora numbering in the tens of millions have settled in and contributed to the development and growth of their respective host countries across the world.

In the contemporary era, Han Chinese have continued to contribute to the development and growth of modern science and technology. Among such prominently illustrious names that have been honored, recognized, remembered, and respected for their historical groundbreaking achievements include Nobel Prize laureates Tu Youyou, Steven Chu, Samuel C.C. Ting, Chen Ning Yang, Tsung-Dao Lee, Yuan T. Lee, Daniel C. Tsui, Roger Y. Tsien and Charles K. Kao (known as the "Godfather of Broadband" and "Father of Fiber Optics");[153] Fields Medalists Terence Tao and Shing-Tung Yau as well as Turing Award winner Andrew Yao. Tsien Hsue-shen was a prominent aerospace engineer who helped to establish NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.[154] Chen Jingrun was a noted mathematician recognized for his contributions to number theory, where he demonstrated that any sufficiently large even number can be expressed as the sum of two prime numbers or a prime number and a semiprime, a concept now known as Chen's theorem.[155]

The 1978 Wolf Prize in Physics inaugural recipient and physicist Chien-Shiung Wu, nicknamed the "First Lady of Physics" contributed to the development of the Manhattan Project and radically altered modern physical theory and changed the conventionally accepted view of the structure of the universe.[156] The geometer Shiing-Shen Chern has been regarded as the "father of modern differential geometry" and has also been recognized as one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th-century. Chern was awarded the 1984 Wolf Prize in mathematics in recognition for his fundamental contributions to the development and growth of differential geometry and topology.[157][158][159][160][161][162] The botanist Shang Fa Yang was well-noted for his research that unlocked the key to prolonging freshness in fruits and flowers and "for his remarkable contributions to the understanding of the mechanism of biosynthesis, mode of action and applications of the plant hormone, Ethylene."[163] The agronomist Yuan Longping, regarded as the "Father of Hybrid Rice" was famous for developing the world's first set of hybrid rice varieties in the 1970s, which was then part of the Green Revolution that marked a major scientific breakthrough within the field of modern agricultural research.[164][165][166][167] The physical chemist Ching W. Tang, was the inventor of the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and hetero-junction organic photovoltaic cell (OPV) and is widely considered the "Father of Organic Electronics".[168] Biochemist Chi-Huey Wong is well known for his pioneering research in glycoscience research and developing the first enzymatic method for the large-scale synthesis of oligosaccharides and the first programmable automated synthesis of oligosaccharides. The chemical biologist Chuan He is notable for his work in discovering and deciphering reversible RNA methylation in post-transcriptional gene expression regulation.[169] Chuan is also noteworthy for having invented TAB-seq, a biochemical method that can map 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) at base-resolution genome-wide, as well as hmC-Seal, a method that covalently labels 5hmC for its detection and profiling.[170][171]

Other prominent Han Chinese who have made notable contributions the development and growth of modern science and technology include the medical researcher, physician, and virologist David Ho, who was one of the first scientists to propose that AIDS was caused by a virus, thus subsequently developing combination antiretroviral therapy to combat it. In recognition of his medical contributions, Ho was named Time magazine Person of the Year in 1996.[172] The medical researcher and transplant surgeon Patrick Soon-Shiong is the inventor of the drug Abraxane, which became known for its efficacy against lung, breast, and pancreatic cancer.[173] Soon-Shiong is also well known for performing the first whole-pancreas transplant[174][175] and he developed and first performed the experimental Type 1 diabetes-treatment known as encapsulated-human-islet transplant, and the "first pig-to-man islet-cell transplant in diabetic patients."[174] The physician and physiologist Thomas Ming Swi Chang is the inventor of the world's first artificial cell made from a permeable plastic sack that would effectively carry hemoglobin around the human circulatory system.[176] Chang is also noteworthy for his development of charcoal-filled cells to treat drug poisoning in addition to the discovery of enzymes carried by artificial cells as a medical tool to correct the faults within some metabolic disorders.[177] Min Chueh Chang was the co-inventor of the combined oral contraceptive pill and is known for his pioneering work and significant contributions to the development of in vitro fertilization at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology.[178][179] Biochemist Choh Hao Li discovered human growth hormone (and subsequently used it to treat a form of dwarfism caused by growth hormone deficiency), beta-endorphin (the most powerful of the body's natural painkillers), follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone (the key hormone used in fertility testing, an example is the ovulation home test).[180][181] Joe Hin Tjio was a cytogeneticist renowned as the first person to recognize the normal number of human chromosomes, a breakthrough in karyotype genetics.[182][183] The bio-engineer Yuan-Cheng Fung, was regarded as the "Father of modern biomechanics" for pioneering the application of quantitative and analytical engineering principles to the study of the human body and disease.[184][185] China's system of "barefoot doctors" was among the most important inspirations for the World Health Organization conference in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan in 1978, and was hailed as a revolutionary breakthrough in international health ideology emphasizing primary health care and preventive medicine.[186][187]


Main articles: Chinese folk religion, Three teachings, Chinese folk religion in Southeast Asia, and Religion in China

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A traditional representation of The Vinegar Tasters, an allegorical image representing Buddhists, Confucianists, and Taoists

Confucianism, Daoism, and Chinese Buddhism, as well as other various traditional homegrown Chinese philosophies, have influenced not only Han Chinese culture, but also the neighboring cultures in East Asia. Chinese spiritual culture has been long characterized by religious pluralism and Chinese folk religion has always maintained a profound influence within the confines of Chinese civilization both historically and in the modern era. Indigenous Confucianism and Taoism share aspects of being a philosophy or a religion and neither demand exclusive adherence, resulting in a culture of tolerance and syncretism, where multiple religions or belief systems are often practiced in conjunction with local customs and traditions. Han culture has for long been influenced by Mahayana Buddhism, while in recent centuries Christianity has also gained a foothold among the population.[188]

Chinese folk religion is a set of worship traditions of the ethnic deities of the Han people. It involves the worship of various extraordinary figures in Chinese mythology and history, heroic personnel such as Guan Yu and Qu Yuan, mythological creatures such as the Chinese dragon or family, clan and national ancestors. These practices vary from region to region and do not characterize an organized religion, though many traditional Chinese holidays such as the Duanwu (or Dragon Boat) Festival, Qingming Festival, Zhongyuan Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival come from the most popular of these traditions.

Taoism, another indigenous Han philosophy and religion, is also widely practiced by the Han in both its folk forms and as an organized religion with its traditions having been a source of vestigial perennial influence on Chinese art, poetry, philosophy, music, medicine, astronomy, Neidan and alchemy, dietary habits, Neijia and other martial arts and architecture. Taoism was the state religion during the Han and Tang eras where it also often enjoyed state patronage under subsequent emperors and successive ruling dynasties.

Confucianism, although sometimes described as a religion, is another indigenous governing philosophy and moral code with some religious elements like ancestor worship. It continues to be deeply ingrained in modern Chinese culture and was the official state philosophy in ancient China during the Han dynasty and until the fall of imperial China in the 20th century (though it is worth noting that there is a movement in China today advocating that the culture be "re-Confucianized").[189]

During the Han dynasty, Confucian ideals were the dominant ideology. Near the end of the dynasty, Buddhism entered China, later gaining popularity. Historically, Buddhism alternated between periods of state tolerance (and even patronage) and persecution. In its original form, certain ideas in Buddhism was not quite compatible with traditional Chinese cultural values, especially with the Confucian sociopolitical elite, as certain Buddhist values conflicted with Chinese sensibilities. However, through centuries of mutual tolerance, assimilation, adaptation, and syncretism, Chinese Buddhism gained an respectable place in the culture. Chinese Buddhism was also influenced by Confucianism and Taoism and exerted influence in turn – such as in the form of Neo-Confucianism and Buddhist influences in Chinese folk religion, such as the cult of Guanyin, who is treated as a Bodhisattva, immortal, goddess or exemplar of Confucian virtue, depending on the tradition. The four largest schools of Han Buddhism (Chan, Jingtu, Tiantai and Huayan) were all developed in China and later spread throughout the Chinese sphere of influence.

Though Christian influence in China existed as early as the 7th century, Christianity did not gain a significant foothold in China until the establishment of contact with Europeans during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Christian beliefs often had conflicts with traditional Chinese values and customs which eventually resulted in the Chinese Rites controversy and a subsequent reduction in Christian influence in the country. Christianity grew considerably following the First Opium War, after which foreign missionaries in China enjoyed the protection of the Western powers and engaged in widespread proselytizing.[190]

Historical southward migration

Map showing the expansion of Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC.

Modern Southern Han Chinese – such as the Cantonese, Hakka, and Hoklo – all claim Northern Han Chinese ancestry derived from their forebearers who migrated from Northern China's Yellow River Valley between the 4th to 12th centuries. Hoklo clans living in southeastern coastal China, such as in Chaozhou and Quanzhou–Zhangzhou, originated from northern China's Henan province during the Tang dynasty.[191]

There were several periods of mass migration of Han people to Southeastern and Southern China throughout history.[58] The ancestors of the Cantonese are said to be Northern Han Chinese who moved to Guangdong, while the Yue descendants were the indigenous minorities who practised tattooing, as described in "The Real Yue People" (真越人; zhēn yuèrén) essay by Qu Dajun, a Cantonese scholar who extolled his people's Chineseness.[192]

Guangdong, Northern Vietnam, and Yunnan all experienced a major surge in Han Chinese migrants during Wang Mang's reign.[58]: 126  Hangzhou's coastal regions and the Yangtze valley were settled in the 4th century AD by Northern Han Chinese families descended from the Han nobility.[58]: 181  Special "commanderies of immigrants" and "white registers" were created for the massive number of Han Chinese of northern origin who moved south during the Eastern Jin dynasty.[58]: 182  The southern Chinese aristocracy was formed from the offspring of these migrants;[193] Celestial Masters and the nobility of Northern China subdued the aristocracy of Southern China during the Eastern Jin and Western Jin, particularly in Jiangnan.[194] With the depopulation of the north, due to this migration of Northern Han Chinese, the south became the most populous region of China.[195][196]

The Han Chinese "Eight Great Surnames" were eight noble families who migrated from Northern China to Fujian in Southern China due to the uprising of the five barbarians when the Eastern Jin was founded, the Hu, He, Qiu, Dan, Zheng, Huang, Chen and Lin surnames.[197][198][199][200]

The Ming dynasty pirate Zheng Zhilong and his son Koxinga's ancestors in the Zheng family originated in Northern China but due to the Uprising of the Five Barbarians and Disaster of Yongjia by the Five Barbarians, the Zheng family were among the Northern Han Chinese refugees who fled to Southern China and settled in Putian, Fujian. They later moved to Zhangzhou and moved on to Nan'an.

Different waves of migration of Han Chinese belonging to the aristocracy from Northern China to the south at different times – with some arriving in the 300s–400s and others in the 800s–900s – resulted in the formation of distinct lineages.[201] During the 700s (Tang dynasty), Han migrants from northern China flooded into the south.[202] Hong Kong history books record migrations of the Song and Tang dynasties to the south, which resulted in Hong Kongers that are descended from the incoming Han settlers that originated from northern China.[60] During the Tang dynasty, Guangdong experienced a significant influx of Northern Han Chinese settlers, leading many Cantonese, Hokkien, and Teochew individuals to identify themselves as "Tang people" (唐人; Tángrén), which has served as a means to assert and acknowledge their Northern Han Chinese origins.[203] Several wars in northern China such as the Uprising of the Five Barbarians, An Lushan Rebellion, Huang Chao Rebellion, the wars of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms and Jin–Song Wars caused a mass migration of Han Chinese from Northern China to Southern China called 衣冠南渡 (yì guān nán dù). These mass migrations over the centuries inevitably led to the demographic expansion, economic prosperity, agricultural advancements, and cultural flourishing of Southern China, which remained relatively peaceful unlike its northern counterpart.[204][205][206][207][208][209][210]

The Mongol invasion during the thirteenth century caused a surging influx of Northern Han Chinese refugees to move south to settle and develop the Pearl River Delta.[211][212][213][214][215][216]

The first Ming dynasty emperor Zhu Yuanzhang resettled his home city Fengyang and capital Nanjing with people from Jiangnan.[217][218]


Main articles: Genetic history of East Asians and Peopling of China

Estimated ancestry components among modern Eurasian populations. The red components represent the distinctive genetic markers characteristic of people with East Asian ancestry.[219]

The Han Chinese show a close genetic relationship with other modern East Asian populations such as the Koreans and Yamato.[220][221][222][223][224][225][226] A 2018 research paper found that while the Han Chinese are closely related to the Koreans and Yamato in terms of a correlative genetic relationship, they are also genetically distinguishable from them. And that the same Han Chinese subgroups are genetically closer to each other relative to their Korean and Yamato counterparts, but are still easily distinguishable from each other.[226] Research published in 2020 found the Yamato Japanese population to be overlapped with that of the northern Han Chinese.[227]

The genetic makeup of the modern Han Chinese is not purely uniform in terms of physical appearance and biological structure due to the vast geographical expanse of China and the migratory percolations that have occurred throughout it over the last three millennia. This has also engendered the emergence and evolution of the diverse multiplicity of assorted Han subgroups found throughout the various regions of modern China today. Comparisons between the Y chromosome single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of modern Northern Han Chinese and 3000 year old Hengbei ancient samples from China's Central Plains show that they are extremely similar to each other, which confirms the genetic continuity bequeathed by the ancient Chinese of Hengbei and the present-day Northern Han Chinese inheritors that currently inhabit it in the contemporary era. These findings demonstrate that the core fundamental structural basis that shaped the genetic makeup of the present-day Northern Han Chinese was already formed three thousand years ago.[228] The reference population for the Chinese used in Geno 2.0 Next Generation is 81% Eastern Asia, 2% Finland and Northern Siberia, 8% Central Asia, and 7% Southeast Asia & Oceania.[229]

Studies of DNA remnants from the Central Plains area of China dating back three thousand years ago exemplify the close affinity between that of the ancient Chinese population and the present-day Northern Han Chinese as evidenced by both the Y-DNA and mtDNA analysis. The contemporary northern and southern Han Chinese population show a similar genetic structure in terms of Y-DNA.[230]

However, the mtDNA of Han Chinese increases in diversity as one looks from northern to southern China, which suggests that the influx of male Han Chinese migrants intermarried with the local female non-Han aborigines after arriving in what is now modern-day Guangdong, Fujian, and other regions of southern China.[231][232] Despite this, tests comparing the genetic profiles of northern Han, southern Han, and non-Han southern natives determined that haplogroups O1b-M110, O2a1-M88 and O3d-M7, which are prevalent in non-Han southern natives, were only observed in some southern Han Chinese (4% on average), but not in the northern Han genetic profile. Therefore, this proves that the male contribution of the southern non-Han natives in the southern Han genetic profile is limited, assuming that the frequency distribution of Y lineages in southern non-Han natives represents that prior to the expansion of Han culture, which originated two thousand years ago from the north.[231][59]

A PCA graph illustrates the genetic differences among Han Chinese subgroups.[233]

Conversely, there is contrasting evidence that consistently shows the strong genetic similarities in the Y chromosome haplogroup distribution between the modern southern and northern Han Chinese population, and the result of principal core component analysis indicates that almost all modern Han Chinese populations form a tight cluster in their Y chromosome. However, other biological research findings have also demonstrated that the paternal lineages Y-DNA O-M119,[234] O-P201,[235] O-P203[235] and O-M95[236] are found in both Southern Han Chinese and Southern non-Han minorities, but more commonly in the latter. In fact, these paternal markers are in turn less frequent in northern Han Chinese.[237] Another study puts the Han Chinese into two groups: Northern and southern Han Chinese, and it demonstrates that the core genetic characteristics of the present-day northern Han Chinese was already formed more than three-thousand years ago in the Central Plain area.[238]

The estimated contribution of northern Han to the southern Han is substantial in the paternal ancestral lineages in addition to a geographic cline that exists for its corresponding maternal ancestry. As a result, the northern Han Chinese are the primary benefactors that contributed to the paternal gene pool of the modern southern Han Chinese as a result of the successive migratory waves that have occurred from the north to what is now modern Southern China. However, it is noteworthy that the southward expansion process that occurred two thousand years ago was largely dominated by males, as is shown by a greater contribution to the Y-chromosome than the mtDNA from northern to southern Han. These genetic findings and observations are in concordance with historical records confirming the continuous and large migratory waves of northern Han Chinese inhabitants escaping dynastic changes, geopolitical upheavals, instability, warfare and famine into what is now today modern Southern China.[239][240][241][204][205][206][207][208][209][210][211][212][213][214][215][216]

Successive waves of Han migration and subsequent intermarriage and cross-cultural dialogue between the northern Han migrants and the non-Han aborigines gave rise to modern Chinese demographics with a dominant Han Chinese super-majority and minority non-Han Chinese indigenous peoples in the south over the past two thousand years.[240] Aside from these large migratory waves, other smaller southward migrations occurred during almost all periods over the past two millennia.[231] A study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences into the gene frequency data of Han sub-populations and ethnic minorities in China, showed that Han sub-populations in different regions are also genetically quite close to the local ethnic non-Han minorities, meaning that in many cases, the blood of ethnic minorities had mixed into Han genetic substrate through varying degrees of intermarriage, while at the same time, the blood of the Han had also mixed into the genetic substrates of the local ethnic non-Han minorities.[242]

A recent, and to date the most extensive, genome-wide association study of the Han population, shows that the geographic-genetic stratification from north to south has occurred and centrally placed populations that act as the conduit for outlying ones.[243] Ultimately, with the exception in some ethnolinguistic branches of the Han Chinese, such as Pinghua and Tanka people,[244] there is a "coherent genetic structure" found in the entirety of the modern Han Chinese populace.[245]

Typical Y-DNA haplogroups of present-day Han Chinese include Haplogroup O-M122, C, Haplogroup N and Haplogroup Q-M120, and these haplogroups also have been found (alongside some members of Haplogroup N-M231, Haplogroup O-M95, and unresolved Haplogroup O-M175) among a selection of ancient human remains recovered from the Hengbei archeological site in Jiang County, Shanxi Province, China, an area that was part of the suburbs of the capital (near modern Luoyang) during the Zhou dynasty.[246]


  1. ^ simplified Chinese: 汉族; traditional Chinese: 漢族; pinyin: Hànzú; lit. 'Han ethnic group' or
    simplified Chinese: 汉人; traditional Chinese: 漢人; pinyin: Hànrén; lit. 'Han people'


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Further reading

Media related to Han Chinese people at Wikimedia Commons