Lee Kwan Yew

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Lee Kwan Yew’s racial views fully explored. Lee, the elder statesmen of Singapore and formerly Harry Lee, is of “Baba Chinese” extraction [Some further digging by me indicates his mother is part Baba, while his father's family came too late to the Straits to be considered Baba and is as Jason pointed out more properly identified as Hakka]-descendents of early Chinese settlers on the Straits of Malacca who often married Malay women, spoke Malay and fancied their cuisine.

Update: Jason Soon points out that Lee is of Hakka origin. But, the article above indicates that his mother was partially Malay and I have read that Lee spoke English growing up. The latter tendencies are typical of Babbas. As Babbas are a settler community, I suspect they would have varied regional origins in China (though if I recall correctly, most regions of Southeast Asia were settled disproportionately from specific Chinese provinces).

Also, check out the nifty stats site put out by the cheerfully soft-authoritarian government of Singapore. One fact I gleaned from it: Taoism is a dying faith in the city, while Buddhism has grown at its expense greatly in the past 20 years (Christianity has also grown, but less than Buddhism as the latter had swallowed a whole generation of children that might have given Taoism as their religion). Perhaps this has something to do with the nature of the two faiths-Taoism being more rustic, localized and animistic, Buddhism more urbane, universal and metaphysical (the last part just indicates that it is more verbose & systematic in its incoherent babble).


  1. Actually Lee is also a fellow Hakka, see http://www.asiawind.com/pub/forum/fhakka/mhonarc/msg00839.html

    All this obsession he has with ‘hardiness’ and ‘determination’ are stereotypical Hakka traits. Hakkas have a reputation among other Chinese for being frugal, diligent, morose, serious-minded, clannish – you get the picture, petit-bourgeois, a bit like the Scotsmen of China. They also banned the practice of foot-binding and regarded other Chinese who practiced it as decadent. Singapore has been remade in the Hakka Lee Kuan Yew’s image.

  2. his mother is of partial malay heritage. also, i believe he was raised speaking english and not chinese. so yes, his father’s family is hakka perhaps, but he also has significant babba traits…. (i have read him described as babba, but obviously there isn’t a hard & fast rule as to what “babba” is, just they aren’t fresh-off-the-boat and have assimilated some malay cultural traits like cuisine, and to a large extent, female indigenous ancestry)

  3. Clearly, Prof. Barr intends for Prime Minister Lee’s confusion on the subject of evolution (Lamarckian vs Darwinian) to help disqualify his other ideas on race — namely, that intelligence and probably other characteristics are partly inherited; the influence of some of these inherited characteristics on a nation’s societal properties and economic performance; etc. Confusion about Lamarckian vs. Darwinian mechanisms of evolution is widespread among even intelligent non-academics for some reason (which is surprising, because these are not hard concepts — you’d think anyone who didn’t literally sleep all through tenth-grade biology would have acquired them for life), and astoundingly even among top academics in certain ideological circles. This confusion, which is more widespread on the side of racial anti-realism than on Lee’s race-realism side, helps disqualify neither side, because the central question is whether or not certain traits are inherited, not the mechanism of that inheritance.

    Likewise with Lee’s view that the adrenal glands play the role he naïvely assigned to them in his younger years: Prof. Barr wants this to disqualify his other ideas, but it does not.

    Not without getting some technical details wrong, Lee perceived certain central truths early in life which were utterly vindicated with the later publication of “The Bell Curve” and other articles and books. Prof. Barr’s article may perhaps serve as a psychological inquiry into the mind of a great man, or some other purpose, but in no way casts doubt on Lee’s central ideas about race. Lamarkianism as the hereditary mechanism in his ideas can be switched to Darwinism, and the adrenal glands to the dopaminergic system or whatever, and the central ideas survive unscathed.

    What I’d guess was something like 75 percent of Prof. Barr’s aim in writing that article failed completely.

  4. I’ve got a couple of questions for Jason Soon: 1) Is it pure coincidence that the words “Hun” (the Oriental ethnic group which invaded Europe during the late Roman Empire) and “Han” (the present-day predominant ethnicity of China) are so similar? 2) Did Attila the Hun and his soldiers look just like present-day Chinamen? If not, what did they look like?

    (Forgive me if these questions have already been dealt with on Gene Expression — there have been lacunes in my visits to the site, and I know Razib covers a tremendous amount of territory, China being one of his favorite subjects — so these questions may already have come up.)

  5. Razib – re growing up speaking English, well I grew up speaking English too. I do know I have Baba relatives though I don’t think I am descended from any.

    Unadorned – re your question the linguistic coincidence is purely that as far as I know. The Chinese refer to the Huns as Hsiung Nu. However you are correct in suggesting that there may be some admixtures with the actual Huns. I don’t claim to be an expert on Chinese anthropology but there is one theory that suggests that the Hakkas who migrated from North to Southern China were partly descended from the Huns – see http://www.taiwandc.org/dpp/019711.htm
    “Hakka are a distinct member of the Mongoloid race and Han people, with considerable intermixture of indigenous stocks in the north as well as the south. More specifically, they are descended from Hsiung Nu (Huns) and Tung-yi (Eastern Barbarians). After centuries of settlement in China, Hakka have adopted much of Chinese culture”
    Another theory is that they fled from Northern China after the invasion of the Huns
    “After the Han Period, China went into an uncertain phase of warring states. The struggle for power weakened China so that once more China was invaded by fearsome nomadic minority tribes called the Hsiung-nu, who then became the new rulers of China”
    In either case there was definitely some mixture but Han and Hun were separate peoples initially.

  6. As for your question about appearance I can only hazard an educated guess. The Huns invaded from the North – the area around China, Russia and Mongolia – I’d suspect they didn’t look terribly different from what a lot of Central Asian tribes (for instance particularly the Turkmen or Afghan Hazara) might look like today. I doubt they were pure Mongoloid.

  7. there is some doubt whether the hsuing-nu were the historic huns-this was the prevailing wisdom, but revisionists question it as a naive phonetic assocation. please note also that north china was quite depopulated of the “Han” (chinese speaking) people during the barbarian interregnum between 250 & 600-the emperors of the Tang dynasty for instance acknowledged their non-chinese ancestry. i would not be surprised if some of the divergence that the northern and southern Chinese display genetically as indicated by cavalli-sforza are the result of two separate admixtures with the Han, in the case of the north, the Turkic & Mongolic peoples, in the south of the south, the Thai, Viet and affiliated peoples.

    also, i believe jason is correct in his ascertainment of the hunnish physique, if cog you are asking about the “european looking” barbarians, they were the Yue-Chi i believe (transliteration in doubt here) who migrated west and became kushanas in central asia and india.

    (i thought you were on vacation jason?)

  8. ps-the Hmong people of Laos also share legends of far northern origin with the Hakka. i was once told my a Hmong friend that “pure Hmong” are often blonde-that the Ching dynasty once sent soldiers to kill “white Hmong” that were fomenting rebellion in the south. if you read Carleton Coon at all-probably the most encyclopediac documentary of phenotype ever, many “indigenous” people of eastern asia sometimes have a reddish or brownish tinge to their hair….

  9. As for the theory that Hakka people were migrants from the North, though most of us like to promote it to distinguish us from other southern Chinese. However a lot of genetic evidence found recently seems to bely this idea.

    Sorry the following link is only in Chinese, but there’s an English abstract at the bottom:
    discussing mutations in glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. Basically, there’s a 3.6% rate of G6PD deficiency (due to mutations 1376G→T and 1388G→A, among others) among Hakka people in Taiwan, which is very close to the rate found among other southern Chinese people and in Southeast Asians but far higher than the rate in Northern China, where those mutations are not found. The article also names Laotians, Thais, Vietnamese, and Javanese as possessing the same mutation, and speculates about common ancestry.

  10. eh oops, to clarify and correct, the rate of G6PD among males with Hakka-speaking mothers in Taiwan should be 10.3%. Which is 4x higher than among Minnan-dialect speakers (i.e. from Fujian), 2.5%. overall rate among southern Chinese is 4.0%, among northern Chinese 0.3%.

  11. Eric, out of curiosity I just clicked on the link for the Chinese-language research paper you provided, to see what typewritten Chinese looked like. What I saw blew my mind. You mean to say someone has devised an approximation of the Chinese ideograms using nothing but various symbols found on Western typewriters? I saw western vowels with French accents, upside-down question-marks, the symbol for Japanese yen, etc. There’s a way to put all these together to spell Chinese words? I guess there is — I just saw it with my own eyes.

  12. Stupid me … I just realized that hodge-podge must simply be the nonsense symbols one gets when one’s computer doesn’t have the software needed for displaying Chinese writing. (Should’ve thought before I posted! Sorry!)

  13. The author of the paper seems to have a rather condescending attitude towards Lee, and I think he is probably incorrect in imputing Lamarckian beliefs to him. Lee’s views on eugenic cultures show a pretty clear understanding of Darwinian mechanisms, and if he speaks of people being made hard or soft by their environments, it could just as well be said that he is either talking about cultural changes or else a gradual process of selection. Anyway, the author does us a service by explaining Lee’s views, even if his ultimate dismissal of them is unconvincing. More interesting to me are the comments on a peaceful society that has high racial consciousness; but of course the situation in America is somewhat different than in Singapore, and similar remedies might be ineffective here.

  14. I would like to know Lee Kuan Yew’s mother’s name. She wrote a cookbook and I am very interested to obtain the title and cost. Thank you.


    Doris Ng

  15. Did Lee Kwan Yew’s family ancestry have anything to do with the Hakka Lan Fang Republic(1740-1847) of Western Kalimantan? For more details read;



    Geographer STRABON says that Huns lived in the eastern parts of the
    territories of the Kingdom GREK-BACTRIA ….Historian
    PLINIUS(his death date 125 B.C) recorded The kingdom in question was
    destroyed by Huns……….Chinese chronicles regarding the collapse
    of the Kingdom GREK-BACTRIA reveal That Kingdom was destroyed by

    The regions where Huns lived in the maps drowen by geographer like
    OROSIUS(The ends of 1th century) and PTOLEMAIUS (160-170 B.C) were
    expressed by Chinese annals as the lands of HsIung-nus..

    on the eve of the beginning of the great movement,The lands of
    ALANS were destroyed by Huns…AMMIANUS MERCELLINUS,famous historian
    of that perİod, recorded that These lands belonging to ALANS were
    obtained by Huns.. chinese annal named WEI-SHU let us know about the
    same topic in this way.. The lands of ALANS were destroyed by

    The Chinese capital LO-YANG is besieged by Hsiung-nus in the year
    of 311 ..Chinese chronicles reveals that The people who siege the
    capital city are HSIUNG-NUS… Many sogdian merchants are taken by
    HSIUNG-NUS as prisoners …..One of These merchants, who stay among
    HSIUNG-NU by being taken prisoner in the result of the surrounding in
    question , writes a letter in related to what He lives one day. ..in
    his letter ,He calls HSIUNGNU KHUN(=HUN)… The most striking point
    regarding This letter is why the letter H is used by sogdian merchant
    in spite of fact that There is no already the letter H in sogdian
    language …..

    By the light of information given above We can identify the nation
    expressed with the names of Hun and Hsiung-nu in both chinese
    chronicles and with information geographers and historians gave to us
    as the same nation…

    As to the meaning of the word Hun ..Linguistics reveal Hunnish
    was an archaic form of Turkic… There is no letter H in old
    Turkish.and There is the change K>H in Turkic…… for example,
    Hunnish word For WOMAN is KATUN …This word has turned into HATUN in
    Turkey turkic over times… the original word for Hun is Kun..It
    means people,nation and tribes in all turkic icluding Hunnish
    Turkic… according to linguistics,,Hsiung-nu comes from the word
    Hun and means non-chinese people living in the northern parts of

    Let me translate into the article by OMELJAN PRITSAK about the
    language of Huns,who is the professor of the university of

    There were two bigs Turkish Tribes which had arrived in eastern
    Europea in the period following the last quarter of the fourth
    century… These were Hunnish-Bulgars Turks(
    Hsiung-nus,Onogurs,Kutrigurs,Volga and danube Bulgars ,Avars
    and propably Pechenegs)..
    the second one is that The main Turks ( eastern Turks;
    Khazars,oghus,kharakalpacks and kphycaks)

    The main Turkish language which would be dominant in eurasian steppes
    Until 10th century was Hunnish-Bulgar Turkish..
    There were seven original properties which differed Hunnish-Bulgar
    Turkic from The main Turkic(eastern Turkic)..

    eastern Turkic








    The examples for 1th and 7th ; Hunnish(jordanes around 500 A.C) VER( =
    forThe river DNIEPR)= CHUVAS TURKIC=VAR= The main
    Volga Bulgarian ;(The scripts in 13rd and 14th centuries) JÜR=Chuvas
    Turkic=Jur= Turkic=Yüz, that is to say =FACE..

    The example for 2nd and 3dh; Hsİungnu language (weİ-chu 437
    year) ÇEªE (=ÇA’L'Ç)=(= STONE)

    Bulgar Turkic ÇAÇ(

    One for 4th and 6th Snake= Danube Bulgar

    Cow= Danube Bulgarian(=şegor) Turkis(=Sigir)=COW


    Aramaic writing in present-day Georgia appeared in the period
    following the Huns’ penetration into the Caucuses. This writing was
    also used by the Bulgars. It is estimated that this writing was
    proto-Turkic and appeared before the Orkhun inscriptions in Mongolia..

    Hunnish sentence which has survived to the present-day is the

    (Pulleyblank,who has set forth a very comic theory toward the origin
    of Huns which is that They are of Cets and yenisei Ostiaks origin,
    expressed the main reason that Many turcologists read this sentence
    in question diferently from each other was that They didnt give the
    necessary importance to sound values in Chinese characters..
    Pulleyblank is right on this topic..

    and He translated the sentence into Latin letters in this way..)

    Siu-keh thei-lei-kang buk kuk giou thuk-tang

    Süke Tilikang Bukuk ku Thuktang (translation of sentence in

    Süke TILIKANG Bukuk ku Tuktang ( translation of sentence in Turkic)

    sü= soldier,army, war —–Ke = the dative of Sü /////Tilikang(=
    TILIKANG in Hun turkic)= TASIKANG ( in eastern Türkish), Ramsted said
    ,by looking at the changes L,S in turkic ,said that Hunnish was a
    Turkic with L,R

    ( a note; it was very difficult to translate Hunnish words into
    chinese characters because of fact some letters in Turkic were not
    avaliable in chinese ..for example letters ö,ü,r are not avaliable in
    chinese ,so Sü was translated into Chinese Siü)
    Bukuk = a caption used in Turkic and means Commander ,,,,gu=the
    accusative of Bukuk
    NG is the suffixe used for 2nd person in imperative moods inTurkish

    This sentence is read in this way= enter a war,preparing the army
    and capture the commander..its explanation in Turkish ….

    To me, The persons who have read this sentence the best are TALAT
    TEKIN and RAMSTED , who made a statement akin to Talat tekin’s one in
    the year of 1922..

    One area for backing up this claim is that of Hunnic names. It is
    difficult to explain the names belonging to Asian Huns because of fact
    that they were translated into Chinese in the form of Chinese names.
    The meanings of the names of European Huns can be comfortably
    explained in Turkish. One of the most striking features related to
    European Hunnic names is that they can’t be explained by any language
    but Turkish. Some of the names belonged to the German language due to
    cultural interaction, but the majority of them were Turkish.
    I will try to explain some of these:


    (The first known King of european Huns) Balamir = Bala (child,
    kid,young) + Mir (king)

    (the son of Attila) Dengizik = sea storm

    (the son of Attila) Csaba = shepherd

    (a Hunnic leader) Atakam = Ata (grandfather, father)

    Kam =Shaman, the person who is responsible for the religious
    rituals (in shamanism)

    Eskam = Es = partner + Kam = (as above)

    AYBARS ( the uncle of ATTILA) = Ay = moon (and also the colour white
    in Turkish) + Bars (or Pars)
    = leopard, or a wild animal,,AYBARS is one of the names used still
    in Turkish.

    The Linguistic William Bang has proven the name of Attila’s wife, to
    whom Latins called CRACEA ,was Arikan in TurkiSh in the result on his


    ELLAK (the son of ATTILA) = KING,EMPEROR

    OKTAR( the uncle of ATTILA) = POWERFUL, BRAVE

    BLEDA( the brother of ATTILA) = this name is accepted by many
    researchers as a name of German stock.. BLEDA can be explaned with the
    name of BILDA ,which means EMPEROR, in Turkish..

    ((the name BUDAPEST, the capital of Hungary, is composed of the WORDS
    BUDA + PEST …Both of these words are of Turkish origin. and BUDAPEST
    means the city of BLEDA. The Another name of Bleda was BUDA…This
    city was founded by Bleda..so The name of Bleda was given to the city
    in question.)))

    Muncuk,(the father of ATTILA) = valuable stone and FLAG amblem in Turkic.



    the names of some of European Hunnish Commanders and soldiers have
    been found in persian documents… These soldiers served to Persian
    army as the soldiers ..Some of these names are ,KUBRAT,KURTAK,ERK-
    KUBRAT = WOLF IN TURKIC,, KUBRAT is also the name of the first known
    king of Bulgar Turks,who is stemming from ERNAK ,the son of ATTILA

    TARKAN-BEG= TARKAN is a caption used in old Turks in order to express
    the person who is the responsibility of Military and administrative

    BEG = is a caption used to express the chiefs of the tribes in old
    Turks….The word BEG has been used by Turks under the names of
    BEG=BEY=BEK throughout the history ….

    As to the name ATTILA,

    Most linguists agree that it’s Gothic, since a number of Hunnic nobles
    of Attila’s generation had Gothic names. See Otto Maenchen-Helfen’s
    chapter on Hunnic names and language in his ‘The World of the Huns’.
    ‘Atta’ is Gothic for ‘father’ and the ending ‘-ila’ is a standard
    Gothic diminutive found in may Gothic names (Wulfila, Totila, Baduila
    etc) The ending of Attila’s name is definitely Gothic and while there
    is a chance the initial element is Turkic (as in ‘Ataturk’) .

    The similarity between the Gothic and Turkic word for ‘father’ is
    interesting, but it’s likely to be because it is a ‘infant word’ – ie
    an early word which comes naturally to human babies learning to speak.
    Similar-sounding words can be found in many iunrelated languages -
    from the English ‘daddy’ to the Aramaic ‘abba’.

    Many turcologists say that The name Attila comes from the river VOLGA,
    The Turks called the river VOLGA ETEL(=ATIL) in the past .
    ATIL . It is also said by many researchers that The name of
    the present-day river VOLGA was given to ATTILA because of fact
    that ATTILA was born somewhere near the river in question…..

    The meaning of ATTILA can also be explained with the help of
    Turkic in that way….

    The Word for homeland or country in Hunnish Turkic is The word EL…
    This word has turned into The word IL in Turkey Turkish over
    times… We can explain the meaning of ATTILA by the light of This

    ATA-IL = means the father of Country …

    ATTILA is most likely to be a Turkish name….

    If european Huns were really of Mongol stock at least Mongol name
    would be came across…As it is seen that The only connection between
    Huns and Mongols is somewhat physical appereance….Huns have nothing
    to do with Mongols…..

    The term Mongol is wrongly and very commonly used by many researchers
    in order to express all nations and tribes originating in central
    asia. Turks are also a nation originating in Inner Asia .so Turks are
    wrongly accepted and supposed to be a race of Mongol stock. This is
    Pure noncense……

    The suffixe IA in the word MONGOLIA is originally of Latin and means
    LAND,HOMELAND,, When We say Mongolia, (Mongol + IA) ..we indicates a
    land in which Mongols live… We indicate where MONGOL tribes…The
    homeland of All of these warrior Turkish tribes is the lands known as
    the present-day MONGOLIA ..The name MONGOLIA comes from The race
    MONGOL . …Sien-pies ,which are the fore fathers of Mongol ,settled
    in the present day Mongol lands by migrating and became the dominant
    power in these lands in the period following Turks migrated in the
    direction of WESTERN..

    Mongols are a nation originating in MANCHURIA not in MONGOLIA..The
    terms MONGOL and MONGOLIA leads to a wrong idea that is Huns are a
    nation of Mongol stock….The reason for the wrong using by of these
    terms is because either of lacking in information in related to Huns
    or of the wrong information regarding the origin of Huns …

    LEV NIKOLAYEVIC GUMILEV expresses in His book named HUNS that
    Chinese chronicles indicate that Hunnish language is very close to
    TÖLES which are accepted to be the forefathers of Uighur Turks living
    in the northern part of CHINA now..TöLes were a Turkish Tribe..

    Chinese Historians have always accepted Huns Turks and their
    languages Turkic….

    several informaton related to Bulgars who are descended from european

    Two lists belonging to Tuna bulgarians have been obtained ..The
    ancestor of Bulgars is written as KOBRAT/KUBRAT in the first one of
    those lists..
    The most striking knowledge in the second list is that The name of the
    family of the superstratum of Bulgar is writen as DULO ……..OMELJAN
    PRITSAK expresses The name DULO comes from Tuko ,which is the name of
    the dynasty of HSIUNG-NUS and goes on to say that old translation of

    with my regards…