Vietnamese are not that much like the Cambodians

A comment below suggested another book on Vietnamese history, which I am endeavoring to read in the near future. The comment also brought up issues relating to the ethnogenesis of the Vietnamese people, their relationship to the Yue (or lack thereof) and the Khmer, and also the Han Chinese.

Obviously, I can’t speak to the details of linguistics and area studies history. But I can say a bit about genetics because over the years I’ve assembled a reasonable data set of Asians, both public and private. The 1000 Genomes collected Vietnamese from Ho Chi Minh City in the south. I compared them to a variety of populations using ADMIXTURE with 5 populations.

Click to enlarge

You can click to enlarge, but I can tell you that the Vietnamese samples vary less than the Cambodian ones, and resemble Dai more than the other populations. The Dai were sampled from southern Yunnan, in China, and historically were much more common in southern China, before their assimilation into the Han (as well as the migration of others to Southeast Asia).

Curiously, I have four non-Chinese samples from Thailand, and they look to be more like the Cambodians. This aligns well with historical and other genetic evidence the Thai identity emerged from the assimilation of Tai migrants into the Austro-Asiatic (Mon and Khmer) substrate.

Aside from a few Vietnamese who seem Chinese, or a few who are likely Khmer or of related peoples, the Vietnamese do seem to have some Khmer ancestry. Or something like that.

Read More

A clash of civilizations along the lower Mekong

The lower Mekong region is a fascinating zone from the perspective of human geography and ethnography. Divided between Cambodia and Vietnam, until the past few centuries it was, in fact, part of the broader Khmer world, and historically part of successive Cambodian polities. Vietnam, as we know it, emerged in the Red River valley far to the north 1,000 years ago as an independent, usually subordinate, state distinct from Imperial China. Heavily Sinicized culturally, the Vietnamese nevertheless retained their ethnic identity.

Vietnamese, like the language of the Cambodians, is Austro-Asiatic. In fact, the whole zone between South Asia and the modern day Vietnam, and south to maritime Southeast Asia, may have been Austro-Asiatic speaking ~4,000 years ago, as upland rice farmers migrated from the hills of southern China, and assimilated indigenous hunter-gatherers.

But the proto-Vietnamese language was eventually strongly shaped by Chinese influence. This includes the emergence of tonogenesis. Genetically, the Vietnamese are also quite distinct, being more shifted toward southern Han Chinese and ethnic Chinese minorities such as Dai. My personal assumption is that this is due to the repeated waves migration out of southern China over the past few thousand years, first by Yue ethnic minorities, and later by Han Chinese proper. Many of these individuals were culturally assimilated as Vietnamese, but they clearly left both their biological and cultural distinctiveness in what was originally an Austro-Asiatic population likely quite similar to the Khmer.

As I have posted elsewhere it is also clear to me that Cambodians have Indian ancestry. Because unlike Malaysia Cambodia has not had any recent migration of South Asians due to colonialism, the most parsimonious explanation is that the legends and myths of Indian migration during the Funan period are broadly correct. There is no other reason for fractions of R1a1a among Cambodian males north of 5%. Depending on how you estimate it, probably about ~10% of the ancestry of modern Cambodians is South Asian (the Indian fraction is easier to calculate because it is so different from the East Asian base).

Read More