We Three Kings

A recent article says that 40% of Chinese Y-chromosomes originated from 3 men in the late neolithic.  This pattern,  fantastic success for a particular paternal lineage, has been seen before, with the Golden Family (descendants of Genghis Khan) and the Qing dynasty.   Something similar may well have happened with the big R1b and R1a lineages.

Did any historian predict this pattern?  I can’t think of one, off the top of my head. Someone who went to bed with The Empire of the Steppes under his pillow, someone familiar with the continuing high status of the Golden Family in recent centuries,  might have, perhaps.


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54 Responses to We Three Kings

  1. Toad says:

    It needs to be pro-rated with the number of people in neolithic China at the time.

  2. j says:

    It is interesting how the Asiatics tend to create long lasting dynasties. The sons and grandchildren of the Long March leaders still rule China. The same in North Korea. In the West, hereditary oligarchies have completely disappeared. Maybe it is a form of ancestor cult.

    • MawBTS says:

      Reading ancient Chinese literature is interesting. The greatest virtue is obedience. The greatest duty is service to the emperor. Nobody ever thinks of going against the grain. Yeah, I know I’m reading the work of people pre-selected for loyalty (only people high in administrative positions got to write stuff that got preserved), but from modern sensibilities it’s almost creepy.

      There’s a tale dating back to the middle kingdom about an emperor who wishes to build a great bell, made from gold and silver and bronze and other metals. After several failed attempts at casting the bell, the emperor grows frustrated, and threatens to behead everyone involved. At last, someone’s beautiful young daughter steps forward, and jumps into the cauldron of metal. The bellsmiths get to work, and the bell is cast perfectly. We end with moralizing about the importance of always obeying the emperor.

      Are there any positive Chinese stories about misfits, or rebels? Is there a Chinese Robin Hood? I haven’t found one so far.

      • IC says:

        If you can read Chinese, there are tons of rebels stories. (shuihu, xiyouji,ect)

        What a pity when people passing judgement with their limited intellect. Next time, people need to measure their head size and see if it is above average.

        If you do not have whole picture, do not judge. Otherwise, it makes you look really stupid.

        • Pincher Martin says:

          I agree with IC. One can’t have read much, if any, Chinese literature if one believes there are no glowing stories in the language about rebels and misfits.

          IC mentions two famous Chinese novels WATER MARGIN (水滸傳), also known as OUTLAWS OF THE MARSHES, and JOURNEY TO THE WEST (西遊記), also known as MONKEY.

          There are also a handful of well-known Chinese poets from the Tang and Song dynasties who wrote poems about alienation and even political topics that led to their banishment or exile.

          There is even classical Chinese erotica such as THE GOLDEN LOTUS (金瓶梅), a book which describes numerous and various sexual acts in such shocking detail that it would make even the porn-soaked lads of today slack-jawed in disbelief.

          And the most famous Chinese novel of all – DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER (紅樓夢) gives its huge cast of characters a remarkable level of psychological complexity, despite being written about the time the United States was founded. The novel doesn’t deal with rebels or misfits, but it does have many striking characters.

          I would never claim that there’s an individualism in Chinese culture equal to what we see in the West. I’m pretty sure that’s not true. But one should be careful not to allow overlapping differences to become categorical simply because one is ignorant of the details.

          • MawBTS says:

            Thanks for the links. I admit I haven’t read hugely on the subject – Lafcadio Hearn’s translations, mostly. And perhaps he only preferred a certain type of story.

          • Pincher Martin says:


            Lafcadio Hearn wrote about Japan. As far as I know, he didn’t concern himself with Chinese stories.

            Perhaps you’re thinking of Arthur Waley, a remarkable man who taught himself how to read and translate Chinese and Japanese literature. Some modern scholars complain that Waley’s translations are filled with errors, but perhaps that’s because he never had any formal language training nor learned to speak the two languages nor traveled to China and Japan.

            • MawBTS says:

              “Lafcadio Hearn wrote about Japan. As far as I know, he didn’t concern himself with Chinese stories.”

              Yes, he’s most famous for his Japanese work (I’ve heard someone describe Hearn as the original otaku…perhaps the Black Ships were the original “gaijin smash”?) but his first book was a volume of Chinese ghost stories, and he held a lifelong interest in the country. In 1896 he predicted that China would become a world superpower…but he thought it would be under Japan’s rule.


          • Kenn Teoh says:

            “I would never claim that there’s an individualism in Chinese culture equal to what we see in the West.”

            You don’t find the early Taoists were individualistic? I think Yang Zhu was selfish to a pathological extreme, and Zhuangzi not far off.

            What about the individualism of sprawling diaspora of intrepid entrepreneurs, who take over entire national economies in the space of generations?

            I don’t think the average member of the Anglosphere is that individualistic – look at how they mindlessly barrack for regional sports teams, or how sedulously conformist trendy hipsters can be.

          • Pincher Martin says:

            Kenn Teoh,

            “You don’t find the early Taoists were individualistic? I think Yang Zhu was selfish to a pathological extreme, and Zhuangzi not far off.”

            You won’t get any argument from me that there are countless examples of famous individuals throughout Chinese history who chose to broke the mold of their society in some unique or highly unusual way. That should have been clear from my original posts.

            But when comparing two large population groups (white Americans/Anglosphere and Chinese/East Asians), you have to look more broadly to see if differences exist between the two groups and then generalize about what you find. Looking for individual examples that run counter to the relative position of the groups is too easy a task for the obscurantist.

            I think the evidence is pretty good that Westerners and East Asians think differently, and that Asians do so in ways that encourage greater identification with the group. Of course, there is a lot of crossover between the two populations, and a huge range within each population. The Japanese are quite different form the Chinese. But the differences usually persist at the group level no matter how you slice them.

            I also think this generalization is supported by recent history. The dynamism of the West was built on these individuals forming corporations, creating new scientific work, building universities, and pioneering new discoveries around the world.

            “What about the individualism of sprawling diaspora of intrepid entrepreneurs, who take over entire national economies in the space of generations?”

            The founders of such Chinese firms are usually quite remarkable individuals, but I don’t see the generational buildup of their firms as an individual endeavor. I see them as family-based organizations based on principles that are the opposite of individualism. The son slaves for the father because that’s what sons are supposed to do. And his sons will do for him what he did for his father.

            Ironically, the faceless Western corporation is more a model of individualism in business, since it’s built on many unrelated individuals trusting and working with each other. Even the successful family firms (Ford, Wal-Mart, Mars, etc.) typically bring in outside help for the key power positions in the corporation as soon as they can.

            Individualism is not just about working by yourself or carving your own niche; it’s also about the willingness or tendency to break free of family, home, and tradition and do something new for you. Chinese firms are rarely built on those principles.

            (Ironically, Japanese firms are built on that principle of working easily with others outside the family, but the Japanese are the least individualistic of people. I note this exception only to point out that I don’t have all the answers.)

            “I don’t think the average member of the Anglosphere is that individualistic – look at how they mindlessly barrack for regional sports teams, or how sedulously conformist trendy hipsters can be.”

            Again, you won’t get any disagreement from me on this point. The average person in any culture is probably not notable for their individualism. But even among the lower classes in the West, I’ve seen more people seek to be distinct from others in their group than I ever saw when I was in Asia.

            But, yeah, this generalization can be overdone.

        • Pincher Martin says:

          I also could’ve mentioned the many modern examples of Chinese literature, most of which either influenced or were influenced by the New Culture Movement and May Fourth Movement. The novel THE FAMILY (家), for example, is somewhat similar to Turgenev’s FATHERS AND SONS in how it deals with conflict between different generations which is caused by changing social values.

          Again, I’m not citing these books to dispute that there are psychological differences between East Asians and Westerners, that these psychological differences may have had important consequences in history, and that they are based in genetic differences between the two groups. East Asians do seem more conformist and less individualistic than Westerners. And certainly that intellectual conformity did them no credit when they were presented with obviously superior Western techniques in science and refused to adopt them because they weren’t Chinese.

          • j says:

            What strikes me about Chinese literature is a limited number of themes, such as the absense of a friend, and there are are hundred of polished poems elaborating on it. The same with Chinese painting, there is the bird and flowers motif (花鸟鱼虫), the bamboo leaves, pine trees and plum blossoms and some more, and thousands of excellent variations. I mean originality is not their forte. Now, how I go from here to the peculiar reproductive system that one man (or three) engenders millions of copies of himself?

      • Patrick L. Boyle says:

        Alas, I don’t read Chinese, but I do watch Chinese movies. The famous Kung Fu movie ‘Iron Monkey” has at least two ‘Robin Hood’ type characters (maybe three). The Robin Hood legend fits right in with the Communist morality that the movie promotes. The people are oppressed by illegitimate authority and a hero emerges with great skills to set things right.

        You can see it on Netflix. It’s a hoot.

        • Toad says:

          Cinema is a western invention. Foreign movie studios just copy Hollywood. A robin hood character in a foreign movie is just copying us. Communism is invented in Europe.

          • Patrick L. Boyle says:

            It is true that cinema is a Western invention and it is even true that the specific film I mentioned was shaped at least in part by Quentin Tarentino – I very Western type person. But it is a mistake to think that foreign movie studios just copy Hollywood.

            The plot of ‘Iron Monkey’ is based on Chinese folklore that goes back centuries and the specific historical characters and events are from the Qing Dynasty which predates Edison. This is not a just a copy of one movie by another as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ was a copy of ‘Seven Samurai’.

            This minor thread is about the assertion by the commenter MawBTS that the Chinese are somehow very different from Westerners as evidenced by the lack of a Chinese Robin Hood character anywhere in their culture. That simply isn’t true. It may very well be true that the Chinese have a number of different traits from Westerners and that those traits are based in genetic differences. But it isn’t true that the Chinese have so much respect for authority that they incapable of appreciating a rebel hero like Robin Hood.

            It is also true that communism in the Marxist sense is Western but the themes of communism – class conflict, income redistribution and peasant revolt – were present in China before Marx. You seem to be making an argument that Easterners can be smart but cannot be original. This is a sort of Joseph Needham type argument in reverse.

            In fact Iron Monkey is more faithful to the Robin Hood legend – i.e. rob the rich, give to the poor – than the last two Hollywood Robin Hood films.

      • Dale says:

        At the very least, every Chinese dynasty was founded by a successful rebel. I think the big difference is that the Confucian societies are still run by dynasties, whereas European societies were no longer effectively run by dynasties maybe 200 years ago.

      • Kenn Teoh says:

        ” The greatest virtue is obedience. The greatest duty is service to the emperor. Nobody ever thinks of going against the grain”

        Complete nonsense – Confucius and Mencius advocated criticism of the sovereign whenever he erred, and virtuous ministers were supposed to withdraw from the service of the state were an amoral monarch to assume the throne. Confucius himself never found steady office in the service of a single state because of his willingness to rebuke his nominal superiors.

        A spell of exile on the savage borderlands was par for the course for China’s leading men of letters and philosophers – off the top of my head Han Yu, Liu Zongyuan, Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming were subjected to such punishment for reprimanding the emperor.

        “Are there any positive Chinese stories about misfits, or rebels? Is there a Chinese Robin Hood? I haven’t found one so far.”

        Then you’re incredible myopic or can’t have read much. The Water Margin is all about about outlaws, while modern popular culture continues to extol the accomplishments of anti-Qing revolutionaries – Shaw Brothers movies about Shaolin monks fighting the Manchus, for example.

  3. Cplusk says:

    Few males have lots of sex and most get little to no action. That’s what i saw at university.

    • Josh says:

      I doubt it.

      According to one study, the same percentage of men as women were virgins after college. It was something like 25%. And the number is rising. My pet theory is that TV, music, advertisements and movies are so full of super attractive people having sex that average-to-below -average looking men and women won’t even consider taking out a fellow average-to-below average. They’re all holding out for that hottie. After all, everyone is apparently getting a hottie , if TV, music, movies and advertisements are anything to go by.

  4. Timtoc says:

    I am not sure that continuing a discussion on social bandits is illuminating but look to the story of Hong Gildong by Heo Gyu as a Korean Robin Hood analog. There is a nice South Korean TV series to view but Korean historical costume dramas can be addicting

  5. Jim says:

    My own experience with people from Mainland China is that they definitely tend to a noticeably higher level of respect for authority than Americans.

  6. Matt says:

    That dynamic with the average for men being perhaps more monogamous than the West (if anything) combined with a big harem at the very top may have been quite long running for China?

  7. little spoon says:

    Is this why they have the “all look same” thing going on?

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Ha ha. My wife once said to me “All you Caucasians look the same.” She did not appear to be joking.

      I have no difficulty telling Chinese people apart. I think it has to do with what (mostly around the face) features you have been trained or selected to use to tell people apart.

      • Harold says:

        The ability to tell people apart can be learnt quite quickly. A few years ago I watched a Korean drama. At first I found it impossible to tell which young lady was which. By about a third of the way through the series it was nearly inconcievable to me that I hadn’t been able to tell one from the other. Nor have I had any trouble watching subsequent shows.

    • j says:

      Well, if they are all descended from three men, it makes sense they resemble each other, no?

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        I wonder something similar about the Romans
        – good managers
        – good engineers
        – practical
        – tough
        – capable
        – brave
        – good fighters
        – lacking in imagination
        – lacking in creativity

        makes me wonder if the men who founded Rome might have all been from roughly the same personality type?

      • Kenn Teoh says:

        Chinese from mainland China experience a similar difficulty telling caucasians apart – I’ve had colleagues in Beijing say they even had difficulty distinguishing between Westerners of different genders.

        It’s just a matter of exposure – a race by definition possesses similar traits which render it a coherent group.

      • April says:

        People also say that all blacks look the same, and blacks are more genetically diverse than non-blacks.

    • Harold says:

      To your mind they all look the same. To some degree this is probably a property of your mind, not of them. An instance of the so-called mind projection fallacy.

      • little spoon says:

        “To some degree this is probably a property of your mind, not of them.”

        Doubtful. I am not white either, but whites look objectively more varied than East Asians. White people come in different hair colors and hair types (red, dark brown, black, blonde etc and anything from tightly curled to stick straight). Some tan, some don’t. Some get freckled and many have green or blue eyes. Nearly all East Asians have stick straight jet black hair and dark brown eyes. They have some variation in darkness of skin tone, but that’s it. White women have a wide variety of body types. One routinely sees them with AA cups or DD cups. The vast majority of Asians are B or less. Asians seem to have less variation in facial features as well.

        I can definitely tell Asians apart though in social circles. I don’t mistake them for each other. Still, Mestizos seem to have even less variation in appearance. Now they really all look the same.

        • Harold says:

          I thought of all that, which is why I said “to some degree”. Normally when people say “they all look the same” they mean it like the Fourth Doorman’s wife.

      • Jim says:

        They don’t all look the same but I have noticed that they tend to resemble each other somewhat more than whites.

    • JayMan says:

      I’ve seen some studies claiming that people are more attuned to differences among faces with individuals of their own race.

  8. dearieme says:

    Do you suppose that sperm donors will end up being assumed to have been Kings in a few centuries time?

  9. Whyvert says:

    If these super-dads lived ~6kya, then I am wondering what they exploited to make them so successful as, we can presume, harem-collecting conquerors. The wheel? Bronze?

    Also, if these three kings were active conquering and procreating ~6kya, they preceded Sargon of Akkad in Sumeria by a millennium or two.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Hello Whyvert. The links are there for a reason. The article to be linked to hypothesizes that these “super grandfathers” were at a point in time when there was a key development in agriculture.

      I love these science/historical news articles that Cochran keeps coming up with. I can’t understand the meat of these science papers because they are intended for specialists but I try. The abstract is dumbed down enough for me to understand, so I always read that. New readers whom have discovered West Hunter should go back and read it all. These brief blurbs are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and they almost always lead via links to more and more and more. We laypeople are no longer shut out of the ivory towers. The vernacular can be overcome via wikipedia and the world of the very best non fiction books which best cover these interesting subjects in detail are delivered to your doorstep via amazon books, and being used books they aren’t that expensive. You don’t know which books these are? You don’t know which books you would like? Then you are lazy. A little bit of linking to reviews provided by amazon will quickly give you not only a description of these books but their major strengths and weaknesses. Go west young man, go west.

      • Whyvert says:

        Hello dave, the article suggests mature agriculture and patrilineal burial customs may be the source. That seems to me insufficient to explain why three particular lineages did so well.

  10. dearieme says:

    When the current mayor of London appeared on Who Do You Think You Are, we heard about part of his ancestry of which he had been aware: one of his grandfathers (or great-grandfathers?) had been a Turkish politician who was torn to pieces by a mob. He also learnt, to his surprise, that he’s descended from King George II.

  11. Greying Wanderer says:

    off-topic thoughts

    Sardinians are seen as a very close proxy for EEF however according to this review of Sardinian genetic studies Sardinians are heterogenous with a distinct pattern of coastal lowland vs interior highland populations.

    Click to access Article2.pdf

    One aspect of this pattern – according to the same link – is very high levels of malaria resistance genes among the coastal population – as the coasts were malarial until 1948.

    I think (?) this implies that EEF had malaria resistance genes and that’s why they survived so unmixed in the coastal areas of Sardinia – almost like a fossil population.

    But if coastal Sardinians are a kind of fossilized population because of malaria then might not the inland population be a fossil of WHG?


    Secondly if malaria protection often comes at a price – because a gene that had a negative effect might still be net positive if it strongly protected against malaria – then a population that moved out of the malaria zone might tend to lose all their malaria protection genes.

    Then if the climate got warmer again and malaria became a problem again they’d be up the creek without a paddle compared to people moving in from further south.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The inland areas are the EEF types.

    • anonymous says:

      “…if malaria protection often comes at a price…”

      The price is favism — a toxic reaction to the fava bean which has long been a staple food of that part of the Mediterranean and Sardinia especially.

      Manifiestation of favism is variable — probably depending on interaction with genes, and definitely age related. Children are harder hit than adults and reactions are sometimes fatal. Some people react only once or a few times, others just can’t eat fava beans all their lives. Some people have dangerous reactions even to the pollen. But for all of them. the basic problem is that a key local malarial protection gene, is at least partially antagonistic to the consumption of an easily grown local staple food.

  12. Japan still is ruled by the same imperial family of 1.700 years ago, some families in Japan still trace their heritage to the Baekje Kingdom of Korea.

  13. Greying Wanderer says:



    “I was thinking soldiers”

    Could be both of course.

  14. Pingback: West Hunter: We Three Kings | BlazingCatFur

  15. johnny says:

    Wow. There must be thousands of inbreeding layers. That explains so much.

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