East Asian Ethnicity

From Arctic Russia to Equatorial Indonesia

Discover more about your ethnicity with AncestryDNA. By comparing your genetic signature to the DNA of people from the Asia East region, AncestryDNA can give you a clearer picture of your ethnic origins.

People in this DNA ethnicity group may identify as:
Russian, Chinese, North Korean, South Korean, Mongolian, Vietnamese, Burmese (from Myanmar), Japanese, Taiwanese, Filipino, Indonesian, Thai, Laotian, Cambodian, Singaporean, Bruneian, Palauan

The story of your ethnicity lives in your DNA.

Asia East Ethnicity

The lands of the Asia East region extend in a broad arc from modern-day Siberia and Mongolia; south through China, Korea and Japan; to the nations of Southeast Asia, including the Indonesian archipelago and the Philippines. More than 2 billion people live in these countries today, which are home to some of the oldest continuous civilizations on earth. Their contributions to world culture have been as broad and far-reaching as their landscape, from China’s “four great inventions” (gunpowder, the compass, papermaking and printing) to modern video games.

East Asian History

The earliest human civilizations in East Asia developed along the Yellow River in central China. Powerful dynasties emerged to rule the vast region, with the first emperor to consolidate rule over the six largest kingdoms being Qin Shi Huang. During his reign, construction on the Great Wall was begun to repel nomadic invaders from the north, and standards were introduced for currency, measures and writing. The Qin Dynasty ended with his death in 210 B.C.

After several years of revolt, the Han Dynasty, from the northern part of China and Korea, began in 206 B.C. and ruled for 424 years. Today, the majority of Chinese and Koreans are considered ethnic Han, making them the largest ethnic group in the world. As the Han spread south, they forced smaller groups, like the Dai, toward the Indian Ocean. Settling in what is now Thailand and Laos, the Dai displaced the Khmer and Viet cultures, which are now found mostly in Vietnam and Cambodia.

In 1206 A.D., a Mongolian chieftain named Genghis Khan united the disjointed Mongol tribes and began a campaign of expansion. His grandson Kublai Khan ruled over the largest contiguous land empire in history, stretching from Mongolia and China across the entire Asian continent to the Black Sea in Eastern Europe. This established unprecedented contact between East and West, opening trade along the Silk Road and allowing for the adventures of Marco Polo, who spent nearly 20 years in Kublai Khan's royal court.

Korea and Japan just managed to survive the Mongol Empire, despite being next-door neighbors to Kublai Khan's Yuan Dynasty. The Kingdom of Goryeo, as Korea was then known, was devastated over the course of six Mongol campaigns but negotiated a treaty that maintained its sovereignty and cultural heritage. Japan's military middle class, the samurai, fought off two waves of naval invasions by the Mongols. The Japanese were finally saved by a typhoon that destroyed the Mongol fleet. The Japanese named the typhoon kamikaze, or “divine wind.”

During the 18th and 19th centuries, most of Southeast Asia and Indonesia was colonized by Europe. Thailand was able to effectively resist, forming a sort of buffer zone between Burma and Malaysia (held by the British) and French Indochina (now Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). The Dutch established a presence in Indonesia, while Spain controlled the Philippines. World War II saw Japan rapidly expand its empire, occupying Korea, China, the Philippines and most of the Indonesian archipelago. After Japan was defeated, most of the nations in East and Southeast Asia were able to claim independence from colonial rule.

Your ethnicity reveals the places where your family story began.

Migrations into this Region

East Asia was initially populated by modern humans about 50,000 years ago. This ecologically diverse region has supported large populations for thousands of years. Due to geography and distance from other population centers, East Asia has seen few major migrations from outside groups. However, there is a rich history of migrations among groups within East Asia.


Migrations from this Region

Turkic nomads from northern Asia spread into Central Asia over a 1,500-year period and extended across Eurasia, taking control of present-day Turkey. The Mongol invasion by Genghis Khan in the 13th century led to Mongol warriors conquering and then mixing with local groups throughout Eurasia. East Asia was also an important source for seafaring expansion into the Pacific Islands that began in southeastern Asia.

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