This chapter takes the eight migration categories introduced in Chapter 1 and asks: What were the broad features of these migrations in the East Asian region in the past, and how might these histories influence the characteristics of migration flows in the region today? A cautionary note is appropriate: this chapter engages in a particularly high level of generalization, so it is inevitable that a lot of interesting and important detail has been omitted. It is essential, however, that an historical perspective be provided; without it, much of what is happening today would be difficult or even impossible to understand. The focus of the chapter is Figure 2.1 (parts a and b). This diagram is a rather

ambitious attempt on my part to show the complex histories of East Asian migrations and their socio-political contexts over the last 12,000 years. It is divided horizontally into three macro-regions – the same regions that will be used in the rest of this book: Southeast Asia (at the bottom); ‘China plus’ (in the middle); and Northeast Asia (at the top). It is divided vertically into three chronological periods: 10,000 BC to AD 0 (on the left of Figure 2.1a); AD 0 to AD 1400 (on the right of Figure 2.1a); and AD 1400 to 1945 (in Figure 2.1b). Migration flows that link the region to the rest of the world are discussed in the text but are not included on the diagram – it is, after all, fairly complicated already! From their early origins, probably in East Africa, the first ‘true humans’ (homo

erectus) spread by migration to Europe and to Asia, including East Asia. Evidence of early human activity in Java (Indonesia) and in northern China (near Beijing, in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, and in the lower Yangtze) suggests that homo erectus arrived in East Asia around 1.6 million years ago. Modern humans (homo sapiens), however, arrived from Africa much later, probably only about 40,000 years ago and, perhaps because they occupied different ecological niches, they replaced their predecessors rather than interacting and merging with them (the more recent discovery of human remains on the island of Flores, Indonesia, might require us to revise this judgement about replacement). Human development really began in earnest with the ending of the last ice

age around 9,600 BC. Thereafter, under warmer and moister conditions, the

domestication of plants and animals led to a transition in most parts of our region from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary agricultural one. The simple distinction between pre-Neolithic nomadic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic sedentary agriculturalists seems, however, to break down in the case of Japan (and maybe also elsewhere) where the Joumon hunter-gatherers are thought to have been sedentary. With technological change, social stratification and a more complex division of labour, came agricultural surpluses and the first beginnings of urban economies and cultures. Sometime around 7000 BC, millet and rice cultivation began in the Yellow and Yangtze River basins, from whence they dispersed to other parts of East and Southeast Asia. Pottery, textiles and metalworking followed. By 2000 BC, there was a sophisticated state apparatus in central and northern China, where East Asia’s first major cities, peopled largely by traders and bureaucrats, craftsmen, warriors and priests, developed. This same region saw the emergence of writing in the form of Chinese characters at around 1200 BC. We know little, of course, about the East Asian migrations of the Neolithic

millennia from 6000 to 2000 BC, but the signs are that we shall know a lot more in the near future. This is because experts from the three main disciplines handling early human history – archaeology, historical linguistics, and archaeogenetics – are now beginning to collaborate with one another to piece together believable accounts of these early migrations. The migrants conveniently carried with them their mitochondrial DNA, their languages, and their material goods and technologies, leaving behind ‘footprints’ that we can follow. As a foretaste of what is to come, we know that ‘the peoples of north China are more closely related genetically to their northern neighbors outside present-day China than they are to the peoples in south China. These are in turn more closely related to their southern neighbors in Southeast Asia than they are to the northern Chinese’ (Wilkinson 2000: 709). This reflects the strong migration links between the northern Chinese and their neighbours in Central and Northern Asia, and those between the southern Chinese and their neighbours in peninsular Southeast Asia. It also adds a new dimension to our awareness that there is a marked linguistic division between the Mandarin-related Chinese dialects of the North and Northwest on the one hand, and those of the Southeast and South on the other. One thing is obvious, however: a population engaged in the cultivation of

grain crops and the rearing of domesticated animals is relatively immobile, and has the potential to display the behaviours, and share the values, of ‘earthbound compulsion’. The evidence seems to show that the Neolithic agricultural revolution

arrived much later in southern China (probably around 3000 BC) than in central and northern China (7000 BC), later still in Korea, and in lowland Vietnam and Thailand (2000-2500 BC), and very late indeed in Japan (where the Yayoi agricultural period began about 300 BC). Metal working, however, spread more quickly than millet and rice cultivation, so that by 500 BC virtually the whole of East Asia had entered the Iron Age. The archaeological evidence for the

Fi gu

re 2.