"Asians" redirects here. For a nomadic Central Asian people of antiquity, see Asii.
For the individual peoples of Asia, see ethnic groups in Asia. For demographic data, see demography of Asia.

Asian people[1] or Asiatic people[2] is a term with multiple meanings that refers to people who descend from a portion of Asia's population.

Definitions by country

Anglophone Africa and Caribbean

In parts of anglophone Africa, especially East Africa and South Africa, and in parts of the Anglophone Caribbean, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans.[3]


Main article: Asian Australian

Notably, the Australian Census includes Central Asia, a region that is often considered to be part of the Greater Middle East.[4] The Australian Census includes four regions of Asia in its official definition. Defined by the 2006–2011 Australian Census, three broad groups have the word Asian included in their name: Central and Southern Asian, South-East Asian and North-East Asian. Russians are classified as Southern and Eastern Europeans while Middle Easterners are classified as North African and Middle Easterners.[5]


Main article: Asian Canadian

The Canadian Census uses the term 'Asian' pan-continentally and the list of visible minorities includes "West Asian", "South Asian", "Central Asian" and "Southeast Asian".[6] The Canadian government uses "West Asian" in its statistics; however people from the Arab countries of Western Asia are counted in a separate "Arab" category.[7][8]

New Zealand

New Zealand's census undertaken by Statistics New Zealand defines the Asian to include people of Chinese, Indian, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Cambodian and Thai ancestries.[9] In less formal contexts, the term Asian often does not include South Asian people.[10]


Statistics Norway uses the term 'Asian' pan-continentally and considers people of Asian background to be people from all Asian countries.[11][12]

United Kingdom

Main article: British Asian

In the United Kingdom, the term "Asian" is more commonly associated with people of South Asian origin, particularly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans.[3][13] The UK usage of the term "Asian" is reflected in the "ethnic group" section of UK census forms, which treat "Asian" and "Chinese" as separate (see British Asian).[14] Most respondents to the UK 2001 Census of non-Chinese East Asian and Southeast Asian descent chose to write-in their ethnicity in the "Other Ethnic Group" category rather than the "Other Asian" category, reflecting the association of the word Asian in the UK with South Asian.[15] Despite there being a strong presence of East Asians in the United Kingdom there are considerably more South Asians, for example the 2001 Census recorded 1.05 million people of Indian origin and 247,000 of Chinese origin in the UK.[16] Peter J. Aspinall of the Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, recommends privileging the term "South Asian" over the term "Asian", since the term "Asian" is a "contested term".[13]

United States

In 1968, an Asian activist conference decided on favoring the name "Asian American" over the competing terms: "yellow", "Mongolian", "Asiatic" and "Oriental", since the Filipinos at the meeting thought they were "brown" rather than "yellow" and the conference thought the term "Oriental" was Eurocentric, since they originate from lands "east" only from Europe's standpoint and, since the term "Oriental" suggested to them "passivity".[17]

Earlier Census forms from 1980 and prior listed particular Asian ancestries as separate groups along with White and Black or Negro.[18] Previously, Asian Americans were classified as "other".[19] But the 1980 Census marked the first general analyses of Asians as a group, combining several individual ancestry groups into "Asian or Pacific Islander." By the 1990 Census, Asian or Pacific Islander (API) was included as an explicit category, although respondents had to select one particular ancestry.[20][21][22]

The 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census Bureau definition of the Asian "race" includes those who originate from the original peoples of the "Far East", "Southeast Asia" and the "Indian subcontinent".[23]

In 1930 and 1940, Indian Americans were identified as a separate race, Hindu, and in 1950 and 1960 they were racially classified as Other Race, and then in 1970 they were classified as White. Since 1980, Indians and all other South Asians have been classified as part of the Asian race.[24] Sociologist Madhulika Khandelwal described how " a result of activism, South Asians came to be included as 'Asians' in the census only in the 80's. Prior to that many South Asians had been checking 'Caucasian' or 'Other'."[25]

Respondents can also report their specific ancestry, e.g.: Okinawan, etc. Someone reporting these ancestries but no race would be classified as "Asian". Unlike South Asians, Jewish Americans (see also: Israeli Americans), Arab Americans, Iranian Americans and Central Asian Americans have not lobbied to be included as Asians by the U.S. Census Board.[26]

In normal American usage Asian does not refer to the people from the Pacific Islands who are usually called Pacific Islanders.[27] The term "Asians and Pacific Islanders" or "Asia/Pacific" was used on the 1990 US Census.[28] However, in the 2000 US Census, the Asian or Pacific Islander category was separated into two categories, "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander".[29]

Definition by non-government sources

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza

In 1994, geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford University divided a principal coordinant map of 42 Asian populations into three groupings: Asian Caucasoids, Northeast and East Asian and Southeast Asian.[page needed][30] The ethnic groups Cavalli-Sforza said were in the "Asian Caucasoids" cluster were the Armenian, Arabian, Assyrian, Lebanese, Bedouin, Jordanian, E. Iranian, W. Iranian, Uzbek, N. Turkic, Turkish Caucasoid, Turkmen, Brahman, Central Indian, E. Indian, S. Indian, N. Dravidian, Central Dravidian, S. Dravidian and Sri Lankan.[page needed][30] The ethnic groups Cavalli-Sforza said were in the Northeast and East Asian cluster were the Koryak, Chukchi, Reindeer Chukchi, Nganasan Samoyed, N. Tungus, Nentsy, N. Chinese, Tibetan, Bhutanese, Ainu, Mongol, Japanese and Korean.[page needed][30] The ethnic groups Cavalli-Sforza said were in the Southeast Asian cluster were Indonesian, Malaysian, Taiwan aborigines, Viet Muong, Thai, Philippine, S. Chinese, Balinese and Gurkha.[page needed][30]

Moreover, Cavalli-Sforza said there is an approximate boundary between Caucasoids and Mongoloids from the Urals to the eastern part of India.[page needed][30] Along this boundary there has been hybridization, causing a "Caucasoid-Mongoloid gradient".[page needed][30] Likewise, Cavalli-Sforza said there is a "separation between northern and southern Mongoloids starting from Southeast Asia".[page needed][30]

Marta Mirazon Lahr

Dr. Marta Mirazon Lahr of the Department of Biological Anthropology at Cambridge University said "all" "Asian populations" are "grouped under the name Mongoloid".[32]

Michael Bamshad

Michael Bamshad et al. of the Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah, found that "107 sub-Saharan African, 67 East Asian and 81 Western European" individuals genetically clustered with "ancestry from a single population" at levels of "almost 100%", but among "263 individuals from South India" the "proportion of ancestry shared with Europeans and Asians varies widely".[33]

Karen T. Taylor

Karen T. Taylor forensic art professor at the FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia, said that the term "Asian-derived" is a modern-day euphemism for the "Mongoloid race" and it includes "Native Americans" and "various Asian groups".[34]

Eugénia Maria Guedes Pinto Antunes da Cunha

Eugénia Maria Guedes Pinto Antunes da Cunha of the Department of Anthropology, University of Coimbra, Portugal, said there has been a modern trend in "most of the forensic anthropology literature" to "rename" the term "Mongoloid", a term in which she includes the "North American Indian", with the term "Asian" or "Asiatic".[35] Antunes da Cunha said that, even though the "terminology" has changed, the "underlying assumptions are the same".[35]

Sandra Soo-Jin Lee

Sandra Soo-Jin Lee (Korean:이수진) of the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University, United States of America, said that the reasoning behind "Asian" being a "race" as defined by the US Census is "difficult to determine" because it includes "South Asians".[36]

Konstantinos Moraitis

Konstantinos Moraitis (Greek:Κωνσταντίνος Μωραΐτης) of the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology School of Medicine, University of Athens, Greece, said that the "Asian" group which he also refers to as the "Mongoloid" group includes both "Far East" and "Native American" people.[37]

Matt Cartmill

Matt Cartmill of the Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, United States, said "geography has little to do with the race concept in its actual application", since "Asian individuals [can be] born in the same geographical region" as other races.[39]

Masniari Novita

Masniari Novita of the Biomedical Department of Jember University, Jember, Indonesia, said "Asiatics" are part of the "Mongoloid" race while "Asians from the Indian Subcontinent" are part of the "Caucasian" race.[40]

Willett Enos Rotzell

Willett Enos Rotzell professor of Botany and Zoology at the Hahnemann Medical College used the term "Asian" "race" to refer to the race he alternatively called the "Yellow or Mongolian race".[41]

Eduardas Valaitas

Dr. Eduardas Valaitas of DNA Tribes said the "genetic differences" between peoples "traditionally identified" as "Asian" and other "racial group[s]" is "great enough" to provide a "rough estimate" of "percentage membership" in the "Asian" "racial group".[42] However, Valaitas said this does not apply to the "Subcontinental Indian" and "Samoan" who have "some percentage" of "American Indian, European, East Asian and Sub-Saharan Africa".[42]

Kyung-Ran Jung

In 2007, Kyung-Ran Jung et al. (Korean:전경란) of the Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Ulsan, Seoul, South Korea used the term "Asian populations" for the group he also referred to as the "Asian-Mongoloid" in which he included Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Thai for a meta-analysis of alleles in relation to rheumatoid arthritis.[43]

Physical features

Ethnologist Daniel Garrison Brinton said the Asian race has yellow or olive skin, broad face, Mongolian eye form, abundance of head hair, scant beard, small stature, coarse straight hair, a round face, small black eyes and a medium-size, flat nose.[44]

Sandy Sangrigoli et al. of the Laboratoire Cognition et Développement, Boulogne-Billancourt, France, used adults of Korean origin adopted by white families to test whether they were able to distinguish Caucasian faces at the level of a control group of French people who were shown to be better at distinguishing Caucasian faces than Asiatic faces.[45] Sangrigoli found the Korean adoptees mirrored the control group by showing greater recognition of Caucasian than Asian faces, indicating the "other-race effect" of face recognition remains plastic in childhood.[45]

Willett Enos Rotzell professor of Botany and Zoology at the Hahnemann Medical College said the Asian race has skin color ranging from a yellowish tint to an olive shade, with black and coarse hair with a circular cross section, an absent or scanty beard, a brachycephalic skull, prominent cheek bones and a broad face.[41] Rotzell said the Asian race has its original home in Asia.[41]

Konstantinos Moraitis (Greek:Κωνσταντίνος Μωραΐτης) of the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology School of Medicine, University of Athens, Greece, said the Asian is distinguished by a flat face, rounded orbits, pronounced zygomatics and an intermediate nasal aperture and spine.[37]

Several studies have suggested that East Asian skull size and cranial capacity are larger than that of Caucasians or Africans. J. Philippe Rushton, psychologist and author of the controversial work Race, Evolution and Behavior (1995), analyzed Gould's retabulation in 1989, reporting that Samuel Morton, in his 1839 book Crania Americana, had shown a pattern of decreasing brain size proceeding from East Asians, to Europeans, to Africans. Rushton alleged an average endocranial volume of 1,364 cm³ for East Asians, 1,347 for white caucasians and 1,268 for black Africans. Similar claims were also made by Ho et al. (1980), who measured 1,261 brains at autopsy, and Beals et al. (1984), who measured approximately 20,000 skulls, both finding the same pattern.[47][48]

Dennis C. Dirkmaat professor of paleoanthropology and archaeology at Mercyhurst University[49] said that Southeast Asian skulls can be distinguished from Asian and Native American skulls in that they are "smaller and less robust" with noses exhibiting a medium width without nasal overgrowth, and can "exhibit gracile features common to female skulls".[46]

A 2009 study of facial detection technology found the technology incorrectly classified more "Mongoloids" or "Asian" male faces as females relative to its error rate for the "Caucasian... and Negroid races".[50] Dirkmaat also said that body measurements of the "average Asian male" may fall within the range of those of the "American white female".[46]

Asian fat distribution

Qing He et al. of the Obesity Research Center at Columbia University did a study on "fat distribution" of 358 prepubertal children and found that Asians had less gynoid fat than African Americans and more relative trunk fat than Caucasians, but less relative extremity fat than Caucasians.[51]

Victor H.H. Goh (Chinese:吴) et al. of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, National University of Singapore, did a study that found that the World Health Organization's obesity cut off based on body mass index misclassified the true obese in an Asian population by labeling 3.76 times more men and 1.64 times more women as obese than would actually be obese.[52]

Asian noses

Jeffrey Min Ahn (Korean:안민) professor at the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University, said that the "typical Asian nose" has "a broad low dorsum, decreased tip projection, thick, lobular skin, wide lobule, abundant subcutaneous fatty tissue, alar flaring, a retracted columella, and a small osteocartilaginous framework."[53]

Eun-Sang Dhong (Korean:동은상) of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Korea University Medical Center, Seoul, Korea, measured 52 alar cartilages of 26 Koreans and concluded that the alar cartilages" in Asians is not much smaller than whites.[54]

Kyung-Wook Chun (Korean:전경욱) et al. of the Department of Plastic Surgery, Korea University College of Medicine, Korea, found using 20 cadavers that in "Asian noses" the size of the alar lobule is mainly due to the size of the dilator naris anterior muscle, the dilator naris posterior muscle and the "thickness of the external skin" rather than due to vestibular skin.[55]

Asian eyes

Sang-Ki Jeong (Korean:정상기) et al. of Chonnam University, Kwangju, Korea, using both Asian and Caucasian cadavers as well as four healthy young Korean men found "Asian eyelids" whether "Asian single eyelids" or "Asian double eyelids" had more fat in them than in Caucasians.[56] Jeong et al. found that the cause of the "Asian single eyelid" was that "the orbital septum fuses to the levator aponeurosis at variable distances below the superior tarsal border; (2) preaponeurotic fat pad protusion and a thick subcutaneous fat layer prevent levator fibers from extending toward the skin near the superior tarsal border; and (3) the primary insertion of the levator aponeurosis into the orbicularis muscle and into the upper eyelid skin occurs closer to the eyelid margin in Asians."[56]

Dae-Hwan Park (Korean:박대환) et al. of the Catholic University of Daegu, Gyeongsan, South Korea, used 498 "Asians" to study Asian eyes wherein he determined that in Asians the greatest growth of the "vertical dimension of the palpebral fissure", intercanthal distance and "the horizontal dimension of the palpebral fissure" were between 10 to 13 years old, 14 to 16 years old and 17 to 19 years old respectively.[57]

Wee-Kiak Lim (Chinese:林伟杰) of the Singapore National Eye Centre found that the "Asian lower eyelid differs from its non-Asian counterpart" by having "no consistent fusion between the capsulopalpebral fascia and the orbital septum inferior to the inferior tarsal border" and "no extension of the capsulopalpebral fascia".[58]

Asian teeth

George Richard Scott, physical anthropologist at the University of Nevada, said some East Asians (in particular, Han Chinese and some Japanese), as well as Native Americans, have a distinctive dental pattern known as Sinodonty, where, among other features, the upper first two incisors are not aligned with the other teeth, but are rotated a few degrees inward and are shovel-shaped.[59]

Asian DNA

Rebecca Oakley and Chris Tyler-Smith of the Department of Biochemistry at Oxford University said that 90% of the Y chromosomes of "Asian" (including "Orientals") and European men in their sample (38/42) descend from one of two males.[61] The Y chromosome type of Group 1 was only found in Caucasian or part Caucasian men, and the Y chromosome type of Group 2 was found in Caucasian and completely non-Caucasian men.[61] The Y chromosome type of Group 2 was characterized by a large alphoid block containing the additional sites for A&I, EcoO1091, and HindIII, linked to a small poxY1 BgZII fragment.[61]

Scott W. Ballinger et al. of the Department of Biochemistry at Emory University said "Asian mtDNA lineages" originated in Southern China with the "Southern Mongoloid".[62]

Hiroki Oota et al. (Japanese:太田博樹) of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, said "Asian populations" have high mtDNA variation with Vietnamese having the highest mtDNA diversity, but, overall, the genetic distance between "Asian populations" is small.[63]

Melissa L. Cann et al. of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, said that early Asians did not mix with "Asian Homo and that the features of "ancient Asian forms" indicate that "Asian erectus" was not ancestral to "Homo sapiens".[64] Since modern-day "Asians" do not show the amount of mtDNA divergence expected had they mixed with Homo erectus, Cann believes the expanding Homo sapiens from Africa replaced the Asian Homo erectus.[64]

Douglas C. Wallace of the Department of Biochemistry at Emory University said the mtDNA of the indigenous peoples of the Americas is "clearly Asian in character", but the few founding females carried "rare Asian mtDNAs", causing a different frequency of mtDNA and a "dramatic founder effect".[65]

Shama Barnabas, B. Joshi and C.G. Suresh of the Division of Biochemical Sciences, National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, India, said evidence for the original people of India who they refer to as the "proto-Asiatic element" spreading into Southeast Asia to become Southeast Asians is shown by the mtDNA affinities between Indians and East Asians and Southeast Asians in DdeI 10394 site along with the associated Asian-specific AluI 10397 site.[66]

Nucleotide Diversities of Five Asian Populations and Genetic Distances among The Five Populations by Shinji Harihara et al. (Japanese: 針原伸二) of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Tokyo[67]
Japanese Korean Ainu Aeta Vedda
Japanese 0.00086
± 0.00019
Korean 0.000000
± 0.000127
± 0.00017
Ainu 0.000006
± 0.000122
± 0.000114
± 0.00015
Aeta 0.000029
± 0.000157
± 0.000100
± 0.000096
± 0.00022
Vedda 0.000091
± 0.000214
± 0.000213
± 0.000210
± 0.000232
± 0.00031
Harihara et al. said that the Aeta's close genetic distance to "Mongoloid populations" (Japanese, Korean and Ainu) is consistent with previous studies.[67] Harihara et al. said the Vedda's large genetic distance from the other four populations may be due to genetic isolation, however Harihara et al. said their present-day mixture Tamils and Sinhalese makes their true phylogeny unclear.[67]
Genetic diversity within/between continental populations by Hiroki Oota et al. (Japanese:太田博樹) of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany[63]
Number of Populations Within Populations average mean pairwise differences Between population average Fst
Africa 15 7.99 ± 2.72 0.201
Europe 12 4.63 ± 0.94 0.066
Asia 12 7.12 ± 0.91 0.033
Eurasia 27 5.95 ± 1.51 0.086
mtDNA divergence within and between 5 human populations by Melissa L. Cann et al. of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley[64]
% sequence divergence
Population 1 2 3 4 5
1. African 0.47 0.04 0.04 0.05 0.06
2. Asian 0.45 0.35 0.01 0.02 0.04
3. Australian 0.40 0.31 0.25 0.03 0.04
4. Caucasian 0.40 0.31 0.27 0.23 0.05
5. New Guinean 0.42 0.34 0.29 0.29 0.25
The divergence is calculated by a way developed by Masatoshi Nei. Values of the mean pairwise divergence between individuals within populations (δx) appear on the diagonal. values below the diagonal (δxy) are the mean pairwise divergences between individuals belonging to two different populations, X and Y. Values above the diagonal (δ) are interpopulation divergences, corrected for variation within those populations with the equation δ = δxy – 0.5(δx + δy)
Ancestors, lineages and extents of divergence in the geneaological tree for 134 types of human mtDNA by Melissa L. Cann et al. of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley[64]
Number of descendant lineages or clusters specific to a region
Ancestor Total Africa Asia Australia Europe New Guinea % divergence age*
a 7 1 0 0 0 0 0.57 143–285
b 2 0 1 0 0 0 0.45 112–225
c 20 0 7 3 1 3 0.43 108–215
d 2 0 0 1 1 0 0.39 98–195
e 14 2 2 4 2 0 0.34 85–170
f 19 1 7 4 4 1 0.30 75–150
g 10 2 3 2 2 1 0.28 70–140
h 30 2 4 0 15 1 0.27 68–135
i 8 1 0 0 6 0 0.26 65–130
j 22 1 3 1 5 1 0.25 65–125
All 134 10 27 15 36 7 - -
*Assuming that the mtDNA divergence rate is 2–4% per million years

A study by the The HUGO Pan-Asian SNP Consortium in 2009 found that East Asian and South-East Asian populations clustered together, and suggested a common origin for these populations. At the same time they observed a broad discontinuity between this cluster and South Asia, commenting "most of the Indian populations showed evidence of shared ancestry with European populations". It was noted that "genetic ancestry is strongly correlated with linguistic affiliations as well as geography".[68]

See also


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