Hybridization is like sex

By Razib Khan | August 12, 2010 5:30 pm

480px-Olivia_MunnOne of the major issues which has loomed at the heart of biology since The Origin of Species is why species exist, as well as how species come about. Why isn’t there a perfect replicator which performs all the conversion of energy and matter into biomass on this planet? If there is a God the tree of life almost seems to be a testament to his riotous aesthetic sense, with numerous branches which lead to convergences, and a inordinate fascination with variants on the basic morph of beetles. From the outside the outcomes of evolutionary biology look a patent mess, a sprawling expanse of experiments and misfires.

A similar issue has vexed biologists in relation to sex. Why is it that the vast majority of complex organisms take upon themselves the costs of sex? The existence of a non-offspring bearing form within a species reduces the potential natural increase by a factor of two before the game has even begun. Not only that, but the existence of two sexes who must seek each other out expends crucial energy in a Malthusian world (selfing hermaphrodites obviously don’t have this problem, but for highly complex organisms they aren’t so common). Why bother? (I mean in an ultimate, not proximate, sense)

It seems likely that part of the answer to both these questions on the grande scale is that the perfect is the enemy of long term survival. Sexual reproduction confers upon a lineage a genetic variability which may reduce fitness by shifting populations away from the adaptive peak in the short term, but the fitness landscape itself is a constant bubbling flux, and perfectly engineered asexual lineages may all too often fall off the cliff of what was once their mountain top. The only inevitability seems to be that the times change. Similarly, the natural history of life on earth tells us that all greatness comes to an end, and extinction is the lot of life. The universe is an unpredictable place and the mighty invariably fall, as the branches of life’s tree are always pruned by the gardeners red in tooth and claw.

ResearchBlogging.orgBut it is one thing to describe reality in broad verbal brushes. How about a more rigorous empirical and theoretical understanding of how organisms and the genetic material through which they gain immortality play out in the universe? A new paper which uses plant models explores the costs and benefits of admixture between lineages, and how those two dynamics operate in a heterogeneous and homogeneous world. Population admixture, biological invasions and the balance between local adaptation and inbreeding depression:

When previously isolated populations meet and mix, the resulting admixed population can benefit from several genetic advantages, including increased genetic variation, the creation of novel genotypes and the masking of deleterious mutations. These admixture benefits are thought to play an important role in biological invasions. In contrast, populations in their native range often remain differentiated and frequently suffer from inbreeding depression owing to isolation. While the advantages of admixture are evident for introduced populations that experienced recent bottlenecks or that face novel selection pressures, it is less obvious why native range populations do not similarly benefit from admixture. Here we argue that a temporary loss of local adaptation in recent invaders fundamentally alters the fitness consequences of admixture. In native populations, selection against dilution of the locally adapted gene pool inhibits unconstrained admixture and reinforces population isolation, with some level of inbreeding depression as an expected consequence. We show that admixture is selected against despite significant inbreeding depression because the benefits of local adaptation are greater than the cost of inbreeding. In contrast, introduced populations that have not yet established a pattern of local adaptation can freely reap the benefits of admixture. There can be strong selection for admixture because it instantly lifts the inbreeding depression that had built up in isolated parental populations. Recent work in Silene suggests that reduced inbreeding depression associated with post-introduction admixture may contribute to enhanced fitness of invasive populations. We hypothesize that in locally adapted populations, the benefits of local adaptation are balanced against an inbreeding cost that could develop in part owing to the isolating effect of local adaptation itself. The inbreeding cost can be revealed in admixing populations during recent invasions.

First, plants are good models to explore evolutionary genetics. They’re not as constrained as say mammals, or the typical tetrapod, when it comes to barriers to gene flow between distinct taxa. Hybridization is common, and plants can also self-fertilize as well as cross-fertilize, allowing researchers to push the genetic pool in different directions (“selfing” obviously reduces the effective population and is an extreme form of inbreeding, so it’s a good way to purge genetic variation really quickly). In a perfect abstract world of evolution one might imagine Richard Dawkins’ vehicles and replicators as fluid entities which float along a turbid sea of evolutionary genetic parameters, drift, migration, mutation and selection. But reality is constrained to DNA substrate, which have their own parameters such as recombination, modulators such as epigenetics, and numerous ways to express variation through gene regulation. It’s complicated, and stripping the issues down to their pith is easier said that done.

But the broader dynamics here being examined is the generalist-specialist trade-off, which I think is relevant to the two issues I introduced earlier in this post. Specialists are optimized for their own position in the adaptive landscape, but have difficulties when it is perturbed. Generalists always less than maximum fitness in all landscapes, but higher average fitness across them because they can adapt to changes. Specialization is local adaptation of particular lineages, while in the generalist case you can have invasive species in novel environments. They’re obviously facing an adaptive landscape which is at some remove from what any of the introduced genotypes were “optimized” for, so hybridization produces something new for something new.

In the first figure of the paper you see F3 wild barley descended from two parental lineages, ME and AQ. The left panels show seed output as a function of heterozygosity, and the right panels as a function of ME genome content. Remember that in subsequent generations the descendants of hybrids will vary quite a big in genetics and phenotype as the original alleles re-segregate.

F1.large

The takeaway is that in novel environments genetic variation seems to result in increased fitness. Why? One concept which one has to introduce is heterosis, whereby crosses between homogeneous lineages produce more fitness offspring. One reason this may be is that there is overdominance, where heterozygotes have greater fitness than the homogyzotes. This is the case with sickle-cell malaria disease. Another reason may be that in the original parental lineages there was a higher fraction of alleles which were deleterious in homozygote genotypes. In plain English, inbreeding resulted in genetic drift which cranked up the proportion of alleles implicated in recessively express negative phenotypes. The authors argue though that in the context local adaptation is strong enough to be a barrier against too much gene flow between the parental wild barely lineages, so the deleterious alleles are less likely to be masked. Only in a novel environment when that benefit was removed from the equation could the negative consequences of inbreeding come to the fore in the total calculus.

Figure 2 shows the results of experiments which examine the fitness of white campion, a European species which has been introduced in North America. In the left panel are crosses between native European lineages, with distance between parental lineages on the x-axis. In the right panel you have the same experiment, but with North American variants, which are products of introductions from various regions of Europe. The plants were grown in a “common garden,” to show how all the genotypes performed when environment was controlled.

F2.large

As you can see moderate levels of hybridization entailed a benefit in the European variants, but not the North American variants. Hybridization between variants which were too distant did produce outbreeding depression in the European case, suggesting perhaps that disruption of co-adapted gene complexes resulted in a greater fitness cost than the masking of deleterious alleles due to inbreeding. One can make the inference from these data that the introduced white campion lineages are already hybridized, the barriers to crossing being removed by a disruption of the adaptive landscapes which each native lineages was optimized for.

Here are the authors from the discussion talking about invasions of exotic species:

Provided that multiple introductions from different source populations have occurred, the benefits of admixture become freely available to introduced populations that do not yet show a pattern of local adaptation. Because the benefits are potentially large, admixture may play an important role during early invasions. Native populations often show evidence of inbreeding depression…and one instant reward of admixture in the introduced range is the release of this genetic burden. Such heterosis effects can contribute significantly to the establishment and early success of invasive species…When tested together in a common garden experiment, invaders can show enhanced fitness-related traits compared with populations from their native range…If there is evidence of admixture, the effects of heterosis might be a default explanation for such observations, perhaps providing a null expectation against which other explanations (such as trait evolution) need to be tested.

What have plants to do with life as a whole? I assume much. Plants differ in the details, but compared to other complex multicellular organisms in regards to evolutionary genetics they’re quite liberated. By this, I mean that their modes of reproduction and promiscuity in hybridization make them more of an ideal “frictionless” test case of evolutionary biology and the power of the classical parameters. Perhaps given enough time natural selection would produce the ideal replicator to rule them all, to drive all others to extinction. But that day is not this day. And that day may never come because the universe is far too protean and erratic. Life is varied, on the phenotypic and genotypic level, and the exogenous processes of climate and geology continue to warp and reshape the adaptive landscape. And more subtly, but just as critically, life is always in an endless race with itself, as pathogens co-evolve with their hosts, and predators figure out how to outfox their prey. Life warps its own adaptive landscapes, and the innovation of one branch may lead to extinction of others as well as the proliferation of new branches.

More prosaically and anthropocentrically what does this say about us? Humans are an expansive species, and over the past 500 years different lineages have been hybridizing promiscuously. New genotypes have arisen in altered landscapes, and our pathogens are also riding the high tide of globalization onward and upward. We are ourselves a “natural experiment.”

Image Credit: Olivia Munn by Gage Skidmore

Link hat tip: Dienekes.

Citation: Verhoeven KJ, Macel M, Wolfe LM, & Biere A (2010). Population admixture, biological invasions and the balance between local adaptation and inbreeding depression. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society PMID: 20685700

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, Genetics, Genomics
  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    You know, having Olivia Munn head a post about hybrid vigor in *plants* is false advertising, Razib.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    advertising is an art, not science, scissors ;-) in any case, they’re both earthlings.

  • http://Untitledvanityproject.blogspot.com Rhacodactylus

    Lol, does Miss Munn know you are stalking her?

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  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    long time readers are well aware of a selection bias in my “human illustrations” of genetic scenarios.

  • Sandgroper

    Olivia Munn is an interesting study because she also appears to be a cultural hybrid.

    I mean, how many American girls dress up as Sailor Moon or Chun Li?

  • Matt

    Variation within the human genome is not all that significant. However, Olivia Munn is a attractive illustration. However, Jessica Alba, Vanessa Hudgens, or Moon Bloodgood could be used as well. All excellent examples of hybrid vigor.

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    While I find Olivia Munn very aesthetically pleasing, I have a good reason to believe that the geeky persona is just something she puts on because she knows it will make her more popular with her easiest demographic. The cosplay stuff is just pandering to her audience.

    I’m not denying that she’s a cultural hybrid, I mean, she did spend time in Japan when she was growing up. I just don’t think you should read too much into the ‘geeky’ stuff she does. As a girl, her pandering turns me off, although I know it does the opposite for her male fans. :P

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    Also TONS of American girls would dress up as Sailor Moon or Chun Li. Just go to ANY anime convention ever.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    j alba is only ~15% amerindian fwiw.

  • Sandgroper

    Er, Michelle, that was me trying to be sarcastic/funny.

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    Whoops, my bad. The stuff I said about OM stands, though! :P

  • Sandgroper

    I’m sure you’re right.

    In my observation, true cultural hybrids are rare. ‘Foreign’ kids growing up in Asian countries usually pick up only superficial things from the local culture. Unless they achieve full language fluency, including reading, and can immerse themselves in the literature and history, it is extremely difficult for them – they just pick up on a bit of the pop stuff, and observe enough behaviour to be able to satirise it a bit.

    BTW, I don’t know if many American Sailor Moon fans know this, but the English script and voiceovers they get are ‘sanitized’ versions of the original.

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    I don’t think it’s that rare, especially in places like Little Havana in Miami. I had an ex from there who was educated in both English and Spanish, and more importantly he sucked up both more ‘traditional’ American culture and traditional Cuban culture. He could pass back and forth between cultures like it was nothing.

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  • onur

    I think true cultural hybridism is more to do with a minority group living among a majority group and adopting aspects of the majority culture. Such occurrences aren’t rare. Almost all disapora Jews are true cultural hybrids, here in Turkey the vast majority of Kurds living in the Turkish-majority parts of Turkey are true cultural hybrids, and so on.

    On the other hand, ethnic hybrids usually tend to be much closer to the culture of the parent whose culture is dominant where the ethnic hybrid person grows up and so they usually aren’t true cultural hybrids as one side is usually very dominant in them.

  • Sandgroper

    Oh yeah, I was thinking in terms of Western/East Asian hybrids.

    There’s a rumour that Tegan and Sara Quin, my favourite diminutive tattooed Canadian lesbian monozygotic twins, are part Filipino. Does anyone happen to know if that is true? I’ve seen a clip of their mother and she doesn’t look anything like it, but I’ve never seen their father. They look kind of possible, but not especially so, apart from their height of 5’1″.

    I went to one of their concerts last May, and they were brilliant.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soJtF3F5t2k&feature=av2e

    They once quoted a probability that they would both turn out to be lesbian, the point they were making being that it was an unlikely event. I don’t know if they’re right about the numbers, but they’d make great participants in a twin study. And no, they don’t lesb with each other, that would be incest – they are repulsed by the thought.

  • Sandgroper

    Onur – Yes, but in East Asia the trend is that ethnic hybrids tend to be closer to the culture of the parent whose culture is not dominant locally but is more dominant internationally, usually with the encouragement of both of the parents, and coupled with the additional educational burden of learning both English and an East Asian language, and possibly also a third language, depending on the nationality of the non-Asian parent.

  • onur

    Sandgroper, think of an American White-Chinese hybrid growing up in China. Do you think such a hybrid would be culturally closer to Americans than Chinese?

  • Sandgroper

    Onur, yes I do, unless the hybrid is strongly encouraged to embrace Chinese language, history and culture by both parents, or unless the non-Chinese parent leaves and the hybrid is brought up solely by the Chinese parent.

    Because the rest of society including school teachers would be flat out convincing the hybrid that he/she is not Chinese and putting obstacles in the way of the hybrid learning Chinese language, history and culture, as “not their business”.

    Plus the high likelihood that the hybrid would be attending an “international school”, i.e. foreign.

    Not to mention that there is very strong pressure on Chinese in China to learn English in order to compete internationally.

    Learning Chinese language at school is a big additional burden, it’s tough, and most Western/Chinese hybrids don’t, or try but don’t succeed.

    These days, kids receive a lot of cultural inputs from TV and the Internet, even in China, and if they are viewing in English, the majority of those inputs are American.

  • Sandgroper

    Onur, I should have added that the hybrid would be flat out trying to get out of China and into America, which would give added stimulus to the hybrid wanting to embrace English language and American culture, and take little interest in Chinese culture.

    Check the numbers Zeeb posted on GDP – China is still way down.

    That goes for the environment, health care, and anything else you can name, including Chinese standards of public hygiene.

  • onur

    Yes, stark differences in life standards between America and China and also differences in people’s attitudes towards hybrids between the two countries may yield such a result.

    Now replace the words “China” and “Chinese” in my previous post with the words “Japan” and “Japanese” or with the words “South Korea” and “South Korean” or with the words “Taiwan” and “Taiwanese” or with the words “Hong Kong” and “Hong Kongese” or with the words “Singapore” and “Singaporese” or with the names of any other prosperous country or region and its population in East Asia that come to your mind and then revaluate it.

  • Sandgroper

    Onur, I don’t know, when I was googling for stuff on Olivia Munn I saw a lot of American commenters referring to her as Asian, as if there is a one drop rule for Asians. I’m not picking on my American cousins, Australia is no different.

    Japan not so much, but I would guess that the difficulty of learning to be mother tongue fluent in reading and writing Japanese in addition to learning English is a big disincentive. Plus Japanese xenophobia. I once met at an engineering conference and had a very deep heart to heart talk with a Japanese/American hybrid, a university professor in electrical engineering from Tokyo, who was a small kid in Japan during WWII, and he told me his life growing up in Japan was absolute hell. I can imagine. He turned out culturally Japanese, apart from his willingness to open up to a foreigner like me once he realised I was very sympathetic to the problems of hybrids, but he lived his whole life in Japan and was raised by his Japanese mother.

    South Korea I don’t know at all, but I would guess not too different.

  • onur

    who was a small kid in Japan during WWII, and he told me his life growing up in Japan was absolute hell

    Not unexpected during those times, but things may be very different today.

  • Sandgroper

    And I can tell you from a lot of personal experience about Hong Kong – my half Chinese daughter has grown up there fully bi-cultural, but as a result of me (the non-Chinese parent) strongly encouraging her to study Chinese language and with a huge amount of help in language learning from her Chinese mother, and with the support of a very loving Chinese family who are very proud of her, and no thanks to some of her Chinese school teachers and various other people who put obstacles in the way. She has wound up mother-tongue fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, and equally proficient in reading and writing in English, traditional Chinese characters and simplified Chinese characters, and she is not interested in language as such, she is studying Science. But there was nothing easy about this process, and she is a bright kid, IQ about 150. She shits on me for smarts.

    But most of her half Chinese friends and school mates did not – they almost universally came down heavily non-Chinese culturally, and even those who spoke Cantonese as small kids have lost it by the time they get to university. Even many of her fully Chinese schoolmates quit learning Chinese language by age 15 because of the difficulty and extra workload – you need to get this, public exam results matter hugely in deciding where you end up in life, and persevering with Chinese language is a big extra burden at a time when they are already straining to achieve the max.

    This needs to be put in the context that most Hong Kong parents want their kids to learn English and study at overseas universities, and preferably have the option of migrating.

    Singapore is a pretty bad example – Singaporean Chinese are already very heavily westernised.

    Taiwan not so much.

  • onur

    Then let me reformulate my original statement regarding ethnic hybrids:

    Ethnic hybrids usually tend to be much closer to the culture of the parent whose culture is dominant where the ethnic hybrid person grows up, or, for some particular situations (which are mostly to do with modernization and globalization), to the culture of the parent whose culture has perceived dominance over other cultures, and so they usually aren’t true cultural hybrids as one side is usually very dominant in them.

  • onur

    And, of course, also there have been culture-specific traditional practices like the one in Islam in which the child of a Muslim parent (usually male) and a non-Muslim parent (usually female) has to be a Muslim according to the Islamic Law (Sharia). This was one of the reasons of the relatively rapid spread of Islam among newly Muslim-conquered non-Muslim populations (of course, not the only one; jizya, religious discriminations and enslavement of non-Muslims may have been much more important in this regard).

  • Sandgroper

    Good one.

  • onur

    when I was googling for stuff on Olivia Munn I saw a lot of American commenters referring to her as Asian, as if there is a one drop rule for Asians

    That is quite natural. They are thinking that if they acknowledge the partial Whiteness of such racially highly admixed individuals they cannot curb further admixture and eventual racial adulteration. As you already said, Yellows also have such habits.

  • onur

    (continued from above)

    So the result is: racially highly admixed people like Olivia Munn and your daughter become Yellow among Whites and White among Yellows, having been excluded by both racial groups.

  • Sandgroper

    Yes, racial adulteration. Miscegenation.

    When I was a kid I was very friendly with an Anglo-Indian family who gave me to understand that they got similar stuff from both sides.

  • Sandgroper

    #30 Yes, of course. It’s all about context. But they also get admired by both sides because they are physically beautiful.

  • onur

    Brown race is already very admixed with Whites (Middle Eastern variety), especially in the northern parts of the Subcontinent. So in general they are more tolerant towards mixing with Whites, but not so with other races as they have very insignificant admixture from them overall.

  • onur

    But they also get admired by both sides because they are physically beautiful.

    I think beauty is more to do with the individual. But I am sure many racists have been fascinated by at least a few racial hybrids in their lifetime.

    Anyway, I think racism is more to do with the preservation of a familiar type than of beauty.

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  • Sandgroper

    Onur – I agree on your last point.

    It’s a stereotype that hybrids are physically attractive. Some of them are, like OM and my daugher, but a lot are obviously not. My daughter has called me on this ‘hybrid vigor’ point often enough – like “Oh yeah, well why have I got allergies and freckles, then?” She knows the answer to that better than I do. Genes are discreet, not blending. She’s just lucky she ended up the aesthetically appealing mosaic that she did. With luck she will avoid some of the bad stuff I ran into as I got older – her allergies are trivial in comparison, and the freckles certainly are, although the object of derision from Chinese schoolmates.

    But I think a lot of people do find hybrids generally more acceptable physically, in that they are somewhat more like themselves and less ‘extreme’ than the opposing race, and also likely to be some compromise culturally.

    For example, Westerners are more likely to find a Western/Chinese hybrid physically attractive than a Chinese, and less ‘alien’ culturally and linguistically – they still perceive the person to be ‘Asian’, but less extremely so. The same goes for Chinese in the opposite direction. Some of the most admired women in Hong Kong Chinese and Thai popular culture are hybrids, notably those who are physically beautiful, and linguistically and culturally aligned locally. Not so much in Mainland China.

    For South Asians, there is such a spectrum anyway that a hybrid can just pass for a non-hybrid, on both sides. The Anglo-Indian friends of my childhood often passed as just attractive kids with a good sun tan, particularly as they were well adapted linguistically and culturally. I’m tempted to conclude that in this mix, ‘hybrid’ doesn’t really apply – we are all Eurasian.

  • onur

    Sandgroper, I was generalizing when saying “racially highly admixed people like Olivia Munn and your daughter become Yellow among Whites and White among Yellows”. Of course, there are many people – however in minority – among Whites and Yellows who are more receptive of hybrids.

    I’m tempted to conclude that in this mix, ‘hybrid’ doesn’t really apply – we are all Eurasian.

    Ultimately we are all humans, but separation is part of our nature as there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships (google “Dunbar’s number”). As to race-based separation, I don’t know how much of it is genetic and how much is cultural.

  • Sandgroper

    “separation is part of our nature ” – Yes, absolutely.

    “As to race-based separation, I don’t know how much of it is genetic and how much is cultural.” – Neither do I, but they are both in the mix together – it is not just one or the other, it is some combination of both. And it is mobile – the more you eliminate differences, the more people will discriminate on finer points of difference. Dunbar’s number, I guess.

    But I find people who look like me boring and repulsive, and I’m not particularly weird. I’m a bit weird, but not hugely.

  • onur

    Sandgroper, what are your and your wife’s (or ex-wife’s) exact ethnic and religious backgrounds?

  • Sandgroper

    No, repulsive is too strong a word.

    Exactly? By “ethnic” I take it you are referring to genes, not culture.

    Me – mostly mixed European ancestry with some Aboriginal admixture, Anglican turned Atheist.

    Wife (still current) – northern Chinese, nominally Catholic but with very poor attendance record and suspiciously Buddhist/Taoist/Confucian tendencies.

  • onur

    So you are Australian by nationality. Is it a frequent occurrence among Australian Whites to have Aboriginal admixture? As to your Chinese wife (Han Chinese I guess), is Christianity really so widespread among Chinese as some seem to claim?

  • Sandgroper

    Australian by nationality – all of my great grand parents were born in Australia.

    The frequency of Aboriginal admixture among Australian whites is pretty cryptic.

    Until fairly recently it was something shameful to be concealed, so I’d say a lot of white Australians have some Aboriginal ancestry without knowing it because their families actively concealed it from them. That has changed, and it is now somewhat fashionable to acknowledge Aboriginal ancestry, but not universally so.

    The bizarre confounding factor is that, as a result of a legal ruling in 1998, you don’t need to have any Aboriginal ancestry to self-identify as Aboriginal – that has to be one of the most weird rulings on race I have ever seen, but it means now that there are people in Australia who self-identify as Aboriginal but who have no Aboriginal ancestry at all.

    So there are no reliable numbers on any of this. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably not too different from the proportion of American whites with some native ancestry, but I don’t think anyone has any real idea.

    Yes, my wife is Northern Han. Her parents originated in a foreign treaty port in north-eastern China where conversion to Catholicism was very common. I can’t speak for the whole of China, I don’t know of any reliable numbers. But it is not insignificant, Catholic and other Christian missionaries were very active in China for a long time.

  • onur

    Sandgroper, then how did you learn that you have Aboriginal ancestry? I guess not from your parents or grandparents (as probably they didn’t know whether they had Aboriginal ancestry or not because probably it had been forgotten long ago due to the reasons you stated above), but from an examination of church records (as Western Christians – Catholic or Protestant – have a centuries-long tradition of keeping church records about baptism, marriage and burials of every individual; unfortunately such a tradition doesn’t exist in the Muslim world so we can’t go past beyond 150-200 years at most in genealogies for almost all individuals), or maybe from an autosomal genetic test of a genetic testing company like 23andMe.

    Yes, my wife is Northern Han. Her parents originated in a foreign treaty port in north-eastern China where conversion to Catholicism was very common.

    Then I guess she is from Hebei:

    “A relatively large proportion of Christians [of whole China] are concentrated in Hebei province, in particular Catholics. Many internationally-reported arrests of Catholic leaders have occurred in that province. Hebei is also home to the town of Donglu, site of an alleged Marian apparition and pilgrimage center.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China#Demographics.2FGeography

  • Sandgroper

    My sister and I tracked it from district and parish records, and talking to people. Our maternal grandfather knew, his physical appearance was rather obvious, but he actively concealed it by joking about it and claiming his appearance was due to “black Irish” ancestry. No it wasn’t, our ancestor was not from County Kerry, she was from Nyoongar country.

    When genetic testing becomes routinely affordable, hopefully it will put an end to all of this nonsense. But then, you really have to question the practical significance. It’s nice to know we had an Aboriginal ancestor and where she came from, and for sentimental reasons I wish I could know her name, her life story and what she looked like, whereas my family denied her existence, but in practical terms, so what? It doesn’t change anything.

    No, my wife’s parents came from Shandong Province, the adjacent province to Hebei, from a rural farming area near the British treaty port of Weihai. My daughter has been back there recently, to her ancestral village, as it were, in the company of her Chinese grandfather, and she says the cleanliness and privacy of the public toilets leaves a great deal to be desired. I know exactly what she is talking about from my own forays into the People’s Republic.

  • onur

    No, my wife’s parents came from Shandong Province, the adjacent province to Hebei, from a rural farming area near the British treaty port of Weihai.

    Then I came very close, as the two provinces must have been historically closely connected.

    I know exactly what she is talking about from my own forays into the People’s Republic.

    It seems you Hong Kongese – and also people of Macau – still see the rest of China as a separate country. It isn’t surprising given the highly autonomous statuses of the two regions.

    These are my last questions to you in this thread: How did you meet your wife? After moving from Australia to Hong Kong, or in Australia? Also was she born in Hong Kong as there have been migrations to Hong Kong and Macau from the rest of China for rather a long time (however limited by the laws of both sides)? And lastly, are

  • onur

    No, my wife’s parents came from Shandong Province, the adjacent province to Hebei, from a rural farming area near the British treaty port of Weihai.

    Then I came very close, as the two provinces must have been historically closely connected.

    I know exactly what she is talking about from my own forays into the People’s Republic.

    It seems you and Hong Kongese in general – and also people of Macau – still see the rest of China as a separate country. It isn’t surprising given the highly autonomous statuses of the two regions.

    These are my last questions to you in this thread: How did you meet your wife? After moving from Australia to Hong Kong (where you still live), or in Australia? Also was she born in Hong Kong as there have been migrations to Hong Kong and Macau from the rest of China for rather a long time (however limited by the laws of both sides)? And lastly, would you leave Hong Kong if China suddenly decided to extend its authority there?

  • onur

    Forgot to ask: also how is it to be a White or non-Yellow in Hong Kong compared to other East Asian regions?

  • Sandgroper

    There remain major differences between Hong Kong, Macau and the rest of China. Maybe most significant are the political and legal systems. Hong Kong is still permitted its own separate international representation in many fields, for example in professional matters. There are still border restrictions and curbs on illegal migration from the Mainland into Hong Kong and Macau.

    I don’t think it is true that Hong Kong people see China as a separate country, though – that is stretching it a bit too far. Many of them are fairly recent arrivals from the Mainland. At the end of World War II, the population of Hong Kong was about 500,000. Now it is over 7 million, and much of that increase has been by migration from the Mainland, which has actually been pretty steady over that period at a rate of about 100,000 per year. Those people still see China as the Motherland, and Hong Kong a part of it but with different systems and operating rules. Many Hong Kong people work in the Mainland, own property there, operate factories there, and commute across the border. At Lunar New Year, massive numbers of Hong Kong people return to their ancestral villages in southern China.

    The first time my wife travelled to northern China she was so overcome emotionally she cried – she very clearly identifies north-east China as her ancestral home.

    My wife was born in Hong Kong. I met her there.

    No, China extending its authority in Hong Kong (by which I assume you mean China exerting more political or legal control over internal affairs) would not make me leave. I could easily live in Shanghai or Tianjin, no problem, or any of the coastal regions of China.

    I’m not sure I understand your last question. I have only been to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan as a tourist, so I don’t know what it is like to live and work there.

  • onur

    I’m not sure I understand your last question. I have only been to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan as a tourist, so I don’t know what it is like to live and work there.

    Let me explain: I thought you may have learned about other East Asian regions on this subject from your White or any other non-Yellow friends living there.

    Also what about the rest of China? You must know it better (of course, not the whole territory!) than Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, etc.

    by which I assume you mean China exerting more political or legal control over internal affairs

    Yes, sorry for my bad English, as I use it only in reading (in addition to my mother tongue Turkish) and in international correspondences.

    No, China extending its authority in Hong Kong (by which I assume you mean China exerting more political or legal control over internal affairs) would not make me leave. I could easily live in Shanghai or Tianjin, no problem, or any of the coastal regions of China.

    So you have become not only a Hong Kongese but also a Chinese, eh? I guess you now have a Chinese/Hong Kongese citizenship (from marriage?) in addition to the Australian citizenship from your birth in Australia.

    Wife (still current) – northern Chinese, nominally Catholic but with very poor attendance record and suspiciously Buddhist/Taoist/Confucian tendencies.

    It is said that most of the Chinese are atheists, but the effects of the Buddhist/Taoist/Confucian trio (including ancestor worship and some Shamanistic tendencies) are seen even among atheist, Christian and Muslim Chinese.

    My daughter has been back there recently, to her ancestral village, as it were, in the company of her Chinese grandfather, and she says the cleanliness and privacy of the public toilets leaves a great deal to be desired.

    Is everyone in that village Catholic now? If so, that village must have converted to Catholic Christianity (Catholicism) from the traditional Chine religions (Buddhist/Taoist/Confucian trio) long ago I guess.

    This is my last post in this thread. Thank you for the detailed information you have provided, Sandgroper. BTW, it must be very hot in Hong Kong in this month of the year, isn’ it?

  • onur

    Correction: “from the traditional Chinese religions”

  • Sandgroper

    I have ‘white’ friends working in Thailand and Malaysia, but I don’t include those countries in East Asia. But in any case, they don’t have any problem, they enjoy living there. I have a friend/professional colleague working in Taiwan, but he’s a Chinese from Taiwan, so he can’t tell me much about what it’s like to be non-Chinese there. Apart from the half-Japanese professor I met who was fully culturally Japanese, I don’t have any non-Japanese friends or colleagues living and working in Japan, so I can’t say anything much about that. I think I could live in Tokyo, and I love Kyoto, I think it is a beautiful city, but I really don’t know what it would be like to live there full time and work there – difficult, I would think, because of language.

    Yes, I can make judgements about other parts of China – I have no problem living and working in the major coastal cities and special economic zones, apart from the air quality in cities like Tianjin, which is frankly awful. But Tianjin is remarkably cosmopolitan, and apart from needing to breathe I feel very comfortable there. I would have some strong reservations about living in more western parts of China.

    I have ‘become Chinese’ to the extent that I am completely comfortable living in a society that is almost 100% Chinese. I am entitled to permanent residence in Hong Kong and all of the usual rights that go with citizenship, like working, voting in elections, etc. I have not applied for Chinese citizenship.

    No, the male residents of that village that did not escape Liberation by running away before the Communists got there were killed by being pushed into a mass grave and buried alive. The female residents were dispossessed, dressed in rags and made to work as street cleaners. The incoming new residents were not Catholic, they were Communist. That it is now possible for my daughter and her grandfather to go back there without any problem is in itself something remarkable, I guess. The current residents would probably be Atheist with the usual smattering of the things you listed.

    I commend to you this excellent website, which will tell you just about anything about Hong Kong weather that you could think of. Summer in Hong Kong is moderately hot, but intensely humid. And there is little diurnal variation in temperature, i.e. the minimum and maximum temperatures are usually not far apart. When I first went to live in Hong Kong I thought the climate was awful, particularly the humidity, but now I like it.

    http://www.hko.gov.hk/contente.htm

    There is nothing wrong with your English.

  • Sandgroper

    Onur, I don’t know whereabouts in Turkey you are, but here’s your weather forecast, via Hong Kong – how’s that? :)

    http://www.hko.gov.hk/wxinfo/worldwx/tu.htm

  • onur

    I think I could live in Tokyo, and I love Kyoto, I think it is a beautiful city, but I really don’t know what it would be like to live there full time and work there – difficult, I would think, because of language.

    I wouldn’t write more posts in this thread, but I couldn’t resist when you spoke about the difficulty of learning Japanese as a person who knows Mandarin and Cantonese fairly well (BTW, did you learn them after coming from Australia to Hong Kong and even after marrying your wife in Hong Kong?), because as far as I know, Mandarin, Cantonese and Sino-Tibetan languages in general are harder to learn than Japanese (also other Japonic languages like Ryukyuan languages), Korean and the other language families previously classified as “Altaic” like Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic languages (they are mostly no longer classified as “Altaic” and considered as completely separate language families though).

    No, the male residents of that village that did not escape Liberation by running away before the Communists got there were killed by being pushed into a mass grave and buried alive. The female residents were dispossessed, dressed in rags and made to work as street cleaners. The incoming new residents were not Catholic, they were Communist.

    Striking story. Were your wife’s grandparents and the other villagers in that village persecuted because of their Christianity (or Catholicism) or are there other reasons? So it seems eventually your wife’s grandparents escaped and settled in Hong Kong for a humane treatment and life.

  • onur

    Onur, I don’t know whereabouts in Turkey you are, but here’s your weather forecast, via Hong Kong – how’s that?

    Annoyingly hot! >:/

  • Sandgroper

    I began learning Chinese language after I moved to Hong Kong, but before getting married.

    I bow to your linguistic knowledge and view that Japanese is less difficult, but I would be starting from a point of virtually zero knowledge and I think would find that very difficult at this point. I don’t know, maybe not.

    No, my wife’s family and other residents of that village were targetted for being wealthy land owners.

    I can tell you a thousand interesting stories, but we are trading on Razib’s kind nature – we had better not continue tormenting this thread, which is supposed to be about plant hybridisation :)

  • onur

    I can tell you a thousand interesting stories, but we are trading on Razib’s kind nature – we had better not continue tormenting this thread, which is supposed to be about plant hybridisation :)

    Agreed.

    Thanks for your frankness BTW.

  • onur

    And lastly:

    Onur, I don’t know whereabouts in Turkey you are

    I live – and was born – in Istanbul.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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