A GROUP of more than 80,000 people living in the western part of Hainan Province have now discovered their ethnic identity, thanks to modern technology.
 
DNA tests have revealed that they are descendants of the Gelao people, a minority group in the southwest Guizhou Province.
 
The group, known as the Gelong people, had been listed as Han Chinese after the founding of new China in 1949, though their culture and living habits differed greatly.
 
"This is the first time that we have scientifically defined the ethnic group of people via DNA technology instead of traditional culture or language background," said Li Hui, an associate professor at Fudan University’s School of Life Science.
 
"Two milliliters of blood is all that it takes to help people know which ethnic group they belong to," he said.
 
The university team carried out the research on the Gelong people together with Hainan Medical University and the results have just been published in the Journal of Human Genetics.
 
Researchers studied the Y chromosome, inherited from fathers, and compared the results with those of the Chinese ethic group population.
 
They found the Gelong people were closest to the Gelao ethnic group with the two groups sharing 67.9 percent of genetic material. The Han and Hlai ethic group also influenced the gene materials as researchers found 27.2 percent Han and 4.9 percent Hlai in the Gelong people.
 
"Intermarriage is the reason for the gene diversity," Li said.
 
Meanwhile, researchers studied the maternal-inherited DNA and found 37.6 percent was from the Gelao ethic group, the highest among all other ethic groups.
 
"It’s more popular for women to marry and migrate with men of other ethnic groups in ancient China and that explains the lower maternal lineage," Li said.
 
Researchers also found that the Gelong people and the Gelao ethnic group shared similarities in their language and traditional way of life.
 
 

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