Referring to the post here.

The research discovered that the Malays in these sub-ethnic groups were genetically composed of some Proto-Malay (orang asli Melayu), Semang and Indian DNA, with at least 20 per cent Malay and and 52 per cent Chinese DNA.

"This finding corresponds with a theory that these Malays originated from Austronesia in Yunnan, China," Professor Zilfalil said, " with the first wave of migration from Austronesia to Southeast Asia occurring in 25, 000 BC and the second one in 1, 500 BC".

The professor added that "the Malay language used in the Malay Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak also belongs to the Austronesian stock".

Is there corroborating historical evidence that the Malays of Malaysia and Indonesia are actually descendants from residents of Yunnan, China?

  • The wording strongly suggest that people of Yunnan 25000 BC were Chinese, which I find rather anachronistic. I also doubt that there is much surprise about some correlation in DNA. We are from all Africa, anyways.
    – Greg
    Oct 22, 2015 at 16:22
  • 1
    @Greg Not to mention, China was directly populated by peoples that had moved north from South East Asia.
    – Semaphore
    Oct 22, 2015 at 19:56
  • Is there a reason to question the existing narrative?
    – MCW
    Jul 18, 2017 at 12:22
  • I cannot seem to find this article (the link does not work). Can anyone help?
    – J Asia
    Jul 18, 2017 at 13:45
  • @JAsia - The first link Google found that isn't this question is here. I was considering posting it in an answer, with an eye toward changing the link in the question if it stays dead. Perhaps this comment will do.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 18, 2017 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


I will take this question:

  • "Are the ancestors of Malays (of Malaysia) from Yunnan, China?"


  • "Was the Neolithic (Early Holocene) expansion of (Pre-) Austronesian-speaking communities into Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) from Yunnan, China?"

The only answer, at this point, is: we don't know.

We don't know because they are competing models to explain how indigenous Malays (Proto-Malays) arrived at Island Southeast Asia (ISEA).

The original hypothesis was Out of Taiwan by Peter Bellwood, in his book: "Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago" (University of Hawaii Press, 1997). His original hypothesis rested mainly on linguistics, namely, the Austronesian family language, and because of population pressure from agriculture (agrarian expansion). Since then he has released a revised 2007 edition, with updates to cover more ground, and freely available as ebook now.

Since then, there's been other hypotheses, not based on agrarian but fisher-forage-trader culture and via southwest China (Yunnan?), into Vietnam, Thailand, and finally Peninsular Malaysia. Research from genetic, archaeological and linguistic analysis are inconsistent.

This diagram might help, left (new hypothesis) vs right (Out-of-Taiwan). I have kept title of article and explanatory notes: approximately 4500–4000 years ago

The latest book on this 'saga' is New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory (Terra Australis 45), ANU: March 2017. Also available as ebook (free). Book description:

This volume brings together a diversity of international scholars, unified in the theme of expanding scientific knowledge about humanity’s past in the Asia-Pacific region. The contents in total encompass a deep time range, concerning the origins and dispersals of anatomically modern humans, the lifestyles of Pleistocene and early Holocene Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, the emergence of Neolithic farming communities, and the development of Iron Age societies. These core enduring issues continue to be explored throughout the vast region covered here, accordingly with a richness of results as shown by the authors.

Befitting of the grand scope of this volume, the individual contributions articulate perspectives from multiple study areas and lines of evidence. Many of the chapters showcase new primary field data from archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Equally important, other chapters provide updated regional summaries of research in archaeology, linguistics, and human biology from East Asia through to the Western Pacific.’

  • Have there been mtDNA and/or Y-DNA studies too? I ask because I have a theory for what they might find, based on those two maps, a map for a nearby (unrelated) language family, and what similar studies have found in the past for other peoples. I'm curious if its right.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 18, 2017 at 16:00
  • Yes, there is. If you don't want to get into the book (T. Australis 45), this might be useful: Reconstructing Austronesian population history in Island Southeast Asia, 2014.
    – J Asia
    Jul 18, 2017 at 16:10
  • And a more recent (2016) paper using agent-based modeling to reconstruct the flow into ISEA, from genetics-org:Reconstructing Demography and Social Behavior during the Neolithic Expansion from Genomic Diversity across Island Southeast Asia.
    – J Asia
    Jul 18, 2017 at 16:17
  • That "Figure 2" in your fist link is exactly what I was guessing happened using only modern language family distribution maps from Wikipedia. Is it linguistic derived too, or genetic? It is SO exact, and the terminology is talking about language families, so I have to assume it is linguistic-based.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 19, 2017 at 15:02
  • The second link seems to be talking about Indonesia more than about Malaysia. Also, it appears to be talking mostly about the intersection of what I'd linguistically call Austronesians and Paupans. Still, its very interesting in what it does talk about. If nothing else it confirms what I've seen from studies in other parts of the world: When two populations meet, there tends to be a preferred pairing (males from X and females from Y were much more likely to produce surviving kids than visa versa).
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 19, 2017 at 15:25

Malaysia was under the influence of the Cholas for quite a period of time. There is some Indian percentage in Malaysia, and Tamils did control and are still in Malaysia now.

Check these sources: https://www.britannica.com/place/Malaysia/People https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chola_invasion_of_Srivijaya


austronesians are not necessarily han chinese, same the other way around. Anyway 25 000 years ago there was neither a chinese nor a malay identity, it was pre-historic. Just various interrelated tribes that intermingled and moved on their own migratory routes. Some future china tribes went north, some austronesian (future malay) went south east. In fact the whole chain from what is now Yunnan-Laos-Vietnam- Cambodia- Malaysia-indonesia comes from the same ausatronesian stock. Their culture is very similar because it came from the same source & tradition. Proudly they also explored & settled into the Indian & Pacific oceans! The north bound tribes started a great culture on the yellow river where rice farming was initiated that spread over the whole Eurasian continent. To each his own, I'd say!

  • About 4,500 years.
    – J Asia
    Jul 18, 2017 at 2:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.