Many Asian men like to claim heritage from Genghis Khan. This is a point of pride for these men, and it can get them some serious respect. After all, Genghis Khan conquered and ruled the largest empire the world has ever seen. The only other empires that can even compare were the Roman Empire and the Macedonian Empire. However, neither of these other empires was built in a single life time.


Want to learn about Genghis Khan’s personal life? Check out this series from Extra History.
 

Like any ancient conquest, some of the rewards were the conquered people. The result was a change in the genetic composition of most of Asia.


Setting One Thing Straight


With most ancient conquests, the people who tend to suffer the most are the women who are captured or killed. Ancient societies generally regarded women as property to be taken or destroyed after conquest. This is why the Vikings are synonymous with “raping and pillaging.”

However, the horde of Genghis Khan treated the spoils of war differently. Before he was born, Genghis Khan’s mother was abducted by a rival tribe, and was forced to marry a man named Yesugei (Yee-Sue-Gay). This led to his birth. Before he became Genghis Khan, Temujin also saw his wife (Borte) captured and raped. She became pregnant as a result. Temujin adopted the child of this rape as his own.


A painting of Genghis Khan, ordered by his grandson, Kublai Khan.
 

When Temujin ascended to the role of Khan, he established a new set of rules governing warfare and conquest. This set of rules is known as the Yassa. Under the Yassa, abduction and abuse of women was punishable by death. Men who wanted to take wives would have to pay the family of the woman a bride price. While these rules could not prevent all abuses, nor could it stop non-consensual marriage, the threat of death made the soldiers much more aware of their behavior. Soldiers could still take multiple wives — but they would have to pay for them.

Sidenote: While Genghis Khan’s military actions led to the deaths of millions, his actions show that he did genuinely care about the people under his rule. This does not excuse the killing, but illustrates a more complete picture of Genghis Khan.


The Horde


The Mongol Empire started small. Before Genghis Khan, Mongolian tribes engaged in regular, petty conflicts with each other. Genghis Khan united them all under his banner.

However, uniting these tribes took him 45 years of his life. His empire only started expanding once he was well into his middle age and would continue after he died at the age of 65 in 1227 CE. In 20 years of rule, he managed to take a large swathe of Asia.

He started by raiding kingdoms in northern and western China. He eventually pushed West, conquering all the way to the Caspian Sea. His sons and grandsons would eventually make their way to Turkey, Southern China, and the Baltic Sea.


Genghis Khan died in 1227 CE. His sons were able to spread the Empire further. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
 

The Genetic Footprint of Genghis Khan


Needless to say, this conquest had a profound impact on the genetics of regions that were conquered. Many people died, and those that survived a different genetic composition. A 2003 study found that, across all of Asia, 8% of men had the same Y-chromosomal haplogroup. 8% of Asian men amounts to 0.5% of the world’s population.

This Y-chromosomal haplogroup carries unique signatures that originated in Mongolia about 1000 years ago (1000 CE-ish). The rapid spread of this haplogroup can only be attributed to one thing — conquest by Genghis Khan. In fact, the geographic locations of this haplogroup match very closely to areas conquered by the Mongolian Horde.

 

A Big But


While it would be fair to say that Genghis Khan has influenced the genetics of 8% of all Asian men, it would not be accurate to claim that this 8% is all descended from Genghis Khan.

Y-Haplogroups are passed from father to son. Young Genghis Khan was the son of Yesugei (Yee-Sue-Gay), a tribal chief. Yesugei also had other sons and relatives. The Y-chromosome that Genghis Khan inherited was not unique to Genghis Khan — many of his tribesmen and family would have also shared the same Y-chromosome.

Around 0.5% of the world’s population today has this Y-chromosome. As you might imagine, a lot of sex would need to happen for Genghis to have that large an effect on the world’s population. But Genghis couldn’t be the one having all the kids. He was too busy conquering to focus on that much baby-making. Many of his relatives, his male descendents, and others from his tribe could have contributed to the spread of this chromosome.

There are also three other important things to bring up from this research:

  1. The 2003 study focused on this unique Y-chromosome. Since women lack a Y-chromosome, it is unclear how many women might have been affected by Genghis Khan’s conquests.
  2. Genghis Khan launched his empire around 800 years ago, which is about 32-35 generations. Any autosomal DNA from Genghis Khan will be too dilute to measure.
  3. Claiming descent from Genghis Khan provided substantial social benefits throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Russia. It is entirely possible that the male descendents of Genghis Khan (or his family) used this fact to gain access to more wives than other men.

Final Notes


Without a doubt, Genghis Khan changed the world. Not only did he shape the world geopolitically, he changed it genetically. However, he was not the first person to do so, and it is unlikely that he will be the last.

The story told by genetics is often a confusing and winding path. While history will record the world’s “greats,” genetics shows that even somebody who is relatively unknown can have a major impact. Such is the case for Y-chromosomal Adam, and Mitochondrial Eve.

If you’re interested in learning about other historical figures or groups who may have shaped this world’s genetics, let us know. We have a few people and groups in mind, such as Charlemagne, the Vikings, and the Conquistadors. We look forward to reading your comments!


References


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10 thoughts on “Curious Research Information: Are Most Asian Men Descended from Genghis Khan?

  1. So far as I know I am from English ancestors and one Swiss grandfather. I’m hoping my testing will show more. I’ve always thought more in geologic time than human time. I do wonder if humans will adapt to climate changes.

    1. They always have and if the climate were to ever change again, they will. Unless there are major volcanic eruptions in the near future (which account for 99.998% of any climate changes), we needn’t worry. Hopefully we’ll be safe from governments economic power grabs when they try to push further the current pseudoscience narrative.

  2. Great information to peruse! I would like you to do a comparison of mtDNA ( perhaps Neanderthal, Denisovan, human, and chimp) and bacterial and archeal DNA to see what commonalities might exist between the various groups. Also, to be more exact, which chimp genes may be like Neanderthal, since the majority are similar to human, and which genes might all three have in common?

  3. Excellent! It’s something I have not thought about, but after it was brought up I was taken in. I would love to learn more. More stories please.

  4. My son-in-law is American of Chinese parents — I will forward this to him and encourage them (again) to do the testing!!!

  5. Interesting article. Josh Gates Exploration Unknown mentioned this Khan offspring gossip. Yeah, as DNA and the sheer intelligence of it all with accompanying tech improves with more people we’ll perhaps know a little more about China, N Korea, S Korea, and Asia.

    Kahn was a mass murderer (and his horde) as was Alexander the Great (“Great” in conquering and killing), and other Empires have killed a lot and destroyed a lot. And this truthful fact, made slaves of all under them.

  6. Your testing of my genetic make up lacked any African ancestry at all however, my report did have over a 10% Asian ancestry. Not only is there consideration for the (Hordes) of Genghis Khan there were so many Mongolian and Chinese immigrants that came to work on the rail roads here in America that they also planted many seeds. Even though I was told in my youth that we had an Asian grandfather in the past I really had no idea how many times the Asian heritage line re-entered my bloodline.

  7. I’m South African by birth but my grandparents came from the Indian subcontinent. I’m really interested in tracing my genetic background and suspect that invasions from the Mongols may have some role!
    You make an interesting comment on Genghis Khans treatment of women and relate it possibly to the treatment of his mother. I believe that it is more likely due to his religious belief. Islam changed the way women were treated in society and this would have been why he treated women the way he did during his invasions. The rights given to women in Islam at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) , was unparalleled in History.

  8. I’ve always loved Ghengis Kahn. I tell my son that his great great great granpa, was Ghenghis Kahn, Ghengi for short. I loved this movie I saw where Ghengi showed up. It was a movie in Russian where a Russian guy meets up with a Mongolian guy, as his truck broke down, and the Mongolian guy takes him home and where his wife cares for the Russian guy, and nurses him back to health. The two men become friends and set out on a journey to the city to get condoms and a tv. Ghenghis Kahn and his gang show up. It is hilarious. I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more movies about ole Ghengi! I love your series. What a sweet surprise.Thanks.

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