Archives for posts with tag: east asians

some random notes on the history of mating patterns in china…

on the recommendation of john derbyshire, we have been listening to some of the great courses lectures here at home. that’s not the royal “we” by the way — i mean the d.h. and me. anyway…in From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History, the lecturer, kenneth hammond — an excellent lecturer and, incidentally, one of the kent 25 — mentions that during the southern song period (1127–1279) elites in china changed their marriage patterns. in the preceding northern song period (960-1127), the elites — the intelligensia and bureaucrats running the country — had a tendency to marry other elites from all over the kingdom. the bureaucrats — provincial administrators, for instance — would all meet up with some regularity in the capital at kaifeng and, when they were there, one of the things they’d do was to arrange their children’s marriages between their respective families. however, in the southern song period, the elites — according to the current paradigm of teh historians — began to marry much more locally. really locally, apparently — not on a national basis, and not even on a provincial basis, but within very local areas.

the first thing that came to my mind when i heard this was that it probably just reflects the general pattern in china of closer marriage in the south than in the north. my impression so far from the little i’ve read on the history of mating patterns in china — and it is so far just an impression, so don’t quote me on this! — is that there has been a greater amount of cousin marriage in southern china than in northern china (who knows for how long?) — and as a result, there is a greater importance of clans in southern china than in the north (which there definitely is). if this general pattern is true, then it’s perhaps not surprising that marriage amongst the elites became more local in the southern song period since we’re presumably talking about elites from the south. the general pattern (if it exists) would also fit with the “flatlanders vs. mountaineers” theory of inbreeding and outbreeding, since southern china is mountainous while the north has a nice big plain.

in Portrait of a Community: Society, Culture, and the Structures of Kinship in the Mulan River Valley (Fujian) from the Late Tang Through the Song (2007), hugh clark, after looking through the genealogies of the elites in this mulan river valley place in the southern province of fujian during the southern song period, has this to say about their marriage patterns [pgs. 134-135]:

[T]hese links point to a phenomenon called ‘patrilateral cross-cousin marriage’, a pattern of reoccurring affinal exchange in which sone of a union most often took the daughters of a maternal uncle as wives [mother's brother's daughter or mbd marriage - h.chick].

Such links, which were common in traditional Chinese culture, helped to cement ties between patrilines that could render all manner of mutual assistance, be it fiscal, political, or social, to their affines.”

so…there you go. i’ll be keepin’ my eye open for more info on all this!

in The Elementary Structures of Kinship, claude lévi-strauss concluded that a preference for mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage had a long history in china. speaking of history, it’s been ages since i’ve read Elementary Structures, so i don’t recall exactly how lévi-strauss’ argument went, but apparently he based his conclusion on the kinship terms in the chinese language. lewis h. morgan thought similarly — that peoples categorize their relatives based upon which ones they were permitted to marry and which ones were forbidden to them. i happen to think this is correct. it’s not the only reason for why peoples name their relatives in the ways that they do, but it’s probably one of the main ones. thus the arabs have a pretty complicated naming system for all of their cousins, since marriage to some cousins (the father’s brother’s daughter or the bint ‘amm) is preferred. the chinese also have a complicated kinship terminology (but some of that is related to an age hierarchy/ancestor worship). most europeans, on the other hand, don’t differentiate between their cousins, since cousin marriage was banned for so long in europe. before the church’s cousin marriage bans, most (all?) europeans — especially northern europeans (the greeks are a bit of an exception in this story) — did name their cousins differently — the european naming system changed after the mating patterns changed — about three or four hundred years later in the case of the germans, for example.

anyway, i can’t quote lévi-strauss on mbd marriage in china for you, because i don’t have a copy of his book. but i can quote jack goody on lévi-strauss. from The Oriental, the Ancient and the Primitive: Systems of Marriage and the Family in the Pre-Industrial Societies of Eurasia (1990) [pg. 23]:

“Attempting a historical reconstruction which has some affinities with the parallel undertakings of L.H. Morgan (1870) and W.H.R. Rivers (1914), Levi-Strauss compares China with the Miwok of North America largely on the basis of terms for kin relationship and concludes his own study of China with words that reflect the earlier tendency to derive structure from terminology:

“‘We are thus brought to the hypothesis of the coexistence, in ancient China, of two kinship systems: the first, practised by the peasants, and based on a real or functional division into exogamous moieties, the exchange of sisters, and marriage between bilateral cross-cousins; the other, of feudal inspiration, and based on cycles of alliance between patrilineages (distributed or not into exogamous moieties), and marriage with the matrilateral cross-cousin and niece. That is, a system of restricted exchange and a system of generalized exchange.’ (1969:368-70)”

no idea if this theory bears any resemblance to reality, but it’s certainly interesting.

finally, from Why Europe? (2010), here’s michael mitterauer on china [pgs. 83-85]:

“The quite substantial differences between Europe and China are more apparent if we take the terminology of relationship as a prime indicator of kinship systems. There is no Chinese counterpart to the parallelling process [i.e. naming paternal and maternal relatives the same - h.chick] discernible in Europe from antiquity on. Quite the opposite: an exceedingly complex system of kinship terminology was further differentiated and elaborated upon in China. Claude Levi-Strauss speaks in this connection of an ‘overdetermined system’ against which he counterposes the ‘marked tendency toward *indeterminism*’ in European cultures. Historical dictionaries from after the second century BC list no fewer than 340 Chinese terms for the different relationships between kinfolk. Typical examples of this differentiation are the terms for ‘uncle.’ The European languages have managed with one word since the great transformation in its terminology, whereas Chinese has five different words, depending on whether the father’s older brother (*bo*) is meant, or his younger brother (*shu*), the mother’s brother (*jiu*), the aunt’s spouse on the father’s side (*gufu*) or on the mother’s side (*yifu*). This example illustrates the four distinguishing criteria on which this terminology is by and large based: gender, relative age, the generation, and filiation. The strict separation of the paternal and maternal lines is particularly vital. A distinction is drawn in China and Tibet between ‘relatives of the bone’ and ‘relatives of the flesh’; it also is found in a larger area stretching from India to Siberia and embracing the Mongolian and Turkic peoples of Russia. What is meant by these forms are paternal and maternal relatives, respectively, with the former being given preference. As this example demonstrates, the terminological distinction between an older and a younger brother is made only in the patriline, a differentiation that the Chinese system of kinship shares with many cultures in its extensive surroundings. It occurs as far away as southern Europe, where Indo-European roots cannot even begin to explain this significant feature. In this case we might have to think about possible influences from the steppe nomads who came from the East….

“The traditional rules of marriage in China display the same basic outlines of a strict patrilineal ordering of kinship that is found in the terminology of kinship. From the Tang dynasty [618–907 ad - h.chick] on, legal codes prohibited marriage to a woman from four classes of relatives: first and foremost, marriage to women with the same surname, then to widows of members of the same household, to women of another generation of fairly close kinship on the mother’s side or by marriage, and finally to sisters from the same mothers by a different father (half-sisters). In China identical surnames meant in principle descent from the same patriline. The ban on marriage was valid even if the common ancestor was a long way back in the male line. The Chinese family held to these basic principles of exogamy, which can be found in many other cultures in Eurasia with an analogous kinship structure. In early medieval Europe, far-reaching rules concerning exogamy were also established, but they were confined to certain degrees of relatedness. They mainly concerned the paternal and maternal lines completely symmetrically. In China, on the other hand, the emphasis on the father’s line led to crass inequalities when it came to enlarging the list of banned female marriage partners…. Marrying relatives from the mother’s side was not forbidden in principle. In earlier times, marriage in China even between cross-cousins not only used to be permitted but was common practice. Among China’s neighbors it can be found up to this day as a preferred form of marriage.”

previously: abridged history of cousin marriage in china

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those individuals who feel most strongly that they are members of their local community.

at least there’s a strong positive correlation (0.85) between the presence of the two groups in a country.

from the world values survey 2005-2008 wave, below is a chart [click on chart for LARGER view] and a table giving the percentages of people in each nation who responded that they “strongly agree” with the following statements:

- (V211) I see myself as member of my local community
- (V212) I see myself as citizen of the [country] nation

wvs - member of local community - citizen of nation

here’s the table sorted by “Citizen of nation.” i can’t see any rhyme or reason for why some peoples feel more citizen-y than others. if you can see a pattern, lemme know! certainly having a lot of people in your country who strongly identify as citizens of that country does not appear to be enough to get you a well-functioning nation: ghana? mali? egypt? japan towards the bottom of the list? hmmmm.

wvs - member of local community - citizen of nation - table

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from geert hofstede‘s national cultures, we have the individualism versus collectivism (IDV) dimension:

“The high side of this dimension, called Individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families only. Its opposite, Collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. A society’s position on this dimension is reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of ‘I’ or ‘we.’”

here i’ve made a great, big table for you! — high scorers (the individualists) at the top — low scorers (the collectivists) toward the bottom. the anglo nations i’ve highlighted in blue text — they’re mostly at the top; the father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage practitioners are in red — mostly between 25 and 40; and the east and southeast asians are in green. all of the anglo nations are in the top ten wrt to individualism (79+), and, with the exception of israel, no non-european nation scores above 50 — and israel’s population includes a good portion of european jews, so … so there. greece, croatia, bulgaria, romania, portugal, slovenia, and serbia (a lot of balkan nations there) are the european nations that score below 50 (between 25 and 35). nearly all the latin american/caribbean nations clump towards the bottom, and many of the east/southeast asian nations are down there, too. (the asterisks refer to nations that have their own entries as well as being part of hofstede’s group categories.)

individualism-collectivism hofstede

remember that it’s the individualists who seem to work together best towards the collective — the BIG collective — society as a whole — a nation, for instance. meanwhile, the “collectivists” (as hofstede calls them) — or the clannish groups (as i call them) — don’t manage to handle, or even to create, commonweals hardly at all.

most of my “core” europeans — my longest outbreeding europeans — appear in the top ten of european nations in this list: uk, netherlands, (northern) italy, belgium, denmark, france. i’m surprised germany’s not in that top ten, though — the germans come in at number 12 amongst the europeans. three populations which started outbreeding slightly (or much in the case of ireland!) later than the “core” europeans also appear in the top ten: sweden, norway, and ireland.

i’m also surprised to see hungary there! although to be honest, i don’t know anything about the history of hungarian mating patterns. i will endeavor to find out!

someone calling themselves maciamo created a map of europe using these figures, although i believe he used numbers as they stood in 2011 which have since been updated on the hofstede site — especially those for the arab world and other non-european nations — so the middle east, arab peninsula, and north africa parts of maciamo’s map should really be ignored, since many of the numbers are simply wrong (for instance, maciamo only had a general score of 38 for the arab world when he made the map, but now there are new scores of 25 for saudia arabia and kuwait).

i like this map a lot! but i think we should be a bit cautious about it, since maciamo’s methodology was a bit … involved. from what i can tell, he attempted to overlay the hofstede scores onto y-chromosome haplogroup distributions (his explanation of what he did is here). yeah … hmmmm. still, going by my gut instincts, his map looks really right! still — caution! caution. here it is. ‘sup with hungary?! [click on maps for LARGER views]:


and here is macaimo’s map with the hajnal line on it (like i like to do):

individualism-map-2 + hajnal line

have a look at the thread @eupedia, ’cause there were a lot of interesting points brought up there! and i’m liking this maciamo fellow (^_^):

“I believe that individualism is an innate (hence genetic/hereditary) trait of character. It’s opposite is collectivism…. I believe that the individualism-collectivism dichotomy is responsible for many fundamental cultural differences between European countries.”

btw, if you’re looking for something good to read this evening, check out jayman’s latest post!: How Inbred are Europeans?

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**update: the “solution” is in the comments here. see also here. (^_^) **

or an easterner (east asian)?

in which group does the flower at the bottom belong: group a or group b?

east west flowers

feel free to leave your answer in the comments and — only if you like — the reason(s) for your choice and/or your ethnic background. (^_^) (you don’t have to be specific — you can say “eastern” or “southern” european, etc., if you prefer.)

this little test was lifted from the documentary below (thanks, gottlieb!). i haven’t watched the entire thing yet, but it looks to be good!



see also t. greer’s excellent post: “West and East and How We Think.” (btw, t. greer has a really neat blog in general!)

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Diabetes’ genetic underpinnings can vary based on ethnic background, Stanford studies say – the researchers “found a clear geographic pattern in the genetics behind type-2 diabetes. The genetic risk is highest for Africans and drops along the trajectory the first humans took when migrating out of Africa toward East Asia (primarily Japan, China and Korea), where diabetes-linked genes appear to be more protective. Based solely on what is currently known about type-2 diabetes genetics, native Africans would appear to be at higher risk for diabetes, while East Asians would appear to be protected.” – see also genetic risk world map|diabetes.

Skin color affects ability to empathize with pain“Humans are hardwired to feel another person’s pain. But they may feel less innate empathy if the other person’s skin color doesn’t match their own, a new study suggests.”

Motion quotient“A brief visual task can predict IQ, according to a new study. This surprisingly simple exercise measures the brain’s unconscious ability to filter out visual movement. The study shows that individuals whose brains are better at automatically suppressing background motion perform better on standard measures of intelligence.”

Yikes! Cockroaches Evolved to Avoid Sugary Baits – natural selection is really a nuisance!

Face Blindness – greg cochran on prosopagnosia. also: Is Brad Pitt’s Face Blindness For Real?

The Italian Invasion of American Culture – from steve sailer!

A response to two critical commentaries on Woodley, te Nijenhuis & Murphy (2013) – from woodley, te nijenhuis, & murphy @dr. james thompson’s blog. see also: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” – with respect to the claim of intelligence decline since Victorian times – from bruce charlton. (ftr, i never said either that woodley, et al., made an entirely “extraordinary claim,” or that i require any extraordinary evidence.) see previous posts here and here.

More population structure in the Netherlands (Lao et al. 2013)“Clinal distribution of human genomic diversity across the Netherlands despite archaeological evidence for genetic discontinuities in Dutch population history.” – from dienekes.

New Theory Claims Humans Hunted, Ate Neanderthals

Are There Atheists in Foxholes? Combat Intensity and Religious Behavior“Study 1 shows that as combat became more frightening, the percentage of soldiers who reported praying rose from 42% to 72%.”

Marketing to the Big Data Inside Us“In your DNA are clues to your health, your ancestry, and maybe even your purchasing preferences.” – h/t charles!

Heroes of the Dark Enlightenment @radish magazine!

Liberal Race Realism – A Brief Definition – from robert lindsay – h/t hbd bibliography!

Fight Clubs: On Napoleon Chagnon“One anthropologist’s place in his field’s ongoing battle over questions of power, means and ends.”

A Brief History of Mental Illness in Art.

New ‘atheist map’ of the world dominated by China where half the country’s population describes themselves as non-believers

Syphilis, sex and fear: How the French disease conquered the world“Researching the Borgias, Sarah Dunant learnt how syphilis took Europe by storm during the 1490s, and the far reaching effects it’s had ever since.” – previously: stds and miiiind control.

bonus: Genuinely, unironically, shocked – from mr. mangan.

bonus bonus: Viruses and mucus team up to ward off bacteria“Phages may play unforeseen role in immune protection.”

bonus bonus bonus: Dog sniffs out grammar“A border collie takes command of sentence rules.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: 2-Child Limit for Muslims in Parts of Myanmar – burmese eugenics.

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: The Multiple Origins of Wine Grapes

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: What the heck is this strange red rectangle doing in our galaxy?

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A Genetic Code for Genius? – more on the bgi project.

Genetic components of political preference“[I]ndividuals tend to have a broad, evolution-based orientation toward being more conservative or liberal about various elements, such as protecting their in-group. That in-group orientation can translate into preferences on political issues such as reproductive rights, immigration, and war, as well as political behaviors such as voting behavior and political participation.”

Baby-making among non-whites by political orientation over time – from the awesome epigone.

Higher Levels of Neanderthal Ancestry in East Asians Than in Europeans (Wall et al. 2013) – @dienekes’.

Gildea (1992): A lost IQ study of transracially adopted Koreans – from jason malloy.

Unchanging Essence“Shea says that no anthropologist in his right mind would think that existing cultural variation among humans had anything to do with genetic differences between existing populations. It will be interesting to discover the alleles that made him say that.” – heh. – from greg cochran.

Obama Seeking to Boost Study of Human Brain“The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.” – via steve sailer.

Peter Turchin on the Big Picture – (on “cycles of inequality”) – from steve sailer.

Memory of chimps ‘far better than human’

Why Almost Everyone in Russia Has a Dash Cam“The sheer size of the country, combined with lax — and often corrupt — law enforcement, and a legal system that rarely favors first-hand accounts of traffic collisions has made dash cams all but a requirement for motorists. ‘You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam,’ Aleksei Dozorov, a motorists’ rights activist in Russia told Radio Free Europe last year.”

Why Children Must Inherit Their Last Names from Their Father, Not Their Mother – from kanazawa.

Bacteria boost fixes symptoms of autism in mice“[I]nfecting pregnant mice with molecules from a flu virus caused autism-like symptoms in their offspring. The pups were less social, squeaked less and displayed repetitive behaviours. They also had a ‘leaky’ gastrointestinal tract that allowed bacteria to move in and out of the lining. In addition, the bacteria present in their gut were significantly different from that found in mice without autism-like behaviour. Studies in humans have also identified links between gut bacteria and autism. For example, a 2011 study identified a significant lack of Bacteroides in children with autism.”

How Napoleon Chagnon Became Our Most Controversial Anthropologist“He spent much of the past decade working on a memoir instead’ ‘Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes — the Yanomamö and the Anthropologists,’ which comes out this month.” – heh.

The Weird Irony at the Heart of the Napoleon Chagnon Affair – definitely all very weird.

bonus: The Pilgrims as Illegal Aliens“Letting in immigrants means letting in your future rulers.”

bonus bonus: Illegal Immigrations and Black Unemployment“It’s peculiar … that those who can usually be counted on to highlight any disparity between blacks and whites — whatever the reason and no matter how slight the disparity – have said not a word about the effect of illegal immigration on blacks.”

bonus bonus bonus: Sea slug loses penis after sex but grows another the next day“Invertebrate may discard organ like a dirty needle to avoid carrying competitors’ sperm.” – ouch!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Bronze Age beads that are worth their weight in gold: 4,000-year-old burial chest unearthed on Dartmoor ‘one of most significant historical finds in a century’

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Could the sea be conscious? Research reveals how tiny plankton behave like a marine ‘megamind’

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Debate Continues: Did Your Seafood Feel Pain?“Scientists disagree on whether your seafood suffered.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Norway jails Rwandan for 21 years over role in 1994 genocide“Similar cases against Rwandans have been brought in neighbouring Sweden, Finland and Denmark.” — nordic countries’ jurisdictions extend globally (perhaps even throughout the entire solar system?) — just thought you should know.

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…is all it takes to get some of the most recognizable of racial differences between human populations.

via steve sailer, from nicholas wade in the nyt:

East Asian Physical Traits Linked to 35,000-Year-Old Mutation

“Gaining a deep insight into human evolution, researchers have identified a mutation in a critical human gene as the source of several distinctive traits that make East Asians different from other races.

The traits — thicker hair shafts, more sweat glands, characteristically identified teeth and smaller breasts — are the result of a gene mutation that occurred about 35,000 years ago, the researchers have concluded….

“The first of those sites to be studied contains the gene known as EDAR. Africans and Europeans carry the standard version of the gene, but in most East Asians, one of the DNA units has mutated.

“Seeking to understand if the gene was the cause of thicker hair in East Asians with the variant gene, a team of researchers led by Yana G. Kamberov and Pardis C. Sabeti at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., decided to test the gene in mice, where its effects could be more easily explored….

“The Broad team engineered a strain of mice whose EDAR gene had the same DNA change as the East Asian version of EDAR.

When the mice grew up, the researchers found they did indeed have thicker hair shafts, confirming that the changed gene was the cause of East Asians’ thicker hair. But the gene had several other effects, they report in Thursday’s issue of the journal Cell.

One was that the mice, to the researchers’ surprise, had extra sweat glands. A Chinese member of the team, Sijia Wang, then tested people in China and discovered that they, too, had more numerous sweat glands, evidently another effect of the gene.

Another surprise was that the engineered mice had less breast tissue, meaning that EDAR could be the reason that East Asian women have generally smaller breasts.

“East Asians have distinctively shaped teeth for which their version of EDAR is probably responsible. But the mice were less helpful on this point; their teeth are so different from humans’ that the researchers could not see any specific change….

“A team led by Dr. Sabeti and Sharon R. Grossman of the Broad Institute has now refined the usual scanning methods and identified 412 sites on the genome that have been under selection. Each site is small enough that it contains at most a single gene.

Each race has a different set of selected regions, reflecting the fact that the human population had dispersed from its African homeland and faced different challenges that led to genetic adaptation on each continent. About 140 of the sites affected by natural selection are in Europeans, 140 in East Asians and 132 in Africans, the authors report in another article published Thursday in Cell….

so cool!

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one of the reasons seems to have been that the policy was, indeed, part of the modernization/westernization move in late-nineteenth century japan (sort-of the opposite of what happened in the maghreb/mashriq/parts of south asia when they went through an arabization process — oops! — bad luck).

from “Japan’s Outcaste Abolition: The struggle for national inclusion and the making of the modern state” [pgs. 82-83] (the “new commoners” referred to here are the burakumin whose social status changed with the “edict abolishing ignoble classes” — they were literally new commoners after moving up in the world [theoretically anyway]. “eta” also=burakumin. links added by me.):

“[O]ne of the main government aims of the time was to improve the national stock so as to maximize economic productivity and military power, as expressed in the slogan ‘rich country, strong military’. Although eugenics as a scientific discipline was not introduced into Japan until the end of the Meiji period, the Meiji government had from its inception followed policies to foster stronger and healthier Japanese bodies through its encouragement of milk-drinking and meat-eating, as well as through its public hygiene and health policies. If there was a hereditary and inferior Eta nature that was biologically transmitted, then it would be in the national interest to minimize relationships between New Commoners and others.

“The leaders of the semi-official Greater Japan Private Hygiene Association, whose purpose was to improve the nation’s human resources and to heighten people’s value as labour and military power, made explicit this connection between state interests and individual health. At this body’s inaugural assembly in 1883, its president and the future head of the Japanese Red Cross, Sano Tsunetami (1822-1902), declared that, ‘the health of each of us is related to whether our country shall be strong or weak, rich or poor’. Another executive, the medical doctor Hasegawa Yasushi (1842-1912), pronounced that the association’s aim was to ‘make the nation healthy, foster the strength that is the font of capital, [...] and thereby increase militarisation’.

“Intellectuals debated precisely how the state might realize the goal of improving its human resources. Based on notions of a racial hierarchy topped by Westerners, holders of one extreme view proposed that Japanese people should interbreed with Western people. ‘The physiques and minds of Japanese are inferior to Westerners’, one writer argued, going on to propose that ‘we should import [Western] women…”

heh! (~_^)

“…and promote meat-eating to further improve our race’. While the latter idea about eating more meat proved popular, the former proved contentious. Hozumi Yatsuka attacked plans for racial interbreeding on the grounds it would adversely affect ancestor worship, a practice that in his opinion underpinned the Japanese nation.

“In somewhat more scientific fashion, the pre-eminent conservative intellectual Kato Hiroyuki pointed out in 1887 that if Westerners were racially superior and their genes dominant, then rather than improving the Japanese race, intermarriage between Western women and Japanese men would lead logically and unacceptably to the eventual replacement and disappearance of Japanese. Partly as a result of such criticisms, Japanese scholars ‘tended to emphasise environmental elements over genetics’, and devised practical plans to improve the population by reforming and improving people’s lifestyles.

People who looked at ways to reform popular lifestyles from the perspectives of national health and state power turned their attention to improving sanitation and diet and also drew attention to the problem of ‘inbreeding’ or marriages between close blood relatives. They considered inbreeding practices to be widespread, and thus to pose a serious problem, since they gave rise to disease and deformity, and ultimately would bring about ‘racial decline’. In light of these unwanted effects, intellectuals and officials called on people to desist from such unions.

“There had been occasional attacks on inbreeding during the early Meiji years. In 1875, Minoura Katsundo (1854-1929), a student of Fukuzawa Yukichi, had bemoaned the fact that alliances between close blood relatives were causing aristocratic degeneracy. Such claims were countered, however, by arguments that inbreeding was necessary to maintain the purity of aristocratic bloodlines. But growing out of a more general concern with ‘racial improvement’ among the socio-political elite, the concern with inbreeding that emerged in the latter part of the Meiji period was much broader in its focus, and it was given legal grounding by the 1898 Civil Code, which prohibited marriages between close relatives.

my questions are: first, what does “close relatives” mean? presumably first cousins anyway. then, how well was this civil code enforced? or was it changed at some point? or did the japanese not have to register their marriages with the state? or were there a lot of exemptions or something? because if there was a law banning cousin marriage in japan, why then were 22.4% of marriages in japan in the 1910s-1920s between cousins? (i actually saw a figure of 50% in something i was reading yesterday — need to find it again.) lots of looking the other way by officials? bribery? what was going on?

more from the book:

“A noteworthy aspect of the mid-to-late-Meiji anti-inbreeding campaign was that writers alleged that practice to be prevalent among New Commoners. Their claims may have had the effect of discouraging some people from inbreeding practices, as presumably the threat of becoming alike to New Commoners constituted a powerful disincentive. Such claims may have had some basis in the fact that discrimination limited the marriage pool of New Commoners and thus promoted community endogamy. But to target New Commoners as particular practitioners of this ‘offence’ was to ignore the fact that marriage relations between close relatives were not all uncommon among the population generally, and were prevalent especially among the upper reaches of society.”

previously: japan – reversal of fortune? and historic mating patterns in japan

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