How has the Chinese population changed the demographics in Asia?

Chinese culture
[1] The Chinese always had a migration to other Asian countries, but for what exact reasons?

Have you ever encountered a time when someone asked you where you were from, and they told you you were from a different country? For example, you would say you were from Shanghai, China and someone would mutter, Is that in Japan? Certainly, when you are not accustomed to a set of people you would mistaken them easily. Bringing this into context, how and why exactly do the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysians and Singaporeans look so similar? In this article, I hope to explore the impetuses and effects of Chinese migration throughout Asia, namely countries like 1) Japan, 2) Vietnam, 3) Malaysia and Singapore.

1) Japan
Map of Japan - Ryukyu Islands
[2] A map of the Ryukyu Islands, Japan.

One of the earliest migration of the Chinese people was to Japan. As Chinese legend has it, a sorcerer named Xu Fu was sent abroad by the stern Emperor Qing Shi Huang to Mount Fuji. Xu’s mission was to retrieve an elixir of life for His Majesty. [3] However, despite his efforts, the sorcerer was unable to find anything and was reluctant to return, as execution would await him. Eventually, Xu stayed in Japan and began a new wave of Chinese migration to Japan. [3]

The Ryukyuan Islands was believed to have remained undeveloped until around the 12th century. It was not until after many Chinese Civil Wars under the Chinese Emperor Taizu (1368-1398) that there was a change in the demographics of the Japanese island. [4] It has to be noted that the Taizu’s legacy, or indeed, the Ming Dynasty, was to rule for three centuries. Keeping in mind that China was deemed as the middle country or 中國 then, the powerful Chinese ruler called all barbarian states in the region to submit to China, prohibiting the free sea navigation and trade routes within the region. This was key, as according to Belgian historian Katrien Hendrickx, it could be seen as a civilising and diplomatic mission. [4]

In Okinawa, one of the main islands, it was divided into three main principalities – Hokuzan (北山), Chuzan (中山) and Nanzan (南山). [4] These would translate directly from Chinese or Japanese as North, Middle and South Mountain or constituencies. China’s diplomatic prestige in the South Seas were key, as Satto gave an oath of allegiance, offering gifts and in return, was offered the title of King of Chuzan, or the Middle Mountain region of the Okinawa Islands. Moreover, in 1392, the Ming Emperor had sent 36 families, as a symbol to imply many people for colonisation in the region. [4] These families were key, as they were to administer the Nahan border within the Ryukyuan Islands. Eventually, this opened the door for increasingly more seamen and merchants, who travelled to and fro, finding entrepreneurial routes between the islands and China. From then onwards, this developed a strong Chinese community, one that maintained their own modes of life, customs and dresses. [4]

2) Vietnam
Map of Southern Chinese territories
[5] The highlighted region showing the Nanyue colony, comprising of south Chinese regions (Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan) and north Vietnam.

In 207 BCE, under the Chinese general Zhao Tuo, the southern Chinese regions of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan, together with northern Vietnam was conquered and administered principally by himself. [6, 7] This was named, according to American academic Walker, Au-lac, signifying a pacified southern region. We have to be vigilant here though, as there were many names given to this region – for example Nanyue as well.

Vietnam was split into two main ethnic constituencies – Lac Viet and Au Viet. [7] This colony was to be a centre of refugees, convicts and officers of the Han Dynasty for a full 1,000 years, of which most were men. This was significant, as men married Viet local women, and their offspring became part of the local population. Throughout the Han rule, the Vietnamese rose up through Ngo Quyen in 939 A.D. and Nguyen Trai, as part of a political struggle to gain full sovereignty for their nation. [7] This was key, as until 1829, the Vietnamese people wanted to establish a distinct Vietnamese identity amongst the Ming-Huong or Sino-Vietnamese people. Moreover, they were allowed local political rights, and assimilate to their local culture, customs and etiquette, only if they did not return to China. [6]

3) Malaysia/Singapore

[8] Map of Malaysia and Singapore.

Malaysia and Singapore have been grouped as they were both common destinations for employment in the Asian continent by the Chinese. The Malaysian Peninsula’s demographics divided into the Chinese North, Indian West, and the Dutch East Indian or Indonesian South. Since the 14th century, there has been immigration to Temaisik or Old Singapore. [9] Eventually, the Chinese diaspora expanded to Penang, Malacca and Singapore. Under British, Portuguese and Dutch rule in each of these areas, compounded with the aftermath of the Great Depression in 1929 and the outbreak of World War Two in the Asian theatre (1941-1945), the Chinese travelled from their native Guangdong and Fukien provinces for employment, family visits and retirement purposes. [9] This was fundamental, as there were kheh thaws who were professional recruiters, and the sin khah who were the new recruits or contracters.

Under the Chinese Immigration and Alien Ordinances inaugurated in 1887 and 1933 respectively, this was to limit the outflow of Chinese male immigrants to the Malaysian Peninsula. However, this was key again, as the Indian community, being part of the British royal subjects were not affected. [8] This problem prolonged until the independence of Singapore in 1966 under Lee Kwan Yew and the People’s Action Party (PAP) for Chinese sovereignty over the other Indian and Malayan inhabitants.

The Chinese diaspora to various countries namely Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore were down to colonisation, imperialism and in search of employment. In Japan and Vietnam alike, we have seen two examples of how the Ming and Han Dynasties have sent merchants, civilians or armies to spread their sphere of influence within the region. In turn, these Sino-Japanese and Sino-Vietnamese families blended together as one distinct culture, both of which were free to practise their own type of religion and customs. With Malaysia and Singapore, there has not been as significant of a population exodus by the Chinese community until the aftermath and outbreak of the Great Depression and the Second World War, in search of employment, family visits and retirement. Similar to their early Sino-Japanese and Sino-Vietnamese counterparts in Okinawa and northern Vietnam, the Chinese migrants in Malaysia struggled to find their equality amongst the locals, which caused a lot of politico-social struggles, and the eventual Singaporean independence in 1965 by Lee Kwan Yew and the PAP.

In my personal opinion, I think that through many modes of colonisation and employment opportunities, the Chinese were able to achieve their own sphere of influence within the Asian continent. Obviously, when we speak of colonial powers, we tend to get winded up in the great maritime powers – Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Holland. China can be regarded differently with their impetus of spreading their cultural and economical influences across others, so that trade can flow readily back to the mainland. This is key, as this could be applied to the modern globalised world, where China is an imperial power, in the sense of being an economic and imposing country on weaker and considerably poorer countries found in Africa, South America and Asia. That might be a pointer for how to understand the notion behind encouraging the diaspora of the Chinese communities abroad not only in Asia, but perhaps in another article, to other continents and countries like America, Europe and Canada. I do not want to be far-fetched in my article, but many questions arise from this and we, particularly, as the global audience, could question the effects of these mixed societies that the Chinese bring in abundance to their adopted countries.

Right that is it from me for now, as the university year is fast approaching. I really hope you have enjoyed all my reads so far, despite it being difficult to find a suitable and encapsulating enough of a topic to analyse. If there are any comments you like to say, do not forget to write them below. Thanks a lot and bye for now! 🙂

Signed from your respective blogger,


[3] Lee, C. K., Japan: Between Myth and Reality, (London, World Scientific Publishing Ltd., 1995), Pages 7-8,, date of access: 20/9/2013
[4] Hendrickx, K., The Origins of Banana-Fibre Cloth in the Ryukyus: Japan, (Leuven, Leuven University Press, 2007), Pages 38-41,, date of access: 20/9/2013
[6] Phuong, H. T., “Chapter 8: Ethnic Chinese in Vietnam and Their Identity”, in Suryadinata, L., Ethnic Chinese as South-East Asians, (ed.), (Singapore, South East Asian Studies, 1997), Pages 267-272,, date of access: 20/9/2013
[7] Walker, D. H., East Asia: A New History, (Bloomington, Author House Ltd., 2012), Page 107,, date of access: 20/9/2013
[9] Saw, H-S., The Population of Peninsular Malaysia, 2nd ed., (Singapore, ISEAS Publishing, 2007), Pages 10-18,, date of access: 20/9/2013


Who were the pioneers of aviation?

[1] Da Vinci’s flying machine was a testament to birds, a species that the genius himself studied to invent something to rule the skies. 

This article I hope to answer a thesis that could help all readers learn something new. I am striving for that sort of feat, and I am reaching that moment when every article is difficult to reproduce the former’s quality. I have always been fascinated by inventions themselves, how it took the world by storm and revolutionised our way of life socially, politically or even militarily. I have divided this study into three main parts – one being the ancient, the Renaissance and the other being the early modern parts. Regarding the ancient sector and Renaissance, this analysis will incorporate the building blocks of aviation through ancient Greco-Roman experiments and designs by the Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci. I will continue with early modern inventors – the Montgolfier and Wright Brothers, known for contributing in the fabrication of the hot-air balloon and airplane inventions. Comments are appreciated.


1) Ancient Era – Chinese, Greeks and Romans 

Many of the ancient attempts to rule the skies came down to countless experiments. Most people including me would see aviation derived from birds being pioneered by Leonardo da Vinci, but the Roman engineer, Archytas of Tarentum had constructed a wooden bird on a rotating rod, propelled by steam in circa 400 B.C. [2] Around 600 years later, the Chinese used kites as a way to perform religious ceremonies and to test weather conditions. [2, 3] Moreover, under the guidance of Greek scientist, Hero of Alexandria, invented the aeolipile. A container, a circle with two L-shaped tubes at either end, is filled with water and heated. [3] From this, the steam evaporates and rotates the whole container, essentially creating the very first engine model for flight engineering.


2) The Renaissance Era – Da Vinci and his passion for flight  

During the mid-15th century, a young Da Vinci was intrigued by many ways to conquer the skies. Through much observation of birds and bats’ bone structures, coupling with human anatomy, condition during flight (wind direction, speed weather) and dissection of these animals, Da Vinci was able to create many inventions – including those of parachutes, helicopters, ornithopters (aircraft that is flown manually by flapping its wings rather than fixed wings that modern mechanic airplanes have), man-generated airplane and the human eagle, but to name a few [2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. This was significant, as the Renaissance Man drew up many plans in his famous notebooks, portfolios and letters. Although it was believed that he was unsuccessful with his experiments, it can definitely be noted that Da Vinci was the pioneer of the aviation. It would take the world another 400 years to conquer the skies with Sir George Cayley and Lilienthal’s gliders in the 18th and 19th century respectively [7]. Unfortunately, however, according to Martin Kemp, a renowned art historian from Oxford University, has observed that despite Da Vinci’s appreciation for natural processes, he did not have extensive knowledge on dynamics and statics [8]. As a result, this hampered the chances for his works to succeed properly. I would highly recommend watching these modern replicas of Da Vinci’s works or design concepts on aviation machines: 1), 2) and 3)


3.1) Early Modern Era – Montgolfier Brothers- hot-air balloon

The Montgolfier Brothers, Joseph and Etienne observed that hot air rises, most notably as smoke carries unburned paper in the air. From this analogy, they began their first major experiment in November 1782, and filled small silk bags with rising smoke [2]. Little was known that around 80 years ago, in 1709, Bartolomeu Laurenco de Gusmao had already delighted the Portuguese royalty with his discovery. Under the guidance of Professor Charles in the Académie des Sciences in Paris, he had suggested to use hydrogen with the hot-air balloon [2]. This was significant, as hydrogen was extremely flammable particularly on silk fabrics. Consequently, with the Robert brothers – Marie-Noël and Jean-Robert, they had recommend to use silk covered with rubber to propel the hot-air balloon. This was proudly exhibited in the nobility areas around the Eiffel Tower [2]. Here is a reasonably long documentary clip about their invention:

3.2) Early Modern Era – Wright Brothers – airplanes 

Wilbur and Orville Wright, two Americans of English descent from Ohio, were deeply inspired by German engineer Lilienthal, a developer in the glides. The Wright Brothers, armed with their talent, humility and passion for aeronautics, were in a quest to find adjustment of the wings to the right and left, enabling angles for the plane to fly properly. [9] Throughout their careers, like their predecessors, the Wright Brothers were very much in the case of trial and error, perfecting each of the inventions until it reached to a functioning point. For example, in 1903, they had made their own motor propeller with 12 horsepower units. This was significant, as the French historian, Charles Dolfus, observed in French, that they have changed the face of the earth. [9] Later in the year on December 17th 1903, they were recognised to have created an aircraft, the Flyer I, where it were to embark and set off by itself from the ground at 30 mph. Furthermore, in 1904, the Flyer II was fabricated and with 80 short flights, the Wright Brothers were able to practise controlling and manoeuvring the aircraft for around 45 minutes, as opposed to many their European counterparts for around 5 minutes. [9] However, unfortunately for Wilbur and Orville, their invention failed when the media wanted to showcase their invention. In the end, the Flyer II was burned, and works for a more sturdy craft in the Flyer III followed. Here is raw footage of the Wright Brothers in Le Mans, France, exhibiting their glider in public:

In summary, the ancient Romans, Chinese and Greeks were the starting blocks for aviation, recorded in history as some small-scale designs, namely the wooden bird, kite and the aeolipile, all contributed in future designs. It must be noted that the aviation process was a trial and error, a development that crossed centuries until the modern ages to perfect.


Firstly, Leonardo da Vinci, with his copious pamphlets, notebooks and extensive research, put forward many designs that were inspired by birds with the motion during flight, particularly that of the ornithopters. Unfortunately, these designs only worked in theory and on paper, it was not until around 400 years later that modern scientists, engineers and art historians began to collaborate to assess the liability of his inventions. Remaining in Europe, we have the Montgolfier Brothers, who were mistaken to be the first bunch to invent the hot-air balloon, as with the Portuguese, Bartolomeu Laurenco de Gusmao, who had already delighted the Portuguese royalty with his discovery. They must be accredited, however, to have joint efforts with Professor Charles and the Robert brothers to create a rubber-coated fabric so that the then newly-discovered gas of hydrogen could burn harmlessly and raise the aircraft into the skies. Finally, we have the Wright Brothers, whose gliders and aircrafts, called the Flyer I, II and III, inspired by the German engineer Lilienthal, enabled their machines to be the recognised as the first to go aloft for around 30 to 45 minutes. I hope you have enjoyed your read on here once again, and I shall return in the next edition soon enough, so stay tune for more! 🙂




[2] Berliner, D., Aviation: Reaching for the Sky,, Page 8-9, 13-18




[6], Pages 56-57


[8] Kemp, M., Leonardo Da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006),, date of access: 7/9/2013

[9] Gibbs-Smith, H. C., The Wright Brothers: Aviation pioneers and their work 1899-1911, (NMSI Trading Ltd., London, 2002),, Pages 3-14, date of access: 8/9/2013