Over the years, many JewishGenners have been curious about perceived East Asian physical traits (especially eye shapes) in certain members of their Ashkenazic families and genetic tests that assigned some of them tiny percentages of East Asian ancestry. Some of these posters speculated that the traits and genes could have come from Khazars, Mongols, or Tatars. If the source(s) had been Mongols, they feared that rape had been responsible.
The good news is we definitely didn't get these from rapists since the actual contributors were not men. The scientific evidence for the source population wasn't revealed in earlier JewishGen messages (I searched the archive).
Now we know that in medieval times, probably the 1200s or 1300s, a Chinese woman traveled west on the Silk Road and she ended up becoming probably the first Chinese person to permanently settle in Europe, and not only that but she converted to Judaism and married a Jewish man and had at least one daughter and at least one granddaughter and her lineage continued from there, all raised in the Jewish community. Sadly, we'll never learn her name or hometown or life story, which were unrecorded. Obviously, if the Chinese settler had been a man instead, we would have been likely able to determine his surname by looking through a Y-DNA (paternal) match list.
It goes without saying that her native language and traditions didn't pass down to us to any degree. What she did pass down is her mitochondrial sequence. Scientists identified a mtDNA (maternal) haplogroup called M33c that is found mostly among Chinese ethnicities. Its daughter branch M33c2 is also found among Chinese, specifically at least Han Chinese in Sichuan province, but also among Ashkenazic Jews from Eastern Europe. (Not among the original German Jews.)
Deborah Schilmeister Levenstein's great-uncle was right!
In addition, the East Asian haplogroups A and N9a3 among Ashkenazim likely came from Chinese women, too.
I had already provided some preliminary details to Mike Rothenberg via private email in March 2014 so his question in message #32910 from November 2017 surprises me. Anyway, I wanted you all to know what I know.
Jiao-Yang Tian, Hua-Wei Wang, et al., "A Genetic Contribution from the Far East into Ashkenazi Jews via the Ancient Silk Road," Scientific Reports 5 (February 11, 2015): article no. 8377.
Kevin Alan Brook, "The Chinese Lady who Joined the Ashkenazic People," Jewish Times Asia, March 2015, page 19.
Kevin Alan Brook, The Jews of Khazaria, Third Edition (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2018) on pages 203-204.
In reply to:
Deborah Schilmeister Levenstein, Message #306386:
"The men in his family.....my ggrandfather, my zeyde, and my greazt-uncles and great aunt all looked decidedly Asian. One great-uncle often referred to himself as a 'Chinaman.'"
Victoria Fisch Reed, Message #199956:
"our cousin, the former DA of San Bernadino, was often mistaken for Chinese or Mexican, and I own a photograph of perhaps a great-great grandfather (we've never been sure) taken sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century, whose eyes have a decidely Asian appearance. In addition, I was in New York this weekend and got to see my first cousin's son [...] He said to me that he had forgotten this incident, but that when he was young and moved to Texas, some of the kids didn't want to play ball with him because they thought he was Korean and didn't speak English."
Andrea King, Message #257965:
"Many of the descendants of my Great Great Grandfather Aaron Bennett (including my grandma) had asian shaped eyes!"
Eric Benjaminson, Message #257421:
"We have always wondered why one of the defining physical features of male Benjaminsons is an oriental cast to our eyelids."
Joe Hirschfeld, Message #520299:
"That is why I'm told many Jews of European ancestry have an Asiatic look. This may be a myth, but that look is true in my family- one aunt particularly and a few cousins."
Ann Rabinowitz, Message #267391:
"There are many Jews who have slightly "oriental" eyes from the Baltics including several of my family."
Anne Lapidus Brest, Message #168583:
"In my ex husband's family [...] many family members have "Oriental" features. More so in the older family members, but it has carried down through the generations and my daughter has "Oriental" eyes. Where would this come from? The family are from Latvia."
Evelyn Filippi, Message #200011:
Evelyn thought Israelis whose ancestors lived in Russia, unlike other Israelis, "had the look of Mongol to me . They had it in the eyes."
Charles Nydorf, Message #31737:
"A component associated with East Asian populations like the Hmong of China is .2% among the Sephardim and .8% among the Ashkenazim. These numbers are small but higher among the Ashkenazim as would be expected."