The Chinese were white – until white men called them yellow

How did East Asians come to be referred to as yellow-skinned? It was the result of a series of racial mappings of the world and had nothing to do with the actual colour of people’s skin.

In fact, when complexion was mentioned by an early Western traveller or missionary or ambassador (and it very often wasn’t, because skin colour as a racial marker was not fully in place until the 19th century), East Asians were almost always called white, particularly during the period of first…



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