[T]he main ancestry of high-altitude Tibeto-Burman speakers originated from the ancestors of Houli/Yangshao/Longshan ancients in the middle and lower Yellow River basin, consistent with the common North-China origin of Sino-Tibetan language and dispersal pattern of millet farmers.
Zhang et al. (2019) performed a computational phylogenetic analysis of 109 Sino-Tibetan languages to suggest a Sino-Tibetan homeland in northern China near the Yellow River basin. The study further suggests that there was an initial major split between the Sinitic languages and the Tibeto-Burman languages approximately 4,200 to 7,800 years ago [2200 BCE to 5800 BCE] (with an average of 5,900 years ago [3900 BCE]), associating this expansion with the Yangshao culture and/or the later Majiayao culture. Sagart et al. (2019) also performed another phylogenetic analysis based on different data and methods to arrive at the same conclusions with respect to the homeland and divergence model, but proposed an earlier root age of approximately 7,200 years ago [5200 BCE], associating its origin with the late Cishan and early Yangshao culture.
There are two most likely centers of domestication for rice as well as the development of the wetland agriculture technology.
The Tai-Kadai LanguagesThe first, and most likely, is in the lower Yangtze River, believed to be the homelands of the pre-Austronesians and possibly also the Kra-Dai, and associated with the Kauhuqiao, Hemudu, Majiabang, Songze, Liangzhu, and Maqiao cultures. It is characterized by pre-Austronesian features, including stilt houses, jade carving, and boat technologies. Their diet were also supplemented by acorns, water chestnuts, foxnuts, and pig domestication.The second is in the middle Yangtze River, believed to be the homelands of the early Hmong-Mien-speakers and associated with the Pengtoushan, Nanmuyuan, Liulinxi, Daxi, Qujialing, and Shijiahe cultures. Both of these regions were heavily populated and had regular trade contacts with each other, as well as with early Austroasiatic speakers to the west, and early Kra-Dai speakers to the south, facilitating the spread of rice cultivation throughout southern China.By the late Neolithic (3500 to 2500 BC), population in the rice cultivating centers had increased rapidly, centered around the Qujialing-Shijiahe culture and the Liangzhu culture. Liangzhu and Shijiahe declined abruptly in the terminal Neolithic (2500 to 2000 BC). With Shijiahe shrinking in size, and Liangzhu disappearing altogether. This is largely believed to be the result of the southward expansion of the early Sino-Tibetan Longshan culture. ... This period also coincides with the southward movement of rice-farming cultures to the Lingnan and Fujian regions, as well as the southward migrations of the Austronesian, Kra-Dai, and Austroasiatic-speaking peoples to Mainland Southeast Asia and Island Southeast Asia. A genomic study also indicates that at around this time, a global cooling event (the 4.2 k event) led to tropical japonica rice being pushed southwards, as well as the evolution of temperate japonica rice that could grow in more northern latitudes.
The high diversity of Kra–Dai languages in Southern China points to the origin of the Kra–Dai language family in Southern China. The Tai branch moved south into Southeast Asia only around 1000 CE.
The spread of japonica rice cultivation to Southeast Asia started with the migrations of the Austronesian Dapenkeng culture into Taiwan between 3500 and 2000 BC (5,500 BP to 4,000 BP). The Nanguanli site in Taiwan, dated to ca. 2800 BC, has yielded numerous carbonized remains of both rice and millet in waterlogged conditions, indicating intensive wetland rice cultivation and dryland millet cultivation. A multidisciplinary study using rice genome sequences indicate that tropical japonica rice was pushed southwards from China after a global cooling event (the 4.2k event) that occurred approximately 4,200 years ago.
A genetically based conclusion that the Hmong-Mien peoples are a comparatively recent offshoot of the Mon-Khmer peoples, something that linguistic analysis has not reached consensus upon, is a finding of considerable importance in parsing out the prehistory of Southeast Asia, even though the hypothesis that Mon-Khmer and Hmong-Mien both belong to a macrolinguistic family (sometimes called Yangtzean) has existed for some time as one of several efforts to link the languages of South China and Southeast Asia into linguistic macrofamilies. An expanded study of Y-DNA population genetics in Southeast Asia by Chinese researchers, confirms that close genetic ties of Mon-Khmer (a.k.a. Austro-Asiatic when the Munda of India are also included) and Hmong-Mien peoples, at least in the patriline, focusing on the O3a3b-M7 Y-DNA haplogroup where the Mon-Khmer appearing at a basal position while Hmong-Mien and Tibeto-Burmese individuals with this hapologroup have subhaplogroups more on the fringes of this patriline tree. O3a3c1-M117, the dominant East Asian haplogroup shows a similar pattern.