Ah Xiang is wrong the founders of Chinese civilization were black people “min li”. The use of li, to denote Chinese tanned by the sun was the association of the tsung-jen character, with li, the ancient designation of the original founders of Chinese civilization.
In the Chinese literature the Blacks were called li-min, Kunlung, Ch'iang (Qiang), Yi and Yueh. The founders of the Xia Dynasty and the Shang Dynasties were blacks. These blacks were called Yueh and Qiang. The modern Chinese are descendants of the Zhou. The second Shang Dynasty ( situated at Anyang) was founded by the Yin. As a result this dynasty is called Shang-Yin. The Yin or Oceanic Mongoloid type is associated with the Austronesian speakers ( Kwang-chih Chang, "Prehistoric and early historic culture horizons and traditions in South China", Current Anthropology, 5 (1964) pp.359-375 :375). The Austronesian or Oceanic Mongoloid type were called Yin, Feng, Yen, Zhiu Yi and Lun Yi.
In Chinese min=people and li= black (see L. Wieger, Chinese Characters (1915)).The Chinese classics make it clear that the Min Li, meant "Black people" not young Chinese or peasant Chinese. In the "Shu King", we read that "In the Canon of Yao, we discover that Yu "…regulated and polished the people of his domain, who all became brightly intelligent. Finally, he united and harmonized the myriad States of the empire; and lo! The black people were transformed". In this passage "min li is used to describe all the people in the Empire, not just the peasants or the young people. In Book II, it was written that Kao yao "…with vigorous activity sowing abroad his virtue, which has decended on the black people, till they cherish him in their hearts". Again the term li min was applied to the people of the empire and not just a particular group.
The term li min means "black people". The term for peasant had nothing to do with li min. The term for peasant comes from the tsung-jen character which is formed by a group of three men usually placed under a sun, signifying that they are working on the farm in the sun. In later periods many Chinese writers began to called the tsung-jen character li min, so as to associate this sign with the ancient designation of the Shang and Xia people who were "black or Oceanic/African people", not yellow people "browned by the sun".