For the journal, see Asian Culture (journal).
The continent of Asia is commonly divided into geographic and cultural subregions, including Central Asia, East Asia, North Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and West Asia. While linked together on a geographical continent, there has been little unity or common history between the many cultures and peoples there. Asian art, music, and cuisine, as well as literature are all important parts of Asian culture. Eastern philosophy and religion, including Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam, also play major roles. One of the most complex parts of modern Asian culture is the East-West dichotomy, as increasing Western influence clashes with traditional ideals.
Nationalities and ethnic groups
There is an abundance of ethnic and racial groups throughout Asia, with adaptations to the climate zones of Asia. Some groups are primarily hunter-gatherers, some practice transhumance (nomadic lifestyle), others have been agrarian/rural for millennia and others are becoming industrial/urban. Some nationalities are completely urban, like in Singapore and Hong Kong. Colonial rule in Asia largely died out by the late 20th century due to national drives for independence and self-determination across the continent.
Main articles: East Asian cultural sphere and East Asia
East Asia is usually thought to consist of China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The dominant influence historically has been China, though in modern times, cultural exchange has flowed more bi-directionally. Major characteristics of this region include shared Chinese-derived language characteristics, as well as shared religion, especially Buddhism and Taoism. There is also a shared social and moral philosophy derived from Confucianism. Most of East Asia practices Mahayana Buddhism.
The Chinese script is the oldest continuously used writing system in the world, and has long been a unifying force in East Asia as the medium for conveying Chinese culture. It's historically used throughout the region, and is still used in by ethnic Chinese throughout the world, as well as in Japan and to a small and waning extent in South Korea. Within China, the meanings of the characters remain generally unchanged from region to region, though their pronunciations differ. This is because Classical Chinese was long the written language of all China, and was replaced by Mandarin as the national written language in the twentieth century.
Chinese writing was passed to Japan and Vietnam in the post-classical era. In Japan, the set of Chinese characters used are called Kanji and form a major component of the Japanese writing system. In the 9th century, the Japanese developed their own writing system called Kana (Hiragana and Katakana) which support Kanji, thus establishing the Japanese language. Today, both ideograph Kanji and syllabary Kana is used in mixture in Japanese. In Vietnam, Chinese script (Han Tu) was used during the millennium under the influence of China, with the vernacular Chu Nom script are also used since 13th century. However, this has now (since the early 20th century) been replaced completely by the Latin Alphabet-based Quoc Ngu. In the 15th century, Korea developed an alphabet system called Hangul to make writing and communication easier for its commoners.
Though Korea, Japan and Vietnam are not Chinese speaking regions, their languages have been influenced by the Chinese greatly. However, most of these languages are different enough from Chinese to be considered parts of different language families, such as Vietnamese, an Austro-Asiatic language; Japanese, a Japonic language; and Korean, a Koreanic language; all differing from Chinese, a Sino-Tibetan language. Even though their writing systems have changed over time, Chinese is still found in the historical roots of many borrowed words. In modern times, Chinese is also influenced by other Asian languages, such as by modern technical and political terms created in Japan to represent western concepts. For example, 文化 (culture), 文明 (civilization), 人民 (people), 経済 (economy), 共和 (republic) and 哲学 (philosophy) are borrowed words from Japanese to Chinese, known as wasei-kango.
Apart from the unifying influence of Confucianism, Buddhism, Chinese characters, and other Chinese Cultural Influences, there is nevertheless much diversity between the countries of the region such as different religions, national costumes, languages, writing systems, cuisines, traditional music and so on.
Main article: Ethnic groups of South Asia
Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam are the major world religions founded in South Asia. While about 80% of Indians and Nepalis are Hindus, Sri Lanka and Bhutan have a majority of Buddhists. Islam is the predominant religion of Afghanistan and Maldives (99%), Pakistan (96%) and Bangladesh (90%). Catholicism has a minor presence due to the efforts of colonial missionaries. About 2% of Indians are Catholics.
Much like China is the cultural center of East Asia, India is the cultural center of South Asia.
Pakistan is split with its two western regions of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa sharing a greater Iranic heritage due to the native Pashtuns and Baloch people of the regions. Its two eastern regions of Punjab and Sindh share cultural links to Northwest India. Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal share a common heritage and culture based on the Bengali language. The Culture of India is diverse and a complex mixture of many influences. Nepal is culturally linked to both India and Tibet and the varied ethnic groups of the country share many of the festivals and cultural traditions used and celebrated in North and East India and Tibet. Nepali, the dominant language of Nepal uses the Devanagari alphabet which is also used to write many North Indian languages.Bhutan is a culturally linked to Tibet with significant influences from India. Tibetan Buddhism is the dominant religion in Bhutan and the Tibetan alphabet is used to write Dzongkha, the dominant language of Bhutan. There is a cultural and linguistic divide between North and South India. Sri Lanka is culturally tied to both India and Southeast Asia.Sinhalese, the dominant language in the country is written in the Sinhalese alphabet which is derived from the Kadamba-Pallava alphabet, certain cultural traditions, and aspects of its cuisine, for example, show South Indian influences. Cultural festivals, aspects of its cuisine and Theravada Buddhism, the dominant religion in Sri Lanka, show a Southeast Asian affinity.
Indo-Aryan languages are spoken in Pakistan, Sinhalese of Sri Lanka and most of North, West and East India and Nepal. Dravidian languages are spoken in South India and in Sri Lanka by the Tamil community. Tibeto-Burman languages are spoken in the North and North East India. Iranic Languages are spoken in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan. The main languages of Afghanistan are Pashto and Dari.
Southeast Asia consists of Mainland Southeast Asia, and Maritime Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia is usually thought to include Myanmar (previously known as Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor. As the crossroads of the maritime Silk Road trade network since ancient times, the region has been greatly influenced by the cultures and religions of the neighboring regions of India and China as well as by the religions Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism. The culture of Southeast Asian nations is diverse, ranging from tribal culture to sophisticated civilizations that created architectural wonders such as Angkor of Cambodia and Borobudur of Indonesia.
Buddhist culture has a lasting and significant impact in mainland Indochina nations (Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam); most Buddhists in Indochina practice Theravada Buddhism. In the case of Vietnam, it is also influenced much by Confucianism and the culture of China. Myanmar has also been exposed to Indian cultural influences. Before the 14th century, Hinduism and Buddhism were the dominant religions of Southeast Asia. Thereafter, Islam became dominant in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Southeast Asia has also had a lot of Western influence due to the lasting legacy of colonialism. One example is the Philippines which has been heavily influenced by America and Spain, with Christianity (Catholicism) as the dominant religion. East Timor also demonstrates Portuguese influence through colonialism, as it is a predominantly Christian nation.
A common feature found around the region are stilt houses. These houses are elevated on stilts so that water can easily pass below them in case of a flood. Another shared feature is rice paddy agriculture, which originated in Southeast Asia thousands of years ago. Dance drama is also a very important feature of the culture, utilizing movements of the hands and feet perfected over thousands of years. Furthermore, the arts and literature of Southeast Asia is very distinctive as some have been influenced by Indian, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, and Islamic literature.
West Asia largely corresponds with the term 'Middle East', although some prefer 'West Asia' due to perceived Eurocentrism in the former. West Asia consists of Turkey, Syria, Georgia, Armenia, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. It is also where the 3 Abrahamic faiths originated: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Other indigenous religions include Zoroastrianism, Yazidism, Alevism, Druze and the Bahá'í Faith.
Today, the region is almost 93% Muslim and is dominated by Islamic politics, although one country (Israel) is mostly Jewish. Two countries are Christian, namely Armenia and Georgia, with Lebanon being half-Christian. Culturally, the region is Arab, Persian, Kurdish, Azerbaijani, Turkish, and Hebrew. There exists minority indigenous groups such as Assyrians, Druze, Samaritans, Yazidis and Mandeans. Many countries in the Middle East are desert and thus many nomadic groups exist today. On the other hand, modern metropolises also exist on the shifting sands: Abu Dhabi, Amman, Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Doha and Muscat.
West Asian cuisine is immensely rich and diverse. The literature is also immensely rich with Arabic, Jewish, Persian, and Turkish dominating.
Central Asia consists of five former Soviet Socialist Republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However, Afghanistan is sometimes included. The predominant religion in Central Asia is Islam. Central Asia has a long rich history mainly based on its historic position on the famous Silk Road. It has been conquered by Mongols, Persians, Tatars, Russians, Sarmatian and thus has a very distinct, vibrant culture. The culture is influenced by Chinese, South Asian, Persian, Arabian, Turkish, Russian, Sarmatian and Mongolian cultures. The people of the steppes of Central Asia have historically been nomadic people but a unifying state was established in Central Asia in the 16th century: The Kazakh Khanate.
The music of Central Asia is rich and varied. Central Asian cuisine is one of the most prominent cuisines of Asia, with cuisines from Pakistan, India, China and Azerbaijan especially showing significant influence from the foods of Central Asia. Some of the most famous Central Asian foods are manti and pilaf.
The (ancient) literature of Central Asia is linked with Persian literature as historically the region has long been part of the Persian Empire. Furthermore, being at the junction of the Silk Road it has numerous Chinese, Indian and Arabian literary works. However, Kyrgyz has the longest epos in the world Epic of Manas.
For the most part, North Asia (more widely known as Siberia) is considered to be made up of the Asian part of Russia solely. The geographic region of Siberia was the historical land of the Tatars in the Siberia Khanate. However Russian expansion essentially undermined this and thus today it is under Russian rule. There are roughly 40 million people living in North Asia and the majority is now Ethnic Russians while Indigenous Siberians have become a minority in North Asia.
Asia features many distinctive styles of architecture. A number of ancient and symbolic structures still stand, such as Islamic mosques and the castles of Japan. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is perhaps the most iconic structure in Asia and is represented on the country's flag. However, many traditional architectural styles have either been destroyed, lost, or replaced by Western contemporary architecture for new development and construction.
Main article: Chinese architecture
Chinese architecture refers to a style of architecture that has taken shape in East Asia over many centuries. The structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details. Since the Tang Dynasty, Chinese architecture has had a major influence on the architectural styles of Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.
Many Buddhist temples are well-known examples of Chinese architecture.Chinese architecture refers to a style of architecture that has taken shape in East Asia over many centuries. The structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details.
Main article: Architecture of India
See also: Dravidian architecture
Indian architecture is that vast tapestry of production of the Indian Subcontinent that encompasses a multitude of expressions over space and time, transformed by the forces of history considered unique to the sub-continent, sometimes destroying, but most of the time absorbing.The result is an evolving range of architectural production that nonetheless retains a certain amount of continuity across history.
Main article: Architecture of Indonesia
The Indonesian architectute reflects the diversity of cultural, historical and geographic influences that have shaped Indonesia as a whole. It ranges from native vernacular architecture, Hindu-Buddhist temples, colonial architecture, to modern architecture.
Indonesian vernacular architecture is called rumah adat. The houses hold social significance in society and demonstrate local ingenuity in their relations to environment and spatial organisation.:5 Notable examples include Rumah Gadang, Tongkonan, Balinese houses and Javanese Joglo. Hindu-Buddhist temple monument called candi, with the best example are Borobudur massive stone mandala-stupa and Prambanan Hindu temple dedicated to Trimurti gods. By 16th century, the Portuguese followed by the Dutch colonize Indonesian archipelago, and developed European architecture technique and developed colonial architecture.
Main article: Japanese architecture
In Japan, some wooden temples from the Nara period are over 1,000 years old. Although some parts have been replaced, much of the original structure is said to be intact. During the era of feudalism in Japan, many castles were constructed. Wooden castles were often destroyed or dismantled during the shift from feudalism during the Meiji Restoration. Intact examples include Himeji Castle (14th century) and Hikone Castle (17th century). Reconstructed examples include Osaka Castle. Japanese architecture is distinctive and recognized throughout the world.
Main article: Malay Architecture
Various cultural influences, notably Chinese, Indian and Europeans, played a major role in forming Malay architecture. Until recent time, wood was the principal material used for all Malay traditional buildings. However, numerous stone structures were also discovered particularly the religious complexes from the time of Srivijaya and ancient isthmian Malay kingdoms.
Middle Eastern dance has various styles and has spread to the West in the form known as bellydancing. In the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, Bhangra (dance)bhangra dance is very popular. The bhangra is a celebration of the harvest. The people dance to the beat of a drum while singing and dancing.
In Southeast Asia, dance is an integral part of the culture; the styles of dance vary from region to region and island to island. Traditional styles of dance have evolved in Thailand and Burma. The Philippines have their own styles of dance such as Cariñosa and Tinikling; during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, practitioners of Filipino martial arts hid fighting movements into their dances to keep the art alive despite the fact that it was banned by the occupiers.
Main articles: Martial arts, History of martial arts, Origins of Asian martial arts, and Modern history of East Asian martial arts
Martial arts figure prominently in many Asian cultures, and the first known traces of martial arts date from the Xia Dynasty of ancient China from over 4000 years ago. Some of the best known styles of martial arts in the world were developed in East Asia, such as karate and judo from Japan, taekwondo from Korea and the various styles of Chinese martial arts known collectively as kung fu. Many other styles of martial arts originated in Southeast Asia, including muay Thai from Thailand, Vovinam from Vietnam, Arnis from the Philippines, and Pencak Silat from Indonesia. In addition, popular styles of wrestling have originated in Turkey and Mongolia.
Development of Asian martial arts continues today as newer styles are created. Modern hybrid martial arts systems such as Jeet Kune Do and Krav Maga often incorporate techniques from traditional East Asian martial arts. Asian martial arts are highly popular in the Western world and many have become international sports. Karate alone has 50 million practitioners worldwide.
Main article: Languages of Asia
Asia is a continent with great linguistic diversity, and is home to various language families and many language isolates. A majority of Asian countries have more than one language that is natively spoken. For instance, according to Ethnologue over 600 languages are spoken in Indonesia while over 100 are spoken in the Philippines. The official figure of 'mother tongues' spoken in India is 1683, of which an estimated 850 are in daily use. Korea, on the other hand, is home to only one language.
The main language families found in Asia, along with examples of each, are:
- Austroasiatic: Khasi, Khmer, Mon, Santali, Vietnamese, Wa
- Austronesian: Bicolano, Cham, Ilocano, Javanese, Kapampangan, Kedayan, Malay (Indonesian & Malaysian), Minangkabau, Pangasinan, Sundanese, Tagalog, Tetum, Visayan (Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray)
- Dravidian: Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu
- Indo-European:Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Dhivehi, Gujarati, Hindustani (Hindi, Urdu), Kashmiri, Kurdish, Maithili, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Pashto, Persian (Tajik and Dari), Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Sinhala, Armenian, Russian, Greek
- Japonic: Japanese, Ryukyuan
- Sino-Tibetan: Hakka, Hokkien (Taiwanese), Mandarin, Wu (Shanghainese), Yue (Cantonese), Burmese, Dzongkha, Lepcha, Meitei, Nepal Bhasa, Tibetan, Tshangla
- Tai–Kadai: Bouyei, Isan, Kam, Lao, Shan, Thai, Zhuang
- Turkic: Azeri, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkish, Turkmen, Uyghur, Uzbek
- Afro-Asiatic: Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew
- Miao–Yao: Hmong, Iu Mien
- Mongolic: Buryat, Mongolian
- Romance-based creoles: Chavacano, Macanese
- Dagestanian: Chechen, Ingush
- Circassian: Kabardian
- Tungusic: Manchu
- Uralic: Khanty, Mari, Nenets, Permics
Main article: Asian literature
Main article: Arabic literature
Arabic literature is the writing, both prose and poetry, produced by writers in the Arabic language. One of the most famous literary works of West Asia is One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
Main article: Chinese literature
In Tang and Song dynasty China, famous poets such as Li Bai authored works of great importance. They wrote shī (Classical Chinese: 詩) poems, which have lines with equal numbers of characters, as well as cí (詞) poems with mixed line varieties.
Hebrew and Diaspora Jewish
Main articles: Hebrew literature and Jewish literature
Hebrew literature consists of ancient, medieval, and modern writings in the Hebrew language. It is one of the primary forms of Jewish literature, though there have been cases of literature written in Hebrew by non-Jews. Without doubt, the most important such work is the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). Many other ancient works of Hebrew literature survive, including religious and philosophical works, historical records, and works of fiction.
Main article: Indian literature
The famous poet and playwright Kālidāsa wrote two epics: Raghuvamsha (Dynasty of Raghu) and Kumarasambhava (Birth of Kumar Kartikeya); they were written in Classical Sanskrit rather than Epic Sanskrit some other examples of his plays are Abhigyanam Shakuntala . Other examples of works written in Classical Sanskrit include the Pānini's Ashtadhyayi which standardized the grammar and phonetics of Classical Sanskrit. The Laws of Manu is an important text in Hinduism. Kālidāsa is often considered to be the greatest playwright in Sanskrit literature, and one of the greatest poets in Sanskrit literature, whose Recognition of Shakuntala and Meghaduuta are the most famous Sanskrit plays. He occupies the same position in Sanskrit literature that Shakespeare occupies in English literature. Some other famous plays were Mricchakatika by Shudraka, Svapna Vasavadattam by Bhasa, and Ratnavali by Sri Harsha. Later poetic works include Geeta Govinda by Jayadeva. Some other famous works are Chanakya's Arthashastra and Vatsyayana's Kamasutra.
Main article: Japanese literature
In the early eleventh century, court lady Murasaki Shikibu wrote Tale of the Genji considered the masterpiece of Japanese literatures and an early example of a work of fiction in the form of a novel. Early-Modern Japanese literature (17th–19th centuries) developed comparable innovations such as haiku, a form of Japanese poetry that evolved from the ancient hokku (Japanese language: 発句) mode. Haiku consists of three lines: the first and third lines each have five morae (the rough phonological equivalent of syllables), while the second has seven. Original haiku masters included such figures as Edo period poet Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉); others influenced by Bashō include Kobayashi Issa and Masaoka Shiki.
Main article: Korean literature
Korean literature begins in the Three Kingdoms Period, and continues through the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties to the modern day. Examples of Korean poetric forms include sijo and gasa, with Jeong Cheol and Yun Seon-do considered to be the supreme Korean poets. Examples of renowned Korean prose masterpieces include the Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong, The Cloud Dream of the Nine and the Chunhyangjeon.
Main article: Pakistani literature
Pakistani literature has a rich history, and draws influences from both Persian, Muslim and Indian literary traditions. The country has produced a large number of famed poets especially in the national Urdu language. The famous Muhammad Iqbal, regarded as the national poet, was often called "The Poet of the East" (Shair-e-Mashriq).
Main article: Persian literature
Main article: Turkish literature
The polymathRabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet, dramatist, and writer from India, became in 1913 the first Asian Nobel laureate. He won his Nobel Prize in Literature for notable impact his prose works and poetic thought had on English, French, and other national literature of Europe and the Americas. He also wrote Jana Gana Mana the national anthem of India as well as Amar Sonar Bangla the national anthem of Bangladesh. Moreover, translation of his another song “Namo Namo Matha" is the national anthem of Sri Lanka. This song was collected by his student Mr. Ananda Samarakoon and M. Nallathamby translated in Tamil language. Other Asian writers won Nobel Prizes in literature, including Yasunari Kawabata (Japan, 1966), and Kenzaburō Ōe (Japan, 1994). Yasunari Kawabata wrote novels and short stories distinguished by their elegant and spartan diction such as the novels Snow Country and The Master of Go.
Families in Asia has a very strong family value. They teach their kids that the family is their protection and the major source of their identity. They expect loyalty from their children. Parents define the law and the children are expected to obey them. This is called filial piety, the respect for one's parents and elders.  They are expected to have self-control, thus making it hard for them to express emotions, they are also expected to show respect through their motions and the way they speak. Children are expected to look after their parents when they grow older.  Sons are expected to stay home, while daughters go and live with their husband's family.
Main article: Eastern philosophy
See also: Indian philosophy and Chinese philosophy
Asian philosophical traditions originated in India and China, and has been classified as Eastern philosophy covering a large spectrum of philosophical thoughts and writings, including those popular within India and China. The Indian philosophy include Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. They include elements of non-material pursuits, whereas another school of thought Cārvāka, which originated in India, and was propounded by Charvak around 2500 years before, preached the enjoyment of material world. Middle Eastern philosophy includes Islamic philosophy as well as Jewish and Persian philosophy.
During the 20th century, in the two most populous countries of Asia, two dramatically different political philosophies took shape. Gandhi gave a new meaning to Ahimsa, and redefined the concepts of nonviolence and nonresistance. During the same period, Mao Zedong’s communistphilosophy was crystallized.
Main article: Religion in Asia
Asia is the birthplace of many religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastranism. All major religious traditions are practiced in the region and new forms are constantly emerging. The largest religions in Asia are Islam and Hinduism, both with approximately 1.1 billion adherents. In 2010, the Pew Research Center five of the ten most religiously diverse regions in the world to be in Asia.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated in India, a country of South Asia. In East Asia, particularly in China and Japan, Confucianism, Taoism, Zen Buddhism and Shinto took shape. Other religions of Asia include the Bahá'í Faith, Shamanism practiced in Siberia, and Animism practiced in the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Over 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia. About 25% of Muslims live in the South Asian region, mainly in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. If Afghanistan is counted, this number is even higher. The world's largest single Muslim community (within the bounds of one nation) is in Indonesia. There are also significant Muslim populations in the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, China, Russia, Central Asia and West Asia.
In the Philippines and East Timor, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion; it was introduced by the Spaniards and the Portuguese, respectively. In Russia, Georgia, and Armenia, Orthodox Christianity is the predominant religion. Eastern Christian sects are the most dominant denomination in Asia, having adherents in portions of the Middle East (the Levant) and South Asia. Eastern churches include Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church, Maronite Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Chaldean Catholic Church and Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, among others. Judaism is the major religion of Israel.
Religions founded in Asia and with a majority of their contemporary adherents in Asia include:
|Religion||Image||Adherents||Followers in Asia||ref(s)|
|Bahá'í Faith||7 million||3,433,000|||
For other uses, see Asia (disambiguation).
|Area||44,579,000 km2 (17,212,000 sq mi)|
|Population density||100/km2 (260/sq mi)|
|GDP (nominal)||$27.2 trillion (2016, 1st)|
|GDP (PPP)||$55.3 trillion (2016, 1st)|
|GDP per capita||$5,635 (2016, 5th)|
|Countries||49 UN members|
6 other states
Metropolitan areas of Asia
Asia ( ( listen)) is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and NorthernHemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.
In general terms, Asia is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. The western boundary with Europe is a historical and cultural construct, as there is no clear physical and geographical separation between them. The most commonly accepted boundaries place Asia to the east of the Suez Canal, the Ural River, and the Ural Mountains, and south of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian and Black Seas.
China and India alternated in being the largest economies in the world from 1 to 1800 CE. China was a major economic power and attracted many to the east, and for many the legendary wealth and prosperity of the ancient culture of India personified Asia, attracting European commerce, exploration and colonialism. The accidental discovery of America by Columbus in search for India demonstrates this deep fascination. The Silk Road became the main East-West trading route in the Asian hinterlands while the Straits of Malacca stood as a major sea route. Asia has exhibited economic dynamism (particularly East Asia) as well as robust population growth during the 20th century, but overall population growth has since fallen. Asia was the birthplace of most of the world's mainstream religions including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism (or Daoism), Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastranism, as well as many other religions.
Given its size and diversity, the concept of Asia—a name dating back to classical antiquity—may actually have more to do with human geography than physical geography. Asia varies greatly across and within its regions with regard to ethnic groups, cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems. It also has a mix of many different climates ranging from the equatorial south via the hot desert in the Middle East, temperate areas in the east and the continental centre to vast subarctic and polar areas in Siberia.
Definition and boundaries
Further information on Asian borders: Geography of Asia § Boundary, Boundaries between continents, List of transcontinental countries § Asia and Europe, and Copenhagen criteria
The boundary between Asia and Africa is the Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez, and the Suez Canal. This makes Egypt a transcontinental country, with the Sinai peninsula in Asia and the remainder of the country in Africa.
The border between Asia and Europe was historically defined by European academics. The Don River became unsatisfactory to northern Europeans when Peter the Great, king of the Tsardom of Russia, defeating rival claims of Sweden and the Ottoman Empire to the eastern lands, and armed resistance by the tribes of Siberia, synthesized a new Russian Empire extending to the Ural Mountains and beyond, founded in 1721. The major geographical theorist of the empire was actually a former Swedish prisoner-of-war, taken at the Battle of Poltava in 1709 and assigned to Tobolsk, where he associated with Peter's Siberian official, Vasily Tatishchev, and was allowed freedom to conduct geographical and anthropological studies in preparation for a future book.
In Sweden, five years after Peter's death, in 1730 Philip Johan von Strahlenberg published a new atlas proposing the Urals as the border of Asia. The Russians were enthusiastic about the concept, which allowed them to keep their European identity in geography. Tatishchev announced that he had proposed the idea to von Strahlenberg. The latter had suggested the Emba River as the lower boundary. Over the next century various proposals were made until the Ural River prevailed in the mid-19th century. The border had been moved perforce from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea into which the Ural River projects. The border between the Black Sea and the Caspian is usually placed along the crest of the Caucasus Mountains, although it is sometimes placed further north.
The border between Asia and the region of Oceania is usually placed somewhere in the Malay Archipelago. The Maluku Islands in Indonesia are often considered to lie on the border of southeast Asia, with New Guinea, to the east of the islands, being wholly part of Oceania. The terms Southeast Asia and Oceania, devised in the 19th century, have had several vastly different geographic meanings since their inception. The chief factor in determining which islands of the Malay Archipelago are Asian has been the location of the colonial possessions of the various empires there (not all European). Lewis and Wigen assert, "The narrowing of 'Southeast Asia' to its present boundaries was thus a gradual process."
Geographical Asia is a cultural artifact of European conceptions of the world, beginning with the Ancient Greeks, being imposed onto other cultures, an imprecise concept causing endemic contention about what it means. Asia is larger and more culturally diverse than Europe. It does not exactly correspond to the cultural borders of its various types of constituents.
From the time of Herodotus a minority of geographers have rejected the three-continent system (Europe, Africa, Asia) on the grounds that there is no or is no substantial physical separation between them. For example, Sir Barry Cunliffe, the emeritus professor of European archeology at Oxford, argues that Europe has been geographically and culturally merely "the western excrescence of the continent of Asia".
Geographically, Asia is the major eastern constituent of the continent of Eurasia with Europe being a northwestern peninsula of the landmass. Asia, Europe and Africa make up a single continuous landmass – Afro-Eurasia (except for the Suez Canal) and share a common continental shelf. Almost all of Europe and the better part of Asia sit atop the Eurasian Plate, adjoined on the south by the Arabian and Indian Plate and with the easternmost part of Siberia (east of the Chersky Range) on the North American Plate.
The English name "Asia" was originally a concept of Greek civilization. The place name "Asia" in various forms in a large number of modern languages is of unknown ultimate provenience. Its etymology and language of origin are uncertain. It appears to be one of the most ancient of recorded names. A number of theories have been published. English Asia can be traced through the formation of English literature to Latin literature, where it has the same form, Asia. Whether all uses and all forms of the name derive also from the Latin of the Roman Empire is much less certain. One of the first classical writers to use Asia as a name of the whole continent was Pliny. This metonymical change in meaning is common and can be observed in some other geographical names, such as Skandinavia (from Scania).
Before Greek poetry, the Aegean Sea area was in a Greek Dark Age, at the beginning of which syllabic writing was lost and alphabetic writing had not begun. Prior to then in the Bronze Age the records of the Assyrian Empire, the Hittite Empire and the various Mycenaean states of Greece mention a region undoubtedly Asia, certainly in Anatolia, including if not identical to Lydia. These records are administrative and do not include poetry.
The Mycenaean states were destroyed about 1200 BCE by unknown agents although one school of thought assigns the Dorian invasion to this time. The burning of the palaces baked clay diurnal administrative records written in a Greek syllabic script called Linear B, deciphered by a number of interested parties, most notably by a young World War II cryptographer, Michael Ventris, subsequently assisted by the scholar, John Chadwick. A major cache discovered by Carl Blegen at the site of ancient Pylos included hundreds of male and female names formed by different methods.
Some of these are of women held in servitude (as study of the society implied by the content reveals). They were used in trades, such as cloth-making, and usually came with children. The epithet, lawiaiai, "captives," associated with some of them identifies their origin. Some are ethnic names. One in particular, aswiai, identifies "women of Asia." Perhaps they were captured in Asia, but some others, Milatiai, appear to have been of Miletus, a Greek colony, which would not have been raided for slaves by Greeks. Chadwick suggests that the names record the locations where these foreign women were purchased. The name is also in the singular, Aswia, which refers both to the name of a country and to a female of it. There is a masculine form, aswios. This Aswia appears to have been a remnant of a region known to the Hittites as Assuwa, centered on Lydia, or "Roman Asia." This name, Assuwa, has been suggested as the origin for the name of the continent "Asia". The Assuwa league was a confederation of states in western Anatolia, defeated by the Hittites under Tudhaliya I around 1400 BCE.
Alternatively, the etymology of the term may be from the Akkadian word (w)aṣû(m), which means 'to go outside' or 'to ascend', referring to the direction of the sun at sunrise in the Middle East and also likely connected with the Phoenician word asa meaning east. This may be contrasted to a similar etymology proposed for Europe, as being from Akkadian erēbu(m) 'to enter' or 'set' (of the sun).
T.R. Reid supports this alternative etymology, noting that the ancient Greek name must have derived from asu, meaning 'east' in Assyrian (ereb for Europe meaning 'west'). The ideas of Occidental (form LatinOccidens 'setting') and Oriental (from Latin Oriens for 'rising') are also European invention, synonymous with Western and Eastern. Reid further emphasizes that it explains the Western point of view of placing all the peoples and cultures of Asia into a single classification, almost as if there were a need for setting the distinction between Western and Eastern civilizations on the Eurasian continent. Ogura Kazuo and Tenshin Okakura are two outspoken Japanese figures on the subject.
Latin Asia and Greek Ἀσία appear to be the same word. Roman authors translated Ἀσία as Asia. The Romans named a province Asia, located in western Anatolia (in modern-day Turkey). There was an Asia Minor and an Asia Major located in modern-day Iraq. As the earliest evidence of the name is Greek, it is likely circumstantially that Asia came from Ἀσία, but ancient transitions, due to the lack of literary contexts, are difficult to catch in the act. The most likely vehicles were the ancient geographers and historians, such as Herodotus, who were all Greek. Ancient Greek certainly evidences early and rich uses of the name.
The first continental use of Asia is attributed to Herodotus (about 440 BCE), not because he innovated it, but because his Histories are the earliest surviving prose to describe it in any detail. He defines it carefully, mentioning the previous geographers whom he had read, but whose works are now missing. By it he means Anatolia and the Persian Empire, in contrast to Greece and Egypt.
Herodotus comments that he is puzzled as to why three women's names were "given to a tract which is in reality one" (Europa, Asia, and Libya, referring to Africa), stating that most Greeks assumed that Asia was named after the wife of Prometheus (i.e. Hesione), but that the Lydians say it was named after Asies, son of Cotys, who passed the name on to a tribe at Sardis. In Greek mythology, "Asia" (Ἀσία) or "Asie" (Ἀσίη) was the name of a "Nymph or Titan goddess of Lydia."
In ancient Greek religion, places were under the care of female divinities, parallel to guardian angels. The poets detailed their doings and generations in allegoric language salted with entertaining stories, which subsequently playwrights transformed into classical Greek drama and became "Greek mythology." For example, Hesiod mentions the daughters of Tethys and Ocean, among whom are a "holy company", "who with the Lord Apollo and the Rivers have youths in their keeping." Many of these are geographic: Doris, Rhodea, Europa, Asia. Hesiod explains:
"For there are three-thousand neat-ankled daughters of Ocean who are dispersed far and wide, and in every place alike serve the earth and the deep waters."
The Iliad (attributed by the ancient Greeks to Homer) mentions two Phrygians (the tribe that replaced the Luvians in Lydia) in the Trojan War named Asios (an adjective meaning "Asian"); and also a marsh or lowland containing a marsh in Lydia as ασιος.
Main article: History of Asia
The history of Asia can be seen as the distinct histories of several peripheral coastal regions: East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, linked by the interior mass of the Central Asian steppes.
The coastal periphery was home to some of the world's earliest known civilizations, each of them developing around fertile river valleys. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and the Yellow River shared many similarities. These civilizations may well have exchanged technologies and ideas such as mathematics and the wheel. Other innovations, such as writing, seem to have been developed individually in each area. Cities, states and empires developed in these lowlands.
The central steppe region had long been inhabited by horse-mounted nomads who could reach all areas of Asia from the steppes. The earliest postulated expansion out of the steppe is that of the Indo-Europeans, who spread their languages into the Middle East, South Asia, and the borders of China, where the Tocharians resided. The northernmost part of Asia, including much of Siberia, was largely inaccessible to the steppe nomads, owing to the dense forests, climate and tundra. These areas remained very sparsely populated.
The center and the peripheries were mostly kept separated by mountains and deserts. The Caucasus and Himalaya mountains and the Karakum and Gobi deserts formed barriers that the steppe horsemen could cross only with difficulty. While the urban city dwellers were more advanced technologically and socially, in many cases they could do little in a military aspect to defend against the mounted hordes of the steppe. However, the lowlands did not have enough open grasslands to support a large horsebound force; for this and other reasons, the nomads who conquered states in China, India, and the Middle East often found themselves adapting to the local, more affluent societies.
The Islamic Caliphate took over the Middle East and Central Asia during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. The Mongol Empire conquered a large part of Asia in the 13th century, an area extending from China to Europe. Before the Mongol invasion, Song dynasty reportedly had approximately 120 million citizens; the 1300 census which followed the invasion reported roughly 60 million people.
The Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, is thought to have originated in the arid plains of central Asia, where it then travelled along the Silk Road.
The Russian Empire began to expand into Asia from the 17th century, and would eventually take control of all of Siberia and most of Central Asia by the end of the 19th century. The Ottoman Empire controlled Anatolia, most of the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans from the mid 16th century onwards. In the 17th century, the Manchu conquered China and established the Qing dynasty. The Islamic Mughal Empire and the Hindu Maratha Empire controlled much of India in the 16th and 18th centuries respectively.
Map of western, southern, and central Asia in 1885
The map of Asia in 1796, which also included the continent of Australia (then known as New Holland).
Geography and climate
Main articles: Geography of Asia and Climate of Asia
See also: Category:Biota of Asia
Asia is the largest continent on Earth. It covers 9% of the Earth's total surface area (or 30% of its land area), and has the largest coastline, at 62,800 kilometres (39,022 mi). Asia is generally defined as comprising the eastern four-fifths of Eurasia. It is located to the east of the Suez Canal and the Ural Mountains, and south of the Caucasus Mountains (or the Kuma–Manych Depression) and the Caspian and Black Seas. It is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. Asia is subdivided into 48 countries, three of them (Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkey) having part of their land in Europe.
Asia has extremely diverse climates and geographic features. Climates range from arctic and subarctic in Siberia to tropical in southern India and Southeast Asia. It is moist across southeast sections, and dry across much of the interior. Some of the largest daily temperature ranges on Earth occur in western sections of Asia. The monsoon circulation dominates across southern and eastern sections, due to the presence of the Himalayas forcing the formation of a thermal low which draws in moisture during the summer. Southwestern sections of the continent are hot. Siberia is one of the coldest places in the Northern Hemisphere, and can act as a source of arctic air masses for North America. The most active place on Earth for tropical cyclone activity lies northeast of the Philippines and south of Japan. The Gobi Desert is in Mongolia and the Arabian Desert stretches across much of the Middle East. The Yangtze River in China is the longest river in the continent. The Himalayas between Nepal and China is the tallest mountain range in the world. Tropical rainforests stretch across much of southern Asia and coniferous and deciduous forests lie farther north.
A survey carried out in 2010 by global risk analysis farm Maplecroft identified 16 countries that are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Each nation's vulnerability was calculated using 42 socio, economic and environmental indicators, which identified the likely climate change impacts during the next 30 years. The Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were among the 16 countries facing extreme risk from climate change. Some shifts are already occurring. For example, in tropical parts of India with a semi-arid climate, the temperature increased by 0.4 °C between 1901 and 2003. A 2013 study by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) aimed to find science-based, pro-poor approaches and techniques that would enable Asia's agricultural systems to cope with climate change, while benefitting poor and vulnerable farmers. The study's recommendations ranged from improving the use of climate information in local planning and strengthening weather-based agro-advisory services, to stimulating diversification of rural household incomes and providing incentives to farmers to adopt natural resource conservation measures to enhance forest cover, replenish groundwater and use renewable energy.
Main articles: Economy of Asia, List of Asian countries by GDP, List of countries in Asia-Pacific by GDP (nominal), and List of Asian and Pacific countries by GDP (PPP)
|Rank||Country||GDP(PPP, Peak Year)|
millions of USD
|Rank||Country||GDP(nominal, Peak Year)|
millions of USD
Asia has the second largest nominal GDP of all continents, after Europe, but the largest when measured in purchasing power parity (PPP). As of 2011, the largest economies in Asia are China, Japan, India, South Korea and Indonesia based on GDP in both nominal and PPP. Based on Global Office Locations 2011, Asia dominated the office locations with 4 of the top 5 being in Asia: Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai. Around 68 percent of international firms have office in Hong Kong.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the economies of China and India have been growing rapidly, both with an average annual growth rate of more than 8%. Other recent very-high-growth nations in Asia include Israel, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Cyprus and the Philippines, and mineral-rich nations such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.
According to economic historianAngus Maddison in his book The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, India had the world's largest economy during 0 BCE and 1000 BCE. China was the largest and most advanced economy on earth for much of recorded history, until the British Empire (excluding India) overtook it in the mid-19th century. For several decades in the late twentieth century Japan was the largest economy in Asia and second-largest of any single nation in the world, after surpassing the Soviet Union (measured in net material product) in 1986 and Germany in 1968. (NB: A number of supernational economies are larger, such as the European Union (EU), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or APEC). This ended in 2010 when China overtook Japan to become the world's second largest economy.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japan's GDP was almost as large (current exchange rate method) as that of the rest of Asia combined. In 1995, Japan's economy nearly equaled that of the US as the largest economy in the world for a day, after the Japanese currency reached a record high of 79 yen/US$. Economic growth in Asia since World War II to the 1990s had been concentrated in Japan as well as the four regions of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore located in the Pacific Rim, known as the Asian tigers, which have now all received developed country status, having the highest GDP per capita in Asia.
It is forecasted that India will overtake Japan in terms of nominal GDP by 2020. By 2027, according to Goldman Sachs, China will have the largest economy in the world. Several trade blocs exist, with the most developed being the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Asia is the largest continent in the world by a considerable margin, and it is rich in natural resources, such as petroleum, forests, fish, water, rice, copper and silver. Manufacturing in Asia has traditionally been strongest in East and Southeast Asia, particularly in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, India, the Philippines, and Singapore. Japan and South Korea continue to dominate in the area of multinational corporations, but increasingly the PRC and India are making significant inroads. Many companies from Europe, North America, South Korea and Japan have operations in Asia's developing countries to take advantage of its abundant supply of cheap labour and relatively developed infrastructure.
According to Citigroup 9 of 11 Global Growth Generators countries came from Asia driven by population and income growth. They are Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Mongolia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Asia has four main financial centers: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai. Call centers and business process outsourcing