Asia

Asia

[ey-zhuh, ey-shuh]
Asia, the world's largest continent, 17,139,000 sq mi (44,390,000 sq km), with about 3.3 billion people, nearly three fifths of the world's total population.

Boundaries

Asia's border with Europe—which, geographically, may be regarded as a peninsula of the Eurasian landmass—lies approximately along the Urals, the Ural River, the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus, the Black Sea, the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, and the Aegean Sea. The connection of Asia with Africa is broken only by the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. In the far northeast of Asia, Siberia is separated from North America by the Bering Strait. The continent of Asia is washed on the S by the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal; on the E by the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk, and Bering Sea; and on the N by the Arctic Ocean.

Geology and Geography

Geologically, Asia consists of ancient Precambrian landmasses—the Arabian and Indian peninsulas in the south and the central Siberian plateau in the north—enclosing a central zone of folded ridges. In accordance with this underlying structure, Asia falls into the following major physiographic structures: the northern lowlands covering W central Asia and most of Siberia; the vast central highland zone of high plateaus, rising to c.15,000 ft (4,570 m) in Tibet in China and enclosed by some of the world's greatest mountain ranges (the Himalayas, the Karakorum, the Kunlun, the Tian Shan, and the Hindu Kush); the southern peninsular plateaus of India and Arabia, merging, respectively, into the Ganges and Tigris-Euphrates plains; and the lowlands of E Asia, especially in China, which are separated by mountain spurs of the central highland zone. Mt. Everest (29,035 ft/8,850 m), in Nepal, is the world's highest peak; the Dead Sea (1,312 ft/400 m below sea level) is the world's lowest point. Great peninsulas extend out from the mainland, dividing the oceans into seas and bays, many of them protected by Asia's numerous offshore islands. Asia's rivers, among the longest in the world, generally rise in the high plateaus and break through the great chains toward the peripheral lowlands. They include the Ob-Irtysh, the Yenisei-Argana, and Lena of Siberia; the Amur-Argun, Huang He, Chang (Yangtze), Xi, Mekong, Thanlwin, and Ayeyarwady of E and SE Asia; and the Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, and Tigris-Euphrates of S and SW Asia. Central Asia has vast areas of interior drainage, including the Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Ili, and Tarim rivers, which empty into inland lakes or disappear into desert sands. Lake Baykal and Lake Balkash are among the world's largest lakes. Climatically, the continent ranges through all extremes, from torrid heat to arctic cold and from torrential rains (the product of monsoons) to extreme aridity (as in the Tarim Basin).

Asia can be divided into six regions, each possessing distinctive physical, cultural, economic, and political characteristics. Southwest Asia (Iran; Turkey, in Asia Minor; and the nations of the Fertile Crescent and the Arabian peninsula or Arabia), long a strategic crossroad, is characterized by an arid climate and irrigated agriculture, great petroleum reserves, and the predominance of Islam. South Asia (Afghanistan and the nations of the Indian subcontinent) is isolated from the rest of Asia by great mountain barriers. Southeast Asia (the nations of the southeastern peninsula and the Malay Archipelago) is characterized by monsoon climate, maritime orientation, the fusion of Indian and Chinese cultures, and a great diversity of ethnic groups, languages, religions, and politics. East Asia (China, Mongolia, Korea, and the islands of Taiwan and Japan) is located in the mid-latitudes on the Pacific Ocean, and is characterized by cultures strongly influenced by civilizations of the Huang He and Chang (Yangtze) river systems. It forms the most industrialized region of Asia. Russian Asia (in the northern third of the continent) consists of the vast region of Siberia and the Russian Far East. In the center of the continent is Central Asia, formed of a set of independent former republics of the Soviet Union. This region is characterized by desert conditions and irrigated agriculture, with ancient traditions of nomadic herding.

Population, Culture, and Economy

The distribution of Asia's huge population is governed by climate and topography, with the monsoons and the fertile alluvial plains determining the areas of greatest density. Such are the Ganges plains of India and the Chang (Yangtze) and northern plains of China, the small alluvial plains of Japan, and the fertile volcanic soils of the Malay Archipelago. Urbanization is greatest in the industrialized regions of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, but huge urban centers are to be found throughout the continent.

Almost two thirds of Asia's indigenous population is of Mongolic stock. Major religions are Hinduism (in India); Theravada Buddhism (in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos); Lamaism, or Tibetan Buddhism (in Mongolia and China, particularly Tibet); East Asian Buddhism (in China and Korea, mixed with Confucianism, shamanism, and Taoism; in Japan mixed with Shinto and Confucianism); Islam (in SW and S Asia, W central Asia, and Indonesia); and Catholicism (in the Philippines, East Timor, and Vietnam).

Subsistence hunting and fishing economies prevail in the forest regions of N and S Asia, and nomadic pastoralism in the central and southwestern regions, while industrial complexes and intensive rice cultivation are found in the coastal plains and rivers of S and E Asia. Because of extremes in climate and topography, less than 10% of Asia is under cultivation. Rice, by far the most important food crop, is grown for local consumption in the heavily populated countries (e.g., China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Japan), while countries with smaller populations (Thailand, Vietnam, and Pakistan) are generally rice exporters. Other important crops are wheat, soybeans, peanuts, sugarcane, cotton, jute, silk, rubber, tea, and coconuts.

Although Asia's economy is predominantly agricultural, regions where power facilities, trained labor, modern transport, and access to raw materials are available have developed industrially. Japan, China, Russian Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and Israel are distinguished for their industrialization. China and India are making considerable strides in this direction. The most spectacular industrialization has occurred in Japan and the "Four Little Dragons"—Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong. The economies of Thailand, Indonesia, and South China are booming thanks to Japanese investment in plants and to cheap indigenous labor. The development of railroads is greatest in the industrialized countries, with Japan, India, China, and Russian Asia having the greatest track mileage.

Also contributing greatly to the income of many Asian countries are vital mineral exports—petroleum in SW Asia, Russian Asia, and Indonesia and tin in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Asia's other valuable mineral exports include manganese from India and chromite from Turkey and the Philippines; China produces great amounts of tungsten, antimony, coal, and oil.

Outline of History

Asia was the home of some of the world's oldest civilizations. The empires of Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria, Media, and Persia and the civilizations of Islam flourished in SW Asia, while in the east the ancient civilizations of India, China, and Japan prospered. Later, nomadic tribes (Huns, Mongols, and Turks) in N and central Asia established great empires and gave rise to great westward migration. Their tribal, military-state organizations reached their highest form in the 13th-14th cent. under the Mongols, whose court was visited by early European travelers, notably the Italian Marco Polo.

The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached India by sea in 1498, beginning the era of European imperialism in Asia. In N Asia Russian Cossacks crossed Siberia and reached the Pacific by 1640. With the formation of English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese trading companies in the 17th cent., great trade rivalry developed along the coasts of India, SE Asia, and China and resulted in increasing European control of Asian lands. By exploiting local disputes and utilizing a technological edge brought on by the industrial revolution, European powers extended political control over first the Indian subcontinent, then SW and SE Asia. European pressure opened China and Japan to trade. World War I led to a weakening of European stature in Asia, and the Wilson doctrine of self-determination inspired many nationalist and revolutionary movements.

World War II and the conflicts of its aftermath hit Asia heavily. In the postwar years, the center of conflict in international affairs tended to shift from Europe, the focus of both world wars, to Asia, where the decolonization process and the emergence of the cold war resulted in many smaller wars and unstable nations. The Arab-Israeli Wars, the Korean War, and the emergence of Communist governments in China, North Korea, and North Vietnam were among the events that heightened tensions in Asia. In the 1950s the Western powers built up military alliances (the Baghdad Pact—later the Central Treaty Organization—in the Middle East, and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization [SEATO]) to counter the threat of Soviet and Chinese domination of Asia. In the 1960s, however, the Sino-Soviet rift reduced the possibility of joint Communist efforts in Asia.

At the end of World War II the United States, Britain, France, and the Netherlands were still major forces in Asia; but in the postwar period India, Japan, China, Indonesia, and other Asian nations sought a more independent role on the world scene. In the 1960s and 70s the British decision to withdraw "east of Suez" and the U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War foreshadowed new power alignments in the area. China's growing strength and a Soviet drive to expand relations with Asian states (particularly India and the Middle East Arab nations) polarized perceptions of Asian instability as a contest between pro-Communist and anti-Communist powers.

Other forces, however, were also shaping Asia in the 1970s and 80s. Constant high population growth left many nations struggling with chronic poverty, inadequate health care, a largely underemployed workforce, and rapid degradation of environmentally sensitive areas. Nations with powerful militaries—Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia—invaded weakly guarded neighbors and fought low-level wars against one another. The former Euro-American-dominated world economic order received rude shocks from the Middle East-led oil embargo crises of 1973-74 and 1979 and the economic strength of Japan and the "Little Dragons." As conflicts with their origins in ethnic self-determination and perceived inequalities of borders ground on in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, and Tibet, a new force, Islamic fundamentalism, swept to power in Iran in 1979 and threatened secular governments throughout S and SW Asia; fundamentalists gained the upper hand in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, an event in part triggered by its failed invasion of Afghanistan, led to the evaporation of the cold war polarization and to the birth of a new group of independent nations in Asia's center. In the 1990s, China emerged as a growing economic giant, but the booming economies of SE Asia suffered setbacks in the late 1990s. In Indonesia economic collapse led to the downfall of Suharto and the beginning of greater democracy as well as demands for independence or autonomy, particularly in East Timor, Aceh, and Papua. The 1990s also saw the gradual emergence of peace between a number of former combatants in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Bibliography

See D. Stamp, Asia: A Regional Geography (1967); G. B. Cressey, Asia's Lands and Peoples (1968); T. Welty, The Asians (1984); V. Ramahappa, Modern Asia (1985); C. Pullapilly and E. J. Van Kley, ed., Asia and the West (1986); N. Nielson, Religions in Asia (1988); R. A. Scalapino et al., ed., Asian Economic Development (1988); L. A. Ziring and D. G. Dickinson, ed., Asian Security Issues (1988); J. Weiss, The Asian Century (1989).

Regional defense organization (1955–77) comprising Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Britain, and the U.S. It was founded as part of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty in order to protect the region from communism. Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos were not considered for membership, and other countries in the region preferred membership in the nonaligned movement. SEATO had no standing forces, but its members engaged in combined military exercises. Pakistan withdrew in 1968, and France suspended financial support in 1975. The organization was disbanded officially in 1977.

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Vast region of Asia lying east of the Indian subcontinent and south of China. It includes a mainland area (also called Indochina) and a string of archipelagoes to the south and east and is generally taken to include Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines. For centuries the mainland portion was the site of numerous indigenous dynasties, but in the 19th century all but Thailand (Siam) came under the control of European powers, notably France (see French Indochina); all areas became independent after 1945.

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in full Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

Trade group established in 1989 in response to the growing interdependence of Asia-Pacific economies and the advent of regional economic blocs (such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Area) in other parts of the world. APEC works to raise living standards and education levels through sustainable economic growth and to foster a sense of community and an appreciation of shared interests among Asia-Pacific countries. At the end of the 1990s APEC's membership included its 12 founding members—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States—as well as Chile, China (including Hong Kong), Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, and Vietnam; Taiwan also participates as “Chinese Taipei.” The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, the South Pacific Forum, and the secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations maintain observer status. The APEC group represents about 40percnt of the world's population, 40percnt of global trade, and 50percnt of the world's gross national product. Seealso NAFTA; trade agreement; World Trade Organization.

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or Asia Minor Turkish Anadolu

Peninsula forming the western extremity of Asia. It is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west. Its eastern boundary is generally marked by the southeastern Taurus Mountains. Anatolia is roughly contiguous with the Asian portion of the modern Republic of Turkey. Because of its location at the point where Asia and Europe meet, it has long been the scene of numerous migrations and conquests. It was the original location of the kingdom of Hittites (circa 1700–1180 BC). Later, Indo-European peoples, possibly Thracian, established the Phrygian kingdom. In the 6th century BC the Persian Achaemenian dynasty came to rule the area; it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 334–333 BC. Beginning in the 1st century BC, the area was absorbed into the Roman Republic and Empire. When the empire split in AD 395, Anatolia became part of the Byzantine Empire. The area endured invasions by Arabs, Turks, Crusaders, Mongols, and the Turkic army of Timur before the Ottoman Empire established full control in the 15th century. From 1923 its history was that of modern Turkey.

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Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.Largest continent on Earth. It is bounded by the Arctic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. The western boundary, with Europe, runs roughly north-south along the eastern Ural Mountains; the Caspian, Black, Aegean, and Mediterranean seas; the Suez Canal; and the Red Sea. The islands of Sri Lanka and Taiwan and the archipelagoes of Indonesia (excluding New Guinea), the Philippines, and Japan also form part of Asia. Area: 17,226,000 sq mi (44,614,000 sq km). Population (2004 est.): 3,879,659,000. Mountains and plateaus predominate on the continent, with the highest mountains located in Central Asia and north of the Indian subcontinent. Terrain features include Earth's highest peak, Mount Everest, at 29,035 ft (8,850 m), and the lowest natural point, the Dead Sea, at 1,312 ft (400 m) below sea level. The largest of Asia's many arid regions are the Thar and Gobi deserts. It has some of the longest rivers in the world, including the Euphrates, Tigris, Indus, Ganges (Ganga), Yangtze (Chang; the longest river in Asia), Huang He (Yellow), Ob, Yenisey, and Lena. The Caspian, Aral, and Dead seas are major saltwater lakes. About one-fifth of Asia's landmass is arable. Its principal language groups include Sino-Tibetan, Indo-Aryan, Austronesian, Austroasiatic, and Semitic; important singular languages include Japanese and Korean. East Asia contains three main ethnic groups: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The Indian subcontinent is home to a vast diversity of peoples, most of whom speak languages from the Indo-Aryan subgroup of the Indo-European family. Because of the influence of China and the former Soviet Union, the Mandarin Chinese dialect and the Russian language are used widely. Asia is the birthplace of all the world's major religions and hundreds of minor ones. Hinduism is the oldest major religion to have originated in southern Asia; Jainism and Buddhism emerged in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, respectively. Southwest Asia was the cradle of the so-called Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Daoism and Confucianism, both of which originated in the 6th or 5th century BC, have profoundly influenced Chinese culture and the cultures of surrounding peoples. Asia is marked by great disparities in wealth. A few countries, notably Japan, Singapore, and the oil-rich countries of the Arabian Peninsula, have attained high standards of living; others, such as Bangladesh and Myanmar, are among the poorest. Between these two extremes lie Russia, China, and India. Asia is a land of great cultural diversity, but there are five main cultural influences: Chinese, Indian, Islamic, European, and Central Asian. China has had great influence in East Asia as the source of Confucianism, artistic styles, and the Chinese writing system. Indian influence has been expressed through Hinduism and Buddhism, affecting the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Central Asia. Islam spread from its original Arabian home to become important in the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, and elsewhere. Members of the earlier human species Homo erectus migrated from Africa to East Asia at least one million years ago. One of the earliest civilizations to use writing developed in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys circa 3000 BC (see Mesopotamia). Civilization in the Indus River valley and in northern Syria followed circa mid-3rd millennium BC. Chinese urban civilization began with the Shang dynasty (circa 1600–1046 BC) and continued under the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC). Indo-European-speaking peoples (Aryans) began to invade India from the west circa 2000–1500 BC and developed the Vedic religion. A succession of empires and charismatic rulers, including the Macedonian Alexander the Great, spread their political control as far as military power could carry them. In the 13th century AD Genghis Khan and his Mongol successors united much of Asia under their rule. In the 14th century the Turkic warlord Timur conquered much of Central Asia. Muslim Turks destroyed the remnants of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century. In the 19th century European imperialism began to replace Asian imperialism. Tsarist Russia pushed its political control across Asia to the Pacific Ocean, the British gained control of India and Burma (Myanmar), the French dominated eastern Southeast Asia (see French Indochina), the Dutch occupied the East Indies (Indonesia), and the Spanish and later the U.S. ruled the Philippines. After World War II (1939–45), European imperialism steadily disappeared as former colonies gained independence in the second half of the 20th century.

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Asia

Area
Population 4,050,404,000 (1st)
Density 89/km² (226/sq mi)
Demonym Asian
No. of countries 37
Countries
Dependencies
Unrecognized Republics & Regions
Languages
Time Zones
Internet TLD .asia, many others
Largest Cities

Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent. It covers 8.6% of the Earth's total surface area (or 29.4% of its land area) and, with over 4 billion people, it contains more than 60% of the world's current human population. Chiefly in the eastern and northern hemispheres, Asia is traditionally defined as part of the landmass of Eurasia—with the western portion of the latter occupied by Europe—lying east of the Suez Canal, east of the Ural Mountains, and south of the Caucasus Mountains 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. Given its size and diversity, Asia—a toponym dating back to classical antiquity—is more a cultural concept incorporating a number of regions and peoples than a homogeneous physical entity (see Subregions of Asia, Asian people).

Etymology

The word Asia originated from the Ancient Greek word "Ἀσία", first attributed to Herodotus (about 440 BCE) in reference to Anatolia or, for the purposes of describing the Persian Wars, to the Persian Empire, in contrast to Greece and Egypt. Herodotus comments that he is puzzled as to why three women's names are used to describe one enormous and substantial land mass (Europa, Asia, and Libya, referring to Africa), stating that most Greeks assumed that Asia was named after the wife of Prometheus but that the Lydians say it was named after Asias, son of Cotys who passed the name on to a tribe in Sardis.

Even before Herodotus, Homer knew of a Trojan ally named Asios and elsewhere he describes a marsh as ασιος (Iliad 2, 461). The Greek language term may be derived from Assuwa, a 14th century BCE confederation of states in Western Anatolia. Hittite assu-—"good" is probably an element in that name.

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). However, this etymology is considered doubtful, because it does not explain how the term "Asia" first came to be associated with Anatolia, which is west of the Semitic-speaking areas, unless they refer to the viewpoint of a Phoenician sailor sailing through the straits between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

It is interesting to note, in Icelandic Saga, ancient Teutons separated Asia from Europe by the river Tanakvisl (or Vanakvisl), which flows into the Black Sea. Eastward across the River (in Asia), so legend tells, was a land known as Asaheim or Asaland, where dwelt Odin, chief god, in his citadel named Asgard. However, Aesir and all its forms are related to Sanskrit asura and Avestan ahura, the local reflexes of the name of a class of divine beings.

Definition and boundaries

Physical geography

''See also: Geography of Asia, Countries in both Asia and Europe, Geographic criteria for the definition of Europe

Medieval Europeans considered Asia as a continent – a distinct landmass. The European concept of the three continents in the Old World goes back to Classical Antiquity, but during the Middle Ages was notably due to Isidore of Sevilla (see T and O map). The demarcation between Asia and Africa (to the southwest) is the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea. The boundary between Asia and Europe is conventionally considered to run through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, the Caspian Sea, the Ural River to its source, and the Ural Mountains to the Kara Sea near Kara, Russia. While this interpretation of tripartite continents (i.e., of Asia, Europe, and Africa) remains common in modernity, discovery of the extent of Africa and Asia have made this definition somewhat anachronistic. This is especially true in the case of Asia, which would have several regions that would be considered distinct landmasses if these criteria were used (for example, Southern Asia and Eastern Asia).

In the far northeast of Asia, Siberia is separated from North America by the Bering Strait. Asia is bounded on the south by the Indian Ocean (specifically, from west to east, the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, and Bay of Bengal); on the east by the waters of the Pacific Ocean (including, counterclockwise, the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk, and Bering Sea); and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. Australia (or Oceania) is to the southeast.

Some geographers do not consider Asia and Europe to be separate continents, as there is no logical physical separation between them. Geographically, Asia is the major eastern constituent of the continent of Eurasia – with Europe being a northwestern peninsula of the landmass – or of Afro-Eurasia: geologically, Asia, Europe, and Africa comprise a single continuous landmass (save the Suez Canal) and share a common continental shelf. Almost all of Europe and most of Asia sit atop the Eurasian Plate, adjoined on the south by the Arabian and Indian Plates, and with the easternmost part of Siberia (east of the Cherskiy Range) on the North American Plate.

In geography, there are two schools of thought. One school follows historical convention and treats Europe and Asia as different continents, categorizing subregions within them for more detailed analysis. The other school equates the word "continent" with a geographical region when referring to Europe, and use the term "region" to describe Asia in terms of physiography. Since, in linguistic terms, "continent" implies a distinct landmass, it is becoming increasingly common to substitute the term "region" for "continent" to avoid the problem of disambiguation altogether.

Given the scope and diversity of the landmass, it is sometimes not even clear exactly what "Asia" consists of. Some definitions exclude Turkey, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Russia while only considering the Far East, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent to compose Asia, especially in the United States after World War II. The term is sometimes used more strictly in reference to the Asia-Pacific region, which does not include the Middle East or Russia, but does include islands in the Pacific Ocean—a number of which may also be considered part of Australasia or Oceania, although Pacific Islanders are commonly not considered Asian.

Political geography

"Asian" as a demonym

See also: Orientalism.
The demonym "Asian" is often used colloquially to refer to people from a subregion of Asia instead of for anyone from Asia. Thus, in British English, "Asian" can mean South Asian, but may also refer to other Asian groups. In the United States, "Asian American" can mean East Asian Americans, due to the historical and cultural influences of China and Japan on the U.S. up to the 1960s and in preference to the terms "Oriental" and "Asiatic". However, the term is increasingly taken to include Southeast Asian Americans and South Asian Americans, due to the increasing numbers of them.

Territories and regions

Name of region and
territory, with flag
Area
(km²)
Population
(1 July 2008 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Capital
Central Asia:
2,346,927 15,340,533 5.7 Astana
198,500 5,356,869 24.3 Bishkek
143,100 7,211,884 47.0 Dushanbe
488,100 5,179,573 9.6 Ashgabat
447,400 28,268,441 57.1 Tashkent
Eastern Asia:
9,584,492 1,322,044,605 134.0 Beijing
1,092 7,903,334 6,688.0
377,835 127,288,628 336.1 Tokyo
25 460,823 18,473.3
1,565,000 2,996,082 1.7 Ulaanbaatar
120,540 23,479,095 184.4 Pyongyang
98,480 49,232,844 490.7 Seoul
35,980 22,920,946 626.7 Taipei
Northern Africa:
980,869 81,713,517 21.7 Cairo
Northern Asia:
13,115,200 140,702,092 3.0 Moscow
Southeastern Asia:
5,770 381,371 60.8 Bandar Seri Begawan
181,040 14,241,640 70.6 Phnom Penh
15,007 1,108,777 63.5 Dili
1,419,588 237,512,355 159.9 Jakarta
236,800 6,677,534 24.4 Vientiane
329,750 25,274,135 68.7 Kuala Lumpur
678,500 47,758,224 62.3 Naypyidaw
300,000 92,681,453 281.8 Manila
704 4,608,167 6,369.0 Singapore
514,000 65,493,298 121.3 Bangkok
331,690 86,116,559 246.1 Hanoi
Southern Asia:
647,500 32,738,775 42.9 Kabul
144,000 153,546,901 926.2 Dhaka
47,000 682,321 14.3 Thimphu
3,167,590 1,147,995,226 318.2 New Delhi
1,648,195 65,875,223 42 Tehran
300 379,174 1,067.2 Malé
140,800 29,519,114 183.8 Kathmandu
803,940 167,762,049 183.7 Islamabad
65,610 21,128,773 298.4 Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte
Western Asia:
29,800 2,968,586 111.7 Yerevan
46,870 3,845,127 82.0 Baku
665 718,306 987.1 Manama
9,250 792,604 83.9 Nicosia
Gaza 363 1,537,269 3,315.7 Gaza
20,460 4,630,841 99.3 Tbilisi
437,072 28,221,181 54.9 Baghdad
20,770 7,112,359 290.3 Jerusalem
92,300 6,198,677 57.5 Amman
17,820 2,596,561 118.5 Kuwait City
10,452 3,971,941 353.6 Beirut
212,460 3,311,640 12.8 Muscat
11,437 928,635 69.4 Doha
1,960,582 23,513,330 12.0 Riyadh
185,180 19,747,586 92.6 Damascus
756,768 71,892,807 76.5 Ankara
82,880 4,621,399 29.5 Abu Dhabi
West Bank 5,860 2,611,904 393.1
527,970 23,013,376 35.4 Sanaá
Total 43,810,582 4,050,404,193 89.07

See Also: List of Asian countries by population

Country name changes

Various Asian countries have undergone name changes during the previous century as the result of consolidations, secessions, territories gaining sovereignty, and regime changes.

Previous Name Year Current Name
East Pakistan 1971 Bangladesh, People's Republic of
Kampuchea, Democratic 1975 Cambodia, Kingdom of
Empire of Great Qing of China 1911
1949
China (Taiwan), Republic of
China (Mainland), People's Republic of
Portuguese Timor 1975 East Timor, Democratic Republic of
Dutch East Indies 1949 Indonesia, Republic of
Persian Empire 1935 Iran, Republic of
Transjordan 1946 Jordan, Kingdom of
Kirghizia (USSR) 1991 Kyrgyzstan, Republic
Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore 1963 Malaysia and Singapore
Burma 1989 Myanmar, Union of
Muscat 1971 Oman, Sultanate of
West Pakistan 1971 Pakistan, Republic of
Hejaz-Nejd, The Kingdom of 1932 Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of
Aden 1970 South Yemen, People's Republic of
Ceylon 1972 Sri Lanka, Democratic Socialist Republic of
Tajik S.S.R 1991 Tajikistan, Republic of
Siam 1939 Thailand, Kingdom of
Ottoman Empire 1923 Turkey, Republic of
Turkmen SSR (USSR) 1991 Turkmenistan
Trucial Oman & Trucial States 1971 United Arab Emirates
French Indo-China 1949 Vietnam, Socialist Republic of
Yemen, People's Democratic & Southern Yemen 1970 Yemen, Republic of

Economy

Economy of Asia
During 2003 unless otherwise stated
Population: 3,958,768,100 (2006 Estimate)
GDP (PPP): US$18.077 trillion
GDP (Currency): $8.782 trillion
GDP/capita (PPP): $4,518
GDP/capita (Currency): $2,143
Millionaires: 2.0 million (0.05%)
Most numbers are from the UNDP from 2002, some numbers exclude certain countries for lack of information.

Asia has the third largest nominal GDP of all continents, after North America and Europe, but the largest when measured in PPP. As of 2007, the largest national economy within Asia, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), is that of China followed by that of India, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. However, in nominal (exchange value) terms, they rank as follows: Japan, China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Indonesia. Since the 1960s, South Korea had maintained the highest economic growth rate in Asia, nicknamed as an Asian tiger, becoming a newly industrialized country in the 1980s and a developed country by the 21st century. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the economies of the PRC 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 the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and mineral-rich nations such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman.

Historically, Japan has had 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). 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 equalled that of the USA to tie as the largest economy in the world for a day, after the Japanese currency reached a record high of 79 yen. Economic growth in Asia since World War II to the 1990s had been concentrated in the four countries 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 forecast that the People's Republic of China will surpass Japan to have the largest nominal and PPP-adjusted GDP in Asia within a decade. India is also forecast to overtake Japan in terms of Nominal GDP by 2020. In terms of GDP per capita, both nominal and PPP-adjusted, South Korea will become the second wealthiest country in Asia by 2025, overtaking Germany, the United Kingdom and France. By 2050, it is expected that China will have the largest economy in the world and Asia, followed by India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

Trade blocs

Natural resources

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, and metal.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing in Asia has traditionally been strongest in East and Southeast Asia, particularly in mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Japan and South Korea continue to dominate in the area of multinational corporations, but increasingly mainland China, Taiwan, 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.

Financial and other services

Asia has four main financial centres: Mumbai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo. Dubai is growing fast as a financial hub for West Asia. Call centres and business process outsourcing (BPOs) are becoming major employers in India and the Philippines due to the availability of a large pool of highly-skilled, English-speaking workers. The increased use of outsourcing has assisted the rise of India and the People's Republic of China as financial centres. Due to its large and extremely competitive information technology industry, India has become a major hub for outsourcing.

Early history

The history of Asia can be seen as the distinct histories of several peripheral coastal regions: East Asia, South 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 Huanghe 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.

Languages and literature

Asia is home to several language families and many language isolates. Most Asian countries have more than one language that is natively spoken. For instance, according to Ethnologue, more than 600 languages are spoken in Indonesia, more than 415 languages spoken in India, and more than 100 are spoken in the Philippines. The People's Republic of China has many languages and dialects in different provinces.

Nobel prizes

The polymath Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet, dramatist, and writer from Santiniketan, now in West Bengal, 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 literatures of Europe and the Americas. He is also the writer of the national anthems of Bangladesh and India.

Tagore is said to have named another Bengali Indian Nobel prize winner, the 1998 laureate in Economics, Amartya Sen. Sen's work has centered around global issues including famine, welfare, and third-world development. Amartya Sen was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University, UK, from 1998-2004, becoming the first Asian to head an 'Oxbridge' College.

Other Asian writers who won Nobel Prizes include Yasunari Kawabata (Japan, 1966), Kenzaburo Oe (Japan, 1994), Gao Xingjian (People's Republic of China, 2000) and Orhan Pamuk (Turkey, 2006).

Also, Mother Teresa of India and Shirin Ebadi of Iran were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially for the rights of women and children. Ebadi is the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to receive the prize. Another Nobel Peace Prize winner is Aung San Suu Kyi from Myanmar for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship in Myanmar. She is a nonviolent pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma), and a noted prisoner of conscience. She is a Buddhist and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Other Asian Nobel Prize winners include Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Venkata Raman, Abdus Salam, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Robert Aumann, Menachem Begin, Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko, Daniel Kahneman, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Yaser Arafat, and Kim Dae-jung. Most of the said awardees are from Israel except for Chandrasekhar and Raman (India), Salam (Pakistan), Arafat (Palestinian Territories), and Kim (South Korea).

In 2006, Dr. Mohammad Yunus of Bangladesh was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the establishment of Grameen Bank, a community development bank that lends money to poor people, especially women in Bangladesh. Dr. Yunus received his Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University, United States. He is internationally known for the concept of micro credit which allows poor and destitutes with little or no collateral to borrow money. The borrowers typically pay back money within specified period of time and the incidence of default is very low.

Beliefs

Mythology

Asian mythology is diverse. The story is first found in Mesopotamian mythology, in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Hindu mythology tells about an avatar of God Vishnu in the form of a fish who warned Manu of a terrible flood. In ancient Chinese mythology, Shan Hai Jing, the Chinese ruler Da Yu, had to spend 10 years to control a deluge which swept out most of ancient China and was aided by the goddess Nüwa who literally fixed the broken sky through which huge rains were pouring.

Religions

Asian philosophical traditions originated in India and cover a large spectrum of philosophical thoughts and writings. Indian philosophy includes Hindu philosophy and Buddhist philosophy. They include elements of nonmaterial pursuits, whereas another school of thought from India, Cārvāka, preached the enjoyment of material world. Christianity is also present in most Asian countries.

Abrahamic

The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam originated in West Asia. Judaism, the oldest of the Abrahamic faiths, is practiced primarily in Israel (which has either the largest or second largest Jewish population in the world), though small communities exist in other countries, such as the Bene Israel in India. In the Philippines and East Timor, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion; it was introduced by the Spaniards and the Portuguese, respectively. In Armenia, Eastern Orthodoxy is the predominant religion. Various Christian denominations have adherents in portions of the Middle East, as well as China and India. The world's largest Muslim community (within the bounds of one nation) is in Indonesia. South Asia (mainly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) holds 30% of Muslims. There are also significant Muslim populations in China, Iran, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia and most of West Asia and Central Asia.

Indian

The religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated in India, South Asia. In East Asia, particularly in China and Japan, Confucianism, Taoism and Zen Buddhism took shape. 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.

Other

Other religions of Asia include the Zoroastrianism, Shamanism practiced in Iran and Siberia respectively, Shintoism practiced in Japan (usually with Buddhism) and Animism practiced in the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia.

See also

References

Further reading

Reference works

  • Higham, Charles. Encyclopedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations. Facts on File library of world history. New York: Facts On File, 2004.
  • Kapadia, Feroz, and Mandira Mukherjee. Encyclopaedia of Asian Culture and Society. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1999.
  • Levinson, David, and Karen Christensen. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002.

External links

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