Learn more about Asia
Asia is the largest and most populous continent or region, depending on the definition. It covers 8.6% of the Earth's total surface area, or 29.4% of its land area, and it contains more than 60% of the world's human population.
Asia is traditionally defined as part of the landmass of Africa-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.
The word Asia entered English, via Latin, from Ancient Greek Ασία (Asia; see also List of traditional Greek place names). This name is first attested in Herodotus (about 440 BC), where it refers 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 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, son of Hyrtacus, a ruler over several towns, and elsewhere he describes a marsh as ασιος (Iliad 2, 461). The Greek term may be derived from Assuwa, a 14th century BC confederation of states in Western Anatolia. Hittite assu- = "good" is probably an element in that name.
Alternatively, the ultimate etymology of the term may be from the Akkadian word (w)aṣû(m), which means "to go out" 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 Semitic erēbu "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.
 Definition and boundaries
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 is the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea. The boundary between Asia and Europe is commonly 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).
Generally, geologists and physical geographers do not consider Asia and Europe to be separate continents. Physiographically, Asia is the major eastern constituent of the continent of Eurasia – with Europe being a northwestern peninsula of the landmass – or of Africa-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 much of Siberia situated 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.<ref>World University Service of Canada. Asia-WUSC WorldWide. 2006. October 7, 2006. <http://www.wusc.ca/expertise/worldwide/asia/>.</ref> The term is sometimes used more strictly in reference to the Asia-Pacific region, which does not include the Middle East or Russia<ref>BBC News 2006. September 9, 2006. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/>.</ref>, 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.<ref>American Heritage Book of English Usage. Asian. 1996. September 29, 2006. <http://www.bartleby.com/64/C006/007.html>.</ref>
 'Asian' as a demonym
The demonym 'Asian' often refers to a category of people from a subregion of Asia instead of being used as a mere adjective for anyone from the (Asian) continent. In British English, 'Asian' usually refers to South Asian, but may also refer to other Asian groups.<ref>Color Q World. Clarifying the Definition of Asian. 2005. October 1, 2006. <http://www.colorq.org/PetSins/article.asp?y=2005&m=5&x=5_7>.</ref> In the United States, 'Asian American' is usually taken to 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 Korean Americans, Southeast Asian Americans, and South Asian Americans due to the increasing demographics of these groups.<ref>Lee, Sharon M. Population Reference Bureau. Asian Americans Diverse and Growing. Accessed 2006-11-10.</ref>
- See also: Geography of Asia, countries in both Asia and Europe, geographic criteria for the definition of Europe, orientalism.
 Territories and regions
| Name of region<ref> Continental regions as per UN categorisations (map), except 12. Depending on definitions, various territories cited below (notes 6, 11-13, 15, 17-19, 21-23) may be in one or both of Asia and Europe, Africa, or Oceania.|
territory, with flag
(1 July 2002 est.)
| Population density|
| Image:Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Kazakhstan<ref> Kazakhstan is sometimes considered a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe; population and area figures are for Asian portion only.|
|Image:Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg Kyrgyzstan||198,500||4,822,166||24.3||Bishkek|
|Image:Flag of Tajikistan.svg Tajikistan||143,100||6,719,567||47.0||Dushanbe|
|Image:Flag of Turkmenistan.svg Turkmenistan||488,100||4,688,963||9.6||Ashgabat|
|Image:Flag of Uzbekistan.svg Uzbekistan||447,400||25,563,441||57.1||Tashkent|
| Image:Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg People's Republic of China<ref> The current state is formally known as the People's Republic of China (PRC), which is subsumed by the eponymous entity and civilisation. Figures given are for mainland China only, and do not include Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.|
| Image:Flag of Hong Kong.svg Hong Kong (PRC)<ref> Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC.|
|Image:Flag of Japan (bordered).svg Japan||377,835||126,974,628||336.1||Tokyo|
| Image:Flag of Macau.svg Macau (PRC)<ref> Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC.|
|Image:Flag of Mongolia.svg Mongolia||1,565,000||2,694,432||1.7||Ulaanbaatar|
|Image:Flag of North Korea.svg North Korea||120,540||22,224,195||184.4||Pyongyang|
|Image:Flag of South Korea (bordered).svg South Korea||98,480||48,324,000||490.7||Seoul|
| Image:Flag of the Republic of China.svg Republic of China (Taiwan) <ref> Figures are for the area under the de facto control of the ROC government. Claimed in whole by the PRC; see political status of Taiwan.|
| Image:Flag of Egypt.svg Egypt<ref> Egypt is generally considered a transcontinental country in Northern Africa and Western Asia; population and area figures are for Asian portion only, east of the Suez Canal (Sinai Peninsula).|
| Image:Flag of Russia (bordered).svg Russia<ref> Russia is generally considered a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe (UN region) and Northern Asia; population and area figures are for Asian portion only.|
|Image:Flag of Brunei.svg Brunei||5,770||350,898||60.8||Bandar Seri Begawan|
|Image:Flag of Cambodia.svg Cambodia||181,040||12,775,324||70.6||Phnom Penh|
| Image:Flag of Indonesia (bordered).svg Indonesia<ref> Indonesia is often considered a transcontinental country in Southeastern Asia and Oceania; figures do not include Irian Jaya and Maluku Islands, frequently reckoned in Oceania (Melanesia/Australasia).|
|Image:Flag of Laos.svg Laos||236,800||5,777,180||24.4||Vientiane|
|Image:Flag of Malaysia.svg Malaysia||329,750||22,662,365||68.7||Kuala Lumpur|
|Image:Flag of Myanmar.svg Myanmar (Burma)||678,500||42,238,224||62.3||Naypyidaw<ref> The administrative capital of Myanmar was officially moved from Yangon (Rangoon) to a militarised greenfield just west of Pyinmana on 6 November 2005.</ref>|
|Image:Flag of the Philippines.svg Philippines||300,000||84,525,639||281.8||Manila|
|Image:Flag of Singapore (bordered).svg Singapore||693||4,452,732||6,425.3||Singapore|
|Image:Flag of Thailand.svg Thailand||514,000||62,354,402||121.3||Bangkok|
| Image:Flag of East Timor.svg Timor-Leste (East Timor)<ref> Timor-Leste is often considered a transcontinental country in Southeastern Asia and Oceania.|
|Image:Flag of Vietnam.svg Vietnam||329,560||81,098,416||246.1||Hanoi|
|Image:Flag of Afghanistan.svg Afghanistan||647,500||27,755,775||42.9||Kabul|
|Image:Flag of Bangladesh.svg Bangladesh||144,000||133,376,684||926.2||Dhaka|
|Image:Flag of Bhutan.svg Bhutan||47,000||2,094,176||44.6||Thimphu|
| Image:Flag of India.svg India<ref> Includes Jammu and Kashmir, a contested territory among India, Pakistan, and the PRC.|
|Image:Flag of Iran.svg Iran||1,648,000||68,467,413||41.5||Tehran|
|Image:Flag of Maldives.svg Maldives||300||320,165||1,067.2||Malé|
|Image:Flag of Nepal.svg Nepal||140,800||25,873,917||183.8||Kathmandu|
|Image:Flag of Pakistan.svg Pakistan||803,940||147,663,429||183.7||Islamabad|
|Image:Flag of Sri Lanka.svg Sri Lanka||65,610||19,576,783||298.4||Colombo|
| Image:Flag of Armenia.svg Armenia<ref> Armenia is sometimes considered a transcontinental country: physiographically in Western Asia, it has historical and sociopolitical connections with Europe.|
| Image:Flag of Azerbaijan.svg Azerbaijan<ref> Azerbaijan is often considered a transcontinental country in Western Asia and Eastern Europe; population and area figures are for Asian portion only. Naxçivan is an autonomous exclave of Azerbaijan bordered by Armenia, Iran, and Turkey.|
|Image:Flag of Bahrain.svg Bahrain||665||656,397||987.1||Manama|
| Image:Flag of Cyprus.svg Cyprus<ref> The island of Cyprus is sometimes considered a transcontinental territory: in the Eastern Basin of the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey, it has historical and sociopolitical connections with Europe. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), distinct from the de jure Republic of Cyprus in the south (with a predominantly Greek population), is recognised only by Turkey.|
| Image:Palestinian flag.svg Gaza<ref> Gaza and West Bank, collectively referred to as the "Occupied Palestinian Territory" by the UN, are territories partially occupied by Israel but under de facto administration of the Palestinian National Authority.|
| Image:Flag of Georgia (bordered).svg Georgia<ref> Georgia is often considered a transcontinental country in Western Asia and Eastern Europe; population and area figures are for Asian portion only.|
|Image:Flag of Iraq.svg Iraq||437,072||24,001,816||54.9||Baghdad|
|Image:Flag of Israel (bordered).svg Israel||20,770||6,029,529||290.3||Jerusalem|
|Image:Flag of Jordan.svg Jordan||92,300||5,307,470||57.5||Amman|
|Image:Flag of Kuwait.svg Kuwait||17,820||2,111,561||118.5||Kuwait City|
|Image:Flag of Lebanon.svg Lebanon||10,400||3,677,780||353.6||Beirut|
| Image:Flag of Azerbaijan.svg Naxçivan (Azerbaijan)<ref> Azerbaijan is often considered a transcontinental country in Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Naxçivan is an autonomous exclave of Azerbaijan bordered by Armenia, Iran, and Turkey.|
|Image:Flag of Oman (bordered).svg Oman||212,460||2,713,462||12.8||Muscat|
|Image:Flag of Qatar (bordered).svg Qatar||11,437||793,341||69.4||Doha|
|Image:Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Saudi Arabia||1,960,582||23,513,330||12.0||Riyadh|
|Image:Flag of Syria.svg Syria||185,180||17,155,814||92.6||Damascus|
| Image:Flag of Turkey.svg Turkey<ref> Turkey is generally considered a transcontinental country in Western Asia and Southern Europe; population and area figures are for Asian portion only, excluding all of Istanbul.</small>|
|Image:Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg United Arab Emirates||82,880||2,445,989||29.5||Abu Dhabi|
| Image:Palestinian flag.svg West Bank<ref> West Bank and Gaza, collectively referred to as the "Occupied Palestinian Territory" by the UN, are territories occupied by Israel but under de facto administration of the Palestinian National Authority.|
|Image:Flag of Yemen.svg Yemen||527,970||18,701,257||35.4||Sanaá|
|Population:||3,958,768,100 (2006 Estimate)|
|GDP (PPP):||US$18.077 trillion|
|GDP (Currency):||$8.782 trillion|
|Annual growth of |
per capita GDP:
|Income of top 10%:|
|Millionaires:||2.0 million (0.05%)|
|Most numbers are from the UNDP from 2002, some numbers exclude certain countries for lack of information.|
|See also: Economy of the world - Economy of Africa - Economy of Asia - Economy of Europe - Economy of North America - Economy of Oceania - Economy of South America|
In terms of gross domestic product (PPP), the largest national economy within Asia is that of the People's Republic of China. 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 7%. China has the world's second-largest economy after the United States, followed by Japan and India.
However, in terms of exchange rates (nominal GDP), Japan has 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 EU, NAFTA or APEC). Economic growth in Asia since World War II to the 1990s had been concentrated in few countries of the Pacific Rim, and has spread more recently to other regions.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japan's economy was almost as large as that of the rest of the continent combined. In 1995, Japan's economy nearly equalled that of the USA to tie the largest economy in the world for a day, after the Japanese currency reached a record high of 79 yen. But since then, Japan's currency has corrected and China has grown to be the second-largest Asian economy, followed by India, in terms of exchange rates. It is expected that China will surpass Japan in currency terms to have the largest nominal GDP in Asia within a decade or two.
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
- Asia-Europe Economic Meeting
- Association of Southeast Asian Nations
- Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement
- Commonwealth of Independent States
- South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
 Natural resources
Forestry is extensive throughout Asia, except in Southwest and Central Asia. Fishing is a major source of food in Asia, particularly in Japan.
Manufacturing in Asia has traditionally been strongest in East and Southeast Asia, particularly in mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. The industry varies from manufacturing cheap goods such as toys to high-tech products such as computers and cars. Many companies from Europe, North America, and Japan have significant operations in Asia's developing countries to take advantage of its abundant supply of cheap labour.
One of the major employers in manufacturing in Asia is the textile industry. Much of the world's supply of clothing and footwear now originates in Southeast Asia.
 Financial and other services
Asia has three main financial centres: in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. 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 workforce. The rise of the business process outsourcing industry has seen the rise of India and China as other financial centres.
 Early history
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 Yangtze 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, India, 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 technologically and socially, the urban city dwellers were more advanced, 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. Korea, however, is home to only one language.
 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 also wrote the Indian anthem
The story of Great Floods find reference in most of the regions of Asia. 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 Nuwa who "fixed" the "broken" sky through which huge rains were pouring. The story is also found in the Tanakh, Bible and Qur'an.
List of mythologies native to Asia:
- Arabian mythology
- Balinese mythology
- Buddhist mythology
- Chinese mythology
- Hindu mythology
- Japanese mythology
- Korean mythology
- Mesopotamian mythology
- Canaanite mythology
- Persian mythology
- Philippine mythology
- Turkic mythology
Asian philosophical traditions originated in India and China 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, Carvaka, preached the enjoyment of material world.
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 communist philosophy was crystallized.
The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith originated in West Asia. The Dharmic religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated in South Asia. In East Asia, particularly in China and Japan, Confucianism, Taoism, Zen Buddhism and Shinto took shape. Other religions of Asia include the Zoroastrianism, Shamanism practiced in Siberia, and Animism practiced in the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia.
Today 30% of Muslims live in the South Asian regions of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The world's largest single Muslim community (within the bounds of one nation) is in Indonesia. There are also significant Muslim populations in China, Iran, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, and most of West Asia and Central Asia.
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 sects have adherents in portions of the Middle East, as well as China and India.
A large majority of people in the world who practice a religious faith practice one founded in Asia.
Religions founded in Asia and with a majority of their contemporary adherents in Asia include:
- Animism: Eastern India, Japan, Philippines,
- Bahá'í Faith: slightly more than half of all adherents are in Asia
- Bön: Tibet
- Buddhism: Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar,Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, parts of northern, eastern, and western India, and parts of central and eastern Russia (Siberia).
- Mahayana Buddhism: Bhutan, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, parts of the Philippines.
- Theravada Buddhism: Cambodia, parts of China, Chittagong Hill Tracts, West Bengal, Laos, mainly northern parts of Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, as well as parts of Vietnam.
- Vajrayana Buddhism: Parts of China, Mongolia, Tibet, parts of northern and eastern India, parts of central, eastern Russia and Siberia.
- Daoism: China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam.
- Hinduism: Bangladesh, Bali, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore.
- Islam: Central Asia, South Asia, and Southwest Asia, Maritime Southeast Asia
- Jainism: India
- Jehovah's Witnesses:
- Kejawen: Indonesia
- Qadiani: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan.
- Shamanism: Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Siberia.
- Shinto: Japan
- Sikhism: India, Malaysia, Hong Kong.
- Yezidi : Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey.
- Zikri: Pakistan, Iran.
- Zoroastrianism: Iran, India, Pakistan.
Religions founded in Asia that have the majority of their contemporary adherents in other regions include:
- Christianity: Armenia, East Timor, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestinian territories, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Syria.
- Judaism: slightly fewer than half of its adherents reside in Asia; Israel, India, Iran, Russia, Syria.
 See also</div>
- Far East
- Flags of Asia
- Geography of Asia
- Asian Century
- Asian Currency Unit
- Asian people
- Asian dance
- Eastern world
- "Asia". The Columbia Gazetteer of the World Online. 2005. New York: Columbia University Press.
- World Conflicts: Asia and the Middle East . Edited by Carl L. Bankston III. New York: Salem Press.
 External links
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