Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8. 7% of the Earth’s total surface area (or 30% of its land area) and with approximately 3. 9 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world’s current human population. During the 20th century Asia’s population nearly quadrupled. 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 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 differs very widely among and within its regions with regard to ethnic groups, cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems. Area: about 49 700,000 km2 (19 189 277 mi2) it covers about 60 percent of Earth’s total land area. Population: more than 4 billion human inhabitants (4,157 million), about 60 percent of the world’s population. 1, 33 billion of these people live in China.
Seven out of ten of the most populated countries are in Asia (2010). Highest Point: Mount Everest 8848m (29 028 ft) Nepal. Largest Lake: Caspian Sea (salt lake) 371 000 km2 (143 250 mi2), Zero Baykal, Lake Baikal 31 500 km2 in Siberia is the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume. Longest River: Yangtze China, 6380 km BOUNDARY the land mass of Asia is not the sum of the land masses of each of its regions, which have been defined independently of the whole. For example, the borders of Central Asia and the Middle East depend on who is defining them and for what purpose.
These varying definitions are not generally reflected in the map of Asia as a whole; for example, Egypt is typically included in the Middle East, but not in Asia, even though the Middle East is a division of Asia. The demarcation between Asia and Africa is the isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea. The border with Europe starts with the coast of the eastern Mediterranean, even though Turkey in the Near East extends partly into the Aegean Islands and includes Istanbul on the European side of the Bosporus.
On the north the boundary between the continents of Asia and Europe is commonly regarded as running 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 a long border generally following the eastern side of the Ural Mountains to the Kara Sea, Russia. The Arctic Ocean is the northern border. The Bering Straits divide Asia from North America. On the southeast of Asia are the Malaysian Peninsula , a vast nation among thousands of islands on the Sunda Shelf, large and small, inhabited and uninhabited.
Australia nearby is a different continent. The Pacific islands northeast of Australia more remotely removed from Japan and Korea are Oceania rather than Asia. From Indonesia the border runs along the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. Most of the islands in the Indian Ocean are Asian. Since the 18th century Asia has been divided into several subregions independently defined from Asia as a whole. There has been no historical consensus and there is not now any universal consensus on the use of these terms, just as there is none for the word “Asia. The areas defined by the United Nations Statistics Division are useful approximations made more fixed by arbitrary assessments of political circumstances, but they are not and cannot be presented as any sort of authority, past or present, on the exact meaning of either Asia or any of its subregions. The major subregions are as follows. Asia can be divided into 6 subcontinents –
- Central Asia – Kazakhstan Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
- East Asia – China, Japan, Mongolia, Taiwan, North and South Korea. North Asia – Russia.
- India Subcontinent – India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.
- Southeast Asia – Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar [Burma], Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
- Southwest Asia – The Middle East including Turkey, Iran, Cyprus, Israel, and Lebanon.
ETYMOLOGY Asia was originally a concept of Western 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.
ECONOMIC Asia has the second largest nominal GDP of all continents, after Europe, but the largest when measured in purchasing power parity.
As of 2011, the largest economies in Asia are China, Japan, India, South Korea and Indonesia. Based on Global Office Locations 2011, Asia dominated the office locations with 4 of top 5 were in Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, London and Shanghai. Around 68 percent of international firms have office in Hong Kong. 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 Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Cyprus and the Philippines, and mineral-rich nations such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. 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 the 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.
- Fact 3 – There are approx 4 billion people who live in Asia
- Fact 4 – There are 48 countries in Asia Fact 5 – Asian people include Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and Arabs
- Fact 6 – The largest cities include Tokyo, Seoul, Jakarta, Delhi, Mumbai, Manila and Shanghai
- Fact 7 – The population of India is more than the overall population of North, Central and South America
- Fact 8 – Bangladesh is the most densely inhabited country in Asia
- Fact 9 – Asian Religions include Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, Jainism, Christianity and Shintoism
- Fact 10 – Great Asian landmarks which are man-made include the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal and the Leshan Giant Buddha *
- Fact 11 – East Asia consists of China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan
- Fact 12 – Southeast Asia includes Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, East Timor, Brunei and Indonesia
- Fact 13 – West Asia consists of Turkey, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen
- Fact 14 – Central Asia consists of the five former Soviet Socialist Republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are sometimes included
- Fact 15 – North Asia is considered to be made up of the Asian part of Russia including Siberia RELIGION Asian mythology is complex and diverse. The story of the Great Flood for example, as presented to Christians in the Old Testament, is first found inMesopotamian mythology, in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Hindu mythology tells about an Avatar of the 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 literally fixed the broken sky through which huge rains were pouring . Almost all Asian religions have philosophical character and Asian philosophical traditions 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. Christianity is also present in most Asian countries. Fauna of Asia is all the animals living in Asia and its surrounding seas and islands. Since there is no natural bio geographic boundary in the west between Europe and Asia, the term “fauna of Asia” is somewhat elusive. Asia is the eastern part of the Palaearctic eco zone , and its South-Eastern part belongs to the Indomalaya ecozone (previously called the Oriental region).
Asia shows a notable diversity of habitats, with significant variations in rainfall, altitude, topography, temperature and geological history, which is reflected in its richness of animal life. Freshwater Asia also contains several important freshwater ecoregions as well, including Rivers of Russia, which flow into the Arctic, Black, and Caspian seas, Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on the planet(home to numerous endemic sponges, oligochaetes, and crustaceans and the Baikal seal), Khanka Lake, and Japan’s Lake Biwa, Lake Dongting, Lake Tai and Lake Poyang in China.
The rivers of China are home to the critically endangered Finless Porpoise and Baiji. There are also several Asian lakes with saline or brackish water, and with peculiar fauna (Caspian Sea, Lake Balkhash, Aral Sea, Issyk Kul, Qinghai Lake). South Asia is especially rich in freshwater life, with 10% of the world’s fishes (over 2000 species). Marine fauna There are strong affinities and relationships between Mediterranean and Atlantic faunas. The deep-water fauna of the Mediterranean has no distinctive characteristics and is relatively poor. Both are a result of events after the Messinian salinity crisis. An invasion of Indian Ocean species has begun via the Suez Canal (see Lessepsian migration). The Indo-Pacific is a rich bio geographic region including most part of the Asian seas, comprising the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the seas connecting the two in the general area of Indonesia Reptiles Asia has a rich reptile fauna. Earless monitor lizards, snakes of the families Uropeltidae, Acrochordidae and Xenopeltidae and gavials are endemic to Asia.
Large mammals characteristic of Indomalaya include the leopard, tigers, wild Asian water buffalos, Asian elephant, Indian rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros, Malayan tapir. The other endemic Asian families include Ursidae (giant panda), Calomyscidae (mouse-like hamsters) and Ailuridae (red pandas). The Asian ungulates include bharal, gaur, blackbuck, the wild yak and the Tibetan antelope, four-horned antelope, ox-sheep (Ovibovini), takin, kting voar, several species of muntjac, Bubalus and others. The goat-antelopes (Rupicaprini) are represented by the goral and the serow.
Asia’s tropical forests accommodate one of the world’s three principal primate communities, about 45 species including prosimians (the loris and tarsier), the leaf-eating langurs, the orangutan of Borneo and Sumatra, and the gibbons.
Across Asia wildlife populations and habitats are being decimated by poorly controlled industrial and agricultural exploitation, by infrastructure development (construction of dams, roads and tourist facilities), and by illegal activities such as poaching and timber theft.
The result is loss of biodiversity and loss of livelihoods. A culture of indiscriminate wildlife use combined with poverty, population growth and rapid economic development has created a wave of pressure on natural ecosystems. China’s spectacular economic growth, in particular, is straining the supply of natural resources throughout the region. Southeast Asia has the highest relative rate of deforestation of any major tropical region, and could lose three quarters of its original forests by 2100 and up to 42% of its biodiversity.
Asia has the richest flora of the earth’s seven continents. Because Asia is the largest continent, it is not surprising that 100,000 different kinds of plants grow within its various climate zones, which range from tropical to Arctic . Asian plants, which include ferns ,gymnosperms, and flowering vascular plants, make up 40 percent of the earth’s plant species. The endemic plant species come from more than forty plant families and fifteen hundred genera.
Asia is divided into five major vegetation regions based on the richness and types of each region’s flora: tropical rain forests in Southeast Asia, temperate mixed forests in East Asia, tropical rain/ dry forests in South Asia, desert and steppe in Central and West Asia, and taiga and tundra in North Asia. Food Crops Rice is the main food for humans in Asia, especially in the tropics. In temperate Asia, wheat—one of the world’s main food sources—joins rice as a primary food source. Various beans and peas provide plant protein in the human diet and are eaten with vegetables and grains.
Asia has many tropical fruit plants, such as the mango, banana, litchi, citrus fruits, and breadfruit. Pears, apples, grapes, peaches, and strawberries are temperate fruits. The kiwi, one of the most nutrient-rich fruits, is cultivated in New Zealand but originally came from central China. The Chinese not only eat kiwi but also make kiwi wine. Palm dates are another important fruit in West and Southwest Asia (the Arabian Peninsula). Vegetables grown in Asia include various cabbages, lettuce, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, soybeans, cucumbers, and squash. Ginger originally came from Asia. Soybean oil is the major cooking oil in Asia.
Although soybeans are native to Asia, they have become the biggest crop grown in the United States. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, in 1999 U. S. farmers harvested 73. 3 million acres of soybeans, 2. 3 million acres more than corn and 18. 6 million acres more than wheat. Another oil plant, the sunflower, is grown in temperate Asia. In tropical Asia, people use mustard oil, palm oil, cotton oil, and peanut oil. In Central and West Asia, the most popular oil is olive oil. Many other foods people enjoy throughout the world are native Asian plants, for example, tea and coconuts.
Black pepper and sugarcane also are grown in tropical Asia. Ornamental and Medicinal Plants Many of Asia’s plant species have great ornamental value. Azaleas, dogwood, primroses, camellias, peonies, roses, lotus, daisies, cherries, and begonias are frequently planted in gardens. Ornamental conifers from Asia include pines, spruces, cedars, junipers, umbrella pines, and yews. Thousands of wildflowers originating in Asia include poppies, snapdragons, slippers, columbine, trillium, marigolds, buttercups, gentian, lilies, bluebells, and violets.
Europeans who explored Asia centuries ago brought ornamental plants back to their home countries. As a result, many of these plants are now grown throughout the world. The world’s largest flower, rafflesia, grows in the tropical rain forests of Sumatra. In full bloom, the flower’s diameter is about 3 feet (1 meter). Plants make up a large part of traditional Chinese medicine, which has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, some of these plants are used in alternative medicine in the West. They include ephedrine, encomia, cinnamon, ginseng, sanqi, and ginkgo.
Introduced Plants Asian flora today also includes introduced plant species from other parts of the world that play important roles in people’s lives. For example, the rubber tree of South America is cultivated in tropical Asia. This tree produces raw material for the natural rubber industry, in which Asia is the largest producer in the world. Cacao, a tree species that provides the basis of chocolate, was introduced from tropical America. Corn, one of the most common crops in Asia, was introduced from America several thousand years ago.
Several vegetables, including the tomato, potato, eggplant, green pepper, hot pepper, and chili (all from the nightshade family), were introduced to Asia long ago. Peanuts, originally from Brazil, are also cultivated in Asia. Coffee, an increasingly popular beverage in Asia, came originally from Africa. An introduced fruit is the pineapple, which came from tropical America but now is popular in tropical Asia. The sweet potato, from Central America, is also cultivated in Asia. Tobacco is another crop introduced to and cultivated in Asia. It originally came from tropical America, but its yield in China has made that nation a leading producer.
Impact of Human Activity Asia’s highly diversified flora have contributed positively to the daily lives of people around the world, but the demands of a rapidly growing population are a constant threat. Deforestation, overgrazing, and urbanization have become major reasons for heavy losses of Asian flora, especially in South and East Asia. In China alone, eight key plant species were added to the first-class protection list in the Red Book of 1992 (equivalent to the U. S. endangered species list). Among the mare the Chinese silver fir, dawn redwood, and ginseng.
These plants only grow in several isolated locations and are rare in their original range. As natural vegetation is cut for farming, grazing, or simply for cooking and heating fuel, fewer plants remain. Although scientists from around the world have worked on this problem for decades, the situation has not improved.
A continent as vast as Asia is bound to have great variations between its regions. There are differences in climate, landforms, and animal and plant life. But perhaps the greatest difference of all is between the many groups of people who live in Asia. Almost every racial type in the world can be found there.
There is every variety of skin colours, from white through yellow and brown to black, and every shade between. There is an equally great variety of physical types and facial appearances. These different types of body builds and features are found in every “race” or skin-colour group. For thousands of years various groups have been mixing, creating ever new combinations of characteristics. Much more significant than the physical differences between Asia’s peoples are the cultural differences– the way they live, their habits and customs, the religions they believe in, their values, the languages they speak, the way hey think. These differences, like physical differences, also cut across racial lines. In southwest Asia, for example, most of the people are Caucasian, or “white. ” Yet there are great differences in the way they look and the way they live. Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, and Israelis all speak different languages, dress differently, and have different ideas of what is good and what is bad. They follow different religions. The Turks, the Persians, and most of the Arabs are Moslems. Some of the Arabs are Christians. And most Israelis are Jewish.
Each religion has many sects. Even within such a group as the Arabs, who speak the same language, there are great differences between the desert nomads with their flocks, the settled farmers of the more fertile regions, and the townsmen. In south Asia there are even more differences between groups of Asia people. In India alone, fourteen major languages are spoken. In religion, most Indians are Hindus, but there are also Moslems, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians (fire worshippers). The same sorts of differences can be found in the other parts of Asia.
What makes the people so different from each other? Part of the answer is tradition– the customs and beliefs handed down from generation to generation. Another reason is the values taught by their religions. Still another reason for the differences is the influence of the surroundings–climate, landforms, nature of the soil, and natural resources. It is clear that people who live in a cold, dry region of grasslands and deserts, like the Mongols, will live very differently from the people of a wet tropical island such as Java.
Because Asia is large and communications (until recently) have been very poor, the people of each district developed their own dialect or local variety of a language. Often the dialects of the same language may be so different that two people speaking different dialects cannot understand each other. Thus, a Chinese from Canton may not be able to understand another Chinese from a village only 50 miles away. The fact that so May Asian people speak different dialects or languages has caused a great deal of difficulty for the governments of Asian countries.
To overcome this problem, some countries have established one dialect or language as the official one. In India, for example, the official language is Hindi (along with English). In China the Mandarin dialect is taught to all school children. In the Philippines, where the people speak various Malaysian dialects, the official dialect is Tagalong. Mankind has lived in Asian a very long time. Some of the oldest known fossils of prehistoric man have been found on the island of Java in Indonesia and near Peking in northern China. The world’s oldest civilizations are Asian.
Chinese civilization is nearly 5,000 years old, and the civilization of India is nearly that old. Asia Transportation There are more than 30 countries in Asia today. Many have changed their names or forms of government since World War II. Some, like Israel, did not even exist before the war. People in United States and Europe are able to travel quickly from one place to another, even when the places are hundreds of miles apart. Transportation is abundant and there are many good roads, railroads, and airlines to choose from. In Asia transportation and travel is very different.
Asia has extremes of surface and climate, so that overland travel is often difficult. High mountains, plateaus, deserts, and jungles make it almost impossible to build roads and railroads in many places. Few railroads go directly from one country to another. Many people in Asia have never seen or travelled on a railroad. In fact most of them have never travelled more than a few miles from the tiny villages where they were born. Some countries do have good railroads. India’s railway lines were built by the British. Japan, too, as many fine railroads. Highways are even fewer than railroads in Asia.
Southwest Asia has no paved roads leading to southern Asia. There are some trails leading north from India through the mountains of Tibet or China but they are not suitable for modern vehicles. Only one surfaced road, built recently by the Chinese, connects Nepal with Tibet. Fortunately, in recent years there has been rapid growth in air transportation in Asia. Several major airlines not connect countries of Southern Asia with Europe and the United States. Airlines make regular stops at Manila, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bombay, Taipei, and Beijing. But the central part of Asia has little air service, just as it has few roads or railroads.
Asia stretches about 5,000 miles from north of the Arctic Circle to south of the equator. From east to west Asia stretches nearly halfway around the world. This vast area has many different kinds of climate. Asia has some of the coldest and some of the hottest, some of the wettest and some of the driest places on earth. The great interior lands of Asia are far from the ocean. Winds from the oceans cut off by the high mountain chains which surround the interior. Because of this, the climate of central Asia is one of extremes. Winters are long and cold, chilled by cold winds from the polar regions.
Summers everywhere but the highlands are short and hot. Except in the mountains, there is little rainfall. Consequently, much of the region is desert. Northern Asia has much the same sort of climate as central Asia, except that is has more rainfall. Winters are extremely cold-the coldest inhabited place in the world is a village in Siberia called Verkhoyansk. The temperature there sometimes drops to 90 degrees below zero. In southern Asia the climate is quite different. Here is hot all year round, except in the mountains. The temperature in the lowlands may reach as high as 125 degrees.
There are no summer and winter as we know them. Instead, there is a rainy season and a dry season. The rainy season usually lasts from June through October. During that period it rains heavily every day. More rain falls in this part of the Asia than in any other place in the world. Some areas in India get more than 450 inches of rainfall during the rainy season. The rainy and dry seasons are caused by winds called monsoons, which blow from central Asia toward the southern and eastern edges of the continent. Winter monsoons are dry winds because they blow over dry land.
They are cold because they come from a cold region. The summer monsoons blow inland from the oceans, bringing moisture as far inland as they reach. The rainy season is very important to the millions of people who live in southern and eastern Asia. This is the reason when they planted the crops on which they depend for their food. Without the rains the plants will not grow. Drought brings famine, and thousands of people starve. Sometimes the monsoons are late, and crops cannot be planted in time to ripen. Sometimes the monsoons bring floods. South-western Asia is another very dry region.
Summers there are long and very hot. Winters are relatively mild except in the far interior. In certain areas of south-western Asia, winter is the rainy season. It is also the growing season, because crops would die in the hot, dry summers. Climate has a great influence on the way people live. For example, the people of northern Siberia live in a region of long, extremely cold winters and short summers. The soil is permanently frozen beneath the surface, making farming impossible. The natives of northern Siberia must depend for their living on hunting and fishing.