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World map showing Asia.
World map showing Asia.
Satellite view of Asia
Satellite view of Asia
Political map of Asia
Political map of Asia
Asia is the largest and most populous region or continent depending on the definition. It is traditionally defined as part of the landmass of Africa- Eurasia lying east of the Suez Canal, east of the Ural Mountains, and south of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian and Black Seas. About 60% of the world's human population lives in Asia, of whom only 2% live in the northern and interior half (Siberia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, western Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan); the other 98% live in the remaining half.

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Geographical regions
Early history
Population density

Etymology - Contents

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 (c. 440 BC), where it refers to Asia Minor; or, for the purposes of describing the Persian Wars, to the Persian Empire, as opposed to Greece and Egypt. 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), cognate of Hebrew יצא, 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, an originally Mesopotamian or Middle Eastern perspective would not explain how the term "Asia" first came to be associated with Anatolia as lying west of the Semitic speaking area.

History - Contents

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 with the etymology of the word rooted in the ancient Near and Middle East. The demarcation between Asia and Africa is the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea. The boundary between Asia and Europe is commonly believed 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. However, modern discovery of the extent of Africa and Asia made this definition rather anachronistic, especially in the case of Asia, which would have several regions that would be considered distinct landmasses if these criteria were used (for example, South Asia and East Asia). Geologists and physical geographers no longer consider Asia and Europe to be separate continents. It is either defined in terms of geological landmasses (physical geography) or tectonic plates (geology). In the former case, Europe is a western peninsula of Eurasia or the Africa-Eurasia landmass. In the latter, Europe and Asia are still part of the Eurasian plate, which excludes the Arabian and Indian tectonic plates. In human geography, there are two schools of thought. One school follows historical convention and treats Europe and Asia as different continents, categorizing Europe, East Asia (the Orient), South Asia (British India), and the Middle East (Arabia and Persia) as specific regions for more detailed analysis. The other schools equate the word "continent" in terms of geographical region when referring to Europe, and use the term "region" to describe Asia in terms of physical geography. Because 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.There is much confusion in European languages with the term "Asian". Because a category implies homogenity, the term "Asian" almost always refers to a subcategory of people from Asia rather than referring to "Asian" defined in term of "Asia". The fact that in American English, Asian refers to East Asian (Orientals), while in British English, Asian refers to South Asian reflects this confusion. Sometimes, it is not even clear exactly what "Asia" consists of. Some definitions exclude Turkey, the Middle East, and/or Russia. The term is sometimes used more strictly in reference to Asia Pacific, 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 and/or Oceania. Asia contains the Indian subcontinent, Arabian subcontinent, as well as a piece of the North American plate in Siberia.

Geographical regions - Contents

As already mentioned, Asia is a subregion of Eurasia. For further subdivisions based on that term, see North Eurasia and Central Eurasia.Some Asian countries stretch beyond Asia. See Bicontinental country for details about the borderline cases between Asia and Europe, Asia and Africa, and Asia and Oceania.The following subregions of Asia are traditionally recognized:
  • Central Asia
  • East Asia
  • Far East
  • North Asia
  • South Asia (or Indian Subcontinent)
  • Southeast Asia
  • Southwest Asia (or Middle East or West Asia)

Central Asia
There is no absolute consensus in the usage of this term. Usually, Central Asia includes: Central Asia is currently geopolitically important because international disputes and conflicts over oil pipelines, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Chechnya, as well as the presence of U.S. military and U.K. military forces in Afghanistan.

East Asia
This area includes: Sometimes the nations of Mongolia and Vietnam are also included in East Asia.More informally, Southeast Asia is included in East Asia on some occasions.

North Asia
This term is rarely used by geographers, but usually it refers to the bigger Asian part of Russia, also known as Siberia. Sometimes the northern parts of other Asian nations, such as Kazakhstan are also included in Northern Asia.

South Asia (or Indian Subcontinent)
South Asia is also referred to as the Indian Subcontinent. It includes:

Southeast Asia
This region contains the Malay Peninsula, Indochina and islands in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. The countries it contains are: The country of Malaysia is divided in two by the South China Sea, and thus has both a mainland and island part.

Southwest Asia (or Middle East, Near East or West Asia)
This can also be called by the Western term Middle East, which is commonly used by Europeans and Americans. Middle East (to some interpretations) is often used to also refer to some countries in North Africa. Southwest Asia can be further divided into:

Economy - Contents

Economy of Asia
During 2003 unless otherwise stated
Population: 4.001 billion (2002)
GDP ( PPP): US.077 trillion
GDP ( Currency): .782 trillion
GDP/capita ( PPP): ,518
GDP/capita ( Currency): ,195
Annual growth of
per capita GDP:
Income of top 10%:
Millionaires: 2.0 million (0.05%)
Estimated female
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 PRC ( People's Republic of China). Over the last decade, China's and India's economies have been growing rapidly, both with an average annual growth rate above 7%. PRC is the world's second largest economy after the US, followed by Japan and India as the world's third and fourth largest economies respectively (then followed by the European nations: Germany, U.K., France and Italy).In terms of exchange rates (nominal GDP) however, 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 1990's had been concentrated in few countries of the Pacific Rim, and has spread more recently to other regions. In the late 80's and early 90's Japan's economy was almost as large as that of the rest of the continent combined. In 1995, Japan's economy nearly equalled the USA to tie the largest economy in the world for a day, after the Japanese currency reached a record high of 79 yen. However, 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.Trade blocs:
  • 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
  • South Asia Free Trade Agreement (proposed)

Natural resources
Asia is by a considerable margin the largest continent in the world, and is rich in natural resources, such as Petroleum and iron.High productivity in agriculture, especially of rice, allows high population density of countries in the warm and humid area. Other main agricultural products include wheat and chicken.Forestry is extensive throughout Asia except 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 PRC, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. The industry varies from manufacturing cheap goods such as toys to high-tech goods such as computers and cars. Many companies from Europe, North America, and Japan have significant operations in the developing Asia to take avantage of its abundant supply of cheap labor.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 centers. They are in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Call centers are becoming major employers in India and the Philippines, due to the availablity of many well-educated English speakers. The rise of the business process outsourcing industry has seen the rise of India and China as the other financial centers.

Early history - Contents

Map of Asia, 1892.
Map of Asia, 1892.
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 steppe.The coastal periphery was home to some of the world's earliest known civilizations, with each of the three regions developing early civilizations around fertile river valleys. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and the Yangtze shared many similarities and likely exchanged technologies and ideas such as mathematics and the wheel. Other notions such as that of writing likely developed individually in each area. Cities, states and empires developed in these lowlands.The steppe region had long been inhabited by mounted nomads, and from the central steppes they could reach all areas of Asia. The earliest known such central expansion out of the steppe is that of the Indo-Europeans, who spread their languages into the Middle East, India, and in the Tocharians to the borders of China. The northern part of Asia, covering much of Siberia, was inaccessible to the steppe nomads, due to the dense forests and the tundra. These areas were very sparsely populated.The centre and periphery were kept separate by mountains and deserts. The Caucasus, Himalaya, Karakum Desert and Gobi Desert formed barriers that the steppe horsemen could only cross with difficulty. While technologically and culturally, the urban city dwellers were more advanced, they could do little militarily to defend against the mounted hordes of the steppe. However, the lowlands did not have enough open grasslands to support a large horsebound force. Thus the nomads who conquered states in China, India, and the Middle East were soon forced to adapt to the local societies.

Population density - Contents

The following table lists countries and dependencies by population density in inhabitants and km2.Unlike the figures in the country articles, the figures in this table are based on areas including inland water bodies (lakes, reservoirs, rivers) and may therefore be lower here.The whole of Egypt, Russia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey are referred to in the table, although they may be considered to be only partly in Asia. Asia also contains about 60% of the world's population. Leaving the other 40% of the world's population to other continents.
Country / Region Population Density
(2002-07-01 est.)
Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China Macau SAR of PR China 17,684 25 461,833
Flag of Singapore Singapore 6,389 693 4,452,732
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China Hong Kong SAR of PR China 6,317 1,092 7,303,334
Flag of Maldives Maldives 1,070 300 320,165
Flag of Bangladesh Bangladesh 1,002 144,000 133,376,684
Flag of Bahrain Bahrain 987 665 656,397
Republic of China Republic of China ( Taiwan Area only) 627 35,980 22,548,009
Flag of South Korea South Korea 491 98,480 48,324,000
Flag of Lebanon Lebanon 354 10,400 3,677,780
Flag of Japan Japan 336 377,835 126,974,628
Flag of India India 329 3,287,590 1,045,845,226
Flag of Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 298 65,610 19,576,783
Flag of Israel Israel 290 20,770 6,029,529
Flag of Philippines Philippines 282 300,000 84,525,639
Flag of Vietnam Vietnam 246 329,560 81,098,416
Flag of North Korea North Korea 184 120,540 22,224,195
Flag of Nepal Nepal 184 140,800 25,873,917
Flag of Pakistan Pakistan 184 803,940 147,663,429
People's Republic of China People's Republic of China ( Mainland only) 134 9,596,960 1,284,303,705
Flag of Thailand Thailand 121 514,000 62,354,402
Flag of Indonesia Indonesia 121 1,919,440 231,328,092
Flag of Kuwait Kuwait 118 17,820 2,111,561
Flag of Armenia Armenia 112 29,800 3,330,099
Flag of Syria Syria 93 185,180 17,155,814
Flag of Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 90 86,600 7,798,497
Flag of Turkey Turkey 86 780,580 67,308,928
Flag of Cyprus Cyprus 83 9,250 775,927
Flag of Georgia (country) Georgia 71 69,700 4,960,951
Flag of Cambodia Cambodia 71 181,040 12,775,324
Flag of Egypt Egypt 71 1,001,450 70,712,345
Flag of Qatar Qatar 69 11,437 793,341
Flag of Malaysia Malaysia 69 329,750 22,662,365
Flag of Timor-Leste Timor-Leste 63 15,007 952,618
Flag of Myanmar Myanmar 62 678,500 42,238,224
Flag of Brunei Brunei 61 5,770 350,898
Flag of Jordan Jordan 58 92,300 5,307,470
Flag of Uzbekistan Uzbekistan 57 447,400 25,563,441
Flag of Iraq Iraq 55 437,072 24,001,816
Flag of Tajikistan Tajikistan 47 143,100 6,719,567
Flag of Bhutan Bhutan 45 47,000 2,094,176
Flag of Afghanistan Afghanistan 43 647,500 27,755,775
Flag of Iran Iran 40 1,648,000 66,622,704
Flag of Yemen Yemen 35 527,970 18,701,257
Flag of United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates 30 82,880 2,445,989
Flag of Laos Laos 24 236,800 5,777,180
Flag of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 24 198,500 4,822,166
Flag of Oman Oman 13 212,460 2,713,462
Flag of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 12 1,960,582 23,513,330
Flag of Turkmenistan Turkmenistan 9.6 488,100 4,688,963
Flag of Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 6.2 2,717,300 16,741,519
Flag of Russia Russia 3.0 13,083,100 39,129,729
Flag of Mongolia Mongolia 1.7 1,565,000 2,694,432
Total 45,711,848 3,895,528,341

Religion - Contents

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: Religions founded in Asia that have the majority of their contemporary adherents in other regions include:
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