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is the world's 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.
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
The word Asia entered English, via Latin, from
Ancient Greek (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.
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 as??? (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.
the ultimate etymology of the term may be from
the Akkadian word (w)a?û(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 erebu "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).
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
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.
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. 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' 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.
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 Southeast Asian Americans and South
Asian Americans due to the increasing demographics
of these groups.
of 2007, the largest national economy within Asia,
in terms of gross domestic product (PPP), is that
of China followed by that of India and Japan. In the
late 1990s and early 2000s, the economies of China
and India have been growing rapidly, both with an
average annual growth rate of more than 8%.
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
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. India is expected
to overtake Japan by 2030.
Asia-Europe Economic Meeting
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement
Commonwealth of Independent States
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
Asia is the largest continent in the world by a considerable
margin, and it is rich in natural resources, such
as petroleum and iron.
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.
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.
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 India and
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
workers. The rise of the business process outsourcing
industry has seen the rise of India and China as other
financial centres. Due its large and extremely competitive
information technology industry, Bangalore is often
dubbed as the Silicon Valley of India.
History of Asia
Map of Asia published in 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
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.
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.
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.
Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel laureate.
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. China has many
languages and dialects in different provinces.
Korea, however, is home to only one language,
albeit one with high dialectal diversity.
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
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, U.K., from 1998-2004, becoming the first
Asian to head an 'Oxbridge' College.
Asian writers who won Nobel Prizes include Yasunari
Kawabata (Japan, 1966), Kenzaburo Oe (Japan, 1994),
Gao Xingjian (China, 2000) and Orhan Pamuk (Turkey,
2006) Also,Shirin Ebadi of Iran was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts
for democracy and human rights, especially for the
rights of women and children. She is the first Iranian
and the first Muslim woman to receive the prize.
2006 Dr. Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh and Grameen
Bank he established to lend money to poor people especially
women in Bangladesh was awarded Nobel Peace prize.
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.
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 Nüwa who "fixed" the "broken"
sky through which huge rains were pouring. The story
is also found in the Tanakh, Bible and Qur'an.
of mythologies native to Asia:
The Mahabharata is a crucial component of ancient
Hindu philosophy.Hindu mythology
Babylonian and Assyrian religion
Yezidis (Modified indigenous Kurdish belief)
Tengriism (Indigenous Mongol, Tartar & Kazakh
Originated in India, Yoga forms an integral part of
Hindu philosophy.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.
was founded by Chinese philosopher Lao Zi, who lived
605-520 B.C. Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama,
who lived 563-483 B.C.
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 Zedongs 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
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.
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.
large majority of people in the world who practice
a religious faith practice one founded in Asia.
founded in Asia and with a majority of their contemporary
adherents in Asia include:
Bangladesh, India, Pakistan.
Animism: Eastern India, Japan, tribal Philippines.
Bahá'í Faith: slightly more than half
of all adherents are in Asia.
A stone image of the Buddha.Buddhism: Tibet, Bhutan,
Cambodia, China, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia,
Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam,
parts of India and parts of central and eastern Russia
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, Bhutan, Indonesia Bali, India,
Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore and
South Asian immigrants in West Asia.
Islam: Central Asia, South Asia, and Southwest Asia,
Maritime Southeast Asia, Mindanao Philippines , Southern
Thailand, Rakhine State Myanmar.
Shia Islam: largely to specific Iran, Azerbaijan,
parts of Iraq, Bahrain, parts of Afghanistan, parts
of India, parts of Pakistan.
Sunni Islam: dominant in the rest of the regions mentioned
Shamanism: Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and
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:
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.