Asia - Continent facts
Asia is the central and eastern part of Eurasia, and the world's largest continent. Defined by subtracting Europe from Eurasia, Asia is either regarded as a landmass of its own, or as part of Eurasia.
The demarcation between Asia and Africa is the isthmus of Suez (although the Sinai Peninsula, being a part of Egypt east of the canal, is often geopolitically considered a part of Africa). The boundary between Asia and Europe runs via the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, to the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, the Caspian Sea, the Ural River to its source, and the Ural Mountains to the Kara Sea at Kara, Russia. About 60 percent of the world's human population lives in Asia.
Asia as a political division consists of the eastern part of Eurasia and nearby islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, often excluding Russia.
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 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", referring to the direction of the sun at sunset in the Middle East. This may be compared to a similar etymology proposed for Europe, as being from Semitic erēbu "to enter" or "set" (of the sun). These etymologies presuppose an originally Mesopotamian or Middle Eastern perspective, which would explain how the term "Asia" first came to be associated with Anatolia as lying west of the Semitic speaking area.
Asia is the central and eastern part of Eurasia, comprising approximately fifty countries. It has an area, including islands, of roughly 49,694,700 km². Asia is joined to Africa by the Isthmus of Suez and to Europe by a long border generally following the Ural Mountains.The mean elevation of the continent is 950 m (3,117 ft.), the largest of any in the world. The plateau and mountainous areas broadly sweep SW-NW across Asia, climaxing in the high Tibetan Plateau, rising to the highest peaks in the world in the Himalaya. To the north west lie plains, while to the south lie the geologically distinct areas of the Arabian peninsula, Indian subcontinent and Malay peninsula. Large numbers of islands lie south east of the continent.
Besides its mainland, Asia includes a large number of islands, including some of the world's largest islands, such as Borneo and Sumatra, and some of the world's most populated islands, such as Java and Honshu.
Other famous islands include Bali, Madura and Sulawesi of Indonesia; Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa of Japan; Luzon, Cebu and Mindanao of the Philippines; Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui of Thailand; as well as Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Singapore, Hong Kong island and Sakhalin.
The Asian nations of Indonesia, Brunei, East Timor, Singapore, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Cyprus are solely made up of one or more islands, and have no territory on the mainland.
For a comprehensive list of Asian islands, see List of islands of Asia.
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 Eurasian 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.
The Politics of Asia are extremely varied as would be expected of such a large landmass and a diverse population. Constitutional monarchies, absolute monarchies, one-party states, federal states, dependant territories, liberal democracies and military dictatorships are all factors in the region, as well as various forms of independance movements.
Civilisation has a long history throughout Asia and it probably involved politics right from the start although some of the earliest discernable political structures arose in Mesopotamia with the advent of writing offering details of these politics. A large and well organised civil service the like of which arose in China is also a necessary adjunct to politics. Much of the political climate in Asia today is affected by colonialism and imperialism of the past with some states retaining close links with their former colonial governors while others involved in bitter independence struggles the consequences of which continue to be felt.
The situation today is still mixed, with hostilities in parts of Asia such as the continuing tensions over Kashmir and between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China. There are also moves towards greater co-operation and communication within the region with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) a notable example.
In terms of gross domestic product (PPP), Asia's largest economy wholly within Asia is that of the PRC (People's Republic of China), however the economy of the E.U. (European Union), one state of which (Cyprus) lies within Asia, is the largest in the world. The E.U.'s status as a supranational union, rather than a sovereign state, makes the claim questionable, especially since, when considered alone, the economy of Cyprus is one of the smallest in both the E.U. and Asia, and not many times larger than that of East Timor, the Asian state with the smallest economy (although as of 2005 there is no reliable data for either Iraq or North Korea). Over the last decade, China's and India's economies have been growing rapidly, both with an average annual growth rate over 6%. PRC is the world's third largest economy after the E.U. and U.S.A., followed by Japan and India as the world's fourth and fifth largest economies respectively (then followed by the European nations: Germany, U.K., France and Italy). In terms of exchange rates however, Japan has the largest economy in Asia and the third largest in the world.
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, 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.
Several of the highest-density territories in the world are very small city-states, micronations or dependencies. These territories share a relatively small area and an exceptionally high urbanization level, with an economically specialized city population drawing also on rural resources outside the area, illustrating the difference between high population density and overpopulation.
The most densely populated large state is Bangladesh, where 134 million people live in a highly agricultural area around the lower Ganges river, with a national population density in excess of 900 persons per square kilometre. The Indonesian island of Java has a similar density, with 114 million people, resulting in about 856 people per square kilometre. Overall world population density presently averages 42 people per square kilometre.
Cities with exceptionally high population densities are often considered to be overpopulated, though the extent to which this is the case depends on factors like quality of housing and infrastructure or access to resources. Most of the largest densely-populated cities are in southern and eastern Asia, though Cairo and Lagos in Africa also fall into the category.
City population is however, heavily dependent on the definition used for the urban area: densities will be far higher for the central municipality than when more recently-developed and as yet administratively unincorporated suburbs are included, as in the concepts of agglomeration or metropolitan area, the latter including sometimes neighbouring cities.
There are a wide variety of languages spoken throughout Asia, comprising a number of families and unrelated isolate languages.
Sino-Tibetan languages Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese,Indo-European languages are widely spoken in southern and western Asia, as well as Asian Russia Indo-Iranian languages: Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Kurdish, Slavic languages: Russian, Semitic languages, Turkic languages, Mongolian language,Tai-Kadai languages, Austroasiatic languages, Eskimo-Aleut languages,Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages, Uralic languages.The Altaic languages are a somewhat disputed grouping. Sometimes included are Korean and Japanese and the Uralic languages.
A number of isolated languages - languages with no demonstrable links to other tongues - are also spoken in Asia: Yukaghir languages,Nivkh.
Culture of Asia is the aggregate of cultural heritage of the people of several nationalities, social and ethnic groups. Asia has seen the rise and fall of several civilizations and mighty empires.There is an abundance of local ethnicities spread out over the Asian continent. The most notable are the Chinese, Japanese, and Indian cultures. These giants all played major roles in the founding of modern civilization.
A large majority of the people in the world who practice a religious faith practice one which was founded in Asia.Religions founded in Asia and with a majority of their contemporary adherents in Asia include:
Bahá'í Faith (slightly more than half of all adherents are in Asia)
Buddhism (Japan,Sri Lanka, Korea, Singapore, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, India)
Hinduism (India, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, Bali)
Islam (Central, South, and Southwest Asia, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia)
Sikhism(India, Malaysia, Hong kong)
Taoism (China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Taiwan)
Zoroastrianism (Iran, India, Pakistan)
Religions founded in Asia that have the majority of their contemporary adherents in other regions include:
Christianity (South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, India and the Philippines)
Judaism (slightly fewer than half of its adherents reside in Asia)