|Countries||49 UN members|
1 UN observer
5 other states
|Languages||List of languages|
|Time zones||UTC+02:00 to UTC+12:00|
|UN M49 code|
Asia (/ˈeɪʒə/ (listen), also UK: /ˈeɪʃə/) is the largest continent[b] in the world by both land area and population. It covers an area of more than 44 million square kilometers,[c] about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8% of Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Its 4.7 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population, having more people than all other continents combined.
Asia shares the
China and India alternated in being the largest economies in the world from 1 to 1,800 CE. China was a major economic power and attracted many to the east, and for many the legendary wealth and prosperity of the ancient culture of India personified Asia, attracting European commerce, exploration and colonialism. The accidental discovery of a trans-Atlantic route from Europe to America by Columbus while in search for a route to India demonstrates this deep fascination. The Silk Road became the main east–west trading route in the Asian hinterlands while the Straits of Malacca stood as a major sea route. Asia has exhibited economic dynamism (particularly East Asia) as well as robust population growth during the 20th century, but overall population growth has since fallen. Asia was the birthplace of most of the world's mainstream religions including Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, as well as many other religions.
Given its size and diversity, the concept of Asia—a
Definition and boundaries
The boundary between Asia and Africa is the
The threefold division of the
The border between Asia and Europe was historically defined by European academics.
In Sweden, five years after Peter's death, in 1730
The border between Asia and the region of Oceania is usually placed somewhere in the Malay Archipelago. The Maluku Islands in Indonesia are often considered to lie on the border of southeast Asia, with New Guinea, to the east of the islands, being wholly part of Oceania. The terms Southeast Asia and Oceania, devised in the 19th century, have had several vastly different geographic meanings since their inception. The chief factor in determining which islands of the Malay Archipelago are Asian has been the location of the colonial possessions of the various empires there (not all European). Lewis and Wigen assert, "The narrowing of 'Southeast Asia' to its present boundaries was thus a gradual process."
Asia–North America boundary
St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea belongs to Alaska and may be associated with either continent but is almost always considered part of North America, as with the Rat Islands in the Aleutian chain. At their nearest points, Alaska and Russia are separated by only 4 kilometres (2.5 miles).
Geographical Asia is a cultural artifact of European conceptions of the world, beginning with the Ancient Greeks, being imposed onto other cultures, an imprecise concept causing endemic contention about what it means. Asia does not exactly correspond to the cultural borders of its various types of constituents.
From the time of Herodotus a minority of geographers have rejected the three-continent system (Europe, Africa, Asia) on the grounds that there is no substantial physical separation between them. For example, Sir Barry Cunliffe, the emeritus professor of European archeology at Oxford, argues that Europe has been geographically and culturally merely "the western excrescence of the continent of Asia".
Geographically, Asia is the major eastern constituent of the continent of Eurasia with Europe being a northwestern peninsula of the landmass. Asia, Europe and Africa make up a single continuous landmass—Afro-Eurasia (except for the Suez Canal)—and share a common continental shelf. Almost all of Europe and a major part of Asia sit atop the Eurasian Plate, adjoined on the south by the Arabian and Indian Plate and with the easternmost part of Siberia (east of the Chersky Range) on the North American Plate.
The term "Asia" is believed to originate in the
The term was later adopted by the Romans, who used it in reference to the province of Asia, located in western Anatolia. One of the first writers to use Asia as a name of the whole continent was Pliny.
The history of Asia can be seen as the distinct histories of several peripheral coastal regions: East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, linked by the interior mass of the Central Asian steppes. 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
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, South Asia, 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
The Islamic Caliphate's defeats of the Byzantine and Persian empires led to West Asia and southern parts of Central Asia and western parts of South Asia under its control during its conquests of the 7th century. The Mongol Empire conquered a large part of Asia in the 13th century, an area extending from China to Europe. Before the Mongol invasion, Song dynasty reportedly had approximately 120 million citizens; the 1300 census which followed the invasion reported roughly 60 million people.
The Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, is thought to have originated in the arid plains of central Asia, where it then travelled along the Silk Road.
The Russian Empire began to expand into Asia from the 17th century, and would eventually take control of all of Siberia and most of Central Asia by the end of the 19th century. The Ottoman Empire controlled Anatolia, most of the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans from the mid 16th century onwards. In the 17th century, the Manchu conquered China and established the Qing dynasty. The Islamic Mughal Empire and the Hindu Maratha Empire controlled much of India in the 16th and 18th centuries respectively. The Empire of Japan controlled most of East Asia and much of Southeast Asia, New Guinea and the Pacific islands until the end of World War II.
The threefold division of theGreek geographers such as Anaximander and Hecataeus.
1825 map of Asia by Sidney Edwards Morse.
Map of western, southern, and central Asia in 1885
The map of Asia in 1796, which also included the continent of Australia (then known as New Holland).
1890 map of Asia
Asia is the largest continent on Earth. It covers 9% of the Earth's total surface area (or 30% of its land area), and has the longest coastline, at 62,800 kilometres (39,022 mi). Asia is generally defined as comprising the eastern four-fifths of
- North Asia
- Central Asia
- Western Asia (Near East)
- South Asia
- East Asia (Far East)
- Southeast Asia
There are various approaches to the regional division of Asia. The following subdivision into regions is used, among others, by the UN statistics agency
- North Asia (Siberia)[d]
- Central Asia (The 'stans)
- Western Asia (The Middle East or Near East and the Caucasus)
- South Asia (Indian subcontinent)
- East Asia (Far East)
- Southeast Asia (East Indies and Indochina)
Asia has extremely diverse climate features. Climates range from arctic and subarctic in Siberia to tropical in southern India and Southeast Asia. It is moist across southeast sections, and dry across much of the interior. Some of the largest daily temperature ranges on Earth occur in western sections of Asia. The monsoon circulation dominates across southern and eastern sections, due to the presence of the Himalayas forcing the formation of a thermal low which draws in moisture during the summer. Southwestern sections of the continent are hot. Siberia is one of the coldest places in the Northern Hemisphere, and can act as a source of arctic air masses for North America. The most active place on Earth for tropical cyclone activity lies northeast of the Philippines and south of Japan.
Climate change is having major impacts on many countries in the continent. A survey carried out in 2010 by global risk analysis farm Maplecroft identified 16 countries that are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Each nation's vulnerability was calculated using 42 socio, economic and environmental indicators, which identified the likely climate change impacts during the next 30 years. The Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka were among the 16 countries facing extreme risk from climate change. Some shifts are already occurring. For example, in tropical parts of India with a semi-arid climate, the temperature increased by 0.4 °C between 1901 and 2003. A 2013 study by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) aimed to find science-based, pro-poor approaches and techniques that would enable Asia's agricultural systems to cope with climate change, while benefitting poor and vulnerable farmers. The study's recommendations ranged from improving the use of climate information in local planning and strengthening weather-based agro-advisory services, to stimulating diversification of rural household incomes and providing incentives to farmers to adopt natural resource conservation measures to enhance forest cover, replenish groundwater and use renewable energy.
The ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei,
Asia has the largest continental economy by both
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the economies of China and India grew rapidly, both with an average annual growth rate of more than 8%. Other recent very-high-growth nations in Asia include Israel, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and mineral-rich nations such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japan's GDP was almost as large (current exchange rate method) as that of the rest of Asia combined.[
It is forecasted that India will overtake Japan in terms of nominal GDP by 2025.
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 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.
Trade between Asian countries and countries on other continents is largely carried out on the sea routes that are important for Asia. Individual main routes have emerged from this. The main route leads from the Chinese coast south via Hanoi to Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur through the
In 2010, Asia had 3.3 million millionaires (people with net worth over US$1 million excluding their homes), slightly below North America with 3.4 million millionaires. Last year Asia had toppled Europe. Citigroup in The Wealth Report 2012 stated that Asian centa-millionaire overtook North America's wealth for the first time as the world's "economic center of gravity" continued moving east. At the end of 2011, there were 18,000 Asian people mainly in Southeast Asia, China and Japan who have at least $100 million in disposable assets, while North America with 17,000 people and Western Europe with 14,000 people.
GDP (nominal, Peak Year)
millions of USD
|Rank||Country||GDP (PPP, Peak Year)
millions of USD
With growing Regional Tourism with domination of Chinese visitors,
|Source: "UN report 2004 data" (PDF).|
The figure for 2021 is provided by the 2022 revision of the World Population Prospects.
East Asia had by far the strongest overall Human Development Index (HDI) improvement of any region in the world, nearly doubling average HDI attainment over the past 40 years, according to the report's analysis of health, education and income data. China, the second highest achiever in the world in terms of HDI improvement since
1970, is the only country on the "Top 10 Movers" list due to income rather than health or education achievements. Its per capita income increased a stunning 21-fold over the last four decades, also lifting hundreds of millions out of income poverty. Yet it was not among the region's top performers in improving school enrollment and life expectancy.
Nepal, a South Asian country, emerges as one of the world's fastest movers since 1970 mainly due to health and education achievements. Its present life expectancy is 25 years longer than in the 1970s. More than four of every five children of school age in Nepal now attend primary school, compared to just one in five 40 years ago.
Hong Kong ranked highest among the countries grouped on the HDI (number 7 in the world, which is in the "very high human development" category), followed by Singapore (9), Japan (19) and South Korea (22). Afghanistan (155) ranked lowest amongst Asian countries out of the 169 countries assessed.
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 800 languages spoken in India, and more than 100 are spoken in the Philippines. China has many languages and dialects in different provinces.
Many of the world's
Judaism, the oldest of the Abrahamic faiths, is practiced primarily in Israel, the indigenous homeland and historical birthplace of the Hebrew nation: which today consists both of those Jews who remained in the Middle East and those who returned from diaspora in Europe, North America, and other regions; though various diaspora communities persist worldwide. Jews are the predominant ethnic group in Israel (75.6%) numbering at about 6.1 million, although the levels of adherence to Jewish religion vary. Outside of Israel there are small ancient Jewish communities in Turkey (17,400), Azerbaijan (9,100), Iran (8,756), India (5,000) and Uzbekistan (4,000), among many other places. In total, there are 14.4–17.5 million (2016, est.) Jews alive in the world today, making them one of the smallest Asian minorities, at roughly 0.3 to 0.4 percent of the total population of the continent.
The Baháʼí Faith originated in Asia, in Iran (Persia), and spread from there to the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia, India, and Burma during the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh. Since the middle of the 20th century, growth has particularly occurred in other Asian countries, because Baháʼí activities in many Muslim countries has been severely suppressed by authorities. Lotus Temple is a big Baháʼí Temple in India.
Indian and East Asian religions
Almost all Asian religions have philosophical character and Asian philosophical traditions cover a large spectrum of philosophical thoughts and writings.
As of 2012[update], Hinduism has around 1.1 billion adherents. The faith represents around 25% of Asia's population and is the largest religion in Asia. However, it is mostly concentrated in South Asia. Over 80% of the populations of both India and Nepal adhere to Hinduism, alongside significant communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bali, Indonesia. Many overseas Indians in countries such as Burma, Singapore and Malaysia also adhere to Hinduism.
Buddhism has a great following in mainland Southeast Asia and East Asia. Buddhism is the religion of the majority of the populations of
Japanese wedding at the Meiji Shrine
Bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Catholic procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila
- Druze dignitaries celebrating the Ziyarat al-Nabi Shu'ayb festival at the tomb of the prophet in Hittin
Christian Armenians praying at the Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagharshapat
Muslim men praying at the Ortaköy Mosque in Istanbul
Buddhist Monks performing traditional Sand mandala made from coloured sand
Some of the events pivotal in the Asia territory related to the relationship with the outside world in the post-
- The Partition of India
- The Chinese Civil War
- The Kashmir conflict
- The Balochistan Conflict
- The Naxalite–Maoist insurgency in India
- The Korean War
- The French Indochina War
- The Vietnam War
- The Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
- The 1959 Tibetan uprising
- The Sino-Vietnamese War
- The Bangladesh Liberation War
- The Yom Kippur War
- The Xinjiang conflict
- The Iranian Revolution
- The Soviet–Afghan War
- The Iran–Iraq War
- The Cambodian Killing Fields
- The Insurgency in Laos
- The Lebanese Civil War
- The Sri Lankan Civil War
- The 1988 Maldives coup d'état
- The Dissolution of the Soviet Union
- The Gulf War
- The Nepalese Civil War
- The Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts
- The West Papua conflict
- The First Nagorno-Karabakh War
- The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests
- The Indonesian occupation of East Timor
- The 1999 Pakistani coup d'état
- The War in Afghanistan
- The Iraq War
- The South Thailand insurgency
- The 2006 Thai coup d'état
- The Burmese Civil War
- The Saffron Revolution
- The Kurdish–Turkish conflict
- The Arab Spring
- The Israeli–Palestinian conflict
- The Arab–Israeli conflict
- The Syrian Civil War
- The Sino-Indian War
- The 2014 Thai coup d'état
- The Moro conflict in the Philippines
- The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
- The Turkish invasion of Syria
- The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar
- The Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
- The Hong Kong protests
- The 2020 China–India skirmishes