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Asia Information
By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 5, 2003, 10:10


Asia is the central and eastern part of the continent of Eurasia, defined by subtracting the European peninsula from Eurasia. Geologically and geographically, however, Asia is not considered a continent or a subcontinent.

The exact boundaries are vaguely defined, especially between Asia and Europe: the demarcation between Asia and Africa is the isthmus of Suez. The boundary between Asia and Europe runs via the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, the Black Sea, the ridges of the Caucasus (according to others, through the Kuma-Manych Depression), the Caspian Sea, the Ural River (according to others, the Emba River) and the Ural Mountains to Novaya Zemlya. About 60 percent of the world's population live in Asia.

Asia as a political division consists of the part of Eurasia and nearby islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, often excluding Russia.


The word "Asia" is speculated to be from the Akkadian word asu, which means "to go out" or "to rise", referring to the direction of the sun at sunrise in the Middle East. Moreover, some consider that "Europe" is also derived from Akkadian as a mirror of "Asia". It bears a striking similarity to the Semitic word 'erebu', which means "to set". From a Middle Eastern perspective, the east (Asia) is the land of the rising sun where the west (Europe) is the land of the setting sun.

An alternative explanation is that the word Asia is rooted in a Greek term given originally to the plains of Ephesus in Anatolia, and later to the lands beyond it.

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.

Asia itself is often divided in the following subregions:

  • North Asia
  • Central Asia
  • East Asia
  • Southeast Asia
  • South Asia
  • Southwest Asia (or West Asia)
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.

Central Asia

There is no absolute consensus in the usage of this term. Usually, Central Asia includes:

  • The Central Asian Republics of Kazakhstan (excluding its small European territory), Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Afghanistan, Mongolia, and the western regions of China are also sometimes included.
  • Former Soviet states in the Caucasus region.

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 forces in Afghanistan.

East Asia

This area includes:

  • The Pacific Ocean islands of Taiwan and Japan.
  • North and South Korea on the Korean Peninsula.
  • China, but sometimes only the eastern regions
  • 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.

Southeast Asia

This region contains the Malay Peninsula, Indochina and islands in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. The countries it contains are:

  • In mainland Southeast Asia, the countries Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
  • In Maritime Southeast Asia, the countries of Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia (some of the Indonesian islands also lie in the Melanesia region of Oceania). East Timor (also Melanesian) is sometimes included too.
  • The country of Malaysia is divided in two by the South China Sea, and thus has both a mainland and island part.

South Asia

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

  • The Himalayan States of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
  • The Indian Ocean nations of Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Southwest Asia (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:

  • Anatolia (i.e. Asia Minor), constituting the Asian part of Turkey.
  • The island nation of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The Levant or Near East, which includes Syria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and the Asian portion of Egypt.
  • The Arabian peninsula, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Yemen and occasionally Kuwait.
  • The Caucasus region, including Armenia, a tiny portion of Russia and almost the whole of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
  • The Iranian Plateau, containing Iran and parts of other nations.


In terms of gross domestic product, Asia's largest economy is Japan, and the smallest is East Timor, (although as of 2005 there is no reliable data for Iraq or North Korea). Japan is the world's second largest economy, and North Korea is one of the poorest. As of 2005, China's and India's economies have been growing rapidly.

Trade blocs:

  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
  • 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 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 China, 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.

Early history

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 the first to be home to civilization, 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 desserts. The Caucuses, 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

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 are only partly in Asia.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip are not listed separately, but combined as Palestinian territories.

country pop. dens. area population
(/km2) (km2) (2002-07-01 est.)
Macau (PRC) 18,000 25 461,833
Hong Kong (PRC) 6,688 1,092 7,303,334
Singapore 6,430 693 4,452,732
Maldives 1,070 300 320,165
Bahrain 987 665 656,397
Bangladesh 926 144,000 133,376,684
Republic of China (Taiwan, Quemoy, Matsu) 627 35,980 22,548,009
Palestinian territories 545 6,220 3,389,578
South Korea 491 98,480 48,324,000
Lebanon 354 10,400 3,677,780
Japan 336 377,835 126,974,628
India 318 3,287,590 1,045,845,226
Sri Lanka 298 65,610 19,576,783
Israel 290 20,770 6,029,529
Philippines 282 300,000 84,525,639
Vietnam 246 329,560 81,098,416
North Korea 184 120,540 22,224,195
Nepal 184 140,800 25,873,917
Pakistan 184 803,940 147,663,429
People's Republic of China (Mainland) 134 9,596,960 1,284,303,705
Thailand 121 514,000 62,354,402
Indonesia 121 1,919,440 231,328,092
Kuwait 118 17,820 2,111,561
Armenia 112 29,800 3,330,099
Syria 93 185,180 17,155,814
Azerbaijan 90 86,600 7,798,497
Turkey 86 780,580 67,308,928
Cyprus 83 9,250 775,927
Georgia 71 69,700 4,960,951
Cambodia 71 181,040 12,775,324
Egypt 71 1,001,450 70,712,345
Qatar 69 11,437 793,341
Malaysia 69 329,750 22,662,365
East Timor 63 15,007 952,618
Myanmar 62 678,500 42,238,224
Brunei 61 5,770 350,898
Jordan 58 92,300 5,307,470
Uzbekistan 57 447,400 25,563,441
Iraq 55 437,072 24,001,816
Tajikistan 47 143,100 6,719,567
Bhutan 45 47,000 2,094,176
Afghanistan 43 647,500 27,755,775
Iran 40 1,648,000 66,622,704
Yemen 35 527,970 18,701,257
United Arab Emirates 30 82,880 2,445,989
Laos 24 236,800 5,777,180
Kyrgyzstan 24 198,500 4,822,166
Oman 13 212,460 2,713,462
Saudi Arabia 12 1,960,582 23,513,330
Turkmenistan 9.6 488,100 4,688,963
Russia 8.5 17,075,200 144,978,573
Kazakhstan 6.2 2,717,300 16,741,519
Mongolia 1.7 1,565,000 2,694,432
Total 80.5 49,694,698 4,000,601,258



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 (not much more than half of adherents in Asia)
  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Jainism
  • Shinto
  • Sikhism
  • Taoism
  • Zoroastrianism

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

  • Christianity
  • Judaism (not far short of half of adherents in Asia)

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