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Updated:Sunday 12th October 2014

Asia ?

Asia Definition

largest continent on Earth. Human habitation dates back to at least one million years ago. One of the earliest civilizations to use writing developed in the Mesopotamia. Civilization in the Indus River valley and in northern Syria followed aroud 2500 BC. Chinese urban civilization began around 1600 BC . Aryans began to settle India from the west around 1700 BC. (Wikipedia) - Asia For other uses, see Asia (disambiguation). Asia Area Population Pop. density Demonym Countries Dependencies Unrecognized regions Languages Time zones Internet TLD Largest cities
44,579,000 km2 (17,212,000 sq mi)
4,164,252,000 (1st)
87/km2 (225/sq mi)
49 (and 5 disputed) (list of countries)
List of languages
UTC+2 to UTC+12

List of metropolitan areas in Asia by population List of cities in Asia


Asia (i/ˈeɪʒə/ or /ˈeɪʃə/) is the Earth''s largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth''s total surface area and comprises 30% of its land area. With approximately 4.3 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world''s current human population. Like most of the world, Asia has a high growth rate in the modern era. For instance, during the 20th century, Asia''s population nearly quadrupled, as did the world population.

The boundaries of Asia are culturally determined, as there is no clear geographical separation between it and Europe, which together form one continuous landmass called Eurasia. The most commonly accepted boundaries place Asia to the east of the Suez Canal, the Ural River, and the Ural Mountains, and south of the Caucasus Mountains (or the Kuma–Manych Depression) and the Caspian and Black Seas. It is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean.

Given its size and diversity, the concept of Asia – a name dating back to classical antiquity - may actually have more to do with human geography than physical geography. Asia varies greatly across and within its regions with regard to ethnic groups, cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems.

  • 1 Definition and boundaries
    • 1.1 Greek three-continent system
    • 1.2 Asia–Europe boundary
    • 1.3 Asia–Oceania boundary
    • 1.4 Ongoing definition
  • 2 Etymology
  • 3 History
  • 4 Geography and climate
    • 4.1 Climate change
  • 5 Economy
  • 6 Tourism
  • 7 Demographics
    • 7.1 Languages
    • 7.2 Religions
      • 7.2.1 Abrahamic
      • 7.2.2 Indian and East Asian religions
  • 8 Modern conflicts
  • 9 Culture
  • 10 Political geography
  • 11 See also
  • 12 References
  • 13 Bibliography
  • 14 Further reading
  • 15 External links

Definition and boundaries For more details on Asian borders, see Geography of Asia, Boundaries between continents, List of transcontinental countries and Copenhagen criteria. Greek three-continent systemTwo-point equidistant projection of Asia and surrounding landmasses.The racial diversity of Asia''s peoples, Nordisk familjebok (1904)

The border between Asia and Europe has historically been determined by Europeans only. The original distinction between the two was made by the ancient Greeks. They used the Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, the Black Sea, the Kerch Strait, and the Sea of Azov as the border between Asia and Europe. The Nile was often used as the border between Asia and Africa (then called Libya), although some Greek geographers suggested the Red Sea would form a better boundary. Darius'' canal between the Nile and the Red Sea introduced considerable variation in opinion. Under the Roman Empire, the Don River emptying into the Black Sea was the western border of Asia. It was the northernmost navigable point of the European shore. In the 15th century the Red Sea became established as the boundary between Africa and Asia, replacing the Nile.

Asia–Europe boundary

The Don River became unsatisfactory to northern Europeans when Peter the Great, king of the Tsardom of Russia, defeating rival claims of Sweden and the Ottoman Empire to the eastern lands, and armed resistance by the tribes of Siberia, synthesized a new Russian Empire extending to the Ural Mountains and beyond, founded in 1721. The major geographical theorist of the empire was actually a former Swedish prisoner-of-war, taken at the Battle of Poltava in 1709 and assigned to Tobolsk, where he associated with Peter''s Siberian official, Vasily Tatishchev, and was allowed freedom to conduct geographical and anthropological studies in preparation for a future book.

In Sweden, five years after Peter''s death, in 1730 Philip Johan von Strahlenberg published a new atlas proposing the Urals as the border of Asia. The Russians were enthusiastic about the concept, which allowed them to keep their European identity in geography. Tatishchev announced that he had proposed the idea to von Strahlenberg. The latter had suggested the Emba River as the lower boundary. Over the next century various proposals were made until the Ural River prevailed in the mid-19th century. The border had been moved perforce from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea into which the Ural River projects. In the maps of the period, Transcaucasia was counted as Asian. The incorporation of most of that region into the Soviet Union tended to push views of the border to the south. Asian cultures had no say in this system of determining the imaginary boundaries separating them from Europe.

Asia–Oceania boundary

The border between Asia and the loosely defined region of Oceania is usually placed somewhere in the Malay Archipelago. 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."

Ongoing definitionAfro-Eurasia shown in green

Geographical Asia is a cultural artifact of European conceptions of the world being imposed onto other cultures, an imprecise concept causing endemic contention about what it means. Asia is larger and more culturally diverse than Europe. It 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 or 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 – or of Afro-Eurasia; geologically, Asia, Europe and Africa make up a single continuous landmass (except for the Suez Canal) and share a common continental shelf. Almost all of Europe and the better 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.

EtymologyPtolemy''s Asia

The English word, "Asia," was originally a concept of Greek civilization. The place name, "Asia", in various forms in a large number of modern languages is of unknown ultimate provenience. Its etymology and language of origin are uncertain. It appears to be one of the most ancient of recorded names. A number of theories have been published. English Asia can be traced through the formation of English literature to Latin literature, where it has the same form, Asia. Whether all uses and all forms of the name derive also from the Latin of the Roman Empire is much less certain.

Classical antiquity

Latin Asia and Greek Ἀσία appear to be the same word. Roman authors translated Ἀσία as Asia. The Romans named a province Asia (Roman province), which roughly corresponds with modern-day central-western Turkey. There was an Asia Minor and an Asia Major located in modern-day Iraq. As the earliest evidence of the name is Greek, it is likely circumstantially that Asia came from Ἀσία, but ancient transitions, due to the lack of literary contexts, are difficult to catch in the act. The most likely vehicles were the ancient geographers and historians, such as Herodotus, who were all Greek. Roman civilization Hellenized extensively. Ancient Greek certainly evidences early and rich uses of the name.

The first continental use of Asia is attributed to Herodotus (about 440 BC), not because he innovated it, but because his Histories are the earliest surviving prose to describe it in any detail. He defines it carefully, mentioning the previous geographers whom he had read, but whose works are now missing. By it he means Anatolia and the Persian Empire, in contrast to Greece and Egypt. Herodotus comments that he is puzzled as to why three women''s names were "given to a tract which is in reality one" (Europa, Asia, and Libya, referring to Africa), stating that most Greeks assumed that Asia was named after the wife of Prometheus (i.e. Hesione), but that the Lydians say it was named after Asies, son of Cotys, who passed the name on to a tribe at Sardis. In Greek mythology, "Asia" (Ἀσία) or "Asie" (Ἀσίη) was the name of a "Nymph or Titan goddess of Lydia."

Herodotus'' geographical puzzlement was perhaps only a form of disagreement, as, having read the earlier Greek poetry along with everyone else literate, he would have known perfectly well why places received female names. Athens, Mycenae, Thebes and many other locations in fact had them. In ancient Greek religion, places were under the care of female divinities, parallel to guardian angels. The poets detailed their doings and generations in allegoric language salted with entertaining stories, which subsequently playwrights transformed into classical Greek drama and became "Greek mythology."

For example, Hesiod mentions the daughters of Tethys and Ocean, among whom are a "holy company", "who with the Lord Apollo and the Rivers have youths in their keeping." Many of these are geographic: Doris, Rhodea, Europa, Asia. Hesiod explains:

"For there are three-thousand neat-ankled daughters of Ocean who are dispersed far and wide, and in every place alike serve the earth and the deep waters."

The Iliad (attributed by the ancient Greeks to Homer) mentions two Phrygians (the tribe that replaced the Luvians in Lydia) in the Trojan War named Asios (an adjective meaning "Asian"); and also a marsh or lowland containing a marsh in Lydia as ασιος.

Bronze Age

Before Greek poetry, the Aegean Sea area was in a Greek Dark Age, at the beginning of which syllabic writing was lost and alphabetic writing had not begun. Prior to then in the Bronze Age the records of the Assyrian Empire, the Hittite Empire and the various Mycenaean states of Greece mention a region undoubtedly Asia, certainly in Anatolia, including if not identical to Lydia. These records are administrative and do not include poetry.

The Mycenaean states were destroyed about 1200 BC by unknown agents although one school of thought assigns the Dorian invasion to this time. The burning of the palaces baked clay diurnal administrative records written in a Greek syllabic script called Linear B, deciphered by a number of interested parties, most notably by a young World War II cryptographer, Michael Ventris, subsequently assisted by the scholar, John Chadwick. A major cache discovered by Carl Blegen at the site of ancient Pylos included hundreds of male and female names formed by different methods.

Some of these are of women held in servitude (as study of the society implied by the content reveals). They were used in trades, such as cloth-making, and usually came with children. The epithet, lawiaiai, "captives," associated with some of them identifies their origin. Some are ethnic names. One in particular, aswiai, identifies "women of Asia." Perhaps they were captured in Asia, but some others, Milatiai, appear to have been of Miletus, a Greek colony, which would not have been raided for slaves by Greeks. Chadwick suggests that the names record the locations where these foreign women were purchased. The name is also in the singular, Aswia, which refers both to the name of a country and to a female of it. There is a masculine form, aswios. This Aswia appears to have been a remnant of a region known to the Hittites as Assuwa, centered on Lydia, or "Roman Asia." This name, Assuwa, has been suggested as the origin for the name of the continent "Asia". The Assuwa league was a confederation of states in western Anatolia, defeated by the Hittites under Tudhaliya I around 1400 BC.

Alternatively, the etymology of the term may be from the Akkadian word (w)aṣû(m), which means ''to go outside'' 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 Akkadian erēbu(m) ''to enter'' or ''set'' (of the sun).

T.R. Reid supports this alternative etymology, noting that the ancient Greek name must have derived from asu, meaning ''east'' in Assyrian (ereb for Europe meaning ''west''). The ideas of Occidental (form Latin Occidens ''setting'') and Oriental (from Latin Oriens for ''rising'') are also European invention, synonymous with Western and Eastern. Reid further emphasizes that it explains the Western point of view of placing all the peoples and cultures of Asia into a single classification, almost as if there were a need for setting the distinction between Western and Eastern civilizations on the Eurasian continent. Ogura Kazuo and Tenshin Okakura are two outspoken Japanese figures on the subject.

History Main article: History of AsiaThe Mongol Empire, ca. 1300. The gray area is the later Timurid empire.1890 map of Asia

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 Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and the Huanghe 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.

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 Silk Road connected many civilizations across Asia

The 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.

The Islamic Caliphate took over the Middle East and Central Asia during the Muslim 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 China 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, the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans from the 16th century onwards. In the 17th century, the Manchu conquered China and established the Qing Dynasty. In the 16th century, the Islamic Mughal Empire controlled much of India.

Geography and climate Main articles: Geography of Asia and Climate of AsiaThe Himalayan range is home to some of the planet''s highest peaks.

Asia is the largest continent on Earth. It covers 8.8% of the Earth''s total surface area (or 30% of its land area), and has the largest coastline, at 62,800 kilometres (39,022 mi). Asia is generally defined as comprising the eastern four-fifths of Eurasia. It is located to the east of the Suez Canal and the Ural Mountains, and south of the Caucasus Mountains (or the Kuma–Manych Depression) and the Caspian and Black Seas. It is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. Asia is subdivided into 48 countries, two of them (Russia and Turkey) having part of their land in Europe.

Asia has extremely diverse climates and geographic 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. The Gobi Desert is in Mongolia and the Arabian Desert stretches across much of the Middle East. The Yangtze River in China is the longest river in the continent. The Himalayas between Nepal and China is the tallest mountain range in the world. Tropical rainforests stretch across much of southern Asia and coniferous and deciduous forests lie farther north.

Climate change

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, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan 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.

Economy Main article: Economy of AsiaSingapore has one of the busiest ports in the world and is the world''s fourth largest foreign exchange trading center.

Asia has the second largest nominal GDP of all continents, after Europe, but the largest when measured in purchasing power parity. As of 2011, the largest economies in Asia are China, Japan, India, South Korea and Indonesia. Based on Global Office Locations 2011, Asia dominated the office locations with 4 of top 5 were in Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai. Around 68 percent of international firms have office in Hong Kong.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the economies of the PRC and India have been growing 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, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Cyprus and the Philippines, and mineral-rich nations such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.

According to economic historian Angus Maddison in his book The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, India had the world''s largest economy during 0 BCE and 1000 BCE. China was the largest and most advanced economy on earth for much of recorded history, until the British Empire (excluding India) overtook it in the mid-19th century. For several decades in the late twentieth century Japan was 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 European Union (EU), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or APEC). This ended in 2010 when China overtook Japan to become the world''s second largest economy.

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. In 1995, Japan''s economy nearly equaled that of the USA as the largest economy in the world for a day, after the Japanese currency reached a record high of 79 yen/US$. Economic growth in Asia since World War II to the 1990s had been concentrated in Japan as well as the four regions of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore located in the Pacific Rim, known as the Asian tigers, which have now all received developed country status, having the highest GDP per capita in Asia.

Mumbai is one of the most populous cities on the continent. The city is an infrastructure and tourism hub, and plays a crucial role in the Economy of India.

It is forecasted that India will overtake Japan in terms of nominal GDP by 2020. By 2027, according to Goldman Sachs, China will have the largest economy in the world. Several trade blocs exist, with the most developed being the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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 the 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.

According to Citigroup 9 of 11 Global Growth Generators countries came from Asia driven by population and income growth. They are Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Mongolia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Asia has four main financial centers: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai. Call centers 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 increased use of outsourcing has assisted the rise of India and the China as financial centers. Due to its large and extremely competitive information technology industry, India has become a major hub for outsourcing.

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.

TourismWat Phra Kaeo in the Grand Palace is among Bangkok''s major tourist attractions.

With growing Regional Tourism with domination of Chinese visitors, MasterCard has released Global Destination Cities Index 2013 with 10 of 20 are dominated by Asia and Pacific Region Cities and also for the first time a city of a country from Asia (Bangkok) set in the top-ranked with 15.98 international visitors.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Asia Historical populations Year Pop. ±% 1500 1700 1900 1950 1999 2012
243,000,000 —    
436,000,000 +79.4%
947,000,000 +117.2%
1,402,000,000 +48.0%
3,634,000,000 +159.2%
4,175,038,363 +14.9%
Source: "UN report 2004 data" (PDF). The figure for 2012 is provided by

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 enrolment 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. Japan and South Korea ranked highest among the countries grouped on the HDI (number 11 and 12 in the world, which are in the "very high human development" category), followed by Hong Kong (21) and Singapore (27). Afghanistan (155) ranked lowest amongst Asian countries out of the 169 countries assessed.

Languages Main article: Languages of Asia

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.

Religions See also: Eastern philosophy, Religion in Asia and List of Asian mythologiesDome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem, a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.Pilgrims in the annual Hajj at the Kaabah in Mecca.Spring Temple Buddha in Lushan County, Henan, China is the world''s tallest statue.

Many of the world''s major religions have their origins in Asia. Asian mythology is complex and diverse. The story of the Great Flood for example, as presented to Christians in the Old Testament, is first found in Mesopotamian mythology, in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Hindu mythology tells about an Avatar of the 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 literally fixed the broken sky through which huge rains were pouring.


The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahá''í Faith originated in West Asia. Judaism, the oldest of the Abrahamic faiths, is practiced primarily in Israel, the birthplace and historical homeland of the Hebrew nation which today consists equally of those Israelites who remained in Asia/North Africa and those who returned from diaspora in Europe, North America, and other regions, though sizable communities continue to live abroad.

Christianity is also present throughout Asia. In the Philippines and East Timor, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion; it was introduced by the Spaniards and the Portuguese, respectively. In Armenia, Cyprus, Georgia and Asian Russia, Eastern Orthodoxy is the predominant religion. Various Christian denominations have adherents in portions of the Middle East, as well as China and India. Saint Thomas Christians in India trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.

Islam, which originated in Saudi Arabia, is the largest and most widely spread religion in Asia. With 12.7% of the world Muslim population, the country currently with the largest Muslim population in the world is Indonesia, followed by Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey. Mecca, Medina and to a lesser extent Jerusalem are the holiest cities for Islam in all the world. These religious sites attract large numbers of devotees from all over the world, particularly during the Hajj and Umrah seasons. Iran is the largest Shi''a country and Pakistan has the largest Ahmadiyya population.

The Bahá''í 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 Bahá''í activities in many Muslim countries has been severely suppressed by authorities. Lotus Temple is a big Baha''i Temple in India.

Indian and East Asian religionsThe Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple in Delhi, according to the Guinness World Records is the World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple

Almost all Asian religions have philosophical character and Asian philosophical traditions 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, Cārvāka, preached the enjoyment of the material world. The religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated in India, South Asia. In East Asia, particularly in China and Japan, Confucianism, Taoism and Zen Buddhism took shape.

As of 2012, Hinduism has around 1.1 billion adherents. The faith represents around 25% of Asia''s population and is the second 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 Cambodia (96%), Thailand (95%), Burma (80%-89%), Japan (36%–96%), Bhutan (75%-84%), Sri Lanka (70%), Laos (60%-67%) and Mongolia (53%-93%). Large Buddhist populations also exist in Singapore (33%-51%), Taiwan (35%–93%), South Korea (23%-50%), Malaysia (19%-21%), Nepal (9%-11%), Vietnam (10%–75%), China (20%–50%), North Korea (1.5%–14%), and small communities in India and Bangladesh. In many Chinese communities, Mahayana Buddhism is easily syncretized with Taoism, thus exact religious statistics is difficult to obtain and may be understated or overstated. The Communist-governed countries of China, Vietnam and North Korea are officially atheist, thus the number of Buddhists and other religious adherents may be under-reported.

Jainism is found mainly in India and in oversea Indian communities such as the United States and Malaysia. Sikhism is found in Northern India and amongst overseas Indian communities in other parts of Asia, especially Southeast Asia. Confucianism is found predominantly in Mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan and in overseas Chinese populations. Taoism is found mainly in Mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. Taoism is easily syncretized with Mahayana Buddhism for many Chinese, thus exact religious statistics is difficult to obtain and may be understated or overstated.

Modern conflictsWounded civilians arrive at a hospital in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war, October 2012

Some of the events pivotal in the Asia territory related to the relationship with the outside world in the post-Second World War were:

  • The Korean War
  • The Vietnam War
  • The Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
  • The Bangladesh Liberation War
  • The Yom Kippur War
  • The Iranian Revolution
  • The Soviet war in Afghanistan
  • The Iran–Iraq War
  • The Indonesian occupation of East Timor
  • The Cambodian Killing Fields
  • The Insurgency in Laos
  • The Lebanese Civil War
  • The Sri Lankan Civil War
  • The Dissolution of the Soviet Union
  • The Gulf War
  • The Nepalese Civil War
  • The India-Pakistan Wars
  • The 2006 Thai coup d''état
  • The Burmese Civil War
  • The Saffron Revolution
  • The Arab Spring
  • The IsraeliPalestinian conflict
  • The Syrian Civil War
  • The Sino-Indian War
  • The 2014 Thai coup d''état
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
This section requires expansion with: More information about general cultural topics other than Nobel prizes. (June 2011)
Main article: Culture of Asia Nobel prizesBengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, and became Asia''s first Nobel laureate

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 is also the writer of the national anthems of Bangladesh and India.

Other Asian writers who won Nobel Prize for literature include Yasunari Kawabata (Japan, 1968), Kenzaburō Ōe (Japan, 1994), Gao Xingjian (China, 2000), Orhan Pamuk (Turkey, 2006), and Mo Yan (China, 2012). Some may consider the American writer, Pearl S. Buck, an honorary Asian Nobel laureate, having spent considerable time in China as the daughter of missionaries, and based many of her novels, namely The Good Earth (1931) and The Mother (1933), as well as the biographies of her parents of their time in China, The Exile and Fighting Angel, all of which earned her the Literature prize in 1938.

Also, Mother Teresa of India and Shirin Ebadi of Iran were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially for the rights of women and children. Ebadi is the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to receive the prize. Another Nobel Peace Prize winner is Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship in Burma. She is a nonviolent pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma(Myanmar) and a noted prisoner of conscience. She is a Buddhist and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Most recently, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." He is the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China.

Sir C. V. Raman is the first Asian to get a Nobel prize in Sciences. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him".

Amartya Sen, (born 3 November 1933) is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory, and for his interest in the problems of society''s poorest members.

Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Nobel Peace Prize laureates

Other Asian Nobel Prize winners include Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Abdus Salam, Robert Aumann, Menachem Begin, Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko, Daniel Kahneman, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Ada Yonath, Yasser Arafat, José Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of Timor Leste, Kim Dae-jung, and 13 Japanese scientists. Most of the said awardees are from Japan and Israel except for Chandrasekhar and Raman (India), Salam (Pakistan), Arafat (Palestinian Territories) Kim (South Korea), Horta and Belo (Timor Leste).

In 2006, Dr. Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the establishment of Grameen Bank, a community development bank that lends money to poor people, especially women in Bangladesh. Dr. Yunus received his PhD in economics from Vanderbilt University, United States. He is internationally known for the concept of micro credit which allows poor and destitute people with little or no collateral to borrow money. The borrowers typically pay back money within the specified period and the incidence of default is very low.

The Dalai Lama has received approximately eighty-four awards over his spiritual and political career. On 22 June 2006, he became one of only four people ever to be recognized with Honorary Citizenship by the Governor General of Canada. On 28 May 2005, he received the Christmas Humphreys Award from the Buddhist Society in the United Kingdom. Most notable was the Nobel Peace Prize, presented in Oslo, Norway on 10 December 1989.

Political geography Main article: Politics of Asia See also: List of sovereign states and dependent territories in Asia Flag Arms Name Population Area (km²) Capital
Afghanistan 30,419,928 647,500 Kabul
Armenia 2,970,495 29,743 Yerevan
Azerbaijan 9,493,600 86,600 Baku
Bahrain 1,248,348 760 Manama
Bangladesh 150,039,000 147,570 Dhaka
Bhutan 716,896 38,394 Thimphu
Brunei 408,786 5,765 Bandar Seri Begawan
Burma (Myanmar) 54,584,650 676,578 Naypyidaw
Cambodia 14,952,665 181,035 Phnom Penh
China (PRC) 1,343,239,923 9,596,961 Beijing
Cyprus 1,099,341 9,251 Nicosia
East Timor 1,143,667 14,874 Dili
Georgia 4,570,934 69,700 Tbilisi
India 1,210,193,422 3,287,263 New Delhi
Indonesia 248,645,008 1,904,569 Jakarta
Iran 78,868,711 1,648,195 Tehran
Iraq 31,129,225 438,317 Baghdad
Israel 7,590,758 20,770 Jerusalem
Japan 127,368,088 377,915 Tokyo
Jordan 6,508,887 89,342 Amman
Kazakhstan 17,522,010 2,724,900 Astana
Kuwait 2,646,314 17,818 Kuwait City
Kyrgyzstan 5,496,737 199,951 Bishkek
Laos 6,586,266 236,800 Vientiane
Lebanon 4,140,289 10,400 Beirut
Malaysia 29,179,952 329,847 Kuala Lumpur
Maldives 394,451 298 Malé
Mongolia 3,179,997 1,564,116 Ulaanbaatar
Nepal 29,890,686 147,181 Kathmandu
North Korea 24,589,122 120,538 Pyongyang
Oman 3,090,150 309,500 Muscat
Pakistan 190,291,129 796,095 Islamabad
Palestine 4,279,699 6,220 Gaza/Ramallah
Philippines 100,380,700 300,000 Manila
Qatar 1,951,591 11,586 Doha
Russia 142,517,670 17,098,242 Moscow
Saudi Arabia 26,534,504 2,149,690 Riyadh
Singapore 5,353,494 697 Singapore
Sri Lanka 21,481,334 65,610 Colombo
South Korea 50,004,441 100,210 Seoul
Syria 22,530,746 185,180 Damascus
Taiwan (ROC) 23,261,747 36,193 Taipei
Tajikistan 7,768,385 143,100 Dushanbe
Thailand 67,091,089 513,120 Bangkok
Turkey 79,749,461 783,562 Ankara
Turkmenistan 5,054,828 488,100 Ashgabat
United Arab Emirates 5,314,317 83,600 Abu Dhabi
Uzbekistan 28,394,180 447,400 Tashkent
Vietnam 91,519,289 331,212 Hanoi
Yemen 24,771,809 527,968 Sana''a

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