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World map showing Asia.

Asia is the largest and most populous of the Earth's continents. It is traditionally defined as part of the landmass of Africa-Eurasia lying east of the Suez Canal, east of the Ural Mountains, and southeast of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian and Black Seas. About 60 percent of the world's human population lives in Asia, of whom only 2 percent live in the northern and interior half (Siberia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, western Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan); the other 98% live in the remaining half.

Continents are concepts of human geography (i.e., landscapes and landforms as interpreted by humans), not of geology or physical geography, and definitions may vary. The concept of the three continents of the Old World goes back to classical antiquity with the etymology of the word also having roots in the ancient Near and Middle East. The demarcation between Asia and Africa is the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea. The boundary between Asia and Europe is commonly believed to run via the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, through 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.

It is sometimes unclear what Asia precisely consists of. In some definitions, it may exclude Turkey, the Middle East and/or Russia. Asia is sometimes used more strictly in reference to Asia Pacific, which does not include the Middle East or Russia, and does include islands in the Pacific Ocean — a number of which may also be considered part of Australasia and/or Oceania. The world's only subcontinent, the Indian Subcontinent, lies in Asia.



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 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" or "to ascend", referring to the direction of the sun at sunrise in the Middle East. This may be contrasted 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 not explain how the term "Asia" first came to be associated with Anatolia as lying west of the Semitic speaking area.

Lastly, the name Asia is also derived from the Phoenician word "asa" meaning east, relative to the Phoenician word "ereb", the basis of the name Europe.

See also: Orientalism

Geographical Regions

See also Geography of Asia.

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:

Central Asia

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

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 (or Far East)

This area includes:

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.

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.

South Asia (or Indian Subcontinent)

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

Southeast Asia

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

The country of Malaysia is divided in two by the South China Sea, and thus has both a mainland and island part.

Southwest Asia (or Middle East 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:

Also see Gulf States, for a different grouping involving several of the above countries.


Main article: Economy of Asia

Economy of Asia
During 2003 unless otherwise stated
Population: 4.001 billion (2002)
GDP (PPP): US$18.077 trillion
GDP (Currency): $8.782 trillion
GDP/capita (PPP): $4,518
GDP/capita (Currency): $2,195
Annual growth of
per capita GDP:
Income of top 10%:
Millionaires: 2.0 million (0.05%)
Estimated female
Most numbers are from the UNDP from 2002, some numbers exclude certain countries for lack of information.
Template:World economy infobox footer

In terms of gross domestic product (PPP), Asia's largest national economy wholly within Asia is that of the PRC (People's Republic of China). 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 second largest economy after the US, followed by Japan and India as the world's third and fourth largest economies respectively (then followed by the European nations: Germany, U.K., France and Italy). In terms of exchange rates, the standard business practice, 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: Many supernational economies are larger, such as the EU,NAFTA or APEC). Economic growth in Asia since World War II to the 1990's had been concentrated in few countries of the Pacific Rim, and has spread more recently to other regions. In the late 80's and early 90's Japan's economy was larger than that of the rest of the continent combined. In 1995, Japan's economy nearly equalled the USA to tie the largest economy in the world for a day, after the Japanese currency reached record high of 79 yen. However, since then Japan's currency has corrected and China has grown to be the 2nd largest Asian economy, and South Korea the third, followed by India at fourth. It is expected that China will surpass Japan in currency terms to be the largest economy in Asia within a decade or two.

Trade blocs:

Natural resources

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 and the Philippines, 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

Main article: History 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.

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.

Country Population Density Area Population
(/km2) (km2) (2002-07-01 est.)
Template:MAC (PRC) 18,000 25 461,833
Template:HKG (PRC) 6,688 1,092 7,303,334
Template:SIN 6,430 693 4,452,732
Template:MDV 1,070 300 320,165
Template:BHR 987 665 656,397
Template:BAN 926 144,000 133,376,684
Template:TWN (ROC) 627 35,980 22,548,009
Template:SKO 491 98,480 48,324,000
Template:LBN 354 10,400 3,677,780
Template:JPN 336 377,835 126,974,628
Template:IND 318 3,287,590 1,045,845,226
Template:LKA 298 65,610 19,576,783
Template:ISR 290 20,770 6,029,529
Template:PHL 282 300,000 84,525,639
Template:VNM 246 329,560 81,098,416
Template:PRK 184 120,540 22,224,195
Template:NEP 184 140,800 25,873,917
Template:PAK 184 803,940 147,663,429
Template:CHINA (Mainland) 134 9,596,960 1,284,303,705
Template:THA 121 514,000 62,354,402
Template:IDN 121 1,919,440 231,328,092
Template:KUW 118 17,820 2,111,561
Template:ARM 112 29,800 3,330,099
Template:SYR 93 185,180 17,155,814
Template:AZE 90 86,600 7,798,497
Template:TUR 86 780,580 67,308,928
Template:CYP 83 9,250 775,927
Template:GEO 71 69,700 4,960,951
Template:CAM 71 181,040 12,775,324
Template:EGY 71 1,001,450 70,712,345
Template:QAT 69 11,437 793,341
Template:MAS 69 329,750 22,662,365
Template:TLS 63 15,007 952,618
Template:MMR 62 678,500 42,238,224
Template:BRU 61 5,770 350,898
Template:JOR 58 92,300 5,307,470
Template:UZB 57 447,400 25,563,441
Template:IRQ 55 437,072 24,001,816
Template:TJK 47 143,100 6,719,567
Template:BHU 45 47,000 2,094,176
Template:AFG 43 647,500 27,755,775
Template:IRN 40 1,648,000 66,622,704
Template:YEM 35 527,970 18,701,257
Template:ARE 30 82,880 2,445,989
Template:LAO 24 236,800 5,777,180
Template:KGZ 24 198,500 4,822,166
Template:OMN 13 212,460 2,713,462
Template:SAU 12 1,960,582 23,513,330
Template:TKM 9.6 488,100 4,688,963
Template:RUS 8.5 17,075,200 144,978,573
Template:KAZ 6.2 2,717,300 16,741,519
Template:MNG 1.7 1,565,000 2,694,432
Total 49,703,948 4,001,377,185


A large majority of people in the world who practice a religious faith practice one founded in Asia.

Religions founded in Asia and with a majority of their contemporary adherents in Asia include:

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

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:



External links

Template:Continent Template:Regionaf:Asië ar:آسيا an:Asia ast:Asia bg:Азия zh-min-nan:A-chiu bn:এশিয়া bs:Azija br:Azia ca:Àsia ceb:Asya cs:Asie cy:Asia da:Asien de:Asien et:Aasia el:Ασία es:Asia eo:Azio eu:Asia fa:آسیا fo:Asia fr:Asie fy:Aazje ga:An Áise gl:Asia gu:એશિયા ko:아시아 ht:Azi hi:एशिया hr:Azija io:Azia id:Asia ia:Asia is:Asía it:Asia he:אסיה ka:აზია kw:Asi sw:Asia ku:Asya la:Asia lt:Azija lb:Asien li:Azië hu:Ázsia mg:Azia mk:Азија ms:Asia mo:Асия my:အာရ္ဟတိုက္‌ nl:Azië nds:Asien ja:アジア no:Asia nn:Asia os:Ази pl:Azja pt:Ásia ro:Asia ru:Азия se:Ásia sa:एशिया simple:Asia sk:Ázia sl:Azija su:Asia sr:Азија fi:Aasia sv:Asien tl:Asya ta:ஆசியா th:ทวีปเอเชีย vi:Châu Á tr:Asya uk:Азія war:Asya zh:亚洲

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