Asia

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Asia
Area44,579,000 km2 (17,212,000 sq mi) (1st)
Population4,694,576,167 (2021; 1st)
Population density100/km2 (260/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)$72.7 trillion (2022 est; 1st)
GDP (nominal)$39 trillion (2022 est; 1st)
GDP per capita$8,890 (2022 est; 4th)
Religions
DemonymAsian
Countries49 UN members
1 UN observer
5 other states
Dependencies List
Non-UN states List
LanguagesList of languages
Time zonesUTC+02:00 to UTC+12:00
Internet TLD.asia
Largest cities
UN M49 code142 – Asia
001 – World
Map of the most populous part of Asia showing physical, political, and population characteristics, as per 2018

Asia (/ˈeɪʒə/ AY-zhə, UK also /ˈeɪʃə/ AY-shə) is the largest continent in the world by both land area and population. It covers an area of more than 44 million square kilometers, 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.

Asia shares the landmass of Eurasia with Europe, and of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. In general terms, 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. The border of Asia with Europe is a historical and cultural construct, as there is no clear physical and geographical separation between them. It is somewhat arbitrary and has moved since its first conception in classical antiquity. The division of Eurasia into two continents reflects East–West cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences, some of which vary on a spectrum rather than with a sharp dividing line. A commonly accepted division places Asia to the east of the Suez Canal separating it from Africa; and to the east of the Turkish Straits, the Ural Mountains and Ural River, and to the south of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian and Black seas, separating it from Europe.

China and India traded places as the largest economies in the world from 1 to 1800 CE. China was a major economic power for much of recorded history, with the highest GDP per capita until 1500. 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 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.

Asia varies greatly across and within its regions with regard to ethnic groups, cultures, environments, economics, historical ties, and government systems. It also has a mix of many different climates ranging from the equatorial south via the hot deserts in parts of West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia, temperate areas in the east and the continental centre to vast subarctic and polar areas in North Asia.

Definition and boundaries

Asia–Africa boundary

The boundary between Asia and Africa is the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Suez, the Red Sea, and the Bab-el-Mandeb. This makes Egypt a transcontinental country, with the Sinai peninsula in Asia and the remainder of the country in Africa.

Asia–Europe boundary

Definitions used for the boundary between Asia and Europe in different periods of history. The commonly accepted modern definition mostly fits with the lines "B" and "F" in this image.

The threefold division of the Old World into Africa, Asia, and Europe has been in use since the 6th century BCE, due to Greek geographers such as Anaximander and Hecataeus. Anaximander placed the boundary between Asia and Europe along the Phasis River (the modern Rioni river) in Georgia of Caucasus (from its mouth by Poti on the Black Sea coast, through the Surami Pass and along the Kura River to the Caspian Sea), a convention still followed by Herodotus in the 5th century BCE. During the Hellenistic period, this convention was revised, and the boundary between Europe and Asia was now considered to be the Tanais (the modern Don River). This is the convention used by Roman era authors such as Posidonius, Strabo and Ptolemy.

The border between Asia and Europe was historically defined by European academics.

In Sweden, five years after Peter's death, in 1730 Philip Johan von Strahlenberg published a new atlas proposing the Ural Mountains as the border of Asia. 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. The border between the Black Sea and the Caspian is usually placed along the crest of the Caucasus Mountains, although it is sometimes placed further north.

Asia–Oceania boundary

Definitions used for the boundary between Asia and Oceania.

The border between Asia and the region of Oceania is usually placed somewhere in the Indonesia Archipelago, specifically in Eastern Indonesia. The Wallace Line separates the Asian and Wallacea biogeographical realms, a transition zone of deep water straits between the Asian and Australian continental shelves. The Weber's Line split the region in two with regard to the balance of fauna between Asian origin or Australo-Papuan origin. Wallacea's eastern boundary with Sahul is represented by the Lydekker's Line. The Maluku Islands (except the Aru Islands) are often considered to lie on the border of southeast Asia, with the Aru Islands and Indonesian New Guinea, to the east of the Lydekker's Line, being wholly part of Oceania, as both lie on the Australian continental plate. Culturally, the Wallacea region denoted the transition between Austronesian and Melanesian people, with varying degrees of intermixing between the two. In general, the further west and coastal a region is, the stronger the Austronesian influences, and the further east and inland a region is, the stronger the Melanesian influences. 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 Indonesian 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

The Bering Strait and Bering Sea separate the landmasses of Asia and North America, as well as forming the international boundary between Russia and the United States. This national and continental boundary separates the Diomede Islands in the Bering Strait, with Big Diomede in Russia and Little Diomede in the United States. The Aleutian Islands are an island chain extending westward from the Alaskan Peninsula toward Russia's Komandorski Islands and Kamchatka Peninsula. Most of them are always associated with North America, except for the westernmost Near Islands group, which is on Asia's continental shelf beyond the North Aleutians Basin and on rare occasions could be associated with Asia, which could then allow the U.S. state of Alaska as well as the United States itself to be considered a transcontinental state. The Aleutian Islands are sometimes associated with Oceania, owing to their status as remote Pacific islands, and their proximity to the Pacific Plate. This is extremely rare however, due to their non-tropical biogeography, as well as their inhabitants, who have historically been related to Indigenous Americans.

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).

Ongoing definition

Afro-Eurasia shown in green

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.

Etymology

Ptolemy's Asia

The term "Asia" is believed to originate in the Bronze Age placename Assuwa (Hittite: 𒀸𒋗𒉿, romanized: aš-šu-wa) which originally referred only to a portion of northwestern Anatolia. The term appears in Hittite records recounting how a confederation of Assuwan states including Troy unsuccessfully rebelled against the Hittite king Tudhaliya I around 1400 BCE. Roughly contemporary Linear B documents contain the term aswia (Mycenaean Greek: 𐀀𐀯𐀹𐀊, romanized: a-si-wi-ja), seemingly in reference to captives from the same area.

The province of Asia highlighted (in red) within the Roman Empire

Herodotus used the term Ἀσία in reference to Anatolia and the territory of the Persian Empire, in contrast to Greece and Egypt. He reports that Greeks assumed that Asia was named after the wife of Prometheus, but that 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". The Iliad (attributed by the ancient Greeks to Homer) mentions two Phrygians in the Trojan War named Asios (an adjective meaning "Asian"); and also a marsh or lowland containing a marsh in Lydia as ασιος.

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.

History

The Silk Road connected civilizations across Asia. The Mongol Empire at its greatest extent. The gray area is the later Timurid Empire.

The history of Asia can be seen as the distinct histories of several peripheral coastal regions: East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and West Asia. 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 Yellow River 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 West Asia, 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 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'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, the Levant, 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.

Western European colonisation of Asia coincided with the Industrial Revolution in the West and the dethroning of India and China as the world's foremost economies. The British Empire became dominant in South Asia, with large parts of the region first being conquered by British traders before falling under direct British rule; extreme poverty doubled to over 50% during this era. The Middle East was contested and partitioned by the British and French, while Southeast Asia was carved up between the British, Dutch and French. Various Western powers dominated China in what later became known as the "century of humiliation", with the British-supported opium trade and later Opium Wars resulting in China being forced into an unprecedented situation of importing more than it exported. Foreign domination of China was furthered by the Empire of Japan, which controlled most of East Asia and much of Southeast Asia, New Guinea and the Pacific islands during this era; Japan's domination was enabled by its rapid rise that had taken place during the Meiji era of the late 19th century, in which it applied industrial knowledge learned from the West and thus overtook the rest of Asia.

With the end of World War II in 1945 and the wartime ruination of Europe and imperial Japan, many countries in Asia were able to rapidly free themselves of colonial rule. The independence of India came along with the carving out of a separate nation for the majority of Indian Muslims, which today has become the countries Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Some Arab countries took economic advantage of massive oil deposits that were discovered in their territory, becoming globally influential. East Asian nations (along with Singapore in Southeast Asia) became economically prosperous with high-growth "tiger economies", with China regaining its place among the top two economies of the world by the 21st century. India has grown significantly because of economic liberalisation that started in the 1990s, with extreme poverty now below 20%.

Geography

The Himalayan range is home to some of the planet's highest peaks.

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 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 49 countries, five of them (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkey) are transcontinental countries lying partly in Europe. Geographically, Russia is partly in Asia, but is considered a European nation, both culturally and politically.

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.

Main regions

Detailed map of Asian regions

There are various approaches to the regional division of Asia. The following subdivision into regions is used, among others, by the UN statistics agency UNSD. This division of Asia into regions by the United Nations is done solely for statistical reasons and does not imply any assumption about political or other affiliations of countries and territories.

Climate

Köppen-Geiger climate classification map for Asia

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 The 2022 South Asian floods, including in Pakistan (pictured) are an example of a climate change impact.

Climate change occurs all over the world, and it is particularly important in Asia, as it accounts for the majority of the human population. Warming since the 20th century is increasing the threat of heatwaves across the entire continent.: 1459  Heatwaves lead to increased mortality, and the demand for air conditioning is rapidly accelerating as the result. By 2080, around 1 billion people in the cities of South and Southeast Asia are expected to experience around a month of extreme heat every year.: 1460  The impacts on water cycle are more complicated: already arid regions, primarily located in West Asia and Central Asia, will see more droughts, while areas of East, Southeast and South Asia which are already wet due to the monsoons will experience more flooding.: 1459 

The waters around Asia are subjected to the same impacts as elsewhere, such as the increased warming and ocean acidification.: 1465  There are many coral reefs in the region, and they are highly vulnerable to climate change,: 1459  to the point practically all of them will be lost if the warming exceeds 1.5 °C (2.7 °F). Asia's distinctive mangrove ecosystems are also highly vulnerable to sea level rise.: 1459  Asia also has more countries with large coastal populations than any other continent, which would cause large economic impacts from sea level rise.: 1459  Water supplies in the Hindu Kush region will become more unstable as its enormous glaciers, known as the "Asian water towers", gradually melt.: 1459  These changes to water cycle also affect vector-borne disease distribution, with malaria and dengue fever expected to become more prominent in the tropical and subtropical regions.: 1459  Food security will become more uneven, and South Asian countries could experience significant impacts from global food price volatility.: 1494 

Climate change is expected to exacerbate heat stress over at the North China Plain, which is particularly vulnerable as widespread irrigation results in very moist air. There is a risk that agricultural labourers will be physically unable to work outdoors on hot summer days at the end of the century, particularly under the scenario of greatest emissions and warming.

Historical emissions from Asia are lower than those from Europe and North America. However, China has been the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the 21st century, while India is the third-largest. As a whole, Asia currently accounts for 36% of world's primary energy consumption, which is expected to increase to 48% by 2050. By 2040, it is also expected to account for 80% of the world's coal and 26% of the world's natural gas consumption.: 1468  While the United States remains the world's largest oil consumer, by 2050 it is projected to move to third place, behind China and India.: 1470  While nearly half of the world's new renewable energy capacity is built in Asia,: 1470  this is not yet sufficient in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. They imply that the renewables would account for 35% of total energy consumption in Asia by 2030.: 1471 

Climate change adaptation is already a reality for many Asian countries, with a wide range of strategies attempted across the continent.: 1534  Important examples include the growing implementation of climate-smart agriculture in certain countries or the "sponge city" planning principles in China.: 1534  While some countries have drawn up extensive frameworks such as the Bangladesh Delta Plan or Japan's Climate Adaptation Act,: 1508  others still rely on localized actions that are not effectively scaled up.: 1534 

Economy

Singapore has one of the busiest container ports in the world and is the world's fourth largest foreign exchange trading center.

Asia has the largest continental economy in the world by both GDP nominal and PPP values, and is the fastest growing economic region. As of 2023, China is by far the largest economy on the continent, making up nearly half of the continent's economy by GDP nominal. It is followed by Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are all ranked amongst the top 20 largest economies both by nominal and PPP values. Based on Global Office Locations 2011, Asia dominated the office locations with 4 of the top 5 being in Asia: Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul. Around 68 percent of international firms have an office in Hong Kong.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the economy of China had an average annual growth rate of more than 8%. According to economic historian Angus Maddison, India had the world's largest economy during 1000 BCE and 1 CE. India was the largest economy in the world for most of the two millennia from the 1st until 19th century, contributing 25% of the world's industrial output. China was the largest and most advanced economy on earth for much of recorded history and shared the mantle with India. 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 1990 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. It is forecasted that India will overtake Japan in terms of nominal GDP by 2027.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japan's GDP by currency exchange rates was almost as large as that of the rest of Asia combined. In 1995, Japan's economy nearly equaled that of the US 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 are now all considered developed economies, having amongst 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.

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.

According to Citigroup in 2011, 9 of 11 Global Growth Generators countries came from Asia driven by population and income growth. They are Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Mongolia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Asia has three main financial centers: Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore. 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.

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 Strait of Malacca via the Sri Lankan Colombo to the southern tip of India via Malé to East Africa Mombasa, from there to Djibouti, then through the Red Sea over the Suez Canal into Mediterranean, there via Haifa, Istanbul and Athens to the upper Adriatic to the northern Italian hub of Trieste with its rail connections to Central and Eastern Europe or further to Barcelona and around Spain and France to the European northern ports. A far smaller part of the goods traffic runs via South Africa to Europe. A particularly significant part of the Asian goods traffic is carried out across the Pacific towards Los Angeles and Long Beach. In contrast to the sea routes, the Silk Road via the land route to Europe is on the one hand still under construction and on the other hand is much smaller in terms of scope. Intra-Asian trade, including sea trade, is growing rapidly.

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. In 2011, Asia topped Europe in number of millionaires. 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.

Rank Country GDP (nominal, Peak Year)
millions of USD
Peak Year
1  China 18,532,633 2024
2  Japan 6,272,363 2012
3  India 3,937,011 2024
4  Russia 2,292,470 2013
5  South Korea 1,818,432 2021
6  Indonesia 1,475,690 2024
7  Turkey 1,113,561 2024
8  Saudi Arabia 1,108,572 2022
9  Taiwan 802,958 2024
10  Iran 644,036 2012
Rank Country GDP (PPP, Peak Year)
millions of USD
Peak Year
1  China 35,291,015 2024
2  India 14,594,460 2024
3  Japan 6,720,962 2024
4  Russia 5,472,880 2024
5  Indonesia 4,720,542 2024
6  Turkey 3,831,533 2024
7  South Korea 3,057,995 2024
8  Saudi Arabia 2,354,392 2024
9  Egypt 1,898,538 2024
10  Iran 1,854,845 2024

Tourism

A Thai temple complex with several ornate buildings, and a lot of visitorsWat Phra Kaew 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 million international visitors.

Demographics

Historical populations
YearPop.±% p.a.
1500 243,000,000—    
1700 436,000,000+0.29%
1900 947,000,000+0.39%
1950 1,402,000,000+0.79%
1999 3,634,000,000+1.96%
20164,462,676,731+1.22%
Source: "UN report 2004 data" (PDF).
The figure for 2021 is provided by.the 2022 revision of the World Population Prospects
Graph showing population by continent as a percentage of world population (1750–2005)

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.

Languages

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 700 languages are spoken in Indonesia, more than 400 languages spoken in India, and more than 100 are spoken in the Philippines. China has many languages and dialects in different provinces.

Religions

Many of the world's major religions have their origins in Asia, including the five most practiced in the world (excluding irreligion), which are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Chinese folk religion (classified as Confucianism and Taoism), and Buddhism. Asian mythology is complex and diverse. The story of the Great Flood for example, as presented to Jews in the Hebrew Bible in the narrative of Noah—and later to Christians in the Old Testament, and to Muslims in the Quran—is earliest found in Mesopotamian mythology, in the Enûma Eliš and Epic of Gilgamesh. Hindu mythology similarly tells about an avatar of Vishnu in the form of a fish who warned Manu of a terrible flood. Ancient Chinese mythology also tells of a Great Flood spanning generations, one that required the combined efforts of emperors and divinities to control.

Abrahamic The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Pilgrims in the annual Hajj at the Kaabah in Mecca

The Abrahamic religions including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druze faith, and Baháʼí Faith originated in West Asia.

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.

Christianity is a widespread religion in Asia with more than 286 million adherents according to Pew Research Center in 2010, and nearly 364 million according to Britannica Book of the Year 2014. Christians constitute around 12.6% of the total population of 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 and Georgia, Eastern Orthodoxy is the predominant religion. In the Middle East, such as in the Levant, Anatolia and Fars, Syriac Christianity (Church of the East) and Oriental Orthodoxy are prevalent minority denominations, which are both Eastern Christian sects mainly adhered to Assyrian people or Syriac Christians. Vibrant indigenous minorities in West Asia are adhering to the Eastern Catholic Churches and Eastern Orthodoxy. Saint Thomas Christians in India trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. Significant Christian communities also found in Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia.

Islam, which originated in the Hejaz located in modern-day Saudi Arabia, is the second largest and most widely-spread religion in Asia with at least 1 billion Muslims constituting around 23.8% of the total population of 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 (11.5%), India (10%), Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey. Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem are the three holiest cities for Islam in all the world. The Hajj and Umrah attract large numbers of Muslim devotees from all over the world to Mecca and Medina. Iran is the largest Shi'a country.

The Druze Faith or Druzism originated in West Asia, is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of figures like Hamza ibn-'Ali ibn-Ahmad and Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, and Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. The number of Druze people worldwide is around one million. About 45% to 50% live in Syria, 35% to 40% live in Lebanon, and less than 10% live in Israel. Recently there has been a growing Druze diaspora.

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 The 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 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.

The Hindu-Buddhist temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the largest religious monument in the world

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%). Taiwan (35–93%), South Korea (23–50%), Malaysia (19–21%), Nepal (9–11%), Vietnam (10–75%), China (20–50%), North Korea (2–14%), and small communities in India and Bangladesh. 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 overseas 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. In many Chinese communities, Taoism is easily syncretized with Mahayana Buddhism, thus exact religious statistics are difficult to obtain and may be understated or overstated.

Modern conflicts and events

A refugee special train in Ambala, Punjab during the partition of India in 1947 US forces drop Napalm on suspected Viet Cong positions in 1965. Demonstrations in Hong Kong against the Extradition bill began in March 2019 and turned into continuing mass movements, drawing around 2 million protesters by June

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

Led to the creation of India and Pakistan, shaping the political landscape in South Asia.

Fought over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, setting the stage for future conflicts.

Culminated in the establishment of the People's Republic of China under the Communist Party.

Involved international forces and led to the division of the Korean Peninsula.

Ended with the defeat of French colonial forces and the partition of Vietnam.

A protracted conflict with significant global implications, especially during the Cold War.

Conflict between China and Vietnam following Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia.

Involved Indonesia's annexation and subsequent independence through a UN-backed referendum.

Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, contributing to the rise of the mujahideen.

Long-lasting conflict with regional and international implications.

Resulted from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, with international intervention.

Marked the end of the Cold War and the emergence of independent states.

U.S.-led intervention post-9/11 with long-lasting consequences.

Led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and subsequent instability.

Series of uprisings and protests across the Arab world, influencing regional dynamics.

Ongoing conflict with widespread humanitarian implications.

Culture

The culture of Asia is a diverse blend of customs and traditions that have been practiced by the various ethnic groups of the continent for centuries. The continent is divided into six geographic sub-regions: Central Asia, East Asia, North Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and West Asia. These regions are defined by their cultural similarities, including common religions, languages, and ethnicities. West Asia, also known as Southwest Asia or the Middle East, has cultural roots in the ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and Mesopotamia, which gave rise to the Persian, Arab, Ottoman empires, as well as the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These civilizations, which are located in the Hilly flanks, are among the oldest in the world, with evidence of farming dating back to around 9000 BCE. Despite the challenges posed by the vast size of the continent and the presence of natural barriers such as deserts and mountain ranges, trade and commerce have helped to create a Pan-Asian culture that is shared across the region.

Nobel prizes

Indian 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 for 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. Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" on 8 October 2010. He is the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China. In 2014, Kailash Satyarthi from India and Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education".

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".

Japan has won the most Nobel Prizes of any Asian nation with 24 followed by India which has won 13.

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.

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), Abdus Salam (Pakistan), Arafat (Palestinian Territories), Kim (South Korea), and Horta and Belo (Timor Leste).

In 2006, 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. He is known for the concept of micro credit which, allows poor and destitute people to borrow money. The borrowers pay back money within the specified period and defaulting is very low. The Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize, in Oslo, Norway in 1989.

States of Asia

Iran China Saudi
Arabia
Japan Kazakhstan India Mongolia Indonesia Malaysia Philippines Vietnam Singapore South Korea North Korea Afghanistan Pakistan Thailand Laos Cambodia East Timor Brunei Myanmar Bhutan Bangladesh Nepal Taiwan Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Turkmenistan Oman Yemen UAE Qat. Bah. Kuw. Iraq Jordan Israel Syria Turkey Georgia Azer. Armenia Cyp. Egypt Maldives Sri Lanka Russia H.K. Macau
Symbol Flag Name Population
(2021)
Area
(km2)
Capital
Emblem Afghanistan Afghanistan 40,099,462 652,864 Kabul
Coat of arms of Armenia Armenia Armenia 2,790,974 29,743 Yerevan
National emblem of Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 10,312,992 86,600 Baku
Coat of arms of Bahrain Bahrain Bahrain 1,463,265 760 Manama
Emblem Bangladesh Bangladesh 169,356,251 147,570 Dhaka
Emblem Bhutan Bhutan 777,486 38,394 Thimphu
Emblem Brunei Brunei 445,373 5,765 Bandar Seri Begawan
Arms Cambodia Cambodia 16,589,023 181,035 Phnom Penh
Emblem China China (PRC) 1,425,893,465 9,596,961 Beijing
Coat of arms of Cyprus Cyprus Cyprus 1,244,188 9,251 Nicosia
National emblem of East Timor East Timor East Timor 1,320,942 14,874 Dili
Coat of arms of Egypt Egypt Egypt 109,262,178 1,001,449 Cairo
Coat of arms of Georgia (country) Georgia (country) Georgia 3,757,980 69,700 Tbilisi
Emblem Hong Kong Hong Kong 7,494,578 2,754 Hong Kong
Emblem India India 1,407,563,842 3,287,263 New Delhi
Emblem Indonesia Indonesia 273,753,191 1,904,569 Jakarta
Emblem Iran Iran 87,923,432 1,648,195 Tehran
Emblem of Iraq Iraq Iraq 43,533,592 438,317 Baghdad
Emblem of Israel Israel Israel 8,900,059 20,770 Jerusalem (disputed)
Seal Japan Japan 124,612,530 377,915 Tokyo
Coat of arms of Jordan Jordan Jordan 11,148,278 89,342 Amman
Emblem Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 19,196,465 2,724,900 Astana
Emblem of Kuwait Kuwait Kuwait 4,250,114 17,818 Kuwait City
Emblem Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 6,527,743 199,951 Bishkek
Emblem Laos Laos 7,425,057 236,800 Vientiane
Lebanon Lebanon 5,592,631 10,400 Beirut
Emblem Macau Macau 686,607 32.9 Macau
Arms Malaysia Malaysia 33,573,874 329,847 Kuala Lumpur
Emblem Maldives Maldives 521,457 298 Malé
Emblem Mongolia Mongolia 3,347,782 1,564,116 Ulaanbaatar
Seal Myanmar Myanmar 53,798,084 676,578 Naypyidaw
Emblem Nepal Nepal 30,034,989 147,181 Kathmandu
Emblem North Korea North Korea 25,971,909 120,538 Pyongyang
Emblem Oman Oman 4,520,471 309,500 Muscat
State emblem of Pakistan Pakistan Pakistan 211,103,000 881,913 Islamabad
Arms State of Palestine Palestine 5,133,392 6,220
Coat of arms of the Philippines Philippines Philippines 113,880,328 343,448 Manila
Qatar Qatar 2,688,235 11,586 Doha
Coat of arms of Russia Russia Russia 145,102,755 17,098,242 Moscow
Emblem Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 35,950,396 2,149,690 Riyadh
Arms Singapore Singapore 5,941,060 697 Singapore
Emblem South Korea South Korea 51,830,139 100,210 Seoul
Emblem Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 21,773,441 65,610 Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte
Coat of arms of Syria Syria Syria 21,324,367 185,180 Damascus
Emblem Tajikistan Tajikistan 9,750,064 143,100 Dushanbe
Emblem Thailand Thailand 71,601,103 513,120 Bangkok
Turkey Turkey 84,775,404 783,562 Ankara
Emblem Turkmenistan Turkmenistan 6,341,855 488,100 Ashgabat
Emblem United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates 9,365,145 83,600 Abu Dhabi
Emblem Uzbekistan Uzbekistan 34,081,449 447,400 Tashkent
Emblem Vietnam Vietnam 97,468,029 331,212 Hanoi
Emblem Yemen Yemen 32,981,641 527,968
  • Sana'a (const.; SPCTooltip Supreme Political Council control)
  • Aden (prv. capital of PLCTooltip Presidential Leadership Council)

Within the above-mentioned states are several partially recognized countries with limited to no international recognition. None of them are members of the UN:

Symbol Flag Name Population
Area
(km2)
Capital
Arms Abkhazia Abkhazia 242,862 8,660 Sukhumi
Arms Northern Cyprus Northern Cyprus 326,000 3,355 North Nicosia
Coat of arms of South Ossetia#Republic of South Ossetia–the State of Alania South Ossetia South Ossetia 51,547 3,900 Tskhinvali
Emblem Taiwan Taiwan (ROC) 23,859,912 36,193 Taipei
Map of 2023 V-Dem Electoral Democracy Index for Asia

The most democratic countries in Asia are Japan, Taiwan and Israel according to the V-Dem Democracy indices in 2024.

See also

Special topics:

Lists:

Projects

Notes

  1. ^ Asia is normally considered its own continent in the English speaking world, which uses the seven continent model. Other models consider Asia as part of a Eurasian or Afro-Eurasian continent (see Continent#Number for more information).
  2. ^ 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 square miles)
  3. ^ Siberia lies in Asia geographically, but is considered a part of Europe culturally and politically.
  4. ^ a b c d e Transcontinental country
  5. ^ Russia is a transcontinental country located in Eastern Europe and North Asia, but is considered European historically, culturally, ethnically, and politically, and the vast majority of its population (78%) lives within its European part.
  6. ^ Moscow is located in Europe.
  7. ^ Turkey is a transcontinental country located mainly in West Asia with a smaller portion in Southeastern Europe.

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Bibliography

Further reading