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For other uses, see Asia (disambiguation).
World map showing Asia (geographically)
World map showing Asia (geographically)

Asia is the central and eastern part of Eurasia and world's largest continent. Defined by subtracting Europe from Eurasia, Asia is either regarded as a landmass of its own or as part of Eurasia.

The demarcation between Asia and Africa is the isthmus of Suez (though the Sinai Peninsula, being a part of Egypt east of the canal, is often geopolitically considered a part of Africa). The boundary between Asia and Europe runs via the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, to the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, the Caspian Sea, the Ural River to its source, and the Ural Mountains to the Kara Sea at Kara, Russia. About 60 percent of the world's human population lives in Asia.

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

The word Asia entered English via Latin from Ancient Greek Ασία (Asia; see also List of traditional Greek place names), first attested in Herodotus, where it refers to Asia Minor, or for the purposes of the Persian Wars, to the Persian Empire as opposed to Greece and Egypt. Homer knows a Trojan ally named Asios, son of Hyrtacus, a ruler over several towns, and also describes a marsh as 461).

The Greek term was likely from Assuwa, a 14th century BC confederation of states in ancient Anatolia. Hittite assu- "good" is a likely element in that name. Alternatively, the ultimate etymology of the term may be from the Akkadian word asu, which means "to go out" or "to rise", referring to the direction of the sun at sunrise in the Middle East. Compare to this the suggestion for the etymology of Europe from Semitic erebu "to set". The motives for the names of Asia and Europe would thus mirror each other, much like the terms orient and occident (the names Anatolia and Levant likewise signify "sunrise"). This suggestion is widely quoted, but it suffers from the fact that Anatolia from an Akkadian or generally Semitic perspective does not lie in the east.

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:


North Asia

This term is rarely used by geographers, but usually it refers to the bigger Asian part of Russia, also known as Siberia. Sometimes the northern parts of other Asian nations, such as Kazakhstan are also included in Northern Asia.

Central Asia

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

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.

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.

South Asia (or Indian Subcontinent)

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

Southwest Asia (or West Asia)

This can also be called by the Western term Middle East, which is commonly used by Europeans and Americans. Middle East (to some interpretations) is often used to also refer to some countries in North Africa. Southwest Asia can be further divided into:

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.
See also: Economy of the world - Economy of Africa - Economy of Asia - Economy of Europe - Economy of North America - Economy of Oceania - Economy of South America

In terms of gross domestic product (PPP), Asia's largest economy wholly within Asia is that of the PRC (People's Republic of China), however the economy of the E.U. (European Union), one state of which (Cyprus) lies within Asia, is the largest in the world. The E.U.'s status as a supranational union, rather than a sovereign state, makes the claim questionable, especially since, when considered alone, the economy of Cyprus is one of the smallest in both the E.U. and Asia, and not many times larger than that of East Timor, the Asian state with the smallest economy (although as of 2005 there is no reliable data for either Iraq or North Korea). 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 third largest economy after the E.U. and U.S.A., followed by Japan and India as the world's fourth and fifth largest economies respectively (then followed by the European nations: Germany, U.K., France and Italy). In terms of exchange rates however, Japan has the largest economy in Asia and the third largest in the world. South Korea is also one of the largest economies in Asia, while North Korea is one of the poorest.

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, 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.)
Macao Macao (PRC) 18,000 25 461,833
Hong Kong Hong Kong (PRC) 6,688 1,092 7,303,334
Singapore Singapore 6,430 693 4,452,732
Maldives Maldives 1,070 300 320,165
Bahrain Bahrain 987 665 656,397
Bangladesh Bangladesh 926 144,000 133,376,684
Republic of China Taiwan 627 35,980 22,548,009
South Korea South Korea 491 98,480 48,324,000
Lebanon Lebanon 354 10,400 3,677,780
Japan Japan 336 377,835 126,974,628
India India 318 3,287,590 1,045,845,226
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 298 65,610 19,576,783
Israel Israel 290 20,770 6,029,529
Philippines Philippines 282 300,000 84,525,639
Vietnam Vietnam 246 329,560 81,098,416
Democratic People's Republic of Korea Democratic People's Republic of Korea 184 120,540 22,224,195
Nepal Nepal 184 140,800 25,873,917
Pakistan Pakistan 184 803,940 147,663,429
People's Republic of China China (Mainland) 134 9,596,960 1,284,303,705
Thailand Thailand 121 514,000 62,354,402
Indonesia Indonesia 121 1,919,440 231,328,092
Kuwait Kuwait 118 17,820 2,111,561
Armenia Armenia 112 29,800 3,330,099
Syria Syria 93 185,180 17,155,814
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 90 86,600 7,798,497
Turkey Turkey 86 780,580 67,308,928
Cyprus Cyprus 83 9,250 775,927
Georgia (country) Georgia 71 69,700 4,960,951
Cambodia Cambodia 71 181,040 12,775,324
Egypt Egypt 71 1,001,450 70,712,345
Qatar Qatar 69 11,437 793,341
Malaysia Malaysia 69 329,750 22,662,365
Timor-Leste Timor-Leste 63 15,007 952,618
Myanmar Myanmar 62 678,500 42,238,224
Brunei Brunei 61 5,770 350,898
Jordan Jordan 58 92,300 5,307,470
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan 57 447,400 25,563,441
Iraq Iraq 55 437,072 24,001,816
Tajikistan Tajikistan 47 143,100 6,719,567
Bhutan Bhutan 45 47,000 2,094,176
Afghanistan Afghanistan 43 647,500 27,755,775
Iran Iran 40 1,648,000 66,622,704
Yemen Yemen 35 527,970 18,701,257
United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates 30 82,880 2,445,989
Laos Laos 24 236,800 5,777,180
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 24 198,500 4,822,166
Oman Oman 13 212,460 2,713,462
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 12 1,960,582 23,513,330
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan 9.6 488,100 4,688,963
Russia Russia 8.5 17,075,200 144,978,573
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 6.2 2,717,300 16,741,519
Mongolia Mongolia 1.7 1,565,000 2,694,432
Total 49,703,948 4,001,377,185


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

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

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

Continents and regions of the World







North America




South America
Geological supercontinents :
Gondwana • Laurasia • Pangea • Rodinia

Regions of the World
Africa: Central Africa | East Africa | Great Lakes | Guinea | Horn of Africa | North Africa | Maghreb / Northwest Africa | Sahel | Southern Africa | Sub-Saharan Africa | Sudan | West Africa
Americas: Andean states | Caribbean | Central America | Great Lakes | Great Plains | Guianas | Latin America | North America | Patagonia | South America | Southern Cone
Asia: Central Asia | East Asia | East Indies | Far East | Indian subcontinent | North Asia | Southeast Asia | Southwest Asia (Middle East / Near East, Levant, Anatolia, Arabia)
Europe: Balkans | Baltic region | Benelux | British Isles | Central Europe | Eastern Europe | Northern Europe | Scandinavia | Southern Europe | Western Europe
Eurasia: Caucasus | Mediterranean | Post-Soviet states
Oceania: Australasia | Melanesia | Micronesia | Polynesia | Aleutian Islands | Pacific Rim
Polar: Arctic | Antarctic
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