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Asia (/ˈʒə, ˈʃə/ (About this soundlisten)) is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the 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. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people () constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.

In general terms, Asia 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. The most commonly accepted boundaries place 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 alternated in being the largest economies in the world from 1 to 1800 CE. China was a major economic power and attracted many to the east, and for many the legendary wealth and prosperity of the ancient culture of India personified Asia, attracting European commerce, exploration and colonialism. The accidental discovery of a trans-Atlantic route from Europe to America by Columbus while in search for a route to India demonstrates this deep fascination. 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 (particularly East Asia) 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.

Selected panorama

Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Credit: Dean S. Pemberton

A panoramic view of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the site of the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare on August 6, 1945, during the final stages of World War II. Over 70,000 people were killed immediately, and another 70,000 suffered fatal injuries from the radiation, after the U.S. Army Air Force bomber Enola Gay dropped the bomb, codenamed "Little Boy". The Genbaku ("A-bomb") Dome (center) was directly beneath the blast, but managed to survive mostly intact.

Featured picture

A man in Kabul selling the ingredients for goat Siri paya.
Credit: Paulrudd

A man in Kabul selling the ingredients for goat Siri paya a traditional breakfast dish of Pakistan Iran and Afghanistan. The main ingredients of the dish are the two ends of a cow, goat or lamb; Siri means the head of the animal and paya means the feet. It is considered a delicacy. Historically, when people used wood or coal as a cooking fuel, women would start this dish at night and slow cook it in the coals until the morning. This dish has a soup-like consistency and is usually eaten as a breakfast food in the winter months with naan.

Featured biography

Choe Bu (1454–1504) was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). He is most well known for the account of his shipwrecked travels in China from February to July 1488, during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). He was eventually banished from the Joseon court in 1498 and executed in 1504 during two political purges. However, in 1506 he was exonerated and given posthumous honors by the Joseon court. Choe's diary accounts of his travels in China became widely printed in the 16th century in both Korea and Japan. Modern historians also utilize his written works, since his travel diary provides a unique outsider's perspective on Chinese culture in the 15th century and valuable information on China's cities and regional differences. The attitudes and opinions expressed in his writing represent in part the standpoints and views of the 15th century Confucian Korean literati, who viewed Chinese culture as compatible with and similar to their own. His description of cities, people, customs, cuisines, and maritime commerce along China's Grand Canal provides insight into the daily life of China and how it differed between northern and southern China during the 15th century.Choe Bu of the Jeonju Choe clan was born in 1454 in the prefectural town of Naju in Jeollanam-do, Korea. Choe passed the jinsa examinations in 1477,which was a lower examination that did not immediately ensure a post in government; rather, it permitted enrollment in the National Academy, or Seonggyungwan, where he could study further for the higher mungwa examinations.


Featured article

Taiwanese aborigine woman and infant, by John Thomson, 1871
Taiwanese aborigines is the term commonly applied in reference to the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. Although Taiwanese indigenous groups hold a variety of creation myths, recent research suggests their ancestors may have been living on the islands for approximately 8,000 years before major Han Chinese immigration began in the 17th century (Blust 1999). Taiwanese aborigines are Austronesian peoples, with linguistic and genetic ties to other Austronesian ethnic groups, such as peoples of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Polynesia, and Oceania. The issue of an ethnic identity unconnected to the Asian mainland has become one thread in the discourse regarding the political status of Taiwan.For centuries, Taiwan's aboriginal peoples experienced economic competition and military conflict with a series of colonizing peoples. Centralized government policies designed to foster language shift and cultural assimilation, as well as continued contact with the colonizers through trade, intermarriage and other dispassionate intercultural processes, have resulted in varying degrees of language death and loss of original cultural identity. For example, of the approximately 26 known languages of the Taiwanese aborigines (collectively referred to as the Formosan languages), at least ten are extinct, five are moribund and several are to some degree endangered. These languages are of unique historical significance, since most historical linguists consider Taiwan to be the original homeland of the Austronesian language family.


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