Physical map
Asia location
Vital statistics
Type Continent
Level 10-20
Location Earth
Inhabitants 3,879,000,000 population

Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.6% of the earth's total surface area (or 29.9% of its land area) and with approximately 4 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population.

Asia is traditionally defined as part of the landmass of Eurasia — with the western portion of the latter occupied by Europe — located to the east of the Suez Canal, east of 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, Asia — a toponym dating back to classical antiquity — is more a cultural concept incorporating a number of regions and peoples than a homogeneous physical entity[2][4] (see Subregions of Asia, Asian people).

The wealth of Asia differs very widely among and within its regions, due to its vast size and huge range of different cultures, environments, historical ties and government systems. In terms of nominal GDP, Japan has the largest economy on the continent and the second largest in the world. In purchasing power parity terms, however, China has the largest economy in Asia and the third largest in the world.

Definition and boundariesEdit


Physical map

Medieval Europeans considered Asia as a continent a distinct landmass. The European concept of the three continents in the Old World goes back to Classical Antiquity, but during the Middle Ages was notably due to 7th century Spanish scholar Isidore of Sevilla (see T and O map). The demarcation between Asia and Africa (to the southwest) is the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea. The boundary between Asia and Europe is conventionally considered to run through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, 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. While this interpretation of tripartite continents (i.e., of Asia, Europe and Africa) remains common in modernity, discovery of the extent of Africa and Asia have made this definition somewhat anachronistic. This is especially true in the case of Asia, which would have several regions that would be considered distinct landmasses if these criteria were used (for example, Southern Asia and Eastern Asia).

In the far northeast of Asia, Siberia is separated from North America by the Bering Strait. Asia is bounded on the south by the Indian Ocean (specifically, from west to east, the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal), on the east by the waters of the Pacific Ocean (including, counterclockwise, the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea) and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. Australia (or Oceania) is to the southeast.


Two-point equidistant projection of Asia.

Some geographers do not consider Asia and Europe to be separate continents, as there is no logical 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 comprise a single continuous landmass (save the Suez Canal) and share a common continental shelf. Almost all of Europe and most 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 Cherskiy Range) on the North American Plate.

In geography, there are two schools of thought. One school follows historical convention and treats Europe and Asia as different continents, categorizing subregions within them for more detailed analysis. The other school equates the word "continent" with a geographical region when referring to Europe, and use the term "region" to describe Asia in terms of physiography. Since, in linguistic terms, "continent" implies a distinct landmass, it is becoming increasingly common to substitute the term "region" for "continent" to avoid the problem of disambiguation altogether.

Given the scope and diversity of the landmass, it is sometimes not even clear exactly what "Asia" consists of. Some definitions exclude Turkey, the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia while only considering the Far East, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent to compose Asia, especially in the United States after World War II. The term is sometimes used more strictly in reference to the Asia-Pacific region, which does not include the Middle East or Russia, but does include islands in the Pacific Ocean—a number of which may also be considered part of Australasia or Oceania, although Pacific Islanders are not considered Asian.


Asia has the third largest nominal GDP of all continents, after North America and Europe, but the largest when measured in PPP. As of 2007, the largest national economy within Asia, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), is that of China followed by that of Japan, India, South Korea and Indonesia. However, in nominal (exchange value) terms, they rank as follows: Japan, China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Indonesia. Since the 1960s, South Korea had maintained the highest economic growth rate in Asia, nicknamed as an Asian tiger, becoming a newly industrialized country in the 1980s and a developed country by the 21st century.

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 Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and mineral-rich nations such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.

China was the largest and most advanced economy on earth for much of recorded history,[34][35][36][37] until the British Empire (excluding India) overtook it in the mid 19th century. Japan has had for only several dacades after WW2 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).

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 equalled that of the USA to tie as the largest economy in the world for a day, after the Japanese currency reached a record high of 79 yen/dollar. 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.

It is forecasted that the People's Republic of China will surpass Japan to have the largest nominal and PPP-adjusted GDP in Asia within a decade. India is also forecast to overtake Japan in terms of Nominal GDP by 2020.[1]In terms of GDP per capita, both nominal and PPP-adjusted, South Korea will become the second wealthiest country in Asia by 2025, overtaking Germany, the United Kingdom and France. By 2050, according to a 2006 report by Price Waterhouse Cooper, China will have the largest economy in the world (43% greater than the United States when PPP adjusted, although perhaps smaller than the United States in nominal terms).

Trade blocsEdit

Natural resourcesEdit

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 mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, India , Philippines and Singapore. Japan and South Korea continue to dominate in the area of multinational corporations, but increasingly mainland China, 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.

Financial and other servicesEdit

Asia has four main financial centres: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai. Call centres 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 centres. Due to its large and extremely competitive information technology industry, India has become a major hub for outsourcing.


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 material world. Christianity is also present in most Asian countries.

See alsoEdit

AsiaEuropeAfricaNorth AmericaSouth AmericaAntarcticaAustralia
Earth's land and water bodies
Continents AsiaEuropeAfricaNorth AmericaSouth AmericaAustraliaAntarctica
Oceans PacificAtlanticIndianArcticSouthern (Antarctic)
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