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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.

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150pxBangkok skyline
Credit: Benh Lieu Song

The Ratchaprasong and Sukhumvit skylines of Bangkok, the capital of and largest city in Thailand, with Lumphini Park in the center, as viewed from the Sathon District. Known in Thai as Krung Thep ("city of angels"), it became the capital in 1768 after the destruction of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders.

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Syrians and Iraqi refugees arrive at Skala Sykamias Lesvos Greece
Credit: Ggia

Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrive from Turkey to Skala Sykamias, Lesbos island, Greece. Volunteers (life rescue team - with yellow-red clothes) from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms help the refugees.

Selected Country

Flag of Iraq.svg

Iraq (/ɪˈræk/, /ɪˈrɑːk/ (About this soundlisten) or /ˈræk/; Arabic: اَلْعِرَاقُ‎, al-ʿirāq; Kurdish: عێراقÊraq), officially the Republic of Iraq (Arabic: جُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعِرَاقِJumhūriyyah al-ʿIrāq; Kurdish: کۆماری عێراقKomarî Êraq), is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 99% of the country's 38 million citizens are Muslims, with tiny minorities of Christians, Yarsans, Yezidis and Mandeans also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land. Read more...

Featured biography

Coin with Demetrius III's curly-haired likeness
Demetrius III's portrait on the obverse of a tetradrachm

Demetrius III Theos Philopator Soter Philometor Euergetes Callinicus (Ancient Greek: Δημήτριος θεός Φιλοπάτωρ σωτήρ Φιλομήτωρ Εὐεργέτης Καλλίνικος, surnamed Eucaerus; between 124 and 109 BC – after 87 BC) was a Hellenistic Seleucid monarch who reigned as the King of Syria between 96 and 87 BC. He was a son of Antiochus VIII and, most likely, his Egyptian wife Tryphaena. Demetrius III's early life was spent in a period of civil war between his father and his uncle Antiochus IX, which ended with the assassination of Antiochus VIII in 96 BC. After the death of their father, Demetrius III took control of Damascus while his brother Seleucus VI prepared for war against Antiochus IX, who occupied the Syrian capital Antioch.

The civil war dragged on; Seleucus VI eliminated his uncle, whose heir Antiochus X counterattacked and drove Seleucus VI to his death. Then the twins Antiochus XI and Philip I, brothers of Demetrius III, attempted to avenge Seleucus VI; it ended with the death of Antiochus XI and the interference of Demetrius III on the side of Philip I in a war against Antiochus X that probably lasted until 88 BC. In 89 BC, Demetrius III invaded Judaea and crushed the forces of its king, Alexander Jannaeus; his near victory was cut short by the death of Antiochus X. Demetrius III rushed to Antioch before Philip I could take advantage of the power vacuum and strengthen his position relative to Demetrius III. Read more...

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Tropical Cyclone 01B 2003.jpg

In May 2003, a tropical cyclone officially called Very Severe Cyclonic Storm BOB 01 produced the worst flooding in Sri Lanka in 56 years. The first storm of the 2003 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, it developed over the Bay of Bengal on May 10. Favorable environmental conditions allowed the system to intensify steadily while moving northwestward. The storm reached peak maximum sustained winds of 140 km/h (85 mph) on May 13, making it a very severe cyclonic storm according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), which is the official Regional Specialized Meteorological Center for the basin. The cyclone drifted north over the central Bay of Bengal, gradually weakening due to heightened wind shear. Turning eastward, the storm deteriorated to a deep depression on May 16 before it curved northeastward and re-intensified into a cyclonic storm. It came ashore in western Myanmar and dissipated over land the following day.

In the wake of prolonged precipitation during the first half of May, the cyclone produced torrential rains across southwest Sri Lanka while stationary in the central Bay of Bengal. The storm drew extensive moisture that coalesced in the mountainous portion of the island. A station at Ratnapura recorded 366.1 mm (14.41 in) of rainfall in 18 hours on May 17, including 99.8 mm (3.93 in) in one hour. In southwestern Sri Lanka, the rainfall caused flooding and landslides that destroyed 24,750 homes and damaged 32,426 others, displacing about 800,000 people. Overall damage totaled about $135 million (2003 USD), and there were 260 deaths. The cyclone also produced some rainfall in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India and along the country's eastern coast. The storm funneled moisture away from the mainland, which possibly contributed to a heat wave that killed 1,900 people, and dropped heavy rainfall in Myanmar. Read more...

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Updated: 16:33, 30 December 2019

In the news

30 December 2019 – Lulu and Nana controversy
Chinese state news agency Xinhua reports that He Jiankui, who last year announced the birth of babies with modified DNA, is sentenced to three years imprisonment and a fine of 3 million yuan, for "illegal medical practice". Two other defendants are sentenced to a lesser degree. (CNN)
30 December 2019 –
A Yemeni man, suspected to be an Al-Qaeda militant, is sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for a terror attack that he carried out nearly two months ago against a group of Spanish theatre actors, wounding three of them. An accomplice is sentenced to 12 years of jail. (BBC)
29 December 2019 – Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)
Security Belt forces say a missile fired by the Houthis hit a military parade in the southern separatist-held town of al-Dhalea, killing at least five people and injuring others. There are no claims of responsibility for the attack. (Reuters)
29 December 2019 – War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Local officials say Taliban have killed 17 local militiamen in an attack on their base in Khwaja Bahauddin District, Takhar Province. A Taliban spokesman says they killed 21 gunmen. The Taliban propose a 7 to 10-day nationwide ceasefire, after which a peace deal with the United States would be signed. (Al Jazeera)
29 December 2019 – American-led intervention in Iraq
The United States Air Force carries out strikes using F-15E Strike Eagle jets and drones in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for the death of an American civil contractor in a rocket attack on K-1 Air Base in Kirkuk Governorate. The strikes were targeted at the Iranian-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah militia group. A spokesman for Kata'ib Hezbollah, says 19 of its fighters were killed and 35 injured in the American strikes, while vowing to respond. (Reuters) (FRANCE 24) (The Washington Post)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi condemns the unilateral American bombings inside Iraq, saying the U.S. strikes are a "violation of Iraqi sovereignty", and a "dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region." (USA Today)

Updated: 20:33, 30 December 2019

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