Asia is the world’s largest continent covering over 17,200,000 square miles. This is about one-third of the world’s total land surface. It stretches over 5.300 miles from east to west. • Most of the continent is surrounded by water including the Arctic Ocean on the north, the Bering Strait and the Pacific Ocean on the east, the Indian Ocean on the south, and the Red and Mediterranean Seas on the southwest. • The west is a land border of the Ural and Causasus Mountains which is the dividing line between Asia and Europe.
Natural Features (Plains) • Plains make up most of the continent. • The Plateau of Tibet is over one thousand miles from east to west and is the highest plateau in the world. It is often referred to as “the roof of the world.” • Russia, India, China, and southwest Asia also contain large plains.
Natural Features (mountain ranges) • Asia has many mountain ranges. • The most famous and world’s largest mountain range are the Himalayas. • Mount Everest is one of the Himalayan Mountains. • It is the world’s highest point, 29,035 feet above sea level.
Natural Features (deserts) • Deserts are also a major feature of Asia. • Large deserts are north of the Himalayas and on the Arabian Peninsula. • The Syrian Desert spreads through parts of Jordan and Iraq. • The Gobi Desert includes much of Mongolia.
Natural Features (rivers) • China contains Asia’s two longest rivers. • The Yangtze, also named the Chang, is the continent’s longest river, stretching almost 4,000 miles. • The Huang River is almost 3,4oo miles long. • Other major rivers include the Indus and Ganges, which flow through Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. • The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flow through Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. The region near the Tigris and Euphrates was the location of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, which flourished around 3500 B.C.
Natural Features • The world’s lowest point is near the Dead Sea. It is 1,340 feet below sea level. The Dead Sea is a saltwater lake. • The Caspian Sea, covering 143,250 square miles is the world’s largest lake. • Lake Baykal (also spelled Baikal), with a depth of over 5,300 feet, is the deepest lake in the world.
Asia’s Climate • Asia is such a vast continent that it has a full range of climates. Arctic and Subarctic Climates: • Much of Russia, which is in the northern region of Asia, has both arctic and subarctic climates. • The arctic region includes tundra. Tundrais permanently frozen subsoil. • The subarctic region has long, cold winters and short, cool summers. It is noted for its bitterly cold winters. The subarctic regions receive less than 20 inches of rain each year.
Asia’s Climate cont’d. Continental Climate: • Regions farther south experience a continental climate with a wide range of temperatures. • This region has cold winters and warm summers. High temperatures reach over 90⁰F to well below 0⁰F. • Only Antarctica has lower temperatures than parts of Asia. • The continental regions also include vast steppe (treeless plain) and desert areas.
Asia’s Climate cont’d. • Humid Subtropical Climate: • Northern China and central Japan have a humid climate and long summers. Southern China, southern Japan, and northern India have a humid subtropical climate. In these regions, the winters are dry, but the summers often have monsoons. • A monsoon is a wind. The summer monsoons blow in from the Indian Ocean and the southern Pacific Ocean. The summer monsoons usually arrive between May and October and bring heavy rains with them. Many areas of Asia receive annual rainfall amounts of over 80 inches. • The winter monsoons reverse direction and bring cool, dry air from the northern regions. • Much of southern Asia’s crops rely on the summer monsoon rains.
Asia’s Climate cont’d. • Tropical Climate: • The southernmost region of Asia, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, has a tropical climate. This includes areas of savannas and tropical rain forests. • Arid & semiarid Climates: • Mountains in the central and southwest regions of the continent block the rains from large areas of Asia, causing them to have arid or semiarid climates. •Mediterranean Climate: - This is a mild climate year round. The climate gets its name from the Mediterranean Sea and includes the countries of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
Asia’s Resources • Asia is rich in natural resources; however, the mining industry is still poorly developed in most regions.
Asia’s Resources cont’d. • Energy • Sources of oil and natural gas exist throughout the continent, with large concentrations of oil in the Persian Gulf, China, Siberia, and parts of Indonesia. Russia is the continent’s largest supplier of natural gas. • Large deposits of coal are in Siberia, India, and China. • Nuclear power is being developed in Asia faster than anywhere else. There are 112 nuclear power reactors in East and South Asia with most being in China, Japan, India, and South Korea.
Asia’s Resources cont’d. • Minerals: • Iron ore is important in the manufacturing of steel. Asia’s largest producers of iron ore and steel are India and China. • India and Indonesia are major suppliers of bauxite which is used in the production of aluminum. • China, Thailand, and Indonesia are producers of much of the world’s supply of tin. • Diamonds are mined in Siberia, and sapphires and rubies come from the southern regions. • Deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, uranium, and zinc are located through the continent.
Asia’s Resources cont’d. • Forests: • Timber for construction and firewood is harvested in many regions that still have tropical and subtropical forests. • One important product of Asia’s forests is bamboo which grows.
Environmental Problems • Some of the land has been over-farmed or overgrazed and is no longer productive. Some formerly productive land has become desert. • Deforestation is also of major concern. It is estimated that in the last 40 years, Asia has lost over one-third of its tropical forests.
Asia’s Industries • Asia is a land of major industrial contrasts. • Most of the region has few industries and low living standards. • However, other regions are highly industrialized and have some of the world’s highest standards of living.
Agriculture • Most of Asia’s population is involved in agriculture. (the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products) • Rice is the major crop in southern and southeastern Asia. Asian countries grow about 90% of the world’s rice. • Large estate farms produce rubber, palm and coconut products, pineapples, manila hemp (used to make rope), and tea. Asia’s other major crops include coffee, cotton, corn, peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, spices, and wheat. • Swine, poultry, and fish are raised in many regions. Japan and South Korea also have large herds of sheep, goats, and yaks as well as dairy and beef cattle.
Fishing • Japan is the world’s leading fishing industry. • China, Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea also have major fishing industries. • Fish is an important source of protein in most Asian diets.
Manufacturing • Much of Asia has little industry, but Japan, China, Russia, & India have large industrial centers. Steel is produced in Siberia & India. Other manufactured products include automobiles, building materials, & chemical & wood products. • Industries having recently increased production include clothing, shoes, and electronic equipment. Most of these goods are made for export. These industries take advantage of low labor cost.
Transportation • Asia suffers from poor interior transportation. The continent has few roads with most in poor condition and are often closed due to local conflicts. • Asia’s major transportation is by railroad. Japan has a large network of railroads that use many high-speed trains. • China has the world’s third-largest railroad system, yet it still doesn’t meet the nation’s transportation needs.
Trade • Asia has a large amount of international trade. • Imports and exports grew by about 20% in 2010 in the Pacific region of Asia. This growth is led by China, which imports raw materials and goods from the rest of Asia and exports finished goods to the rest of the world. • Other major export countries include Japan, India, Taiwan, South Korea, Turkey, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
Industrial Country • After World War II, Japan became Asia’s major industrial country. • During the 1980’s, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore became leading industrial countries. • In recent years, Russia’s economy has slowed, while the economies of China and Vietnam have grown considerably.
The People of Asia • Asia’s population in 2011 was estimated at more than 4.157 billion people. It has about 60% of the world’s total population. • China is the world’s most populous nation with over 1.3 billion people giving it nearly one-fifth of the world’s total population. • India is the world’s second most populous nation with over 1.18 billion people. • Asia is also the site of Tokyo, the world’s largest city.
Religion • Asia is the home to many of the world’s important religions. • Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all began in the Middle East or southwest Asia. Buddhism and Hinduism began in south Asia. • Confucianism, which is technically an ethical system and not a religion, began in China. • Taoism developed in China, and Shintoism started in Japan.
Religion cont’d. • Islam is Asia’s largest religion with about one billion followers. • Buddhism is the second largest religion with over 746 million followers and possibly up to one billion. However, it is hard to estimate the number of Buddhists since many practice a mix of religions or do not formally declare themselves as Buddhists. • Hinduism is the third most popular religion on the continent with over 964 million followers. • Christianity has about 300 million believers in Asia.
Language • Asia is the home to many languages. • Chinese is the world’s most-used language. More than 1,105,000,000 people speak a variety of Chinese dialects. • Other major languages of Asia include Hindi, Bengali, Japanese, Punjabi, Javanese, and Korean.
Education • Many Asians are not able to read and write. • In some nations, such as Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea, the illiteracy rate is less than 6%. However, the illiteracy rate in other nations, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal, is over 40%.
Health Care • The more developed nations of Asia, such as Japan, have high standards of health care. However, some regions of the continent have major health problems. • Overpopulation and poor nutrition are the causes of many of the health care issues. • Lack of sanitation and the tropical climate’s insect-breeding grounds add to the spread of many diseases such as cholera, dysentery, malaria, scarlet fever, and typhoid fever. • Some medical techniques first used in Asia are increasingly being used throughout the world such as acupuncture and herbal medicines from China .
The Asian Culture • Asia has a diverse cultural heritage. Through thousands of years, three distinctive cultures have developed. These are the Chinese, Indian, and Islamic cultures. • China’s culture is over 3,000 years old. China developed many arts including painting, wood block printing, ceramics (especially porcelain), bronze sculptures, and calligraphy. It also has distinctive architecture, music, and literature.
Major Influences on the Asia Arts • The Peking Opera is the most famous of China’s performing arts. It includes drama, dance, and acrobatics. Members of the Peking Opera have performed throughout the world. • Early Chinese art influenced the arts of much of eastern China, including Japan and South Korea. Japan later developed many of its own distinctive arts. • The Japanese developed three distinctive forms of theater. Noh theater is a traditional dance-drama dating back to the 1300s. Kabuki is a more popular drama noted for its elaborate costumes, makeup, and special effects. Bunraku is Japanese puppet theater where each puppet is two-thirds life-size and requires three puppeteers to operate it.
Major Influences cont’d. • India developed its own art, much different from China and eastern Asia. • India’s literature developed from the Sanskrit language. Early Sanskrit literature included Rig-Veda (Hymns of Knowledge) and two epic poems, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. • The third major influence of the arts came from the Islamic nations of the Middle East. This influence began when the Mongols conquered much of the region.
Architecture • Little is left of early Asian architecture. Many older structures were made of wood rather than stone and have not lasted. Also, many times a new ruler would destroy structures build by earlier rulers. • Asian architecture often had widely spaced posts linked together by horizontal pieces. The buildings often have tiled roofs with flared eaves. • Buildings with Islamic influence often have domes and minarets. A minaret is a long, slender tower, often topped with a small dome. The most famous building in Asia with an Islamic influence is the TajMahal in India which is the tomb of an emperor’s wife.
Performing Arts • Theater, music, and dance are closely related in many Asian performances. They often use symbolic movements and gestures, masks or elaborate makeup, and magnificent, colorful costumes. Many of the performances are based on legends and historical events. • Asian music sounds different to people of western civilization. Asian music is pentatonic which means that is uses a scale of five notes. Western music uses an octave or eight-note scale. • Asian music relies more on melody rather than harmony. The Asian people have invented many unique musical instruments. • The use of woodwinds, strings, and percussion instruments is common in Asian music.