Asia () 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.
Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a country in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. With a land area of approximately 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest sovereign state in Western Asia, the second-largest in the Arab world (after Algeria), the fifth-largest in Asia, and the 12th-largest in the world. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Israel and Egypt by the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland and mountains. As of October 2018, the Saudi economy was the largest in the Middle East and the 18th largest in the world. Saudi Arabia also has one of the world's youngest populations; 50 percent of its 33.4 million people are under 25 years old.
The territory that now constitutes Saudi Arabia was the site of several ancient cultures and civilizations. The prehistory of Saudi Arabia shows some of the earliest traces of human activity in the world. The world's second-largest religion, Islam, emerged in modern-day Saudi Arabia. In the early 7th century, the Islamic prophet Muhammad united the population of Arabia and created a single Islamic religious polity. Following his death in 632, his followers rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia, conquering huge and unprecedented swathes of territory (from the Iberian Peninsula in the West to modern-day Pakistan in the East) in a matter of decades. Arab dynasties originating from modern-day Saudi Arabia founded the Rashidun (632–661), Umayyad (661–750), Abbasid (750–1517) and Fatimid (909–1171) caliphates as well as numerous other dynasties in Asia, Africa and Europe. Read more...
Zhou Tong stroking his beard
Zhou Tong (Chinese: 周同 and 周侗; pinyin: Zhōu Tóng) (died late 1121 CE) was the archery teacher and second military arts tutor of famous Song dynasty general Yue Fei. Originally a local hero from Henan, he was hired to continue Yue Fei's military training in archery after the boy had rapidly mastered spearplay under his first teacher. In addition to the future general, Zhou accepted other children as archery pupils. During his tutelage, Zhou taught the children all of his skills and even rewarded Yue with his two favorite bows because he was his best pupil. After Zhou's death, Yue would regularly visit his tomb twice a month and perform unorthodox sacrifices that far surpassed that done for even beloved tutors. Yue later taught what he had learned from Zhou to his soldiers and they were successful in battle.
With the publishing of Yue Fei's 17th folklore biography, The Story of Yue Fei (1684), a new, fictional Zhou Tong emerged, who differed greatly from his historical persona. Not only was he now from Shaanxi, but he was Yue's adopted father, a learned scholar with knowledge of the eighteen weapons of war, and his personal name was spelled with a different, yet related, Chinese character. The novel's author portrayed him as an elderly widower and military arts tutor who counted Lin Chong and Lu Junyi, two of the fictional 108 outlaws on which the Water Margin is based, among his former pupils. A later republican era folktale by noted Yangzhou storyteller Wang Shaotang not only adds Wu Song to this list, but represents Zhou as a knight-errant with supreme swordsmanship. The tale also gives him the nickname "Iron Arm", which he shares with the executioner-turned-outlaw Cai Fu, and makes the outlaw Lu Zhishen his sworn brother. Because of his association with the outlaws, he is often confused with the similarly named outlaw Zhou Tong. Read more...
The Song dynasty (Chinese: 宋朝; pinyin: Sòng cháo; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou, ending the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. The Song often came into conflict with the contemporaneous Liao, Western Xia and Jin dynasties to its north. It was eventually conquered by the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Song government was the first in world history to issue banknotes or true paper money nationally and the first Chinese government to establish a permanent standing navy. This dynasty also saw the first known use of gunpowder, as well as the first discernment of true north using a compass.
The Song dynasty is divided into two distinct periods: Northern Song and Southern Song. During the Northern Song (Chinese: 北宋; 960–1127), the Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing (now Kaifeng) and the dynasty controlled most of what is now Eastern China. The Southern Song (Chinese: 南宋; 1127–1279) refers to the period after the Song lost control of its northern half to the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in the Jin–Song Wars. During this time, the Song court retreated south of the Yangtze and established its capital at Lin'an (now Hangzhou). Although the Song dynasty had lost control of the traditional "birthplace of Chinese civilization" along the Yellow River, the Song economy was still strong, as the Southern Song empire contained a large population and productive agricultural land. The Southern Song dynasty considerably bolstered its naval strength to defend its waters and land borders and to conduct maritime missions abroad. To repel the Jin, and later the Mongols, the Song developed revolutionary new military technology augmented by the use of gunpowder. In 1234, the Jin dynasty was conquered by the Mongols, who took control of northern China, maintaining uneasy relations with the Southern Song. Möngke Khan, the fourth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, died in 1259 while besieging the mountain castle Diaoyucheng, Chongqing. His younger brother Kublai Khan was proclaimed the new Great Khan, though his claim was only partially recognized by the Mongols in the west. In 1271, Kublai Khan proclaimed himself Emperor of China and established the Yuan dynasty. After two decades of sporadic warfare, Kublai Khan's armies conquered the Song dynasty in 1279, after the Southern Song suffered military defeat in the Battle of Yamen. The Mongol invasion eventually led to a Chinese reunification under the Yuan dynasty. Read more...
Did you know...
- ... that Kazuo Wada spent decades building his parents' grocery store into the multinational retailer Yaohan, but became almost penniless after it went bankrupt during the 1997 Asian financial crisis?
- ... that the Asian garden dormouse can enter torpor, a state in which it may remain for several days?
- ... that Indian politician Akhtarul Iman withdrew his candidacy for the 2014 Indian general election ten days before the poll, stating that he did not want to split the Muslim vote?
- ... that before Minoru Yoneyama founded the sports-equipment company Yonex, he was a member of a Japanese suicide unit during World War II?
- ... that before Zheng Tuobin became China's Minister of Foreign Trade, he spent five years performing manual labour?
- ... that M.O.N.T was the first Korean idol group to film a music video on the disputed Liancourt Rocks?
- ... that after serving as Ghana's ambassador to Iran, Cuba, and Denmark, Hassan Ahmed is now director of protocol for the President of Ghana?
- ... that the inconvenience of getting to Yanmen Pass makes it one of the less crowded AAAAA-rated sites along the Great Wall of China?
- ... that Liang Shoupan is known as the "father of China's cruise missile program"?
- ... that HKmap.live, an app tracking protests and police presence in Hong Kong, was removed by Apple from its App Store less than a week after being approved?
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