Map of AsiaMap of Asia Asia is the largest continent. The northern part is taken up entirely by Siberia, part of Russia, where icy tundra and coniferous forests dominate the landscape. Farther south are the barren grasslands, or steppes, of Central Asia. These merge into vast areas of rocky desert that are bitterly cold in winter. Much of southwest Asia, known as the Middle East, is also covered by desert, but this is hot, dry and often sandy. South of the Himalayas, the countries of South Asia have a monsoon climate; long periods of hot, dry weather are followed by heavy rains. In Southeast Asia, a peninsula reaches out towards the many islands of Indonesia, still mostly covered by dense tropical rainforest.

Wealth and poverty

The Pudong business district in Shanghai, ChinaThe Pudong business district in Shanghai, ChinaIn the west, south and east of Asia, a number of countries have become wealthy from their rich reserves of oil or their successful manufacturing and technological industries. Measured by life expectancy, education and household income, East Asia, which includes China, Japan and South Korea, has recorded by far the greatest improvement of any region in the world in recent years. But in a number of other Asian countries—Afghanistan for example—poverty is rife. In these countries, where most people farm for a living, the population is vulnerable to floods and droughts.


Traditional Mongol nomadsTraditional Mongol nomads


Large areas of Asia are virtually uninhabited, yet with more than 4 billion inhabitants, Asia still has by far the largest population of any continent. It is home to around 60% of the world's population. During the 20th century, Asia's population almost quadrupled (grew four times over). Asian cities are growing ever larger as more people move in from the countryside to find work. By 2030, more than 55% of the Asian population will live in cities. 

There are countless different ethnic groups in Asia, from the Arabs and Turks of western Asia, and the Mongols and Russians of Central Asia, to the many different peoples of Southeast Asia, such as the Malays of Malaysia and Kinh of Vietnam.


The language families of AsiaThe language families of AsiaA huge range of languages are spoken across Asia, with some countries having hundreds of native languages, such as 600 in Indonesia and 800 in India. In terms of the number of speakers, the two major language families are Indo-European (which includes Hindi and Urdu in South Asia, Persian in the Middle East and Russian in northern Asia) and Sino-Tibetan (which includes Chinese, Tibetan and Burmese in East Asia). The region also has several pidgins (a simplified language used in trade between two different peoples) and creoles (which develop from pidgins to be used as a native language). Creoles include Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole spoken in the Philippines, and Kristang, a Portuguese-based creole spoken in Malacca, Malaysia.

Facts about Asia

  • Area 44,000,000 sq km (17,000,000 sq miles)
  • Population 4,299,000,000
  • Highest point Mt. Everest (Nepal and China) 8863 m (29,078 ft)
  • Lowest point Dead Sea (Israel/Jordan) 423 m (1388 ft) below sea level
  • Longest river Yangtze (China) 6300 km (3900 miles)
  • Largest lake Caspian Sea 371,000 sq km (143,000 sq miles)
  • Largest country Russia (including European part) 17,075,400 sq km (6,592,000 sq miles)
  • Largest population China 1,360,720,000
  • Largest city Tokyo (Japan) 35,682,000 people
Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in JapanMount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan


Consultant: Lloyd Jenkins


See also in Geography

See also in Culture

With an average ground level of 1.5 m (59 in) above sea level, the world’s lowest country is the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean. Global warming, which is causing rising sea levels, may make the islands uninhabitable within the next 100 years.

The Ganges Delta, in Bangladesh and India, is the world's largest river delta. It is around 350 km (220 miles) across where it empties into the Bay of Bengal.

The rainiest place in the world is Mawsynram, in India. An average of 1187 cm (467 in) falls annually.

The world’s highest and largest plateau (an area of high, flat land) is the Tibetan Plateau in East Asia. It is 1,000 km (620 miles) north to south and 2,500 km (1,600 miles) east to west, making it about four times the size of France. It has an average elevation of over 4,500 m (14,800 ft).

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