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East Asia

The skyline of Hong KongThe skyline of Hong KongOver 1.5 billion people, more than a fifth of the world's population, live in East Asia. It is one of the world's most populated regions, with, on average, 133 inhabitants per square kilometre (340 people per square mile)—three times the world average. There are five fully recognized, independent states in East Asia. In descending order of their population sizes, they are: China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and Mongolia. Two islands off the coast of China, Hong Kong (previously a British colony) and Macau (formerly a Portuguese colony) are Special Administrative Regions of China. Although under the authority of China, they have a large degree of independence. The status of the island of Taiwan is complicated. It is regarded as a Chinese territory by China and is not recognized as an independent state by the United Nations. However, it does have its own independently elected government.


Satellite image of China and KoreaSatellite image of China and KoreaA girl from Yunnan provinceA girl from Yunnan provinceThe third largest country in the world by area, China has the highest population: about 18% of all the people in the world today. The west of the country is mountainous, with deserts and grassland plains or steppes. Very few people live in this region, but those that do belong mainly to Mongol, Turkish or Tibetan ethnic groups. The eastern part of China has a warm climate, with fertile soil and river valleys. Great rivers, including the Yangtze and the Huang He, or Yellow River, wind from the western mountains to the sea in the east.

The earliest chopsticks (kuaizi in Chinese), which were simple sticks for helping with cooking, probably developed around 5000 years ago in China. They were not widely used for eating until from around 500 BC.

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