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Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area (or 30% of its land area) and with approximately 4.5 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population. It is traditionally defined as part of the landmass of Africa-Eurasia lying east of the Suez Canal, east of the Ural Mountains, south of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea and east of the Mediterranean Sea.

The history of Asia can be seen as the collective history of several distinct peripheral coastal regions such as, East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe.The coastal periphery was the home to some of the world's earliest known civilizations, with each of the three regions developing early civilizations around fertile river valleys. These valleys were fertile because the soil there was rich and could bear lots of root crops. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China shared many similarities and likely exchanged technologies and ideas such as mathematics and the wheel. Other notions such as that of writing likely developed individually in each area. Cities, states and then empires developed in these lowlands.The steppe region had long been inhabited by mounted nomads, and from the central steppes they could reach all areas of the Asian continent. The northern part of the continent, covering much of Siberia was also inaccessible to the steppe nomads due to the dense forests and the tundra. These areas in Siberia were very sparsely populated.The centre and periphery were kept separate by mountains and deserts. The Caucasus, Himalaya, Karakum Desert, and Gobi Desert formed barriers that the steppe horsemen could only cross with difficulty. While technologically and culturally the city dwellers were more advanced, they could do little militarily to defend against the mounted hordes of the steppe. However, the lowlands did not have enough open grasslands to support a large horsebound force. Thus the nomads who conquered states in the Middle East were soon forced to adapt to the local societies.

The culture of Asia is human civilization in Asia. It features different kinds of cultural heritage of many nationalities, societies, and ethnic groups in the region, traditionally called a continent from a Western-centric perspective, of Asia. The region or "continent" is more commonly divided into more natural geographic and cultural subregions, including the Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia (the "Indian subcontinent"), North Asia, West Asia and Southeast Asia. Geographically, Asia is not a distinct continent; culturally, there has been little unity for many of the cultures and peoples of Asia. Asian art, music, and cuisine, as well as literature, are important parts of Asian culture. Eastern philosophy and religion also plays a major role, with Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam; all playing major roles. One of the most complex parts of Asian culture is the relationship between traditional cultures and the Western world.

Asia has as big GDP as all the other continents together, when measured in purchasing power parity, and is the fastest growing. As of 2016, its largest economies are China, India, Japan and Indonesia. Tokyo is the richest metropolis in the world; Seoul, Osaka and Guangzhou-Shenzhen are as powerful as London. In Global Office Locations 2011, 4 of top 5 were in Asia: Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai. According to Citigroup in The Wealth Report 2012 stated that Asian centa-millionaires overtook North America's wealth for the first time as the world's "economic center of gravity" continued moving east. At the end of 2011, there were 18,000 Asian people mainly in Southeast Asia, China and Japan who have at least $100 million in disposable assets, while North America with 17,000 people and Western Europe with 14,000 people.

Selected panorama

Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Credit: Dean S. Pemberton

A panoramic view of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the site of the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare on August 6, 1945, during the final stages of World War II. Over 70,000 people were killed immediately, and another 70,000 suffered fatal injuries from the radiation, after the U.S. Army Air Force bomber Enola Gay dropped the bomb, codenamed "Little Boy". The Genbaku ("A-bomb") Dome (center) was directly beneath the blast, but managed to survive mostly intact.

Featured picture

Women during a public meeting in Gondi village, Umaria district, Madhya Pradesh, India
Credit: Yann

The Gondi people are people in central India, spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra (Vidarbha), Chhattisgarh, northern Andhra Pradesh, and Western Orissa. With over four million people, they are the largest tribe in Central India.

Featured biography

Memorial to Thích Quảng Đức at the place where he burned himself to death
Thích Quảng Đức was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963. Đức was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Roman Catholic government. Photos of his self-immolation were circulated widely across the world and brought attention to the policies of the Diệm regime. Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer Prize for his renowned photograph of the monk's death. After his death, his body was re-cremated, but his heart remained intact.Đức's act increased international pressure on Diệm and led him to announce reforms with the intention of mollifying the Buddhists. However, the promised reforms were not implemented, leading to a deterioration in the dispute. With protests continuing, the ARVN Special Forces loyal to Diệm's brother, Ngô Đình Nhu, launched nationwide raids on Buddhist pagodas, seizing Đức's heart and causing deaths and widespread damage. Several Buddhist monks followed Đức's example, also immolating themselves. Eventually, an Army coup toppled and assassinated Diệm on 2 November 1963. Accounts of the life of Thích Quảng Đức are derived from information disseminated by Buddhist organizations. These record him as being born in the village of Hội Khánh, in Vạn Ninh District of Khánh Hòa Province in central Vietnam. He was born as Lâm Văn Tức, one of seven children born to Lâm Hữu Ứng and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Nương. At the age of seven, he left worldly life to study Buddhism under Hòa thượng Thích Hoằng Thâm, who was his maternal uncle and spiritual master. Thích Hoằng Thâm raised him as a son and Lâm Văn Tức changed his name to Nguyễn Văn Khiết. At the age of 15, he took the samanera (novice) vows and was ordained as a monk at age 20 under the dharma name Thích Quảng Đức. After ordination, he traveled to a mountain near Ninh Hòa, vowing to live the life of a solitary Buddhism-practicing hermit for three years. He returned in later life to open the Thien Loc pagoda at his mountain retreat.

Featured article

Flag of Hong Kong
The Flag of Hong Kong features a white, stylised, five-petal Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia blakeana) flower in the centre of a red field. Its design was adopted on 4 April 1990 at the Third Session of the Seventh National People's Congress. The precise use of the flag is regulated by laws passed by the 58th executive meeting of the State Council held in Beijing. The design of the flag is enshrined in Hong Kong's Basic Law, the city's constitutional document, and regulations regarding the use, prohibition of use, desecration, and manufacture of the flag are stated in the Regional Flag and Regional Emblem Ordinance. The flag of Hong Kong was first officially hoisted on 1 July 1997, in the handover ceremony marking the transfer of sovereignty.The design of the flag carries cultural, political, and regional meanings. The colour itself is significant; red is a festive colour for the Chinese people, used to convey a sense of celebration and nationalism. Moreover, the red colour is identical to that used in the national PRC flag, chosen to signify the link re-established between post-colonial Hong Kong and China. The position of red and white on the flag symbolizes the "one country two systems" political principle applied to the region. The stylized rendering of the Bauhinia blakeana flower, a flower discovered in Hong Kong, is meant to serve as a harmonizing symbol for this dichotomy.

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