History of Asia

The history of Asia can be seen as the collective history of several distinct peripheral coastal regions such as East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe. See History of the Middle East and History of the Indian Subcontinent for further details.

Detail of Chinese silk from the 4th century BCE. The characteristic trade of silk through the Silk Road connected various regions from China, India, Central Asia, and the Middle East to Europe and Africa.

The coastal periphery was the home to some of the world's earliest known civilizations and religions, 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 many root crops. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, India, 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 spread of Islam waved the Islamic Golden Age and the Timurid Renaissance, which later influenced the age of Islamic gunpowder empires.

Asia's history features major developments seen in other parts of the world, as well as events that have affected those other regions. These include the trade of the Silk Road, which spread cultures, languages, religions, and diseases throughout Afro-Eurasian trade. Another major advancement was the innovation of gunpowder in medieval China, later developed by the Gunpowder empires, mainly by the Mughals and Safavids, which led to advanced warfare through the use of guns.

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