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Asia (/ˈʒə, ˈʃə/ (listen)) 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 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. (Full article...)

Selected panorama

150pxThe city of Beirut, Lebanon, in the last third of the 19th century.
Credit: Félix Bonfils (1831–1885)

This image by the firm of Maison Bonfils depicts the city of Beirut, Lebanon, sometime in the last third of the 19th century. Maison Bonfils was the extraordinarily prolific venture of the French photographer Félix Bonfils (1831–85), his wife Marie-Lydie Cabanis Bonfils (1837–1918), and their son, Adrien Bonfils (1861–1928). The Bonfils moved to Beirut in 1867 and, over the next five decades, their firm produced one of the world's most important bodies of photographic work about the Middle East. Maison Bonfils was known for landscape photographs, panoramas, biblical scenes, and posed “ethnographic” portraits.

Sikh pilgrim at the Golden Temple
A Sikh pilgrim at the Harmandir Sahib, known informally as the "Golden Temple", located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. The temple is the best-known of the Sikh gurdwaras and was completed in 1604. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, giving it its distinctive appearance.

Selected Country

Malaysia (/məˈlziə, -ʒə/ (listen) mə-LAY-zee-ə, -zhə; Malay: [məlejsiə]) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federal constitutional monarchy consists of thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo's East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur is the national capital and largest city while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. With a population of over 32 million, Malaysia is the world's 43rd-most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia is in Tanjung Piai. In the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries, home to a number of endemic species.

Malaysia has its origins in the Malay kingdoms which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire, along with the British Straits Settlements protectorate. Peninsular Malaysia was unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Malaya united with North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963 to become Malaysia. In 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation. (Full article...)
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. (Full article...)

Featured article

Peking opera, or Beijing opera (Chinese: 京剧; pinyin: Jīngjù), is the most dominant form of Chinese opera which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It arose in Beijing in the mid-Qing dynasty (1644–1912) and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century. The form was extremely popular in the Qing court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China. Major performance troupes are based in Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The art form is also preserved in Taiwan, where it is also known as Guójù (Chinese: 國劇; lit. 'National opera'). It has also spread to other regions such as the United States and Japan.

Peking opera features four main role types, sheng (gentlemen), dan (women), jing (rough men), and chou (clowns). Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Peking opera's characteristically sparse stage. They use the skills of speech, song, dance and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements. Performers also adhere to a variety of stylistic conventions that help audiences navigate the plot of the production. The layers of meaning within each movement must be expressed in time with music. The music of Peking opera can be divided into the xīpí (西皮) and èrhuáng (二黄) styles. Melodies include arias, fixed-tune melodies and percussion patterns. The repertoire of Peking opera includes over 1,400 works, which are based on Chinese history, folklore and, increasingly, contemporary life. (Full article...)
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Did you know...

  • ... that Nepal's first female auto rickshaw driver, Laxmi Sharma, went on to start the first button factory in the country?
  • ... that Indian activist S. Dharmambal was honoured as a Heroic Tamil Mother for her contributions to the Tamil language?
  • ... that Yin May, the first Burmese obstetrician, founded and ran the country's main maternity hospital during the Japanese occupation of Burma?
  • ... that Qian Ji helped design China's first satellite and was the lead designer for its first three-in-one satellite launch?
  • ... that while living in China, the New Zealand tour guide Troy Collings co-founded a company specialising in tours of North Korea?
  • ... that Corona, named after Corona, is fighting corona?
  • ... that children's writer Israel Wachser died in Kryve Ozero while defending the local Jewish population from a pogrom?
  • ... that the founder of the Cannabis Museum in Japan developed an interest in the subject after reading stories as a child in which ninjas trained by jumping over cannabis plants?
  • ... that Indian social worker Sharda Mehta organised a protest against indentured servitude in 1917?
  • ... 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?

Updated: 12:33, 11 May 2021

In the news

11 May 2021 – Israeli–Palestinian conflict
Operation Guardian of the Walls, 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis
Israel launches another series of strikes in Gaza, killing four people and wounding several more, bringing the total death toll from the strikes to 28. Hamas respond to the attacks launching rockets towards Israel, killing two people. (Al Jazeera)
11 May 2021 – COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 pandemic in Asia
COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines
The Philippines reports its first two cases of the Lineage B.1.617 variant first detected in India in two Filipino seafarers who returned from Oman and the United Arab Emirates. (CNA)
COVID-19 pandemic in Taiwan

Updated: 18:33, 11 May 2021

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