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[Portal] Asia

The Asia Portal
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Asia (/ˈʒə,ˈʃə/ (About this soundlisten)) 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 (particularly East Asia) 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 Islam, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, as well as many other religions.

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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.

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Man playing a gamelan, a traditional Indonesian instrument
Credit: Fir0002

A gamelan is a kind of musical ensemble of Indonesian origin typically featuring metallophones, xylophones, drums, and gongs. The term can be used to refer either to the set of instruments or the players of those instruments. Traditionally, "gamelan" comes from the Javanese word "gamel", meaning hammer.

Selected Country

Flag of South Korea.svg

South Korea (Korean: 한국; RR: Hanguk or literally 남한; RR: Namhan; officially the Republic of Korea 대한민국; RR: Daehan Minguk) is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and sharing a land border with North Korea. The name Korea is derived from Goguryeo which was one of the great powers in East Asia during its time, ruling most of the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria, parts of the Russian Far East and Inner Mongolia under Gwanggaeto the Great. Its capital, Seoul, is a major global city and half of South Korea's over 51 million people live in the Seoul Capital Area, the fourth largest metropolitan economy in the world.

The Korean Peninsula was inhabited as early as the Lower Paleolithic period. Its first kingdom was noted in Chinese records in the early 7th century BC. Following the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea into Silla and Balhae in the late 7th century, Korea was ruled by the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) and the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897). The succeeding Korean Empire was annexed into the Empire of Japan in 1910. After World War II, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S.-administered zones, with the latter becoming the Republic of Korea in August 1948. In 1950, a North Korean invasion began the Korean War and after its end in 1953, the country's economy began to soar, recording the fastest rise in average GDP per capita in the world between 1980 and 1990. Authoritarian rule ended in 1987 and the country is now the most advanced democracy with the highest level of press freedom in Asia. South Korea is a member of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, the G20 and the Paris Club. Read more...

Featured biography

A black and white picture of a man in a suit and peci looking forward

General of the Army Raden Soedirman (Perfected Spelling: Sudirman; 24 January 1916 – 29 January 1950) was a high-ranking Indonesian military officer during the Indonesian National Revolution. The first commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, he continues to be widely respected in the country.

Born in Purbalingga, Dutch East Indies, Soedirman moved to Cilacap in 1916 and was raised by his uncle. A diligent student at a Muhammadiyah-run school, he became respected within the community for his devotion to Islam. After dropping out of teacher's college, in 1936 he began working as a teacher, and later headmaster, at a Muhammadiyah-run elementary school. After the Japanese occupied the Indies in 1942, Soedirman continued to teach, before joining the Japanese-sponsored Defenders of the Homeland as a battalion commander in Banyumas in 1944. In this position he put down a rebellion by his fellow soldiers, but was later interned in Bogor. After Indonesia proclaimed its independence on 17 August 1945, Soedirman led a break-out then went to Jakarta to meet President Sukarno. Tasked with overseeing the surrender of Japanese soldiers in Banyumas, he established a division of the People's Safety Body there. On 12 November 1945, at an election to decide the military's commander-in-chief in Yogyakarta, Soedirman was chosen over Oerip Soemohardjo in a close vote. While waiting to be confirmed, Soedirman ordered an assault on British and Dutch forces in Ambarawa. The ensuing battle and British withdrawal strengthened Soedirman's popular support, and he was ultimately confirmed on 18 December. Read more...

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A 17th-century Tibetan thangka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra; the Ming dynasty court gathered various tribute items which were native products of Tibet (such as thangkas), and in return granted Tibetan tribute-bearers with gifts.

The exact nature of relations between Tibet and the Ming dynasty of China (1368–1644) is unclear. Analysis of the relationship is further complicated by modern political conflicts and the application of Westphalian sovereignty to a time when the concept did not exist. Some Mainland Chinese scholars such as Wang Jiawei and Tibetan scholars such as Nyima Gyaincain, assert that the Ming dynasty had unquestioned sovereignty over Tibet, pointing to the Ming court's issuing of various titles to Tibetan leaders, Tibetans' full acceptance of these titles, and a renewal process for successors of these titles that involved traveling to the Ming capital. Scholars within China also argue that Tibet has been an integral part of China since the 13th century and that it was thus a part of the Ming Empire. But most scholars outside China, such as Turrell V. Wylie, Melvin C. Goldstein, and Helmut Hoffman, say that the relationship was one of suzerainty, that Ming titles were only nominal, that Tibet remained an independent region outside Ming control, and that it simply paid tribute until the Jiajing Emperor (1521–1566), who ceased relations with Tibet.

Some scholars note that Tibetan leaders during the Ming frequently engaged in civil war and conducted their own foreign diplomacy with neighboring states such as Nepal. Some scholars underscore the commercial aspect of the Ming-Tibetan relationship, noting the Ming dynasty's shortage of horses for warfare and thus the importance of the horse trade with Tibet. Others argue that the significant religious nature of the relationship of the Ming court with Tibetan lamas is underrepresented in modern scholarship. In hopes of reviving the unique relationship of the earlier Mongol leader Kublai Khan (r. 1260–1294) and his spiritual superior Drogön Chögyal Phagpa (1235–1280) of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Yongle Emperor (r. 1402–1424) made a concerted effort to build a secular and religious alliance with Deshin Shekpa (1384–1415), the Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu school. However, the Yongle Emperor's attempts were unsuccessful. Read more...

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Updated: 13:33, 14 December 2019

In the news

13 December 2019 – China–United States trade war
Both countries announce an initial deal where new tariffs to be mutually imposed on December 15 would not be implemented. China says it "will buy more high quality of American agricultural products", while the United States says it will halve the existing 15% tariffs. (The Guardian)
12 December 2019 –
A suicide bomber kills seven paramilitary soldiers and wounds three others near Samarra, Iraq. (Reuters)
12 December 2019 – Indian Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019
As anger over the new citizenship law grows in the Indian states of Assam and Tripura, the government calls in the Army to restore peace. Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeals for calm. (BBC)
12 December 2019 – 2020 Israeli legislative election
The Israeli parliament votes to dissolve itself and schedules an unprecedented third election in a year for 2 March 2020. (The Jerusalem Post)
11 December 2019 – 2019 Bagram Airfield attack
Taliban forces assaulted a United States air base in Afghanistan amidst peace talks between the two parties. The attackers killed two civilians and injured another 80 people using two car bombs and guns. The attackers were successfully repelled by a NATO mission present at the base along with support from US fighter aircraft. (New York Times)(Military Times)
11 December 2019 –
At least three patients were killed and several other people were injured during a protest outside the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, Lahore, Pakistan. It was staged by the lawyers against a mocking viral video from doctors. The mob also attacked at the provincial information minister of Punjab Fayyaz ul Hassan Chohan. The Young Doctors Association of Pakistan reports death of 12 patients. (Dawn) (Pakistan Today)

Updated: 18:33, 14 December 2019

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