Archive "Asia"

Are the Japanese Religious?

When sociological surveys are conducted of contemporary Japanese, only about 26 percent of the public and 12 percent of university students indicate they are religious. Less than a third of Japanese typically indicate they belong to a religious group. When asked to name Japanese religions, few respondents even mention Shinto. Twenty percent of Japanese in […]

Philosophy: Japan, Asia, and the West

Readers of the chapter are obviously aware that the interplay between foreign and indigenous ideas and practices is a major theme in Japanese spiritual traditions, and the same is true regarding philosophical thought. Foreign ideas and concepts that seem to work are retained and modified so as to fit into the culture while what does not […]

Christianity and the ‘‘New’’ Japanese Religions

Christianity, which was present in Japan long before the end of World War II, occupies an unusual position in Japan. Only approximately one percent of Japanese are professed Christian. Yet at specific points in Japanese history, Christian institutions and individuals have exercised considerably more intellectual, social, and cultural influence than might be supposed given today's […]

Confucianism: The Branches and Leaves of Japanese Civilization?

Prince Shotoku, who as Yamato regent in 604 wrote the first guidelines for Japanese government in his ''constitution,'' was also alleged to have written in another document that Shinto was the root, Confucianism the branches and leaves, and Buddhism the flowers and fruit of the tree of Japanese civilization. Although the prince didn't put this assertion […]


Buddhism was a world religion that had existed for 1,000 years when emissaries from the king of the more advanced Korean state of Paekche introduced this complex array of beliefs to the Japanese in 552 CE. Buddha, meaning ''enlightened one,'' was born Prince Gautama Siddhartha in the Indian Shakya nation around 563 BCE and died […]

Shinto: ‘‘The Way of the Kami’’

The bundle of spiritual rites and practices that we know today as Shinto began in Japanese antiquity and shares many characteristics of ancient early preliterate forms of Western and non-Western religions that were rooted in the earth, nature, and fertility. Like many other earth religions, Shinto has no historical founders such as Jesus, Buddha, or […]

Religion and Thought

Japanese spiritual traditions are a rich blend of ancient beliefs and rites intermingled with regional and even world influences. However, culture shapes religion as much as religion shapes culture, and contemporary Japanese religious and philosophical perspectives constitute a unique melange. Aspects of Japan's spiritual traditions have even been exported to the West. The indigenous spiritual […]

Conclusion: Japan’s Economic Future

For almost 400 years, Japan has enjoyed a national economy that compared favorably with most of the world's nations. However, the post–World War II years were unprecedented as the archipelago nation became the world's second-strongest economic power. Readers of this chapter now understand that despite Japan's continuing high level of affluence, the nation faces a […]


Economists concur that voluntary trade, whether domestic or international, promotes economic progress. The richest nations throughout history have consistently been those whose governments created legal and political environments that facilitated trade. The Japanese have engaged in domestic and foreign trade throughout their history, although there were long periods of time when past authoritarian governments severely limited […]

The Two-Tiered Economy

One of the most distinct characteristics of the Japanese economy when it is compared to the economies of most developed nations is the high productivity of large multinational corporations and a few internationally competitive retail and wholesale distributors and the relatively mediocre to poor productivity of those manufacturers that serve primarily the domestic market as […]

Business and Industry: Manufacturing

Western industrialization began with the development of capitalist institutions in Europe in the 1500s, then evolved to more complex levels with the British industrial revolution beginning in the late 18th century, and culminated a century later in the industrial capitalist system of Europe and the United States. The Japanese had a much different experience in […]

Natural Resources Overview

Although readers of the earlier section of this chapter as well as chapter 2 are familiar with the term ''economic miracle,'' which describes Japan's high-growth years (mid-1950s–early 1970s), in some ways the real miracle is that the Japanese were able to become the second-richest major nation on earth despite the fact that they have almost […]

Response to Globalization: 1973 to the Present

The Japanese economic miracle ended in 1973 when some Arab nations embargoed oil due to their opposition to American and allied Middle Eastern policies and energy prices subsequently rose throughout the developed world. Still, Japan enjoyed the highest average annual growth rates for a developed country all through the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1980s, Japan […]

Japan Becomes a World Economic Power: 1945–1973

Despite the experience and knowledge of its people, Japan was a devastated nation at the end of World War II. Millions of Japanese were without the basic necessities of life. Approximately one-fourth of all Japanese homes, as well as a high proportion of factories and shops, had been destroyed by the war. Japan was also […]

Industrialization and State-Guided Capitalism: 1868–1945

In the early 1870s, shortly after the Meiji Restoration, Japan's new political leadership faced the problem of Western imperialism. Japan's oligarchs quickly decided to build both a strong economy and a strong military in order to negotiate with Western Europe and the United States on an equal footing. Meiji leaders systematically studied various economic models and […]

Economic Systems: The Roots of Success (1600–1868)

Even though Japan's spectacular economic rise did not occur until the three decades after World War II, the foundations for the so-called economic miracle were laid during the Tokugawa era (1600–1868). Although technologically behind parts of Western Europe and the United States that were industrializing and had more advanced technology, the Tokugawa economy was certainly not […]

Conclusion: Political Challenges and Evolving Government Structures

Much change has occurred in Japan's political system since roughly the mid-1980s. However, further progress needs to be made. Like any large nation in an increasingly interconnected and fast-changing world, Japan's problems are complex. The economy is always a paramount issue, and Japan has made substantial progress in rebounding from the serious malaise that lasted […]

The Real World of Japanese Politics: 1985 to the Present

The 1985 Plaza Accords, discussed extensively in the following chapter of this book, where Japan signed an agreement with other major developed nations to raise the value of its artificially undervalued yen, is now looked on as having subsequent major political as well as economic ramifications for Japan. After that agreement, Japan was forced to […]

The Real World of Japanese Politics: 1945–1985

As discussed both here and in the history chapter, democracy grew relatively rapidly in Japan, and the Japanese now have a more than 60-year democratic history. However, Japan's political history, culture, geography, economy, and changing position in the world, just as is the case with any nation, makes the nature of Japanese democracy unique in […]

Postwar Government and Politics: The Creation of Japanese Democracy and Its Structure

Japan became a democratic country with the adoption of the 1947 Constitution, which has never been amended and remains in effect today. However, since roughly 1985, domestic and international factors have resulted in new challenges and changes for Japan's political leadership. Before contemporary government and politics can be understood, a discussion of the creation of […]

Japan’s Imperial Period: 1868–1945

Although parts of the domestic political system such as the class structure and tax collection had also become dysfunctional, the crisis caused by the unwanted incursion of American and European powers eventually was the primary reason the Tokugawa government fell. In 1868 a group of young samurai from two domains that had always grudgingly accepted […]

Government and Politics in the Tokugawa Period: 1600–1868

As depicted in the prior chapter, in 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu, through force of arms and diplomacy, managed to unify a Japan that had been torn by civil war for most of the previous century and intermittent internal strife for much of the 14th century as well. Tokugawa and his descendents who ruled Japan as shoguns […]

Introduction: The Roots of Japan’s Contemporary Government and Politics

Most readers of this book are Americans, and they have studied U.S. government. Imagine attempting to learn about how the American government works without some knowledge of the influence of Great Britain, the motives of the founders of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the formulation of the present […]

Japan’s Path to Prosperity: 1945 to the Present

The years following World War II resulted in more change in Japan than any time since the beginning of the Meiji period. The U.S. occupation under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur initiated this peaceful reconstitution of much of Japanese society. The general almost immediately won the respect and admiration of the Japanese people through […]

Japan and the World: 1853–1945

Few events in Japan's history have proven as significant as Commodore Perry and his ''black ships,'' as the Japanese called them. In the years since Perry first arrived, Japan would become the first Asian nation to modernize, attain world power status, lose a disastrous war, and recover to develop a democratic government and the second-largest […]

Tokugawa Japan: An Era of Peace

European influence, particularly new technology, served as a partial catalyst for political change in Japan. Only a few years after Europeans introduced guns to Japan, three powerful leaders—Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu—used advanced firepower to achieve brilliant military successes that resulted in the political unification of Japan. In 1568, at the invitation of […]

Medieval Japan

As the influence of the Fujiwara clan and the central government declined, two powerful provincial families, the Taira and Minamoto, warred against each other in what historians refer to as the Gempei War. In 1185, Yoritomo, the leader of the Minamoto family, defeated the Taira and Fujiwara clans and obtained military control of Japan. In […]

Classical Japan

The Heian period (794–1185) is a critical period of Japanese history. Although the cultural heritage imparted by China and the early Korean states remains a part of Japan, distinct and sophisticated Japanese cultural forms emerged during this period. The new capital city was situated in a nation with an estimated population of 5 million people. Heian, […]

Japan’s Prehistory and Early Mainland Asia Influences

The first people in the archipelago probably walked there via temporary land bridges from the Asian mainland more than 30,000 years ago. There is some archeological evidence that people from Southeast Asia also reached Japan by water in prehistoric times. Archaeologists have used the art of Japan's earliest known culture to name the first period […]

Introduction: Japan, East Asia, and the World

Many have the stereotype that until relatively recently, the archipelago's culture developed largely in isolation from the rest of the world. Although there are critical elements of truth in this assumption, it is incorrect in many respects. Throughout history, some Japanese have interacted in a variety of ways with other East Asians and, at times, […]

Japan: History

KEY EVENTS IN JAPANESE HISTORY 11,000–300 BCE Jomon culture 300 BCE–250 CE Yayoi culture 250–552 CE Tomb period (Kofun) 552–710 Late Yamato period 552 Buddhism is transported from Korea to Japan 604 Japan's 17-point ''constitution'' is ascribed to Prince Shotoku 645 So-called Taika Reforms are enacted 710 Japan's first permanent capital is established at Nara […]

The Hazards of Being Japanese

Although virtually all cultures have some level of appreciation for nature, it is particularly pronounced in Japanese culture. The constant attention to the changing seasons in Japanese literature and culture, the classical Japanese garden that is deliberately constructed to celebrate nature, the mass cherry blossom viewing parties of Tokyo office workers, and the deep appreciation of […]

Japan: The Space Problem

Because much of Japan's land does not lend itself to development, with the exception of Hokkaido, lack of space is a permanent problem. The space squeeze is most serious in cities and particularly acute in such huge metropolitan centers as Nagoya, Osaka, and Tokyo and numerous other urban areas. When one negotiates Japanese cities, example […]

The Physical and Human Geographies of Japan

With its four major islands—Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku—as well as thousands of smaller ones, Japan has a total land area of approximately 145,825 square miles. The distance from the northernmost tip of Hokkaido to extreme southern Kyushu is approximately the same as the distance from Bangor, Maine, to Mobile, Alabama, in the United States […]

Japan: Geography

As is the case with any people, geography influences contemporary Japanese, and Japan's physical geography has helped shape culture, the economy, politics, and religions. Geography, while offering some impressive advantages for Japan's inhabitants, has also often been an obstacle rather than an asset in the Japanese quest for economic development, safety, and security. Beginning with […]

Japan: Preface

It is my hope that Asia in Focus: Japan will be an informative and useful introduction for American readers to one of the world's most important countries. Currently, the rise of two other important Asian countries, the People's Republic of China and India, seem to have diverted many Americans' attentions from Japan. Although I would […]

How Rubber Moved to Asia

Natural rubber is made from the latex exuded by a tree, Hevea brasiliensis. Latex is a milky fluid produced by some herbs and trees that may carry nutrients and may also help the plant to heal wounds. The rubber tree grows naturally in tropical South America, where people were using rubber long before the arrival […]

Ernest Wilson, Collecting in China and Japan

In April 1902 Ernest “Chinese” Wilson (1876–1930) arrived back in England from his first plant-collecting expedition. He brought with him 35 Wardian cases of plants, seeds of 305 plant species, and herbarium specimens of 906 species. Between 1899 and 1919, Wilson undertook five expeditions to China and three to other parts of the world, from […]

The Wardian case, invented in about 1829 by Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward (1791–1868), made it possible to transport living plant specimens around the world and have them arrive in a healthy condition.

Robert Fortune, Collecting in Northern China

The Chusan palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) is one of the very few palm trees that can survive in the cool, wet Scottish climate. For that reason, it is a fairly common sight in Scotland, especially in coastal resorts attempting to offer a taste of the exotic to city vacationers. The species was introduced to Scotland by […]

Gobi Desert: Central Asia

T he dry, wind-tormented sands of the 500,000-square-mile (1.3 million sq km) Gobi Desert harbor deep secrets—from the evolution of life to the restless stirrings of the planet. The high, windy, bone-dry region is a continental desert as a result of the mountains that surround it and cut it off from moist, ocean air in […]

Weather: Japan

The hard-core seasonality of Chinese climate gets moderated on its way to the Japanese archipelago. This chain of over 4000 islands runs from the tropics to the northern mid-latitudes, so there is plenty of north-to-south contrast. However, the broad strokes are similar to China's: wintertime cold and sweaty summer heat are interspersed with distinctly rainy […]

Weather: China, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Tibet

Weather may be one reason why the philosophy of yin and yang developed in China. This ancient culture evolved in a climate rife with dualism. For starters, there's the monsoon. Less publicized than India's, this annual cycle of rain and drought is a fundamental part of life across the densely populated eastern half of the […]

Weather: Asia

To say that Asia is the world's largest, most populous continent doesn't quite do the place justice. The sheer scope of this land mass is hard to comprehend. Asia is almost twice the size of North America. You could cram five Australias – or 140 Italys – within its ample borders. On one side of […]

Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Antarctica: Industrialization Sparks Change

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Some of the largest employers in Southeast Asia are makers of athletic shoes. They provide much-needed jobs for Southeast Asians, but many observers have accused the companies of abusing workers. For example, in 1995, Lap Nguyen began working at a shoe factory in Vietnam. In February 1996, she was promoted to team leader. […]

Aboriginal Land Claims

Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Antarctica: Aboriginal Land Claims

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE In 1972, the Australian government denied the claims of some Aboriginal people trying to regain ancestral lands. In response, Aboriginal protesters erected a tent on the lawn of Old Parliament House in Canberra and named it the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. They called it an embassy to symbolize their treatment as foreigners in […]

Colonies in Southeast Asia, 1895

Southeast Asia

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Much of Southeast Asia is haunted by its colonial past. One example is the divided island of Timor. The Netherlands ruled Western Timor, later part of Indonesia. Portugal ruled East Timor. In 1975, East Timor declared itself an independent state (even though some people living there wanted to join Indonesia). In response, […]

Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Antarctica: Human–Environment Interaction

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE In May 2000, the Smithsonian Institution honored Mau Piailug for preserving traditional navigation skills. Mau was born in Micronesia. When he was four years old, he began to sail with his grandfather, who taught the boy how to navigate without using instruments. Those methods of navigation were similar to those used by […]

Australia’s Unique Life Forms

Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Antarctica: Climate and Vegetation

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE During the Vietnam War, American troops were sent to fight in unfamiliar Southeast Asia. Among the hardships they endured was the tropical climate. Few had ever lived in a place that had a monsoon season with constant rain. One soldier wrote to his wife, “We live in mud and rain. I'm so […]

Southeast Asian Mountains and Rivers

Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Antarctica: Landforms and Resources

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE The Aeta people of the Philippines lived on the volcano Mount Pinatubo for generations. They knew this volcano so well that they timed the planting and harvesting of their crops by the amount of steam rising from a vent on its slope. In 1991, the Aeta noticed changes in the mountain and […]

East Asia: Population and the Quality of Life

Because East Asia has changed so much, it's hard to imagine how different the region looked 50 years ago. Today, some of the countries and cities of the region are among the most prosperous in the world. In Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, the statistics on per capita income, length of life, and literacy are […]

Exports from Jakota Triangle Countries

East Asia: Trade and Prosperity

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE At the beginning of the 1990s, the economies of East Asia were growing very rapidly. Unfortunately, there was a dark side to this prosperity. In 1995, UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) reported that more than half a million children in East Asia were working in factories or begging on the streets. […]

The Ring of Fire

East Asia: The Ring of Fire

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE On January 17, 1995, at 5:46 A.M., a severe earthquake rocked Kobe, Japan's sixth largest city. When the dust settled and the last of the fires burned out, about 6,000 people lay dead, and more than 40,000 suffered injuries. The government quickly began rebuilding the port city, but psychologists warned that reviving […]

Japanese Empire, 1942

East Asia: Japan

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE The Japanese flag shows a red sun against a white background. The red sun symbolizes Amaterasu, the sun goddess. According to myth, the Japanese emperor and his family are descended from the goddess. The Japanese call their country Nippon, which means “source of the sun.” The name Japan may have come from […]

The Korean War, 1950–1953

The Koreas: North and South

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Korea is surrounded by water on three sides and by mountains on its northern border. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Korea chose self-protected isolation and became known as “the hermit kingdom.” This isolation has continued in North Korea, which has little contact with other nations even today. However, that may be […]

The Mongol Empire, 1294

East Asia: Mongolia and Taiwan

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE The Mongols of the Asian steppe lived their lives on horseback. In 1206, a great leader named Temujin (later called Genghis Khan) united the Mongol clans and led them in conquering much of Asia. He is reported to have said, “Man's greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize […]

East Asia: China

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE In ancient times, China had been open to attack from nomadic horsemen who roamed the plains of northern China and Mongolia. Around 220 B.C., the emperor Shi Huangdi decided to build the Great Wall of China by closing the gaps between smaller walls built by earlier rulers. Hundreds of thousands of peasants […]

East Asia: Human–Environment Interaction

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Hundreds of thousands of Chinese died in floods in the 20th century. Most of these deaths were caused by the flooding of the Chang Jiang and the Huang He rivers. These vast river floodplains are home to, and help feed, hundreds of millions of people, and this makes people vulnerable to the […]

Climate Comparison, East Asia and North America

East Asia: Climate and Vegetation

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Kublai Khan was the ruler of the Mongol Empire (which included China) in the 13th century. In 1281, the Great Khan sent a huge fleet against Japan. A typhoon—a tropical storm that occurs in the western Pacific—swept across the Sea of Japan and sank the Mongol ships or dashed them against the […]

Rivers and Mountains of East Asia

East Asia: Landforms and Resources

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Time and again in its early history, China was attacked by invaders from the steppes of Central Asia. The Chinese built and extended the Great Wall over many centuries in an attempt to keep out such invaders from Mongolia. From the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert, the wall twisted for thousands […]


South Asia: Territorial Dispute

Kashmir is a territory of towering mountains, dense forests, and fertile river valleys. It is strategically located at the foot of the Himalayas and is surrounded by India, Pakistan, and China. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought to control this territory of 12 million people. The territorial dispute has caused three Indo-Pakistani wars and, […]

Farming Calendar in India

South Asia: Living with Extreme Weather

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE In May 1996, a fierce tornado tore through northern Bangladesh, leaving more than 700 people dead and 30,000 injured. Winds reached speeds of 125 mph. Within 30 minutes, nearly 80 villages had been destroyed. In the town of Rampur, Reazuddin Ahmed and his family sought shelter behind a concrete wall. All the […]

Population Density in Indian States

South Asia: Population Explosion

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE On May 11, 2000, at 5:05 A.M., a baby girl was born in a New Delhi hospital. Her parents named her Astha, which means “faith” in the Hindi language. Ordinarily, Astha's birth would not have made news. After all, an estimated 42,000 babies are born in India every day—15,330,000 each year. Astha, […]

World Tea Production

South Asia: Sri Lanka and the Maldives

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE For centuries, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have been ports of call for ships from around the world. The Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, and Arabs all knew about these islands. Arab traders referred to Sri Lanka as Serendib, and they called the Maldives the “Money Isles” for their abundance of cowrie shells—seashells […]

Mountains of Bhutan and Nepal

South Asia: Nepal and Bhutan

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE In the novel Lost Horizon, James Hilton described an imaginary mountain valley called Shangri-La, hidden high in the Himalayas. He wrote, “The floor of the valley, hazily distant, welcomed the eye with greenness; sheltered from winds . . . completely isolated by the lofty and sheerly unscalable ranges on the further side.” […]

The Indian Subcontinent

South Asia: Pakistan and Bangladesh

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Some workers in the port of Chittagong, Bangladesh, have an unusual job. They are ship breakers. When oceangoing ships reach the end of their useful life, they take their last voyage to Chittagong. There, ship breakers wait on the beach with sledgehammers, crowbars, torches, and wrenches. They attack each ship, tearing it […]

Ancient Empires of India

South Asia: India

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE At midnight on August 14, 1997, India celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain. Thousands of people flooded the streets of the capital, New Delhi, and waved the orange, white, and green flag of India. Fifty years before, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had spoken to the nation. “A moment […]

The Ganges River

South Asia: Human–Environment Interaction

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Hinduism is the religion of most Indians. During one Hindu religious festival, millions of Indians gather near the city of Allahabad, where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet. A temporary tent city goes up, complete with markets, temples, and teahouses. People visit the market stalls and pray at the temples. They also […]

Climate and Vegetation of South Asia

South Asia: Climate and Vegetation

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Every April and May, much of South Asia bakes in the heat. People endure temperatures that regularly top 100°F. Dust fills the air, and streams dry up. People walk for miles looking for water. Then—when it seems that no one can survive another day—the clouds roll in. The skies open up, and […]

Formation of the Himalayas

South Asia: Landforms and Resources

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Thousands of years ago, the Hindus of what is now north India imagined a gigantic mountain reaching more than 80,000 miles into the sky. They believed that this enormous peak, called Mt. Meru, was the center of the physical and spiritual world. In their writings, they described “rivers of sweet water” flowing […]

Southwest Asia: Oil Wealth Fuels Change

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE On October 2, 1995, Queen Noor of the Kingdom of Jordan gave a speech on the role of women in Southwest Asian economies. In her speech, she identified an important change in the economies of Southwest Asia: The changing environment in our region holds the promise of new opportunity for businessmen and […]

Southwest Asia: Population Relocation

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE In the 1980s, Kurds living in Turkey were attacked by the Turkish military. The parents of 10-year-old Garbi Yildirim feared for their son's safety. Reluctantly they sent him from Turkey to live with relatives in Germany. When Garbi reached his 18th birthday, he was notified by the German government that he would […]

Northeast Ethnic Areas

Southwest Asia: The Northeast

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE On March 16, 1988, Iraqi Air Force planes released poisonous gases over the Kurdish town of Halabja, Iraq. An estimated 5,000 Kurds, an ethnic group in Southwestern Asia, died from the chemical weapons attack. The Kurdish people have occupied the lands they call Kurdistan for thousands of years. In the modern world, […]

Creation of Israel

Southwest Asia: The Eastern Mediterranean

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE On September 28, 2000, riots broke out in the city of Jerusalem. The cause was a visit by an Israeli political leader to a Jewish holy place at a location on the Temple Mount. Muslims also have a holy place on the Temple Mount. They viewed the visit by the Israeli leader […]

Arabian Peninsula History

Southwest Asia: The Arabian Peninsula

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Two million people pour into the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca for a few weeks each year. They come from all over the world. In the past, the trip to Mecca involved a difficult journey across oceans and over miles of desert. Today, pilgrims arrive on airplanes. These people are fulfilling the […]

Oil Pipelines in Southwest Asia

Southwest Asia: Human–Environment Interaction

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Icebergs for fresh water? As you have seen, fresh water is in short supply in Southwest Asia. In 1977, a Saudi prince, Muhammad ibn Faisal, formed a company to investigate the possibility of towing icebergs from Antarctica to the port of Jidda on the Red Sea. The icebergs would then be melted […]

Climates of Southwest Asia

Southwest Asia: Climate and Vegetation

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE In the spring of 1999, three Canadian explorers retraced the steps of Sir Wilfred Thesiger's 1946 epic journey across the Rub al-Khali on the Arabian Peninsula. It is one of the most extreme deserts in the world. Like Sir Wilfred, they crossed using camels, not four-wheel drive vehicles. But unlike Sir Wilfred, […]

Tigris-Euphrates River Valley Today

Southwest Asia: Landforms and Resources

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Artillery shells and sniper fire rained down on the lands below a small plateau in southwestern Syria. Airplanes bombed the military positions on the plateau itself. Families in nearby villages huddled in their homes, hoping for the shelling to stop. Israeli Army engineers struggled to build a road to enable tanks to […]

The Silk Road

Russia and the Republics: Central Asia

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Central Asia has inspired the dreams of many adventurers—and presented them with many dangers. In the 19th century, agents of the mighty British Empire found that even they were not safe there. In 1842, two British officers were captured in the Central Asian city of Bukhoro. For months, the city's ruler kept […]

Languages Around the Caucasus

Russia and the Republics: Transcaucasia

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Throughout history, human beings have migrated through Transcaucasia, which today consists of the republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Recent discoveries have shown just how early such migrations began. In the summer of 1999, a team of scientists discovered two 1.7-million-year-old human skulls in the Transcaucasian republic of Georgia. They were the […]

Asia as Political Ideology and Populist Movement

''My Asiatic blood has always called to other Asiatics. In my dreams, both sleeping and waking, I have heard the voice of Asia calling to her childreny. TodayyI seem to hearythe same voice of Asia gathering her children together. It is the call of our Asiatic blood. This is not the time to think with our minds; this is the […]

Asia as an Asian Intellectual Project

Does Asia Exist? In 1963, provoked by the appearance of yet another Western book questioning the validity of Asia as a meaningful label for such a vast and diverse space, Indian journalist Romesh Thapar regarded the question of Asia's existence with understandable indignation. But Thapar did concede that the ''image'' of Asia is ''blurred.'' ''Yet if we act with good sense,'' […]

Asia as Other

What is Asia? As Edward Said observed in Orientalism (1978), Asia has played a crucial role in the stories Europe has told about itself. It has done so by always occupying the other side of Europe in a set of binary couplets: rational–emotional, reason–faith, analytical–aesthetic, and so on. Perhaps the two pairings among these which have had the most purchase have […]


As the largest of the world's continents, comprising a third of the earth's land area and some two thirds of the earth's population, Asia's size and diversity have always represented a challenge to the categories and conventions of regional geography. Overcoming this challenge has preoccupied a great deal of work within and beyond the discipline. It has become standard practice, for […]


Area 145,843 square mi (377,835 square km) Population 127.1 million 2014 Capital Tokyo Highest Point 12,389 ft (3,776 m) Lowest Point -13 ft (-4 m) GDP $4.601 trillion 2014 Primary Natural Resources coal, copper, rice, sugar beets. JAPAN IS AN ISLAND nation occupying a long, relatively narrow mountainous archipelago of four large and about 3,000 […]

Grand Canal (China)

THE GRAND CANAL is one of the wonders of the world. Built in the 7th century by CHINA's Sui Dynasty, it stretches about 1,100 mi (1,800 km) across eastern China—about the same distance as MIAMI, FLORIDA, to NEW YORK CITY, or LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, to Vancouver, CANADA. The canal was built to transport rice and […]


Area 3,645,468 square mi (9,596,960 square km) Population 1.364 billion 2014 Capital Beijing Highest Point 29,035 ft (8,850 m) Lowest Point -505 ft (-154 m) GDP $10.36 trillion 2014 Primary Natural Resources coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas. CHINA IS ONE of the largest countries in the world, with more than 3.6 million square mi (9.6 […]