Asia is the largest continent of the world, covering almost one-third of the earth’s total land surface.
Asia’s north-western borders are formed by the steep crags of the Ural and Caucasus mountains. Lands in the far north extend above the Arctic Circle, where much of the region is tundra, a frozen wilderness. Further south lies a broad belt of evergreen forest known as taiga, which, in turn, gives way to open, fertile grasslands in the west and the east.
Oceans, Seas and Mountain
The great triangular peninsula of India stretches south into the warm Indian Ocean. The world’s highest mountain ranges — the Himalayas and Karakorams, form a barrier of ice and snow in the north. And the snow melts into rivers that run through broad plains. These rivers often flood and deposit fertile soil over a wide area. It is part of the same landmass as Europe and stretches from Africa and Europe in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. Chains of volcanic islands mark the continent’s eastern border, which is a danger zone for earthquakes.
Asia’s sunny south-western coastline is washed by the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, but the lands and islands of southern Asia have a tropical climate. There, it is hot and dry for a part of the year but drenched by rain at the end of summer months.
At this time stormy winds called monsoons gather up moisture from the southern oceans and heavy showers occur on the land. However, few rain-bearing winds reach central Asia, so deserts have formed in this region. Little grows on the sandy wastes and barren rocky plateaus where it is bitterly cold in winter and as hot as a furnace in summer.
Flora and Fauna
Thousands of the world’s most beautiful plant species originally came from Asia, including tulips from Turkey and rhododendrons from the Himalayas. Rice and wheat, the main crops of the people, grow in many of the continent’s fertile river valleys. Animals and birds of various shapes and sizes are found throughout Asia.
Civilization and Politics
Some of the world’s first great civilizations sprang up in Asia from 3500 BC onwards. Over the centuries, people such as the Mongols and the Turks including the Aryans from Middle Asia built up and then lost their vast empires. From the 1800s much of Asia was colonized by European countries.
Great social changes have taken place in Asia during the 20th century. India, China, and Japan are becoming great powers in world politics. However, the spread of communism often caused wars with capitalist countries.
In 1991, the Soviet Union reformed its communism and broke up into republics such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan as independent countries. Many Asian governments are now improving the economies of their countries by creating new industries and improving old ones.