More Than Just “Asia”

Define Asian
Many people of Asian heritage become VERY
angry when they hear this word. Several Asian groups have been at war for thousands of years and have VERY different cultural history and norms.

I have used Wikipedia for the resource on this topic. I feel the constant updating of primary source voices will be the most authentic.

 East Asia

East Asia is usually thought to consist of China, Japan, and Korea. The dominant influence historically has been China, though in modern times, cultural exchange has flowed more bi-directionally. Major characteristics of this region include shared Chinese-derived language characteristics, as well as shared religion, especially Buddhism and Taoism. There is also a shared social and moral philosophy derived from Confucianism.

The Chinese script is the oldest continuously used writing system in the world, and has long been a unifying principle of East Asia, as the medium for conveying Chinese culture. It was historically used throughout the region, and is still used in by ethnic Chinese throughout the world, as well as in Japan and to a lesser extent South Korea. Within China, the meanings of the characters remain generally unchanged from region to region, though their pronunciations differ. This is because Classical Chinese was long the written language of all China, and was replaced by Mandarin as the national written language in the twentieth century. For example, a Cantonese and a Mandarin speaker cannot hold a conversation, but if they are educated they can understand each other in writing, as they both learned to read and write Mandarin in school. To a lesser extent, Taiwanese, South Koreans, and Japanese can all understand something of the Chinese characters that the other writes, though this is no longer the case with China, due to simplifications of the characters there.

Chinese writing was passed on to Korea, Japan and Vietnam. In Japan, where it (called Kanji in Japan) now forms a major component of the Japanese writing system. In the 9th century, Japanese developed their own writing systems called Kana (Hiragana and Katakana) which support Kanji script to suit Japanese language. Today, both ideograph Kanji and syllabary Kana is used in mixture in Japanese. In Vietnam, Chinese script (Han Tu) was used during the millennium under the influence of China, with the vernacular Chu Nom script are also used since 13th century. However, this has now (since the early 20th century) been replaced completely by the Latin Alphabet-based Quoc Ngu. In the 15th century, Koreans also developed their own writing system called Han-gul which is more adapted script to write Korean.

In these cultures, especially in China and Japan the educational level of person is traditionally measured by the quality of his or her calligraphy, rather than diction, as is sometimes the case in the west.

Though Korea and Japan are not Chinese speaking regions, their languages have been influenced by Chinese to some extent. Even though their writing systems have changed over time, Chinese is still found in the historical roots of many borrowed words. Though in modern times, Chinese is also influenced by other Asian languages, especially modern technical and political terms created in Japan to represent western concepts. For example, 文化(culture), 文明(civilization), 人民(people), 経済(economy), 共和(republic) and 哲学(philosophy) are borrowed words from Japanese to Chinese. (ja:和製漢語,zh:和製漢語)

Apart from the unifying influence of Confucianism, Buddhism, Chinese characters, and other Chinese Cultural Influences, there is nevertheless much diversity between the countries of the region such as different religions, national costumes, languages, writing systems, cuisines, traditional musics and so on.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia consists of Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia is usually thought to include Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, East Timor, Brunei and the Philippines. The region has been greatly influenced by the cultures and religions of India and China as well as the religions Islam and Christianity from Southwest Asia. Southeast Asia has also had a lot of Western influence due to the lasting legacy of colonialism. One example is the Philippines which has been heavily influenced by America and Spain due to the invasion.

A common feature found around the region are stilt houses. Another shared feature is rice paddy agriculture, which originated in Southeast Asia thousands of years ago. Dance is also a very important feature of the culture, utilizing movements of the hands and feet perfected over thousands of years. Furthermore, the arts and literature of Southeast Asia is very distinctive as some have been influenced by Indian, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist and Islamic literature.

West Asia

west Asia largely corresponds with the term the Middle East. However, the usage of the term Middle East is slowly fading out due to its obvious Eurocentrism as the region is east of Europe but it is south of Russia and west of India. West Asia consists of Turkey, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. The region is the historical birthplace of Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Today, the region is almost 93% Muslim and is dominated by Islamic politics. Culturally, the region is Turkish, Arab and Persian. Iraq is a unique example of both Persian and Arab culture. Many of the Arab countries are desert and thus many nomadic groups exist today. On the other hand, modern metropolises also exist on the shifting sands: Abu Dhabi, Amman, Riyadh, Doha and Muscat. The climate is mostly of a desert climate however some of the coastal regions have a more temperate climate. On the other hand, the Anatolian plateau (Turkey, Georgia, Armenia) is very mountainous and thus has a more temperate climate while the coasts have a distinct mediterranean climate. The Persian Plateau (Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkmenistan) has a diverse terrain, it is mainly mountainous with portions of desert, steppe and tropical forest on the coast of the Caspian Sea. West Asian cuisine is a fusion of Turkish, Arabian, North African and Persian cuisine. It is immensely rich and diverse. The literature is also immensely rich with Arabic and Persian literature dominating. One of the most famous literary works of West Asia is 1001 Arabian Nights.


Central Asia

Central Asia is deemed to consist of the five former Soviet Socialist Republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are sometimes included. The predominant religion in Central Asia is Islam. Central Asia has a long rich history mainly based on its historic position on the famous Silk Road. It has been conquered by Mongols, Persians, Tatars, Russians, Sarmatian and thus has a very distinct, vibrant culture. The culture is influenced by Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arabian, Turkish, Russian, Sarmatian and Mongolian cultures. The people of the steppes of Central Asia have historically been nomadic people but a unifying state was established in Central Asia in the 16th century: The Kazakh Khanate.

The music of Central Asia is rich and varied and is appreciated worldwide. Meanwhile, Central Asian cuisine is one of the most prominent cuisines of Asia, with cuisines from Pakistan, India, China and Azerbaijan showing significant influence from the foods of Central Asia. One of the most famous Central Asian foods is the kebab.

The literature of Central Asia is linked with Persian literature as historically it has been part of the Persian Empire for a lot of its history. Furthermore, being at the junction of the Silk Road it has numerous Chinese, Indian and Arabian literary works.