November 25, 2012 9:17 pm

Imagine mountains that seem to touch the sky and long rivers that wind through rich farmland. Imagine lush tropical rain forests full of unusual animals and huge cities teeming with millions of people. Imagine all of this and you’ll have an idea of what Asia is like.
Asia is a land of extremes. It’s the biggest of the seven continents. In fact, it covers about 30 percent of all the world’s land. Asia is so big it touches Europe in the west and nearly reaches North America in the east!
In northern Asia are the vast frozen lands of Siberia. In the south are the damp tropical forests of Malaysia and Indonesia. Asia has large, crowded cities like Mumbai (Bombay), India. It has huge, empty inland deserts like the Gobi in China. Seven of the ten longest rivers in the world flow through Asia.
Asia has the world’s highest point at Mount Everest in Nepal. It has the lowest point, too. That’s near the Dead Sea, in an area of southwest Asia called the Middle East.
At any given moment there are places in Asia that are very hot and others that are very cold. There are places that are dry as a bone and others that are rainy and wet.
In the Middle East, archaeologists have found traces of the world’s oldest known cities. The oldest is Jericho. It’s a city in the West Bank between Israel and Jordan. Jericho dates back more than 8,000 years.
The Middle East is often called the “cradle of civilization.” It was here, in Mesopotamia (now Iraq), that people first began to settle into communities and grow grains. That was over 10,000 years ago. Both China and India are also home to other great early civilizations.
Did you know the world’s five biggest religions began in Asia? The Middle East is the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. India is the ancient home of Hinduism and Buddhism.
All of these religions are still practiced by millions of people in Asia. Sometimes they are the source of great conflict between Asian societies.
Asia has lots of people. Nearly 4 billion of them! About three of every five people in the world live in the 48 countries of Asia. China and India are the two most populated countries in the world, each with over 1 billion people.
To understand everyone in Asia you would have to learn more than 1,000 languages. Can you imagine 1,000 languages? What could they all possibly sound like?
Many of Asia’s people are very poor. But many others are very rich. In countries such as Afghanistan, India, China, and Bangladesh, millions of people live without electricity or even clean water. In places like Japan and South Korea, millions of people live in wealthy towns and cities. They create, make, and use much of the world’s new technology.
Rich and poor and old and new. That’s Asia for you: a land of extremes.
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