From the deserts of Saudi Arabia to the endless steppes of Mongolia, Asia is a vast continent full of incredible wonders, both natural and man-made. It is the birthplace of the world’s oldest civilizations and its biggest religions, its highest peaks and its most populous cities. There are hundreds of things that will surprise, astonish and delight you in this continent; these 17 mind-blowing facts is just one sample.
Fact 1: Asia covers a total land area of 44,579,000 square kilometers.
This makes it the largest continent in the world. In contrast, Africa, the second largest continent, covers a land area just two-thirds of Asia’s at 30,221,532 square kilometers.
Fact 2: More than 4.1 billion people live in Asia.
That’s nearly 60% of the world’s total. At 87 people per square kilometers, it also has the highest population density in the world (Europe comes in second at 72.5 people per square kilometer).
Fact 3: Asia has given birth to some of the oldest human civilizations.
From the 7,000 year old Sumer civilization in Mesopotamia to the 6,000 year old Indus Valley Civilization in India, ancient culture is rich in Asia. In fact, the region around the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia (covering modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, and parts of Syria and Iran) is often called the “cradle of civilization”.
Fact 4: Pop culture doesn’t do the people of Asia justice.
Pop culture tends to equate Asian with Japanese/Chinese/Korean people, but in reality, Asia is so vast that it covers everyone from Siberians in northern Russia and Arabs in Iraq to Indians in South-East Asia and New Guineans north of Australia. Which is to say, “Asia” covers pretty much the whole gamut of humankind!
Fact 5: Cities are densely populated in Asia.
Shanghai, Beijing, Istanbul, Karachi, Mumbai, Guangzhou and Delhi – 7 of the world’s 10 largest cities (by population) can be found in Asia.
Fact 6: Nine out of ten of the world’s tallest buildings are in Asia.
The tallest, of course, is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which stands at a whopping 2,717 feet. The second tallest is the Shanghai Tower at 2,073 feet. The tallest building under construction – Kingdom Tower – is in Asia as well (Saudi Arabia). Once construction is complete in 2019, this building will stand 3,300 feet tall – a whole kilometer!
Fact 7: Asians sure know a thing or two about making massive malls.
All 10 of the largest malls in the world are in Asia. The largest, the New South China Mall in Dongguan, China, has a total leasable area of 659,612 square kilometers. The famous Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, in contrast, has a total area of “just” 258,200 square kilometers!
Fact 8: Speaking of large malls, the aforementioned New South China Mall is classified as a “dead mall”.
Why? Because nearly 99% of it lies vacant since its opening in 2005. Despite its massive size, 82-foot Arc de Triomphe replica, and 1.3 mile canal (complete with gondolas!), few retailers ever set shop in it. You are far more likely to find security guards and squatters than shoppers on a leisurely stroll through it.
Fact 9: Japan has a lot of weird and wonderful customs and laws, the Metabo Law takes the cake.
As per this law, all men and women above 40 years of age are required to get their waists measured by Japanese government officials. Men found with waists above 33.5 inches and women with waists measuring 35.5 inches and above are classified as “at risk” and “overweight”. While there is no penalty for being overweight, the government suggests that you follow certain steps to ensure your good health.
It may all be in the name of staying healthy, but technically, it is now illegal to be fat in Japan!
Fact 10: North Korea, perhaps the most politically isolated country in the world, has cultivated a strange cult of personality around the dictatorial Kim family.
Instead of following the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world, the North Korean calendar starts from founder Kim Il Sung’s date of birth (15 April 1912). Similarly, instead of celebrating Christmas, North Koreans make a pilgrimage to the birth town of Kim Jong Suk, the deceased wife of Kim Il Sung, on December 24.
Fact 11: Although China is the world’s third largest country and stretches 5,026 kilometers longitudinally, it still has just one time zone.
Perhaps the Chinese implemented this after seeing the PST-EST confusion in the United States (we won’t even mention the horrors of daylight savings)!
Fact 12: You probably already know that China and India are the two most populous countries in the world.
China has 1.35 billion people to India’s 1.22 billion. What you probably didn’t know is that altogether, a group of 15 or so countries in Asia hold more people than the rest of the world combined. Statistically speaking, the five most populous countries within this circle are China (1.35B), India (1.22B), Indonesia (250M), Bangladesh (163M), and Japan (127M).
Fact 13: If you thought parents naming their newborn kids “Khaleesi” after the heroine from HBO’s hit Game of Thrones TV show was weird, wait till you hear this: over the past 15 years, over 4,000 children in China have been named “Olympic Games” (or ‘Aoyun’ in Chinese).
Chinese naming customs tend to be quite peculiar. It isn’t uncommon for parents to name their kids after events, slogans and values they cherish. This is why you have lot of kids named “Defend China”, “Build the Nation” and even “Space Travel” in the country!
Fact 14: The landscape in Asia is wildly varied.
Asia houses both the highest (Mount Everest, 8,848m) and the lowest (Dead Sea, -395m) points on Earth.
Fact 15: India produces more mangoes than any country in the world – around 12 million tons each year.
Mangoes are more than a fruit in the country; it is nearly a collective national obsession. Since mangoes are available for just 3-4 months in the year, a huge market for mango flavored drinks has emerged in the country to fuel this obsession!
Fact 16: Japan has the second oldest population in the world.
The median age is 44.6 years. In fact, around 50,000 people above a hundred years call Japan home! Only Monaco has an older population.
Fact 17: The tonsured head and pigtail hairstyle you see in Chinese action movies wasn’t a fashion choice but a state enforced decree.
Called the ‘Manchu pigtail’ or the ‘Manchu Queue’, this hairstyle was forcibly introduced by the Qing Dynasty after its conquest of China in early 17th century. All conquered men were forced to wear this style or risk execution. It wasn’t until the last emperor of China, Puyi, cut off his own ponytail in 1922 that the style was officially abandoned.
Mandarin Chinese is the world’s most spoken language with over a billion native speakers.