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For discussion of the area sometimes termed southwest Asia, see Middle East.


The culture of Asia is the artificial aggregation of the cultural heritage of many nationalities, societies, religions, and ethnic groups in Asia. The continent is often divided into geographic and cultural subregions, including the Caucasus, Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia (the "Indian subcontinent"), North Asia, and Southeast Asia. (Southwest Asia and the Middle East are often considered geographically but not culturally Asian). Asian cultures also range from rural and tribal indigenous cultures, such as much of Mongolia and central Asia, to highly urbanized and cosmopolitan metropolitan areas, such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Asian art, music, and cuisine, as well as literature, are important parts of Asian culture. Eastern philosophy and religion also plays a major role, with Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity all playing major roles. One of the most complex parts of Asian culture is the relationship between traditonal cultures and the Western world.

Nationalities and ethnic groupsEdit

There are an abundance of ethnic groups throughout Asia, with adaptations to the climate zones of Asia, which can be arctic, subarctic, temperate, subtropical or tropical. The ethnic groups have adapted to mountains, deserts, grasslands, and forests. On the coasts of Asia, the ethnic groups have adopted various methods of harvest and transport. Some groups are primarily hunter-gatherers, some practice transhumance (nomadic lifestyle), others have been agrarian/rural for millennia and others are becoming industrial/urban. Some groups/countries of Asia are completely urban (Singapore and Hong Kong). The colonization of Asia was largely ended in the twentieth century, with national drives for independence and self-determination across the continent.

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Main article: Asian architecture

Until contact with European influence, some cultures would build renewable buildings. For example, in Japan, the temples of Kyoto and Nara might be over 1,000 years old in style, but be completely rebuilt, in the same style, every few generations or so. The primary reason for this was that the materials might be wood and thatch rather than stone and tile.

Other cultures might build from stone, but the jungles and forests might overgrow the buildings, as in Angkor Wat.


Main article: Asian art

Detail of Dragon Throne used by the Qianlong Emperor of China, Forbidden City, Qing Dynasty. Artifact circulating in U.S. museums on loan from Beijing

A rich imagery of Asian art is revealed in several spheres, including its sculpture, paintings and handicrafts; music, dance, drama, and other performing arts. This section is a stub. You can help by adding to it.

Visual artsEdit

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This section is a stub. You can help by adding to it. Asia is the home of two major traditions of calligraphy. In the far east is the Chinese and Japanese (called Shodo or Shuuji) traditions of brush calligraphy.


File:Silk weaver.jpg

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Performing artsEdit

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Main article: Asian music

Harmonic music can follow the pentatonic scale as well as the twelve-tone scale; percussive music can use cymbals as well as gongs, in Asia. This section is a stub. You can help by adding to it.

Central AsiaEdit
Main article: Central Asian music

The music of Central Asia is as vast and unique as the many cultures and peoples who inhabit the region. The one constant throughout the musical landscape is Islam, which defines the music's focus and the musicians' inspiration.

Principal instrument types are two- or three-stringed lutes, the necks either fretted or fretless; fiddles made of horsehair; flutes, mostly open at both ends and either end-blown or side-blown; and Jews' harps, either metal or, often in Siberia, wooden. Percussion instruments include frame drums, tambourines, and kettledrums.

Instrumental polyphony is achieved primarily by lutes and fiddles. On the other hand, vocal polyphony is achieved in different ways: Bashkirs hum a basic pitch while playing solo flute.

East AsiaEdit
Main article: East Asian music
South AsiaEdit
Main article: South Asian music
Traditional indonesian instruments04

Gongs from Indonesia

Southeast AsiaEdit
Main article: Southeast Asian music


In Punjab, India, bhangra is popular.

In Southeast Asia, dance is an integral part of the culture; the styles of dance vary from island to island. There are courtly dances, found, for example, wherever there are Rajahs and princesses. There are also dances of celebration. For example, according to oral history, in 1212, when 10 Bornean datus left the rule of Sri Vijayan empire on Borneo, they sailed away and negotiated settlement rights with the chieftain of the Negritos on the island of Panay. In commemoration of the agreement, they danced; the Negritos danced as well. This section is a stub. You can help by adding to it.

Mythology and folkloreEdit

Matsya painting

Vishnu as Matsya.

The story of Great Floods find reference in most of the regions of Asia. The Hindu mythology tells about an avatar of God Vishnu in the form of a fish who warned Manu of a terrible flood. In ancient Chinese mythology Shan Hai Jing, the Chinese ruler Da Yu had to spend ten years to control a deluge which swept out most of the ancient China and was aided by the goddess Nuwa who literally "fixed" the "broken" sky through which huge rains were pouring.


The regions of Asia has a rich variety of mythical fauna. Japan has Nekomatas, cats with two tails and having magical powers; whereas Balinese mythology has child-eating Rangdas. Hindu mythology have Pishachas haunting the cremation grounds to eat half-burnt human corpses, and Bhuts hanting the desolate places. Asia has a rich tradition of folklores and storytelling. In the Indian subcontinent, the Panchatantra, a collection of fables 200 BC, has remained a favorite for 2000 years.


Asia is a continent with great linguistic diversity, and is home to several language families and many language isolates. A majority of Asian countries have more than one language that is natively spoken. For instance, according to Ethnologue over 600 languages are spoken in Indonesia while over 100 are spoken in the Philippines. Korea, on the other hand, is home to only one language.

The main language families found in Asia, along with examples of each, are:

Other languages that do not belong to the above groups are Korean, Mongolian, Georgian, Ainu, Hmong, and many others.



Tang dynasty Chinese poet Li Bai, in a 13th century depiction by Liang Kai.


In Tang and Song dynasty China, famous poets such as Li Bai authored works of great importance. They wrote shī (Classical Chinese: 诗) poems, which have lines with equal numbers of characters, as well as (词) poems with mixed line varieties. Early-Modern Japanese literature (17th–19th centuries) developed comparable innovations such as haiku, a form of Japanese poetry that evolved from the ancient hokku (Japanese language: 発句) mode. Haiku consists of three lines: the first and third lines each have five morae (the rough phonological equivalent of syllables), while the second has seven. Original haiku masters included such figures as Edo period poet Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉); others influenced by Bashō include Kobayashi Issa and Masaoka Shiki.



Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel laureate.

The polymath Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet, dramatist, and writer who was an Indian, became in 1913 the first Asian Nobel laureate. He won his Nobel Prize in Literature for notable impact his prose works and poetic thought had on English, French, and other national literatures of Europe and the Americas.He also wrote the Indian anthem Later, other Asian writers won Nobel Prizes in literature, including Yasunari Kawabata (Japan, 1966), and Kenzaburo Oe (Japan, 1994). In Pakistani literature, Saadat Hasan Manto (Urdu: ‏‏سعادت حسن منٹو) was a Punjab (Pakistan)-born Kashmiri short story writer who was notable for confronting controversial topics — including incest and social injustice — with wit, humor, and satire.


Main article: Eastern philosophy

Asian philosophical traditions originated in India and China, and has been classified as Eastern philosophy covering a large spectrum of philosophical thoughts and writings, including those popular within India and China. The Indian philosophy include Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. They include elements of non-material pursuits, whereas another school of thought Carvaka, which originated in India, and was propuned by Charvak around 2500 years before, preached the enjoyment of material world.

During the 20th century, in the two most populous countries of Asia, two dramatically different political philosophies took shape. Gandhi gave a new meaning to Ahimsa, and redefined the concepts of nonviolence and nonresistance. During the same period, Mao Zedong’s communist philosophy was crystallized.


Buddha image - white stone

A stone image of the Buddha.

Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated in India, a country of South Asia. In East Asia, particularly in China and Japan, Confucianism, Taoism, Zen Buddhism and Shinto took shape. Other religions of Asia include Bahá'í Faith, Shamanism practiced in Siberia and Animism, practiced in the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent.

Today 30% of Muslims live in the South Asian region of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The world's largest single Muslim community (within the bounds of one nation) is in Indonesia. There are also significant Muslim populations in the Philippines, China, Central Asia, Iran, and Russia.

In the Philippines and East Timor, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion; it was introduced by the Spaniards and the Portuguese, respectively. In Armenia, Eastern Orthodoxy is the predominant religion. Various Christian sects have adherents in portions of the Middle East.

Festivals & celebrationsEdit


Asia has a variety of festivals and celebrations. In China, Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Moon Festival are traditional holidays, while National Day is a holiday of the PRC. In Japan, Japanese New Year, National Foundation Day, Children's Day, The Emperor's Birthday, and Christmas are popular. Buddhist festivals include Vesak and Asalha Puja.

In India, Republic Day and Independence Day are important national festivals celebrated by people irrespective of faith. Major Hindu festivals of India include Diwali, Dussehra or Daserra, Holi, Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Mahashivratri, Ugadi, Navratri, Ramanavami, Baisakhi , Onam, Rathayatra, Ganesh Chaturthi, and Krishna Janmastami.

In the Philippines, there is a very strong Spanish influence in their festivals. The Spaniards infused their love of merry-making to the Filipinos, thus making the Asian Philippines, distinctively occidental. Fiesta is the term used to refer to a festival. Most of these fiestas are celebrated in honor of a patron Saint. Some prime examples include Sinulog from Cebu and Ilo-Ilo's Dinagyang.

Food & drinkEdit

Unidentified thai food

Thai seafood curry

This diversity is also reflected in Asian cuisine, in the use of basic ingredients as well as in the style of preparation and cooking techniques.

In East Asia, rice is a staple food, and it is mostly served steamed or as a porridge known as congee. China is the world largest producer and consumer of rice. In India, people often eat food with their hands, and many spices are used in every dish. Most spices originated around India or neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka. In the Middle East, it is customary to share a large family dinner, often with spices like saffron. Rice, poultry, and vegetables are common in Arab cuisine.


Durians are a common fruit in Southeast Asia, which, Alfred Russel Wallace, attested to its delicious flavor as worth the entire cost of his trip there.

Culture by peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


^  John Lindley (1889), Treasury of Botany vol 1. p.435. Longmans, Green, & Co; New and rev. ed edition (1889)

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