Asia ( (listen)) is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people () constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.
In general terms, Asia is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Indian Ocean, and on the north by the Arctic Ocean. The border of Asia with Europe is a historical and cultural construct, as there is no clear physical and geographical separation between them. It is somewhat arbitrary and has moved since its first conception in classical antiquity. The division of Eurasia into two continents reflects East–West cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences, some of which vary on a spectrum rather than with a sharp dividing line. The most commonly accepted boundaries place Asia to the east of the Suez Canal separating it from Africa; and to the east of the Turkish Straits, the Ural Mountains and Ural River, and to the south of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian and Black Seas, separating it from Europe.
China and India alternated in being the largest economies in the world from 1 to 1800 CE. China was a major economic power and attracted many to the east, and for many the legendary wealth and prosperity of the ancient culture of India personified Asia, attracting European commerce, exploration and colonialism. The accidental discovery of a trans-Atlantic route from Europe to America by Columbus while in search for a route to India demonstrates this deep fascination. The Silk Road became the main east–west trading route in the Asian hinterlands while the Straits of Malacca stood as a major sea route. Asia has exhibited economic dynamism (particularly East Asia) as well as robust population growth during the 20th century, but overall population growth has since fallen. Asia was the birthplace of most of the world's mainstream religions including Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, as well as many other religions.
Foot binding was the custom of binding the feet of young girls painfully tight to prevent further growth. The practice probably originated among court dancers in the early Song dynasty, but spread to upper class families and eventually became common among all classes. The tiny narrow feet were considered beautiful and to make a woman's movements more feminine and dainty.
was the archery
teacher and second military arts tutor of famous Song Dynasty
general Yue Fei
. Originally a local hero from Henan
, he was hired to continue Yue Fei's military training in archery after the boy had rapidly mastered spearplay under his first teacher. In addition to the future general, Zhou accepted other children as archery pupils. During his tutelage, Zhou taught the children all of his skills and even rewarded Yue with his two favorite bows because he was his best pupil. After Zhou's death, Yue would regularly visit his tomb twice a month and perform unorthodox sacrifices that far surpassed that done for even beloved tutors. Yue later taught what he had learned from Zhou to his soldiers and they were successful in battle.With the publishing of Yue Fei's 17th folklore biography, The Story of Yue Fei
(1684), a new distinct fictional Zhou Tong emerged, which differed greatly from his historical persona. Not only was he now from Shaanxi
; but he was Yue's adopted father, a learned scholar with knowledge of the eighteen weapons of war
, and his personal name
was spelled with a different, yet related, Chinese character. The novel's author portrayed him as an elderly widower
and military arts tutor who counted Lin Chong
and Lu Junyi
, two of the fictional on which the Water Margin
is based, among his former pupils.
is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus
, commonly known as the saffron crocus
is a genus in the family Iridaceae
. Each saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas
, which are each the distal end of a carpel
. Together with the styles
, or stalks that connect the stigmas to their host plant, the dried stigmas are used mainly in various cuisines as a seasoning and colouring agent. Saffron, long among the world's most costly spices by weight, is native to Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece. As a genetically monomorphic clone, it was slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania. The saffron crocus, unknown in the wild, likely descends from Crocus cartwrightianus
, which originated in Crete or Central Asia; C. thomasii
and C. pallasii
are other possible precursors. The saffron crocus is a triploid
that is "self-incompatible" and male sterile; it undergoes aberrant meiosis and is hence incapable of independent sexual reproduction—all propagation is by vegetative multiplication via manual "divide-and-set" of a starter clone or by interspecific hybridisation. If C. sativus
is a mutant form of C. cartwrightianus
, then it may have emerged via plant breeding
, which would have selected for elongated stigmas, in late Bronze-Age Crete.Saffron's bitter taste and iodoform
- or hay-like fragrance result from the chemicals picrocrocin
.It also contains a carotenoid
, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue
to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history
is attested in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical treatise compiled under Ashurbanipal
, and it has been traded and used
for over four millennia. Iran now accounts for the lion's share, or around 90%, of world production. Research into its many possible medicinal benefits, ranging from cancer suppression to mood improvement and appetite reduction, is ongoing.
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