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.
Baalbek is a town in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire.
Cry for noble Saichō, a poem written by Emperor Saga of Japan in the 9th century, upon the death of the Buddhist monk Saichō—an early example of Japanese calligraphy. Although calligraphy as an art form had existed prior to that time, Japanese practitioners tended to imitate the styles developed by Chinese calligraphists. The influence of Chinese styles had weakened after the Heian period, with this text as one of the few surviving examples of the transformation to a native Japanese style.
is the eighth and current Secretary-General
of the United Nations
, after succeeding Kofi Annan
in 2007. Before going on to be Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service
the year he graduated from university, accepting his first post in New Delhi, India
. In the foreign ministry he established a reputation for modesty and competence. Ban was the Foreign Minister
of the Republic of Korea
from January 2004 to November 2006. In February 2006, he began to campaign for the office of Secretary-General. Ban was initially considered to be a long shot for the office. As foreign minister of South Korea, however, he was able to travel to all of the countries that were members of the United Nations Security Council
, a maneuver that turned him into the front runner. On 13 October 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly
and officially succeeded Annan on 1 January 2007. Ban has led several major reforms regarding peacekeeping and UN employment practices. Diplomatically, Ban has taken particularly strong views on Darfur
, where he helped persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir
to allow peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan
; and on global warming
, pressing the issue repeatedly with former U.S. President George W. Bush
. Ban has received strong criticism from OIOS
, the UN internal audit unit, stating that the secretariat, under Ban's leadership, is "drifting into irrelevance".
is a temple complex at Angkor
, built for the king Suryavarman II
in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu
, dedicated to the god Vishnu
, then Buddhist
. It is the world's largest religious building. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture
. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag
, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors.Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain
and the later galleried temple
, based on early South Indian Hindu architecture
, with key features such as the Jagati
. It is designed to represent Mount Meru
, home of the devas
in Hindu mythology
: within a moat
and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx
of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs
, and for the numerous devatas
(guardian spirits) adorning its walls.The modern name, Angkor Wat, means "City Temple"; Angkor
is a vernacular form of the word nokor
), which comes from the Sanskrit word nagar
), Thai, Nakon
, meaning capital or city. Wat
is the Khmer
word which comes from Sanskrit word "Vastu". Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok
(Vara Vishnuloka in Sanskrit), after the posthumous title of its founder, Suryavarman II
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