ASIA

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ASIA ; the cradle of the human race, of nations, religions and states, of languages, arts and sciences ; rich in natural gifts and historical remembrances ; the theatre of human activity in ancient times, and still exhibiting, in many places, the characteristic traits which distinguished it many centuries since. It forms the eastern and northern part of the old world, and is separated from Australia by the Indian and the Pacific oceans, including the gulfs of Bengal, Siam and Tonquin ; from America, on the N. E., by Cook's or Behring's straits, and on the E. by the great Eastern or Pacific ocean, including the gulf of Corea, the seas of Japan, Tongou (Yellow sea} and Okotsk; from Africa by the Arabian sea (with which is connected the Persian gulf) and by the Arabian gulf, or Red sea, with the straits of Babelmandel; from Europe by the sea of Azoph, with the straits of CafFa, by the Black sea with the Bosphorus, by the sea of Marmora and the Dardanelles, and by the Grecian archipelago. On the other hand, it is united with Africa by the desert isthmus of Suez, and with Europe by the waters of the Wolga (which rises near the Baltic, and falls, with the Ural, into the Caspian sea); also by the rocky girdle, as the Tartars call it, of the Ural and the Werchoturian mountains, which rise 77° N. lat. in Nova Zembla, separate the plain of the Wolga from the higher tablelands of Siberia, and are connected with Upper Asia by a branch of the Little Altai, abounding in ores. The area of Asia is calculated at 16,175,000 square miles. It extends from 26° to 190° E. Ion., and from 2° to 78° N. lat. Its greatest breadth, from N. to S. is 4140 miles, and its greatest length about 8000. It is four times larger than Europe. It is divided into, 1, Southern ASIA, comprehending Natolia, Armenia, Curdistan, Syria, Arabia, Persia, Hindostan, Farther India, Siam, Malacca, Annam, Tonquin, Cochin China, Laos, Cambodia, China, Japan; 2, Middle or Upper Asia, containing Caucasus, Tartary, Bucharia, Mongolia, Tungousia; 1, Northern or Russian Asia, from 44° N. lat., containing Kasan, Astrachan, Oren burg, Kuban, Kabarda, Georgia, Imireta, Siberia, with the Alpine regions of Dauria and Kamschatka. The centre of this continent, probably the oldest ridge of land on the earth, is called Upper Asia. Here the Bogdo (the majestic summit of the Altai) forms the central point of all the mountains of Asia. Upper Asia comprises, perhaps, the most elevated plain on the surface of the earththe desert of Kobi, or Shamo, on the northern frontiers of China, 400 leagues long, and 100 leagues broad; barren, dry and waste; visited alternately by scorching winds and chilling storms, even in summer, and affording, besides its deserts, only rivers and lakes ; as the Caspian, the lakes Aral and Baikal, and several situated among the mountains. From the northern and southern declivities of this region, the first tribes of men set out in all directions, following the course of the rivers in four chief lines of descent (north, east, south and west). At least, the radical words in the Indian, Median, Persian, Sclavonian, Greek and Teutonic original languages, between which there are striking affinities, all point to the west of Upper Asia or Iran. Those heights in the Himalaya chain (q. v.), under the 35th degree of N. lat., which are said to attain an elevation of 27,677 English feet, could not be reached by the currents, which, coming from the south, where they were broken by cape Comorin and cape Romania, flowed round the Chinese sea to the north, where the East cape on the east, TchukotskoiNoss on the northeast, and the Icy cape in the Arctic ocean, became the extreme points of the continent. The islands in the east (Japan, the Kurile and Aleutian isles, those of Formosa, Hainan and LeeooKeeoo) and in the southwest (Socotra, Ormus, &c), in particular the groups of islands on both sides of the equator (see Indies, East), and the peninsulas Kamschatka and Corea, India on this side and beyond the Ganges, and Arabia, bear visible marks of the destruction of the primitive continent by fire and water ; hence the numerous extinguished or still active volcanoes, in the interior, on the coasts, and particularly on the islands. The interior opens an immense field of scientific research for a traveller like Humboldt. The sources of all the large rivers of Asia, which must be sought for in the mountains of Upper Asia, have not been accurately examined since the time of Marco Polo. As little known are the southern declivities of the Mussart, Mustag (or Imaus), and of the Indian Alps, which extend over 630,000 square miles, and contain the kingdoms of Thibet, Bootan, Nepaul, Assam, &c, with the snowy summits of the Hindoo Koosh (Paropctmisus), Belurtag, Kentaisse and the Himalaya. It is the same with the northern elevation of the Altai, which, in the northeast, joins the mountains Changai (the holy land of Genghis Khan and of the Mantchoo tribes, extending to Corea and Japan). From the southern Alpine girdle descend the holy rivers of the Hindoosthe Bramapootra, the Ganges and Indus ; in the east, the less known rivers of Irawaddy, Meinam, Lukian and Mecon (or Cambodia), and, in the west, the Euphrates and the Tigris (q. v.), which all take their course towards the south, and run into the great gulfs of the Indian ocean. From the northern ridge, the Oby, Yenisey, Lena and many others flow into the Arctic ocean; on the eastern coast, the great rivers Amour, Hoangho and YangtseKiang descend into the bays of the Pacific ocean; farther west, the Gihon, or Amu (the ancient Oxus), and the SirDaria, or Jihon (Jaxartes of the ancients), flow into lake Aral. Almost as little known are the western ranges of mountains, the Taurus in Natolia, and in Armenia the Ararat, near which the Euphrates and Tigris become much increased, and where, in ancient times, the Roman victories found a limit. We have lately become better acquainted with the mountain passes, through which the first inhabitants of Europe may have wandered from Asia, the valleys of the Caucasus, from the bosom of which the Cuban flows into the Black sea, and the Aras (Araxes), with the Kur, into the Caspian. Nature has spread over Asia all the treasures of the earth, most abundantly in India; her bounties are distributed, by imperceptible gradations, through all its three zones. In the torrid zone, whose genial warmth converts the juices of plants to spices, balsam, sugar and coffee, with which Asia has enriched the West Indies, the palms (sago, cocoa, date and umbrellapalms) reach a height of 200 feet, and the white elephant attains a size surpassing that of all other quadrupeds. From hence the silkworm was brought to Europe. This region conceals in its bosom the most beautiful diamonds, the finest gold, the best tin, &c, whilst the waves flow over the purest pearls and corals. The temperate zone has given to Europe the melon, the vine, the orange and many of its most agreeable gardenfruits, as well as the most productive fariuaceous 35* grasses, and the most charming flowers; and unites, in its productions, symmetry with richness, particularly in the western regions. Here the oldest traditions place Paradise; here lie the enchanting Cashmere and the Garden of Damascus ; here blossoms the rose of Jericho (anastatica), near the cedars of Lebanon. The eastern countries, in the same latitude, possess the teashrub and the genuine rhubarb. The camel, the Angora goat, the Thibetan sheep, the pheasant and the horse are natives of this zone. In the north blossoms the Alpine flora of Dauria, and from the icy soil grows the dwarflike Siberian cedar, till, at 70°, vegetation mostly ceases. Here lives the smallest of quadrupedsthe shrewmouse of the Yenisey. Sables, ermines, foxes, otters, &c. afford the finest fur. The mineral kingdom furnishes rich ores, rare precious stones, and remarkable fossil remains, e. g., those of the mammoth, in high northern latitudes. (See Organic Remains.)The inhabitants (amounting to 300,000,000; according to some, to 580,000,000) are divided into three great branches:The TartarCaucasian, in Western Asia, exhibits the finest features of our race in the Circassian form : the Mongolian race is spread through Eastern Asia ; the Malay in Southern Asia and the islands. The north is inhabited by the Samoiedes, Tchooktches and others. 24 tribes, of different language and origin, may be distinguished, some of which are the relics of scattered tribes of Nomades: Kamtschadales, Ostiacs, Samoiedes, Koriacks, Kurilians, Aleutians, Coreans, Mongols and Kalmucks, Mantchoos (Tungoos, Daurians and Mantchoos Proper), Finns, Circassians, Georgians, Greeks, Syrians and Armenians, Tartars and Turks, Persians and Afghans, Thibetans, Hindoos, Siamese, Malays, Annamites (in Cochin China and Tonquin), Burmese, Chinese and Japanese, besides the indigenous inhabitants of the East Indian islands, Jews and Europeans. The principal languages are the Arabian, Persian, Armenian, Turkish, Tartar, Hindoo, Malayan, Mongol, Mantchoo and Chinese. Of the extinct civilized nation of the Igoors (Oigoors) in Upper Asia, the written characters have been preserved in Thibet. The Sanscrit of the Bramins is yet spoken in the higher mountains of India, and the ancient Pehlevi in the mountains of the Persian borders. The still more ancient Zend is entirely extinct; and the civilization of the old Iberians and Colchians,on the Kur and Phasis (Georgia and Imireta), has left no vestiges. All the forms of society are displayed in the existing Asiatic nations, from the savage state of the wandering hordes to the most effeminate luxury ; but liberty, founded on law and the moral and intellectual education of man, is wanting. Priests and conquerors have long decided the political character of the East, amidst frequent revolutions and changes of dynasties, ever maintaining the principles of blind obedience. Asia has been subject, at different times, to the Assyrians, Medes, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Syrians, Parthians, Arabians, Mongols, Tartars, SeJjooks, Turks, Afghans, &c. Ancient forms are preserved most rigidly, and the intellect is least progressive in China and Japan. Slavery still prevails in this continent. Woman yet remains degraded to a slave of man. The prevailing government is despotism, the offspring of Asia. Hence those artificial forms of a rigid etiquette, which are kept up in all the public relations, and that apathy of the people, in regard to fate, connected with cruelty, and produced partly by opium, partly by superstition, which is almost an universal characteristic of the Asiatics, notwithstanding the violence of their passions. There are, however, some tribes with a republican form of government; and relics of the patriarchal authority of the heads of families still are found. Near the colonies of the Europeans in Southern and Northern Asia, the civilization of the Christian world has been introduced. Christianity, though degenerated in many of the more ancient sects (see Maronites, Monophysites and Sects), has gained many adherents, throughout all Asia, by means of translations of the Bible, distributed by England and Russia. In Bengal and St. Petersburg, the translation of the Bible into the languages of Southern Asia has been prosecuted with a benevolent zeal. In Petersburg, similar efforts have been made for the benefit of the Mongolian Tartars. Even in China, Christians are found again, but none in Japan since 1637. The astronomy and astrology, poetry, morals, theology, laws, and the rude empirical medicine of the Asiatics, are mostly confined to the priests, and united with deeplyrooted superstition, which leads even to childmurder and selfsacrifice in the flames. The Mohammedan rehgion, the central point for instruction in which is at Samarcand, prevails in Western Asia. (See Wakaby.) Over all Central and the eastern part of Northern Asia, prevails the religion of the Lama. The religion of Brama, the headquarters of which is Benares, is confined chiefly to Hindostan, and Shamanism to the tribes in Northern Asia and to the Russian archipelago. The ancient doctrine of Zoroaster is confined to single families in India and Persia; whilst the Mosaic has numerous adherents through all Asia, ex<"ppt the Russian part. Physical and mechanical cultivation is carried to a higher degree of perfection than intellectual and moral; e. g., by the Indian jugglers and Chinese mechanics. Remarkable skill has been acquired by certain classes of Hindoos in the weaving of silk and cotton. The shawls of Cashmere, the leather of Persia and Syria (morocco, cordovan, shagreen), the porcelain of China and Japan, the steel of Turkish Asia, the lackered wares of China and Japan, &c. are well known. The internal commerce is still carried on by caravans, as in the most ancient times before Abraham and Moses, when mer chandise was transported from India through Bactria, to Colchis, as at presen' to Makarieu, Moscow and Constantinople. The foreign commerce of China and the East Indies is wholly in the hands of the EuropeansEnglish, Dutch and Russiansand of the North Americans. The religious, civil and social condition of the Asiatics proves, that, where the free developement of the higher powers of man is subject to the restraints of castes, and to the tyranny of priests and despots, and where the adherence to established forms has become a matter of faith, law and habit,the character of society must degenerate, and the energies of man become palsied. Hence the Asiatic, notwithstanding the richness of his imagination, never attained the conception of ideal beauty, like the free Greek; and, for the same reason, the European, whose mental improvement and social activity have been unimpeded, has shaken off the control which the East formerly exercised over the West, and has obtained dominion over the coasts and territories of his old lord and master. Greece led the way, and, after having transformed the obscure symbols of the East to shapes of ideal beauty, shook off the spiritual fetters of priests and oracles, and, at the same time, the temporal yoke which the Persian Darius had prepared for Athens and Sparta. After a struggle of 50 years, the triumphs of Cimon (in 449 B. C.) first enabled Europe to prescribe laws to the East. Grecian civilization men spread over the whole of Western Asia, to India, and even the military despotism which succeeded has not been able to extinguish the light entirely. In later times, the Romans and Parthians fought for the possession of the Euphrates, and the Persians, under the Sassanides, attempted to tear the dominion of the world from the hands of Rome. Since that period, Asia has^jfour times taken up arms against Euro^t The nations of Upper Asia, driven t'rom the frontiers of China to the Irtish, crowded upon the West. Huns, Avari, Bulgarians and Magyars successively issued from the Caucasian gates, and from the wildernesses of the Ural, to subdue Europe; besides those later hordes, which were mingled and confounded with each other in Southern Russia and on the Danube. But the rude power of Attila and of the grandsons of Arpat was broken in conflict with the Germans. Next, the Arabians attacked Constantinople, Italy and France, but their fanatical impetuosity was checked by Charles Martel, in 732, and the chivalrous valor of the Gothic Christians rescued the peninsula within the Pyrenees. The West then armed itself against the East, to recover the holy sepulchre from the sultan of the Seljooks, and Christian Europe became better acquainted with Asia ; but the sword alone cannot conquer a continent. (See Crusades.) Upper Asia sent again, under the Mongol Temudschin (see GenghisKhan), her mounted hordes over the world. Again the Germans stayed the destroying flood near Liegnitz. (See Wahlstadt.) Finally, the Tartars and Ottoman Turks invaded Europe. In 1453, they took the Bosphorus and Greece from the feeble hands of the eastern Romans. In succeeding times, Europe has been defended against Asia, on this side, by Germany. The intellectual progress of the European, since that period, has raised him above the most ancient nations of the EastPersians, Arabians, Indians and Chinese. Gunpowder, the mariner's compass and the art of printing (which the lastmentioned nation possessed, but could not apply to much use), have become powerful in his hands. Hence Russia has gained the Wolga, explored Siberia, kept watch over the seat of the ancient and modern Scythians, the mountains of the Altai, and finally conquered the tribes of the Caucasus; whilst [since Vasco da Gama (q. v.) discovered the way by sea to the East Indies, in 1498] the Portuguese, Dutch and French, and par ticularly the English, by their universal commerce, have made the rich countries of Southern Asia acquainted with European laws, and Europe with the condition and luxury of those countries. Persia is already entangled in the European international policy, which is principally owing to the efforts of sir Harford Jones, sir Gore Ousely, Mr. James Morier, and the Russian general Yermatoff. The diplomacy of the court of China, now more than 10 centuries old, still resists European encroachments, and the celtstial empire prefers the North Americans to the English and Russians. Japan, alone, yet denies all approach to Europeans ; and her jealousy is as effective as the polar ice, which blocks up the passages of the Frozen seas. But the inquisitive spirit of European navigators has gradually penetrated the most secluded regions, from the time of Marco Polo, the Venetian (1272), to that of the present English and Russians, who will soon join hands, or perhaps swords, in the heart of Asia. (For further information, see MalteBrun's Geogi'aphy; Murray's work On the Progress of Discovery in Asia; Ritter's Geography, an excellent and original work, published in 1824, by Reimer, Berlin ; also, Leake's Journal of a Tour in Asia Minor; also, the articles on the different countries of Asia, and those on JYiebuhr and Burckhardt.) ASIA MINOR. (See JYatolia.) ASIATIC SOCIETIES AND MUSEUMS ; learned bodies mstituted for the purpose of collecting valuable information, of every kind, respecting the different countries of Asia. The three great central points where this knowledge is accumulated are, London, Paris and Petersburg. The royal Asiatic society of Great Britain and Ireland contains 300 members. It was established by Mr. Colebrooke, and opened March 19, 1823. Its transactions are published in London. Similar societies have been formed in Asia itself, at Calcutta, Bombay and Bencoolen. Since the foundation of the Asiatic society in Calcutta, by sir William Jones, in 1784, the study of Asiatic literature has made great advances. The secret of the Sanscrit literature has been obtained from the Bramins, and its connexion with the Greek put beyond doubt. Works have been printed which greatly facihtate the study of the Arabian and Persian languages and literature. Asiatic philology has made great progress. Even Chinese literature has come forth from its recesses.The societe Asiatique, at Paris, was founded, ialt$&£, by a number of learned men. Its honorary president is the duke of Orleans. It opened its sittings April 21, 1823, having already commenced, in July, 1822, the publication of the Journal Asiatique, ou Recueil de Memoires, d'Extraits et de Notices relatifs a VHistoire, a la Philosophic, aux Sciences, a la lAtterature et aux Langues des Peuples Orientaux. The 2d vol. appeared in 1823. The museum connected with it was established in 1823. The principal members, who are, at the same time, editors of the journal, are Chezy, Cocquebert, de Montbret, I)egerando, Fauriel, Grangeret, de Lagrange, Hase, Klaproth, Abel Remusat, SaintMartin, Silvestre de Sacy. The latter is president of the standing committee. In the Asiatic societies at Paris and London, professorships of the Oriental languages are wanting, which are connected with the society at Petersburg. London is particularly deficient in this respect, the professors being confined to Oxford and Cambridge. The newlyestablished professorships in Haley bury are destined exclusively for the education of young men for the service of the East India company. In Paris, lectures are given on the Arabian, Persian, Turkish, Sanscrit, Chinese and Tartar languages, in the colUge royal, and in the royal library.