EASTERN AND SOUTHERN ASIA 613. Size.—Asia, the largest of continents, is larger than Europe and Africa together, or than North and South America combined. We can understand its size better if we look at the map (Fig. 469). On the map Europe looks like just a little peninsula stuck to the corner of Asia. The two continents are really one great land mass which is some times called Eurasia. The mainland of Asia reaches farther north than that of any other continent, and it also reaches southward almost to the equator.
614. Geographic wonders.—Asia has every kind of land to be found in the world and many wonders not found elsewhere: (1) the highest mountains, the Himalayas; (2) the highest plateau, Tibet; (3) the district of greatest rainfall, where the warm moist winds from the Indian Ocean sweep up against the south slope of the Himalaya Mountains; (4) one of the world's emptiest deserts, the great Empty Quarter of south ern Arabia (Sec. 582); (5) the longest desert, which extends a distance of forty-five hun dred miles from Mekka in Arabia almost to Tsitsihar in Manchuria, with but a few small oases to break the almost endless waste; (6) the coldest place in the world, which strange to say is not at the ,north pole, but at Verkhoyansk, in the midst of the continent near the arctic circle, east of the Lena River. (Fig. 329.) Why is this place colder than the pole? (Sec. 409.) 615. Fierce animals.—Asia has the largest of wild animals, the elephant, and the most deadly of animals: (1) the cobra of India, a snake whose bite is fatal, and (2) a wild buffalo which lives in the jungles of the Malay peninsula and secretly hunts the hunter, springing on him from the thicket and stamping him to pieces.
616. Anciqnt civilizations.—Asia is the seat of some of the world's oldest civilizations, most of which have fallen into decay. We have seen how, time after time in Mesopota mia, one great empire was built upon the ruins of another. The same thing has happened in other parts of Asia. But in China we see a country whose civilization has continued century after century since thousands of years before Christ. No other country has remained so little changed while the civil izations of western Asia and of Europe have risen and fallen again and again. A Chinese student in an American university was asked a question about his family. He began his
answer by saying, "I trace my family his tory four thousand years." All of the great world religions—Judaism, Christianity, Mohammedanism, Confucian ism, Brahminism, and Buddhism—have had their beginnings in Asia.
617. Many people.—Asia is a continent of vast, empty spaces and of painfully crowded lands. More than half the people of the world live in Asia. The islands off her shores have more people than has the United States or all of South America. India and China are the countries having the largest popula tions, while China proper is the most densely peopled of all large countries. No other continent has so many kinds of people. India alone has as many kinds of people as the whole of Europe, and Europe has many more kinds of people than North America. Asia has great numbers of men and great resources. In the future she may rise again to great power.
618. How we shall study Asia.— We have already studied large parts of Asia, because they were so much like parts of Europe and Africa that they needed to be studied at the same time. Now we shall begin at the north ernmost region and pass southward, seeing how climate and surface divide the greatest of continents into regions that differ greatly from each other.
unaffectedly proud, scorning falsehood, and indifferent to suffering and death—the Tun guses are unquestionably an heroic people." 620. Government in the tundra.—This region is marked on the maps as belonging to Russia, but really the Russian Governmenthas little to do with it. These people are so far away and so few in number and so constantly on the move that it is almost impossible to rule them. They are living as they have been living for ages, except for the great help they receive from an occasional sledgeload of rifles, knives, needles, and trinkets that comes through hundreds of miles of forest to the south of them, in exchange for their furs and skins.
621. The future of this region will be the same as that of the European tundra. If you look at the map you can see that it is larger by far than England, France, and Italy together. As long as its resources are only moss and grass, it can export nothing but skins and perhaps reindeer meat. If oil or gold should be found, conditions might change while the mineral lasted. (Sec. 491.)