ASIA, the name of one of the great continents into which the earth’s surface is divided, embracing the north-eastern portion of the great mass of land which constitutes what is generally known as the Old World, of which Europe forms the north-western and Africa the south-western region.
Much doubt attaches to the origin of the name. Some of the earliest Greek geographers divided their known world into two portions only, Europe and Asia, in which last Libya (the Greek name for Africa) was included. Herodotus, who ranks Libya as one of the chief divisions of the world, separating it from Asia, repudiates as fables the ordinary explanations assigned to the names Europe and Asia, but confesses his inability to say whence they came. It would appear probable, however, that the former of these words was derived from an Assyrian or Hebrew root, which signifies the west or setting sun, and the latter from a corresponding root meaning the east or rising sun, and that they were used at one time to imply the west and the east. There is ground also for supposing that they may at first have been used with a specific or restricted local application, a more extended signification having eventually been given to them. After the word Asia had acquired its larger sense, it was still specially used by the Greeks to designate the country around Ephesus. The idea of Asia as originally formed was necessarily indefinite, and long continued to be so; and the area to which the name was finally applied, as geographical knowledge increased, was to a great extent determined by arbitrary and not very precise conceptions, rather than on the basis of natural relations and differences subsisting between it and the surrounding regions.
The northern boundary of Asia is formed by the Arctic Ocean; the coast-line falls between 70° and 75° N., and so lies within the Arctic circle, having its extreme northern point in Cape Sivero-Vostochnyi (i.e. north-east) Boundaries. or Chelyuskin, in 78° N. On the south the coast-line is far more irregular, the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the China Sea reaching about to the northern tropic at the mouths of the Indus, of the Ganges and of the Canton river; 735 while the great peninsulas of Arabia, Hindostan and Cambodia descend to about 10° N., and the Malay peninsula extends within a degree and a half of the equator. On the west the extreme point of Asia is found on the shore of the Mediterranean, at Cape Baba, in 26° E., nor far from the Dardanelles. Thence the boundary passes in the one direction through the Mediterranean, and down the Red Sea to the southern point of Arabia, at the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, in 45° E.; and in the other through the Black Sea, and along the range of Caucasus, following approximately 40° N. to the Caspian, whence it turns to the north on a line not far from the 60th meridian, along the Ural Mountains, and meets the Arctic Ocean nearly opposite the island of Novaya Zemlya. The most easterly point of Asia is East Cape (Vostochnyi, i.e. east, or Dezhnev), in 190° E., at the entrance of Bering Strait. The boundary between this point and the extremity of the Malay Peninsula follows the coast of the Northern Pacific and the China Sea, on a line deeply broken by the projection of the peninsulas of Kamchatka and Korea, and the recession of the Sea of Okhotsk, the Yellow Sea, and the Gulfs of Tongking and Siam.
On the east and south-east of Asia are several important groups of islands, the more southern of which link this continent to Australia, and to the islands of the Pacific. The Kurile islands, the Japanese group, Luchu, Formosa Islands. and the Philippines, may be regarded as unquestionable outliers of Asia. Between the islands of the Malay archipelago from Sumatra to New Guinea, and the neighbouring Asiatic continent, no definite relations appear ever to have existed, and no distinctly marked boundary for Asia has been established by the old geographers in this quarter. Modern science, however, has indicated a line of physical separation along the channel between Borneo and Celebes, called the Straits of Macassar, which follows approximately 120° E., to the west of which the flora and fauna are essentially Asiatic in their type, while to the south and east the Australian element begins to be distinctly marked, soon to become predominant. To this boundary has been given the name of Wallace’s line, after the eminent naturalist, A.R. Wallace, who first indicated its existence.
Owing to the great extent of Asia, it is not easy to obtain a correct conception of the actual form of its outline from ordinary maps, the distortions which accompany projections of large spherical areas on a flat surface being necessarily Form of continent. great and misleading. Turning, therefore, to a globe, Asia, viewed as a whole, will be seen to have the form of a great isosceles spherical triangle, having its north-eastern apex at East Cape (Vostochnyi), in Bering Strait; its two equal sides, in length about a quadrant of the sphere, or 6500 m., extending on the west to the southern point of Arabia, and on the east to the extremity of the Malay peninsula; and the base between these points occupying about 60° of a great circle, or 4500 m., and being deeply indented by the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal on either side of the Indian peninsula. A great circle, drawn through East Cape and the southern point of Arabia, passes nearly along the coast-line of the Arctic Ocean, over the Ural Mountains, through the western part of the Caspian, and nearly along the boundary between Persia and Asiatic Turkey. Asia Minor and the north-western half of Arabia lie outside such a great circle, which otherwise indicates, with fair accuracy, the north-western boundary of Asia. In like manner a great circle drawn through East Cape and the extremity of the Malay peninsula, passes nearly over the coasts of Manchuria, China and Cochin-China, and departs comparatively little from the eastern boundary.
Asia is divided laterally along the parallel of 40° north by a depression which, beginning on the east of the desert of Gobi, extends westwards through Mongolia to Chinese Turkestan. To the west of Kashgar the central depression is limited by General physiography. the meridional range of Sarikol and the great elevation of the Pamir, of which the Sarikol is the eastern face. The level of this depression (once a vast inland sea) between the mountains which enclose the sources of the Hwang-ho and the Sarikol range probably never exceeds 2000 ft. above sea, and modern researches tend to prove that in the central portions of the Gobi (about Lop Nor) it may be actually below sea-level. A vast proportion of the continent north of this central line is but a few hundred feet in altitude. Shelving gradually upward from the low flats of Siberia the general continental level rises to a great central water-parting, or divide, which stretches from the Black Sea through the Elburz and the Hindu Kush to the Tian-shan mountains in the Pamir region, and hence to Bering Strait on the extreme north-east. This great divide is not always marked by well-defined ranges facing steeply either to the north or south. There are considerable spaces where the strike, or axis, of the main ranges is transverse to the water-parting, which is then represented by intermediate highlands forming lacustrine regions with an indefinite watershed. Only a part of this great continental divide (including such ranges as the Hindu Kush, Tian-shan, Altai or Khangai) rises to any great height, a considerable portion of it being below 5000 ft. in altitude. South of the divide the level at once drops to the central depression of Gobi, which forms a vast interior, almost waterless space, where the local drainage is lost in deserts or swamps. South of this enclosed depression is another great hydrographic barrier which parts it from the low plains of the Amur, of China, Siam and India, bordered by the shallows of the Yellow Sea and the shoals which enclose the islands of Japan and Formosa, all of them once an integral part of the continent. This second barrier is one of the most mighty upheavals in the world, by reason both of its extent and its altitude. Starting from the Amur river and reaching along the eastern margin of the Gobi desert towards the sources of the Hwang-ho, it merges into the Altyn-tagh and the Kuen-lun, forming the northern face of the vast Tibetan highlands which are bounded on the south by the Himalaya. The Pamir highlands between the base of the Tian-shan mountains and the eastern buttresses of the Hindu Kush unite these two great divides, enclosing the Gobi depression on the west; and they would again be united on the east but for the transverse valley of the Amur, which parts the Khingan mountains from the Yablonoi system to the east of Lake Baikal.
If we consider the whole continent to be divided into three sections, viz. a northern section with an average altitude of less than 5000 ft. above sea, where all the main rivers flow northward to the Mediterranean, the Arctic Sea, or the Caspian; a central section of depression, where the drainage is lost in swamps or hamūns, and of which the average level probably does not exceed 2000 ft. above sea; and a southern section divided between highly elevated table-lands from 15,000 to 16,000 ft. in altitude, and lowlands of the Arabian, Indian, Siamese and Chinese peninsulas, with an ocean outlet for its drainage; we find that there is only one direct connexion between northern and southern sections which involves no mountain passes, and no formidable barrier of altitudes. That one is afforded by the narrow valley of the Hari Rud to the west of Herat. From the Caspian to Karachi it is possible to pass without encountering any orographic obstacle greater than the divide which separates the valley of the Hari Rud from the Helmund hamūn basin, which may be represented by an altitude of about 4000 ft. above sea-level. This fact possesses great significance in connexion with the development of Asiatic railways.
If we examine the hydrographic basins of the three divisions of Asia thus indicated we find that the northern division, Hydrography. including the drainage falling into the Arctic Sea, the Aralo-Caspian depression, or the Mediterranean, embraces an area of about 6,394,500 sq. m., as follows:—
The southern division is nearly equal in extent—
The interior or inland basins, including the lacustrine regions south of the Arctic watershed, the Gobi depression, Tibetan plateau, the Iranian (or Perso-Afghan) uplands, the Syro-Arabian inland basin, and that of Asia Minor, amount to 3,141,500 sq. m. or about half the extent of the other two.
By far the largest Asiatic river basin is that of the Ob, which exceeds 1,000,000 sq. m. in extent. On the east and south the Amur embraces no less than 776,000 sq. m., the Yang-tsze-kiang including 685,000, the Ganges 409,500, and the Indus 370,000 sq. m.1
The lakes of Asia are innumerable, and vary in size from an inland sea (such as Lakes Baikal and Balkash) to a highland loch, or the indefinitely extended swamps of Persia. Many of them are at high elevations (Lake Victoria, 13,400 ft., being probably the most elevated), and are undoubted vestiges of an ancient period of glaciation. Such lakes, as a rule, show indications of a gradual decrease in size. Others are relics of an earlier geological period, when land areas 736 recently upheaved from the sea were spread at low levels with alternate inundations of salt and fresh water. Of these Lop Nor and the Helmund hamūns are typical. Such lakes (in common with all the plateau hamūns of south-west Baluchistan and Persia) change their form and extent from season to season, and many of them are impregnated with saline deposits from the underlying strata. The kavirs, or salt depressions, of the Persian desert are more frequently widespread deposits of mud and salt than water-covered areas.
Although for the purposes of geographical nomenclature, boundaries formed by a coast-line—that is, by depressions of the earth’s solid crust below the ocean level—are most easily recognized and are of special convenience; and although such boundaries, from following lines on which the continuity of Political divisions. the land is interrupted, often necessarily indicate important differences in the conditions of adjoining countries, and of their political and physical relations, yet variations of the elevation of the surface above the sea-level frequently produce effects not less marked. The changes of temperature and climate caused by difference of elevation are quite comparable in their magnitude and effect on all organized creatures with those due to differences of latitude; and the relative position of the high and low lands on the earth’s surface, by modifying the direction of the winds, the fall of rain, and other atmospheric phenomena, produce effects in no sense less important than those due to the relative distribution of the land and sea. Hence the study of the mountain ranges of a continent is, for a proper apprehension of its physical conditions and characteristics, as essential as the examination of its extent and position in relation to the equator and poles, and the configuration of its coasts.
From such causes the physical conditions of a large part of Asia, and the history of its population, have been very greatly influenced by the occurrence of the mass of mountain above described, which includes the Himalaya and the whole Himalayan boundary. elevated area having true physical connexion with that range, and occupies an area about 2000 m. in length and varying from 100 to 500 m. in width, between 65° and 100° east and between 28° and 35° north. These mountains, which include the highest peaks in the world, rise, along their entire length, far above the line of perpetual snow, and few of the passes across the main ridges are at a less altitude than 15,000 or 16,000 ft. above the sea. Peaks of 20,000 ft. abound along the whole chain, and the points that exceed that elevation are numerous. A mountain range such as this, attaining altitudes at which vegetable life ceases, and the support of animal life is extremely difficult, constitutes an almost impassable barrier against the spread of all forms of living creatures. The mountain mass, moreover, is not less important in causing a complete separation between the atmospheric conditions on its opposite flanks, by reason of the extent to which it penetrates that stratum of the atmosphere which is in contact with the earth’s surface and is effective in determining climate. The highest summits create serious obstructions to the movements of nearly three-fourths of the mass of the air resting on this part of the earth, and of nearly the whole of the moisture it contains; the average height of the entire chain is such as to make it an almost absolute barrier to one-half of the air and three-fourths of the moisture; while the lower ranges also produce important atmospheric effects, one-fourth of the air and one-half of the watery vapour it carries with it lying below 9000 ft.
This great mass of mountain, constituting as it does a complete natural line of division across a large part of the continent, will form a convenient basis from which to work, in proceeding, as will now be done, to give a general view of the principal countries contained in Asia.
The summit of the great mountain mass is occupied by Tibet, a country known by its inhabitants under the name of Bod or Bodyul. Tibet is a rugged table-land, narrow as compared with its length, broken up by a succession of mountain ranges, Tibet. which follow as a rule the direction of the length of the table-land, and commonly rise into the regions of perpetual snow; between the flanks of these lie valleys, closely hemmed in, usually narrow, having a very moderate inclination, but at intervals opening out into wide plains, and occupied either by rivers, or frequently by lakes from which there is no outflow and the waters of which are salt. The eastern termination of Tibet is in the line of snowy mountains which flanks China on the west, between the 27th and 35th parallels of latitude, and about 103° east. On the west the table-land is prolonged beyond the political limits of Tibet, though with much the same physical features, to about 70° east, beyond which it terminates; and the ranges which are covered with perpetual snow as far west as Samarkand, thence rapidly diminish in height, and terminate in low hills north of Bokhara.
The mean elevation of Tibet may be taken as 15,000 ft. above the sea. The broad mountainous slope by which it is connected with the lower levels of Hindostan contains the ranges known as the Himalaya; the name Kuen-lun is generally applied to the northern slope that descends to the central plains of the Gobi, though these mountains are not locally known under those names, Kuen-lun being apparently a Chinese designation.
The extreme rigour of the climate of Tibet, which combines great cold with great drought, makes the country essentially very poor, and the chief portion of it little better than desert. The vegetation is everywhere most scanty, and scarcely anything deserving the name of a tree is to be found unless in the more sheltered spots, and then artificially planted. The population in the lower and warmer valleys live in houses, and follow agriculture; in the higher regions they are nomadic shepherds, thinly scattered over a large area.
China lies between the eastern flank of the Tibetan plateau and the North Pacific, having its northern and southern limits about on 40° and 20° N. respectively. The country, though China. generally broken up with mountains of moderate elevation, possesses none of very great importance apart from those of its western border. It is well watered, populous, and, as a rule, highly cultivated, fertile, and well wooded; the climate is analogous to that of southern Europe, with hot summers, and winters everywhere cold and in the north decidedly severe.
From the eastern extremity of the Tibetan mountains, between the 95th and 100th meridians, high ranges extend from about 35° N. in a southerly direction, which, spreading outwards as they go south, reach the sea at various points in Cochin-China, Indo-Chinese region. the Malay peninsula, and the east flank of Bengal. Between these ranges, which are probably permanently snowy to about 27° N., flow the great rivers of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, the Mekong, the Menam, the Salween, and the Irrawaddy, the valleys of which form the main portions of the states of Cochin-China (including Tongking and Cambodia), of Siam (including Laos) and of Burma. The people of Cochin-China are called Anam; it is probably from a corruption of their name for the capital of Tongking, Kechao, that the Portuguese Cochin has been derived. All these countries are well watered, populous and fertile, with a climate very similar to that of eastern Bengal. The geography of the region in which the mountains of Cochin-China and Siam join Tibet is still imperfectly known, but there is no ground left for doubting that the great river of eastern Tibet, the Tsanpo, supplies the main stream of the Brahmaputra. The two great rivers of China, the Hwang-ho and the Yang-tsze-kiang take their rise from the eastern face of Tibet, the former from the north-east angle, the latter from the south-east. The main stream of this last is called Dichu in Tibet, and its chief feeder is the Ya-lung-kiang, which rises not far from the Hwang-ho, and is considered the territorial boundary between China and Tibet.
British India comprises approximately the area between the 95th and 70th meridians, and between the Tibetan table-land and the Indian Ocean. The Indian peninsula from 25° N. southwards is a table-land, having its greatest elevation on the British India. west, where the highest points rise to over 8000 ft., though the ordinary altitude of the higher hills hardly exceeds 4000 ft.; the general level of the table-land lies between 3000 ft. as a maximum and 1000 ft.
From the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra on the east to that of the Indus on the west, and intervening between the table-land of the peninsula and the foot of the Himalayan slope of the Tibetan plateau, lies the great plain of northern India, which rises at its highest point to about 1000 ft., and includes altogether, with its prolongation up the valley of Assam, an area of about 500,000 sq. m., comprising the richest, the most populous and most civilized districts of India. The great plain extends, with an almost unbroken surface, from the most western to the most eastern extremity of British India, and is composed of deposits so finely comminuted, that it is no exaggeration to say that it is possible to go from the Bay of Bengal up the Ganges, through the Punjab, and down the Indus again to the sea, over a distance of 2000 m. and more, without finding a pebble, however small.
The great rivers of northern India—the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Indus—all derive their waters from the Tibetan mountain mass; and it is a remarkable circumstance that the northern water-parting of India should lie to the north of the Himalaya in the regions of central Tibet.
The population of India is very large, some of its districts being among the most densely peopled in the world. The country is generally well cleared, and forests are, as a rule, found only along the flanks of the mountains, where the fall of rain is most abundant. The more open parts are highly cultivated, and large cities abound. The climate is generally such as to secure the population the necessaries of life without severe labour; the extremes of heat and drought are such as to render the land unsuitable for pasture, and the people everywhere subsist by cultivation of the soil or commerce, and live in settled villages or towns.
The island of Ceylon is distinguished from the neighbouring parts of British India by little more than its separate administration and the Buddhistic religion of its population. The highest point in Ceylon rises to about 9000 ft. above the sea, and the mountain slopes are densely covered with forest. The lower levels are in climate and cultivation quite similar to the regions in the same latitude on the Malay peninsula.
Of the islands in the Bay of Bengal the Nicobar and Andaman groups are alone worth notice. They are placed on a line joining the north end of Sumatra and Cape Negrais, the south-western extremity of Burma. They possibly owe their existence to the volcanic agencies which are known to extend from Sumatra across this part of the Indian Ocean.
Each arc was measured with every precaution and a multitude of observations. The only element of uncertainty was caused by the retardation of the current, which between Potsdam and Teheran (3000 m.) took 0S.20 to travel; but it is probable that the final value can be accepted as correct to within 0S.05.
The final result of this latest determination is to place the Madras observatory 2′ 27″ to the west of the position adopted for it on the strength of absolute astronomical determinations.
But while we have yet to wait for that expansion of principal triangulation which will bring Asia into connexion with Europe by the direct process of earth measurement, a topographical Connexion between Russian and Indian surveys. connexion has been effected between Russian and Indian surveys which sufficiently proves that the deductive methods employed by both countries for the determination of the co-ordinate values of fixed points so far agree that, for all practical purposes of future Asiatic cartography, no difficulty in adjustment between Indian and Russian mapping need be apprehended.
In connexion with the Indian triangulation minor extensions carried out on systems involving more or less irregularity have been pushed outwards on all sides. They reach through Afghanistan and Baluchistan to the eastern districts of Extension of geographical surveys. Persia, and along the coast of Makran to that of Arabia. They have long ago included the farther mountain peaks of Nepal, and they now branch outwards towards western China and into Siam. These far extensions furnish the basis for a vast amount of exploratory survey of a strictly geographical character, and they have contributed largely towards raising the standard of accuracy in Asiatic geographical surveys to a level which was deemed unattainable fifty years ago. There is yet a vast field open in Asia for this class of surveys. While at the close of the 19th century western Asia (exclusive of Arabia) may be said to have been freed from all geographical perplexity, China, Mongolia and eastern Siberia still include enormous areas of which geographical knowledge is in a primitive stage of nebulous uncertainty.
Of scientific geographical exploration in Asia (beyond the limits of actual surveys) the modern period has been so prolific that it is only possible to refer in barest outline to some of the principal expeditions, most of which have been directed either to Indian explorers. the great elevated table-land of Tibet or to the central depression which exists to the north of it. In southern Tibet the trans-Himalayan explorations of the native surveyors attached to the Indian survey, notably Pundits Nain Singh and Krishna, added largely to our knowledge of the great plateau. Nain Singh explored the sources of the Indus and of the Upper Brahmaputra in the years 1865-1867; and in 1874-1875 he followed a line from the eastern frontiers of Kashmir to the Tengri Nor lake and thence to Lhasa, in which city he remained for some months. Krishna’s remarkable journey in 1879-1882 extended from Lhasa northwards through 739 Tsaidam to Sachu, or Saitu, in Mongolia. He subsequently passed through eastern Tibet to the town of Darchendo, or Tachienlu, on the high road between Lhasa and Peking, and on the borders of China. Failing to reach India through Upper Assam he returned to the neighbourhood of Lhasa, and crossed the Himalayas by a more westerly route. Both these explorers visited Lhasa.
In 1871-1873 the great Russian explorer, Nicolai Prjevalsky, crossed the Gobi desert from the north to Kansu in western China. He first defined the geography of Tsaidam, and mapped the hydrography of that remarkable region, from which Russian explorers. emanate the great rivers of China, Siam and Burma. He penetrated southwards to within a month’s march of Lhasa. In 1876 he visited the Lop Nor and discovered the Altyn Tagh range. In 1879 he followed up the Urangi river to the Altai Mountains, and demonstrated to the world the extraordinary physical changes which have passed over the heart of the Asiatic continent since Jenghiz Khan massed his vast armies in those provinces. He crossed, and named, the Dzungarian extension of the Gobi desert, and then traversed the Gobi itself from Hami to Sachu, which became a point of junction between his journeys and those of Krishna. He visited the sources of the Hwang-ho (Yellow river) and the Salween, and then returned to Russia. His fourth journey in 1883-1885 was to Sining (the great trade centre of the Chinese borderland), and thence through northern Tibet (crossing the Altyn Tagh to Lop Nor), and by the Cherchen-Keriya trade route to Khotan. From Khotan he followed the Tarim to Aksu.
Following Prjevalsky the Russian explorers, Pevtsov and Roborovski, in 1889-1890 (and again in 1894), added greatly to our knowledge of the topography of western Chinese Turkestan and the northern borders of Tibet; all these Russian expeditions being conducted on scientific principles and yielding results of the highest value. Among other distinguished Russian explorers in Asia, the names of Lessar, Annentkov (who bridged the Trans-Caspian deserts by a railway), P.K. Kozlov and Potanin are conspicuous during the 19th century.
Although the establishment of a lucrative trade between India and central Asia had been the dream of many successive Indian viceroys, and much had been done towards improving the approaches to Simla from the north, very little was Other explorations in central Asia. really known of the highlands of the Pamirs, or of the regions of the great central depression, before the mission of Sir Douglas Forsyth to Yarkand in 1870. Robert Barkley Shaw and George Hayward were the European pioneers of geography into the central dominion of Kashgar, arriving at Yarkand within a few weeks of each other in 1868. Shaw subsequently accompanied Forsyth’s mission in 1870, when Henry Trotter made the first maps of Chinese Turkestan. The next great accession to our knowledge of central Asiatic geography was gained with the Russo-Afghan Boundary Commission of 1884-1886, when Afghan Turkestan and the Oxus regions were mapped by Colonel Sir T.H. Holdich, Colonel St George Gore and Sir Adelbert Talbot; and when Ney Elias crossed from China through the Pamirs and Badakshan to the camp of the commission, identifying the great “Dragon Lake,” Rangkul, on his way. About the same time a mission, under Captain (afterwards Sir Willaim) Lockhart, crossed the Hindu Kush into Wakhan, and returned to India by the Bashgol valley of Kafiristan. This was Colonel Woodthorpe’s opportunity, and he was then enabled to verify the results of W.W. M‘Nair’s previous explorations, and to determine the conformation of the Hindu Kush. In 1885 Arthur Douglas Carey and Andrew Dalgleish, following more or less the tracks of Prjevalsky, contributed much that was new to the map of Asia; and in 1886 Captain (afterwards Sir Francis) Younghusband completed a most adventurous journey across the heart of the continent by crossing the Muztagh, the great mountain barrier between China and Kashmir.
It was in 1886-1887 that Pierre G. Bonvalot, accompanied by Prince Henri d’Orléans, crossed the Tibetan plateau from north to south but failed to enter Lhasa. In 1889-1891 the American traveller, W.W. Rockhill, commenced his Tibetan explorations. Tibetan journeys, and also attempted to reach Lhasa, without success. By his writings, as much as by his explorations, Rockhill has made his name great in the annals of Asiatic research. In 1891 Hamilton Bower made his famous journey from Leh to Peking. He, too, failed to penetrate the jealously-guarded portals of Lhasa; but he secured (with the assistance of a native surveyor) a splendid addition to our previous Tibetan mapping. In 1891-1892-1893 the gallant French explorer, Dutreuil de Rhins, was in the field of Tibet, where he finally sacrificed his life to his work; and the same years saw George N. (afterwards Lord) Curzon in the Pamirs, and St George Littledale on his first great Tibetan journey, accompanied by his wife. Littledale’s first journey ended at Peking; his second, in 1894-1895, took him almost within sight of the sacred walls of Lhasa, but he failed to pass inside. Greatest among modern Asiatic explorers (if we except Prjevalsky) is the brave Swede, Professor Sven Hedin, whose travels through the deserts of Takla Makan and Tibet, and whose investigations in the glacial regions of the Sarikol mountains, occupied him from 1894 to 1896. His is a truly monumental record. From 1896 to 1898 we find two British cavalry officers taking the front position in the list of Tibetan travellers-Captain M.S. Wellby of the 18th Hussars and Captain H. Deasy of the 16th Lancers, each striking out a new line, and rendering most valuable service to geography. The latter continued the Pamir triangulation, which had been carried across the Hindu Kush by Colonels Sir T.H. Holdich and R.A. Wahab during the Pamir Boundary Commission of 1895, into the plains of Kashgar and to the sources of the Zarafshan.
Since the beginning of the century the work of Deasy in western Tibet has been well extended by Dr M.A. Stein and Captain C. G. Rawling, who have increased our knowledge of ancient fields of industry and commerce in Turkestan and Tibet. Ellsworth Huntington threw new light on the Tian-shan plateau and the Alai range by his explorations of 1903; and Sven Hedin, between 1899 and 1902, was collecting material in Turkestan and Tibetan fields, and resumed his journeys in 1905-1908, the result being to revolutionize our knowledge of the region north of the upper Tsanpo (see Tibet). The mission of Sir Francis Younghusband to Lhasa in 1904 resulted in an extension of the Indian system of triangulation which finally determined the geographical position of that city, and in a most valuable reconnaissance of the valleys of the Upper Brahmaputra and Indus by Captains C.H.D. Ryder and C.G. Rawling.
Meanwhile, in the Farther East so rapid has been the progress of geographical research since the first beginnings of investigation into the route connexion between Burma and China in 1874 (when the brave Augustus Margary lost his life), that a Chinese explorations. gradually increasing tide of exploration, setting from east to west and back again, has culminated in a flood of inquiring experts intent on economic and commercial development in China, essaying to unlock those doors to trade which are hereafter to be propped open for the benefit of humanity. Captain William Gill, of the Indian survey, first made his way across China to eastern Tibet and Burma, and subsequently delighted the world with his story of the River of Golden Sand. Then followed another charming writer, E.C. Baber, who, in 1877-1878, unravelled the geographic mysteries of the western provinces of the Celestial empire. Mark Bell crossed the continent in 1887 and illustrated its ancient trade routes, following the steps of Archibald Colquhoun, who wandered from Peking to Talifu in 1881. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Burma and the demarcation of boundaries had opened the way to the extension of geographical surveys in directions hitherto untraversed. Woodthorpe was followed into Burmese fields by many others; and amongst the earliest travellers to those mysterious mountains which hide the sources of the Irrawaddy, the Salween and the Mekong, was Prince Henri d’Orleans. Burma was rapidly brought under survey; Siam was already in the map-making hands of James M’Carthy, whilst Curzon and Warrington Smyth added much to our knowledge of its picturesque coast districts. No more valuable contribution to the illustration of western Chinese configuration has been given to the public than that of C.C. Manifold who explored and mapped the upper basin of the Yang-tsze river between the years 1900 and 1904, whilst our knowledge of the geography of the Russo-Chinese borderland on the north-east has been largely advanced by the operations attending the Russo-Japanese war which terminated in 1905.
Turning our attention westwards, no advance in the progress of scientific geography is more remarkable than that recorded on the northern and north-western frontiers of India. Here there is little matter of exploration. It has rather been a Indian frontiers—Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Persia. wide extension of scientific geographical mapping. Afghan war of 1878-80; the Russo-Afghan Boundary Commission of 1884-1885; the occupation of Gilgit and Chitral; the extension of boundaries east and north of Afghanistan, and again, between Baluchistan and Persia—these, added to the opportunities afforded by the systematic survey of Baluchistan which has been steadily progressing since 1880—combined to produce a series of geographical maps which extend from the Oxus to the Indus, and from the Indus to the Euphrates.
In these professional labours the Indian surveyors have been assisted by such scientific geographers as General Sir A. Houtum Schindler, Captain H.B. Vaughan and Major Percy M. Sykes in Persia, and by Sir George Robertson and Cockerill in Kafiristan and the Hindu Kush.
In still more western fields of research much additional light has been thrown since 1875 on the physiography of the great deserts and oases of Arabia. The labours of Charles Doughty and Wilfrid S. Blunt in northern Arabia in 1877-1878 were Arabia. followed by those of G. Schweinfurth and E. Glaser in the south-west about ten years later. In 1884-1885 Colonel S.B. Miles made his adventurous journey through Oman, while Theodore Bent threw searchlights backwards into ancient Semitic history by his investigations in the Bahrein Islands in 1888 and in Hadramut in 1894-1895.
In northern Asia it is impossible to follow in detail the results of the organized Russian surveys. The vast steppes and forest-clad mountain regions of Siberia have assumed a new geographical aspect in the light of these revelations, and Northern Asia, Siberia, &c. already promise a new world of economic resources to Russian enterprise in the near future. A remarkable expedition by Baron Toll in 1892 through the regions watered by the Lena, resulted in the collection of material which 740 will greatly help to elucidate some of the problems which beset the geological history of the world, proving inter alia the primeval existence of a boreal zone of the Jurassic sea round the North Pole.
In no other period of the world’s history, of equal length of time, has so much scientific enterprise been directed towards the field of Asiatic inquiry. The first great result of recent geographical research has been to modify pre-existing ideas of General results of investigation. the orography of the vast central region represented by Tibet and Mongolia. The great highland plateau which stretches from the Himalaya northwards to Chinese Turkestan, and from the frontier of Kashmir eastwards to China, has now been defined with comparative geographical exactness. The position of Sachu (or Saitu) in Mongolia may be taken as an obligatory point in modern map construction. The longitude value now adopted is 94° 54′ E. of Greenwich, which is the revised value given by Prjevalsky in the map accompanying the account of his fourth exploration into central Asia. Other values are as follows:—
|Prjevalsky, by his second and third explorations||94° 26′|
|Carey and Dalgleish||94° 48′|
|Kreitner (with Szecheny’s expedition)||94° 58′|
The longitude of Darchendo, or Tachienlu, on the extreme east, may be accepted as another obligatory point. The adopted value by the Royal Geographical Society is 102° 12″. Krishna gives 102° 15″, Kreitner 102° 5″, Baber 102° 18″.
South and west the bounding territories are well fixed in geographical position by the Indian survey determinations of the value of Himalayan peaks. On the north the Chinese Turkestan explorations are now brought into survey connexion with Kashmir and India.
No longer do we regard the Kuen-lun mountains, which extend from the frontiers of Kashmir, north of Leh, almost due east to the Chinese province of Kansu, as the southern limit of the Gobi or Turkestan depression. This very remarkable longitudinal chain is undoubtedly the northern limit of the Chang Tang, the elevated highland steppes of Tibet; but from it there branches a minor system to the north-east from a point in about 83° E. longitude, which culminates in the Altyn Tagh, and extends eastwards in a continuous water-divide to the Nan Shan mountains, north of the Koko Nor basin. Thus between Tibet and the low-lying sands of Gobi we have, thrust in, a system of elevated valleys (Tsaidam), 8000 to 9000 ft. above sea-level, forming an intermediate steppe between the highest regions and the lowest, east of Lop Nor. All this is comparatively new geography, and it goes far to explain why the great trade routes from Peking to the west were pushed so far to the north.
On the western edge of the Kashgar plains, the political boundary between Russia and China is defined by the meridional range of Sarikol. This range (known to the ancients as Taurus and in medieval times as Bolor) like many others of the Russo-Chinese boundary. most important great natural mountain divisions of the world, consists of two parallel chains, of which the western is the water-divide of the Pamirs, and the eastern (which has been known as the Kashgar or Kandar range) is split at intervals by lateral gorges to allow of the passage of the main drainage from the eastern Pamir slopes.
In western Asia we have learned the exact value of the mountain barrier which lies between Merv and Herat, and have mapped its connexion with the Elburz of Persia. We can now fully appreciate the factor in practical politics which Indian frontiers—Afghanistan, &c. that definite but somewhat irregular mountain system represents which connects the water-divide north of Herat with the southern abutment of the Hindu Kush, near Bamian. Every pass of importance is known and recorded; every route of significance has been explored and mapped; Afghanistan has assumed a new political entity by the demarcation of a boundary; the value of Herat and of the Pamirs as bases of aggression has been assessed, and the whole intervening space of mountain and plain thoroughly examined.
Although within the limits of western Asiatic states, still under Asiatic government and beyond the active influence of European interests, the material progress of the Eastern world has appeared to remain stationary, yet large accessions to Persia. geographical knowledge have at least been made, and in some instances a deeper knowledge of the surface of the country and modern conditions of life has led to the straightening of many crooked paths in history, and a better appreciation of the slow processes of advancing civilization. The steady advance of scientific inquiry into every corner of Persia, backed by the unceasing efforts of a new school of geographical explorers, has left nothing unexamined that can be subjected to superficial observation. The geographical map of the country is fairly complete, and with it much detailed information is now accessible regarding the coast and harbours of the Persian Gulf, the routes and passes of the interior, and the possibilities of commercial development by the construction of trade roads uniting the Caspian, the Karun, the Persian Gulf, and India, via Seistan. Persia has assumed a comprehensible position as a factor in future Eastern politics.
In Arabia progress has been slower, although the surveys carried out by Colonel Wahab in connexion with the boundary determined in the Aden hinterland added more exact geographical knowledge within a limited area. Little more is known Arabia. of the wide spaces of interior desert than has already been given to the world in the works of Sir Richard F. Burton, Wm. Gifford Palgrave and Sir Lewis Pelly amongst Englishmen, and Karsten Niebuhr, John Lewis Burckhardt, Visconte, Joseph Halévy and others, amongst foreign travellers. Charles Doughty and Wilfrid S. Blunt have visited and illustrated the district of Nejd, and described the waning glories of the Wahabi empire. But extended geographical knowledge does not point to any great practical issue. Commercial relations with Arabia remain much as they were in 1875.
In Asia Minor, Syria and Mesopotamia there is little to record of progress in material development beyond the promises held out by the Euphrates Valley railway concession to a Asia Minor, &c. German company. The exact information obtained by the researches of English surveyors in Palestine and beyond Jordan, or by the efforts of explorers in the regions that lie between the Mediterranean and the Caspian, have so far led rather to the elucidation of history than to fresh commercial enterprise or the possible increase of material wealth.
Asiatic Russia, especially eastern Siberia and Mongolia, have been brought within the sphere of Russian exploration, with results so surprising as to form an epoch in the history of Asia. Russia in Asia. Here there has been a development of the resources of the Old World which parallels the best records of the New.
The great central depression of the continent which reaches from the foot of the Pamir plateau on the west through the Tarim desert to Lop Nor and the Gobi has yielded up many interesting secrets. The remarkable phenomenon of the periodic Chinese Turkestan and Oxus basin. shifting of the Lop Nor system has been revealed by the researches of Sven Hedin, and the former existence of highly civilized centres of Buddhist art and industry in the now sand-strewn wastes of the Turkestan desert has been clearly demonstrated by the same great explorer and by Dr M.A. Stein. The depression westward of the Caspian and Aral basins, and the original connexion of these seas, have also come under the close investigation of Russian scientists, with the result that the theory of an ancient connexion between the Oxus and the Caspian has been displaced by the more recent hypothesis of an extension of the Caspian Sea eastwards into Trans-Caspian territory within the post-Pleiocene age. The discovery of shells (now living in the Caspian) at a distance of about 100 m. inland, at an altitude of 140 to 280 ft. above the present level of the Caspian, gives support to this hypothesis, which is further advanced by the ascertained nature of the Kara-kum sands, which appear to be a purely marine formation exhibiting no traces of fluviatile deposits which might be considered as delta deposits of the Oxus.
In the discussion of this problem we find the names of Baron A. Kaulbars, Annentkov, P.M. Lessar, and A.M. Konshin prominent. Further matter of interest in connexion with the Oxus basin was elucidated by the researches of L. Griesbach in connexion with the Russo-Afghan Boundary Commission. He reported the gradual formation of an anticlinal or ridge extending longitudinally through the great Balkh plain of Afghan Turkestan, which effectually shuts off the northern affluents of that basin from actual junction with the river. This evidence of a gradual process of upheaval still in action may throw some light on the physical (especially the climatic) changes which must have passed over that part of Asia since Balkh was the “mother of cities,” the great trade centre of Asia, and the plains of Balkh were green with cultivation. In the restoration of the outlines of ancient and medieval geography in Asia Sven Hedin’s discoveries of the actual remains of cities which have long been buried under the advancing waves of sand in the Takla Makan desert, cities which flourished in the comparatively recent period of Buddhist ascendancy in High Asia, is of the very highest interest, filling up a blank in the identification of sites mentioned by early geographers and illustrating more fully the course of old pilgrim routes.
With the completion of the surveys of Baluchistan and Makran much light has also been thrown on the ancient connexion between Baluchistan and Makran. east and west; and the final settlement of the southern boundaries of Afghanistan has led to the reopening of one at least of the old trade routes between Seistan and India.
Farther east no part of Asia has been brought under more careful investigation than the hydrography of the strange mountain wilderness that divides Tibet and Burma from China. In this field the researches of travellers already mentioned, Burma and China. combined with the more exact reconnaissance of native surveyors and of those exploring parties which have recently been working in the interests of commercial projects, have left little to future inquiry. We know now for certain that the great Tsanpo of Tibet and the Brahmaputra are one and the same river; that north of the point where the great countermarch of that river from east to west is effected are to be found the sources of the Salween, the Mekong, the Yang-tsze-kiang and the Hwang-ho, or Yellow river, in order, from west to east; and that south of it, thrust in between the extreme eastern edge of the Brahmaputra basin 741 and the Salween, rise the dual sources of the Irrawaddy. From the water-divide which separates the most eastern affluent of the Brahmaputra, eastwards to the deep gorges which enclose the most westerly branch of the upper Yang-tsze-kiang (here running from north to south), is a short space of 100 m.; and within that space two mighty rivers, the Salween and the Mekong, send down their torrents to Burma and Siam. These three rivers flow parallel to each other for some 300 m., deep hidden in narrow and precipitous troughs, amidst some of the grandest scenery of Asia; spreading apart where the Yank-tsze takes its course eastwards, not far north of the parallel of 25°.
The comparatively restricted area which still remains for close investigation includes the most easterly sources of the Brahmaputra, the most northerly sources of the Irrawaddy, and some 300 m. of the course of the upper Salween.
Modern Boundary Demarcation.—The period from about 1880 has been an era of boundary-making in Asia, of defining the politico-geographical limits of empire, and of determining the responsibilities of government. Russia, Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, India and China have all revised their borders, and with the revision the political relations between these countries have acquired a new and more assured basis. See also the articles on the different countries. We are not here concerned with understandings as to “spheres of influence,” or with arrangements such as the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 concerning Persia.
The advance of Russia to the Turkoman deserts and the Oxus demanded a definite boundary between her trans-Caspian conquests and the kingdom of Afghanistan. This was determined on the north-west by the Russo-Afghan Boundary Commission Southern boundary of Russia in Asia. of 1884-1886. A boundary was then fixed between the Hari Rud (the river of Herat) and the Oxus, which is almost entirely artificial in its construction. Zulfikar, where the boundary leaves the Hari Rud, is about 70 m. south of Sarakhs, and the most southerly point of the boundary (where it crosses the Kushk) is about 60 m. north of Herat. From the junction of the boundary with the Oxus at Khamiab about 150 m. above the crossing-point of the Russian Trans-Caspian railway at Charjui, the main channel of the Oxus river becomes the northern boundary of Afghanistan, separating that country from Russia, and so continues to its source in Victoria Lake of the Great Pamir. Beyond this point the Anglo-Russian Commission of 1895 demarcated a line to the snowfields and glaciers which overlook the Chinese border. Between the Russian Pamirs and Chinese Turkestan the rugged line of the Sarikol range intervenes, the actual dividing line being still indefinite. Beyond Kashgar the southern boundary of Siberia follows an irregular course to the north-east, partly defined by the Tian-shan and Alatau mountains, till it attains a northerly point in about 53° N. lat. marked by the Sayan range to the west of Irkutsk. It then deflects south-east till it touches the Kerulen affluent of the Amur river at a point which is shown in unofficial maps as about 117° 30′ E. long, and 49° 20′ N. lat. From here it follows this affluent to its junction with the Amur river, and the Amur river to its junction with the Usuri. It follows the Usuri to its head (its direction now being a little west of south), and finally strikes the Pacific coast on about 42° 30′ N. lat. at the mouth of the Tumen river 100 m. south of the Amur bay, at the head of which lies the Russian port of Vladivostok. At two points the Russian boundary nearly approaches that of provinces which are directly under British suzerainty. Where the Oxus river takes its great bend to the north from Ishkashim, the breadth of the Afghan territory intervening between that river and the main water-divide of the Hindu Kush is not more than 10 or 12 m.; and east of the Pamir extension of Afghanistan, where the Beyik Pass crosses the Sarikol range and drops into the Taghdumbash Pamir, there is but the narrow width of the Karachukar valley between the Sarikol and the Muztagh. Here, however, the boundary is again undefined. Eastwards of this the great Kashgar depression, which includes the Tarim desert, separates Russia from the vast sterile highlands of Tibet; and a continuous series of desert spaces of low elevation, marking the limits of a primeval inland sea from the Sarikol meridional watershed to the Khingan mountains on the western borders of Manchuria, divide her from the northern provinces of China. From the Khingan ranges to the Pacific, south of the Amur, stretch the rich districts of Manchuria, a province which connects Russia with the Korea by a series of valleys formed by the Sungari and its affluents—a land of hill and plain, forest and swamp, possessing a delightful climate, and vast undeveloped agricultural resources. Throughout this land of promise Russian influence was destroyed by Japan in the war of 1904. The possession of Port Arthur, and direct political control over Korea, place Japan in the dominant position as regards Manchuria.
Coincident with the demarcation of Russian boundaries in Turkestan was that of northern Afghanistan. From the Hari Rud on the west to the Sarikol mountains on the east her northern limits were set by the Boundary Commissions of 1884-1886 Afghan political boundaries. and of 1895 respectively. Her southern and eastern boundaries were further defined by a series of minor commissions, working on the basis of the Kabul agreement of 1893, which lasted for nearly four years, terminating with the Mohmand settlement at the close of an expedition in 1897.
The Pamir extension of Afghan territory to the north-east reaches to a point a little short of 75° E., from whence it follows the water-divide to the head of the Taghdumbash Pamir, and is thenceforward defined by the water-parting of the Hindu Kush. It leaves the Hindu Kush near the Dorah Pass at the head of one of the minor Chitral affluents, and passing south-west divides Kafiristan from Chitral and Bajour, separates the sections of the Mohmands who are within the respective spheres of Afghan and British sovereignty, and crosses the Peshawar-Kabul route at Lundi-Khana. It thus places a broad width of independent territory between the boundaries of British India (which have remained practically, though not absolutely, untouched) and Afghanistan; and this independent belt includes Swat, Bajour and a part of the Mohmand territory north of the Kabul river. The same principle of maintaining an intervening width of neutral territory between the two countries is definitely established throughout the eastern borders of Afghanistan, along the full length of which a definite boundary has been demarcated to the point where it touches the northern limits of Baluchistan on the Gomal river. From the Gomal Baluchistan itself becomes an intervening state between British India and Afghanistan, and the dividing line between Baluchistan and Afghanistan is laid down with all the precision employed on the more northerly sections of the demarcation.
Baluchistan can no longer be regarded as a distinct entity amongst Asiatic nations, such as Afghanistan undoubtedly is. Baluchistan independence demands qualification. There is British Baluchistan par excellence, and there is the rest of Baluchistan which exists in various degrees of independence, but Baluchistan. is everywhere subject to British control. British Baluchistan officially includes the districts of Peshin, Sibi and of Thal-Chotiali. As these districts had originally been Afghan, they were transferred to British authority by the treaty of Gandamak in 1879, although nominally they had been handed over to Kalat forty years previously. Now they form an official province of British Baluchistan within the Baluchistan Agency; and the agency extends from the Gomal to the Arabian Sea and the Persian frontier. Within this agency there are districts as independent as any in Afghanistan, but the political status of the province as a whole is almost precisely that of the native states of the Indian peninsula. The agent to the governor-general of India, with a staff of political assistants, practically exercises supreme control.
The increase of Russian influence on the northern Persian border and its extension southwards towards Seistan led to the appointment of a British consul at Kirman, the dominating Kirman. town of southern Khorasan, directly connected with Meshed on the north; and the acquisition of rights of administration of the Nushki district secured to Great Britain the trade between Seistan and Quetta by the new Helmund desert route.
While British India has so far avoided actual geographical contact with one great European power in Asia on the north and west, she has touched another on the east. The Mekong river which limits British interests in Burma limits also those Boundary between French territory and India. of France in Tongking. The eastern boundaries of Burma are not yet fully demarcated on the Chinese frontier. At a point level in latitude with Mogaung, near the northern termination of the Burmese railway system, this boundary is defined by the eastern watershed of the Nmaikha, the eastern of the two great northern affluents of the Irrawaddy. Then it follows an irregular course southwards to a position south-east of Bhamo in lat. 24°. It next defines the northern edge of the Shan States, and finally strikes the Mekong river in lat. 21° 45′ (approximately). From that point southwards the river becomes the boundary between the Shan States and Tongking for some 200 m., the channel of the river defining the limits of occupation (though not entirely of interest) between French and British subjects. Approximately on the parallel of 20° N. lat. the Burmese boundary leaves the Mekong to run westwards towards the Salween, and thereafter following the eastern watershed of the Salween basin it divides the Lower Burma provinces from Siam.
The following table shows the areas of territories in Asia Area and political division. (continental and insular) dependent on the various extra-Asiatic powers, and of those which are independent or nominally so:—
|Other independent territories||2,232,270|
The total area of Asia, continental and insular, is therefore somewhat over 16,819,000 sq. m. (but various authorities differ considerably in their detailed estimates). The population may be set down roughly as 823,000,000, of which 330,000,000 inhabit Chinese territory, 302,000,000 British, and 25,000,000 Russian.
The geology of Asia is so complex and over wide areas so little known that it is difficult to give a connected account of either the structure or the development of the continent, and only the broader features can be dealt with here.
In the south, in Syria, Arabia and the peninsula of India, none but the oldest rocks are folded, and the Upper Palaeozoic, the Mesozoic and the Tertiary beds lie almost horizontally upon them. It is a region of quiescence or of faulting, but not of folding. North of this lies a broad belt in which the Mesozoic deposits and even the lower divisions of the Tertiary system are thrown into folds which extend in a series of arcs from west to east and now form the principal mountain ranges of central Asia. This belt includes Asia Minor, Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, the Himalayas, the Tian-shan, and, although they are very different in direction, the Burmese ranges. The Kuen-lun, Nan-shan and the mountain ranges of southern China are, perhaps, of earlier date, but nevertheless they be in the same belt. It is not true that throughout the whole width of this zone the beds are folded. There are considerable tracts which are but little disturbed, but these tracts are enclosed within the arcs formed by the folds, and the zone taken as a whole is distinctly one of crumpling. North of the folded belt, and including the greater part of Siberia, Mongolia and northern China, lies another area which is, in general, free from any important folding of Mesozoic or Tertiary age. There are, it is true, mountain ranges which are formed of folded beds; but in many cases the direction of the chains is different from that of the folds, so that the ranges must owe their elevation to other causes; and the folds, moreover, are of ancient date, for the most part Archaean or Palaeozoic. The configuration of the region is largely due to faulting, trough-like or tray-like depressions being formed, and the intervening strips, which have not been depressed, standing up as mountain ridges. Over a large part of Siberia and in the north of China, even the Cambrian beds still lie as horizontally as they were first laid down. In the extreme north, in the Verkhoyansk range and in the mountains of the Taimyr peninsula, there are indications of another zone of folding of Mesozoic or later date, but our information concerning these ranges is very scanty. Besides the three chief regions into which the mainland is thus seen to be divided, attention should be drawn to the festoons of islands which border the eastern side of the continent, and which are undoubtedly due to causes similar to those which produced the folds of the folded belt.
Of all the Asiatic ranges the Himalayan is, geologically, the best known; and the evidence which it affords shows clearly that the folds to which it owes its elevation were produced by an overthrust 743 from the north. It is, indeed, as if the high land of central Asia had been pushed southward against and over the unyielding mass formed by the old rocks of the Indian peninsula, and in the process the edges of the over-riding strata had been crumpled and folded. Overlooking all smaller details, we may consider Asia to consist of a northern mass and a southern mass, too rigid to crumple, but not too strong to fracture, and an intermediate belt of softer rock which was capable of folding. If then by the contraction of the earth’s interior the outer crust were forced to accommodate itself to a smaller nucleus, the central softer belt would yield by crumpling, the more rigid masses to the north and south, if they gave way at all, would yield by faulting. It is interesting to observe, as will be shown later, that during the Mesozoic era there was a land mass in the north of Asia and another in the south, and between them lay the sea in which ordinary marine sediments were deposited. The belt of folding does not precisely coincide with this central sea, but the correspondence is fairly close.
The present outline of the eastern coast and the nearly enclosed seas which lie between the islands and the mainland, are attributed by Richthofen chiefly to simple faulting.
Little is known of the early geological history of Asia beyond the fact that a large part of the continent was covered by the sea during the Cambrian and Ordovician periods. But there is positive evidence that much of the north and east of Asia has been land since the Palaeozoic era, and it has been conclusively proved that the peninsula of India has never been beneath the sea since the Carboniferous period at least. Between these ancient land masses lies an area in which marine deposits of Mesozoic age are well developed and which was evidently beneath the sea during the greater part of the Mesozoic era. The northern land mass has been named Angaraland by E. Suess; the southern, of which the Indian peninsula is but a fragment, is called Gondwanaland by Neumayr, Suess and others, while the intervening sea is the central Mediterranean sea of Neumayr and the Tethys of Suess. The greater part of western Asia, including the basin of the Obi, the drainage area of the Aral Sea, together with Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Persia and Arabia, was covered by the sea during the later stages of the Cretaceous period, but a considerable part of this region was probably dry land in Jurassic times.
The northern land mass begins in the north with the area which lies between the Yenisei and the Lena. Here the folded Archean rocks are overlaid by Cambrian and Ordovician beds, which still lie for the most part flat and undisturbed. Upon these rest patches of freshwater deposits containing numerous remains of plants. They consist chiefly of sandstone and conglomerate, but include workable seams of coal. Some of the deposits appear to be of Permian age, but others are probably Jurassic, and they are all included under the general name of the Angara series. Excepting in the extreme north, where marine Jurassic and Cretaceous fossils have been found, there is no evidence that this part of Siberia has been beneath the sea since the early part of the Palaeozoic era. Besides the plant beds extensive outflows of basic lava rest directly upon the Cambrian and Ordovician strata. The date of these eruptions is still uncertain, but they probably continued to a very recent period.
South and east of the Palaeozoic plateau is an extensive area consisting chiefly of Archean rocks, and including the greater part of Mongolia north of the Tian-shan. Here again there are no marine beds of Mesozoic or Tertiary age, while plant-bearing deposits belonging to the Angara series are known. Structurally, the folds of this region are of ancient date, but the area is crossed by a series of depressions formed by faults, and the intervening strips, which have not been depressed to the same extent, now stand up as mountain ranges. Farther south, in the Chinese provinces of Shansi and Shensi, the geological succession is similar in some respects to that of the Siberian Palaeozoic plateau, but the sequence is more complete. There is again a floor of folded Archean rocks overlaid by nearly horizontal strata of Lower Palaeozoic age, but these are followed by marine beds belonging to the Carboniferous period. From the Upper Carboniferous onward, however, no marine deposits are known; and, as in Siberia, plant bearing beds are met with. Southern China is very different in structure, consisting largely of folded mountain chains; but the geological succession is very similar, and excepting near the Tibetan and Burmese borders, there are no marine deposits of Mesozoic or Tertiary age.
Thus it appears that from the Arctic Ocean there stretches a broad area as far as the south of China, in which no marine deposits of later date than Carboniferous have yet been found, except in the extreme north. Freshwater and terrestrial deposits of Mesozoic age occur in many places, and the conclusion is irresistible that the greater part of this area has been land since the close of the Palaeozoic era. The Triassic deposits of the Verkhoyansk Range show that this land did not extend to the Bering Sea, while the marine Mesozoic deposits of Japan on the east, the western Tian-shan on the west and Tibet on the south give us some idea of its limits in other directions.
In the same way the entire absence of any marine fossils in the peninsula of India, excepting near its borders, and the presence of the terrestrial and freshwater deposits of the Gondwana series, representing the whole of the geological scale from the top of the Carboniferous to the top of the Jurassic, show that this region also has been land since the Carboniferous period. It was a portion of a great land mass which probably extended across the Indian Ocean and was at one time united with the south of Africa.
But these two land masses were not connected. Between India and China there is a broad belt in which marine deposits of Mesozoic and Tertiary age are well developed. Marine Tertiary beds occur in Burma; in the Himalayas and in south Tibet there is a nearly complete series of marine deposits from the Carboniferous to the Eocene; in Afghanistan the Mesozoic beds are in part marine and in part fluviatile. The sea in which these strata were deposited seems to have attained its greatest extension in Upper Cretaceous times when its waters spread over the whole of western Asia and even encroached slightly upon the Indian land. The Eocene sea however cannot have been much inferior in extent.
It was after the Eocene period that the main part of the elevation of the Himalayas took place, as is shown by the occurrence of nummulitic limestone at a height of 20,000 ft. The formation of this and of the other great mountain chains of central Asia resulted in the isolation of portions of the former central sea, and the same forces finally led to the elevation of the whole region and the union of the old continents of Angara and Gondwana. Gondwanaland, however, did not long survive, and the portion which lay between India and South Africa sank beneath the waves in Tertiary times.
Leaving out of consideration all evidence of more ancient volcanic activity, each of the three regions into which, as we have seen, the continent may be divided has been, during or since the Cretaceous period, the seat of great volcanic eruptions. In the southern region of unfolded beds are found the lavas of the “harras” of Arabia, and in India the extensive flows of the Deccan Trap. In the central folded belt lie the great volcanoes, now mostly extinct, of Asia Minor, Armenia, Persia and Baluchistan. In Burma also there is at least one extinct volcano. In the northern unfolded region great flows of basic lava lie directly upon the Cambrian and Ordovician beds of Siberia, but are certainly in part of Tertiary age. Similar flows on a smaller scale occur in Manchuria, Korea and northern China.
In all these cases, however, the eruptions have now almost ceased, and the great volcanoes of the present day lie in the islands off the eastern and south eastern coasts.
References—E. Suess, Das Antlitz der Erde (see, especially, vol. iii. part 1.); F.V. Richthofen, “Ueber Gestalt und Gliederung einer Grundlinie in der Morphologie Ost-Asiens,” Sitz. k. preuss. Akad. Wiss. (Berlin, 1900), pp. 888-925, and Geomorphologische Studien aus Ostasien, ibid., 1901, pp. 782-808, 1902, pp. 944-975, 1903, pp. 867-918.
Among the places on the globe where the temperature falls lowest are some in northern Asia; and among those where it rises highest are some in southern Asia. The mean temperature of the north coast of eastern Siberia is but a few degrees Temperature. above the zero of Fahrenheit; the lowest mean temperature anywhere observed is about 4° Fahr., at Melville Island, north of the American continent. The isothermals of mean annual temperature lie over northern Asia on curves tolerably regular in their outline, having their western branches in a somewhat higher latitude than their eastern; a reduction of 1° of latitude corresponds approximately—and irrespective of modifications due to elevation—to a rise of ½° Fahr., as far say as 30° N, where the mean temperature is about 75° Fahr. Farther south the increase is slower, and the highest mean temperature anywhere attained in southern Asia is not much above 82° Fahr.
The variations of temperature are very great in Siberia, amounting near the coast to more than 100° Fahr., between the mean of the hottest and coldest months, and to still more between the extreme temperatures of those months. In southern Asia, and particularly near the sea, the variation between the hottest and coldest monthly means is very much less, and under the equator it is reduced to about 5°. In Siberia the difference between the means of the hottest and coldest months is hardly anywhere less than 60° Fahr. On the Sea of Aral it is 80° Fahr., and at Astrakhan, on the Caspian, more than 50°. At Tiflis it is 45°. In northern China, at Peking, it is 55°, reduced to 30° at Canton, and to 20° at Manila. In northern India the greatest difference does not exceed 40°, and it falls off to about 15° at Calcutta and to about 10° or 12° at Bombay and Madras. The temperatures at the head of the Persian Gulf approximate to those of northern India, and those of Aden to Madras. At Singapore the range is less than 5°, and at Batavia in Java, and Galle in Ceylon, it is about the same. The extreme temperatures in Siberia may be considered to lie between 80° and 90° Fahr. for maxima, and between −40° and −70° Fahr. for minima. The extreme of heat near the Caspian and Aral Seas rises to nearly 100° Fahr., while that of cold falls to −20° Fahr. or lower. Compared with these figures, we find in southern Asia 110° or 112° Fahr. as a maximum hardly ever exceeded. The absolute minimum in northern India, in lat. 30°, hardly goes below 32°; at Calcutta it is about 40°, though the thermometer seldom falls to 50°. At Madras it rarely falls as low as 65°, or at Bombay below 60°. At Singapore and Batavia the thermometer very rarely falls below 70°, or rises above 90°. At Aden the minimum is a few degrees below 70°, the maximum not much exceeding 90°.
These figures sufficiently indicate the main characteristics of the air temperatures of Asia. Throughout its northern portion the winter is long and of extreme severity; and even down to the circle of 35° N. lat., the minimum temperature is almost as low as zero of Fahrenheit. The summers are hot, though short in the northern latitudes, the maximum of summer heat being comparatively little less than that observed in the tropical countries farther south. The moderating effect of the proximity of the ocean is felt in an important degree along the southern and eastern parts of Asia, where the land is broken up into islands or peninsulas. The great elevations above the sea-level of the central part of Asia, and of the table-lands of Afghanistan and Persia, tend to exaggerate the winter cold; while the sterility of the surface, due to the small rainfall over the same region, operates powerfully in the opposite direction in increasing the summer heat. In the summer a great accumulation of solar heat takes place on the dry surface soil, from which it cannot be released upwards by evaporation, as might be the case were the soil moist or covered with vegetation, nor can it be readily conveyed away downwards as happens on the ocean. In the winter similar consequences ensue, in a negative direction, from the prolonged loss of heat by radiation in the long and clear nights—an effect which is intensified wherever the surface is covered with snow, or the air little charged with vapour. In illustration of the very slow diffusion of heat in the solid crust of the earth, and as affording a further indication of the climate of northern Asia, reference may here be made to the frozen soil of Siberia, in the vicinity of Yakutsk. In this region the earth is frozen permanently to a depth of more than 380 ft. at which the temperature is still 5° or 6° Fahr. below the freezing point of water, the summer heat merely thawing the surface to a depth of about 3 ft. At a depth of 50 ft. the temperature is about 15 Fahr. below the freezing point. Under such conditions of the soil, the land, nevertheless, produces crops of wheat and other grain from fifteen to forty fold.
The very high summer temperatures of the area north of the tropic of Cancer are sufficiently accounted for, when compared with those observed south of the tropic, by the increased length of the day in the higher latitude, which more than compensates for the loss of heat due to the smaller mid-day altitude of the sun. The difference between the heating power of the sun’s rays at noon on the 21st of June, in latitude 20° and in latitude 45°, is only about 2%; while the accumulated heat received during the day, which is lengthened to 15½ hours in the higher latitude, is greater by about 11% than in the lower latitude, where the day consists only of 13¼ hours.
Although the foregoing account of the temperatures of Asia supplies the main outline of the observed phenomena, a very important modifying cause, of which more will be said hereafter, comes into operation over the whole of the tropical region, namely, the periodical summer rains. These tend very greatly to arrest the increase of the summer heat over the area where they prevail, and otherwise give it altogether peculiar characteristics.
The great summer heat, by expanding the air upwards, disturbs the level of the planes of equal pressure, and causes an outflow of the upper strata from the heated area. The winter cold produces an effect of just an opposite nature, and Pressure and Winds. causes an accumulation of air over the cold area. The diminution of barometric pressure which takes place all over Asia during the summer months, and the increase in the winter, are hence, no doubt, the results of the alternate heating and cooling of the air over the continent.
The necessary and immediate results of such periodical changes of pressure are winds, which, speaking generally, blow from the area of greatest to that of least pressure—subject, however, to certain modifications of direction, arising from the absolute motion of the whole body of the air due to the revolution of the earth on its axis from west to east. The south-westerly winds which prevail north of the equator during the hot half of the year, to which navigators have given the name of the south-west monsoon (the latter word being a corruption of the Indian name for season), arise from the great diminution of atmospheric pressure over Asia, which begins to be strongly marked with the great rise of temperature in April and May, and the simultaneous relatively higher pressure over the equator and the regions south of it. This diminution of pressure, which continues as the heat increases till it reaches its maximum in July soon after the solstice, is followed by the corresponding development of the south-west monsoon; and as the barometric pressure is gradually restored, and becomes equalized within the tropics soon after the equinox in October, with the general fall of temperature north of the equator, the south-west winds fall off, and are succeeded by a north-east monsoon, which is developed during the winter months by the relatively greater atmospheric pressure which then occurs over Asia, as compared with the equatorial region.
Although the succession of the periodical winds follows the progress of the seasons as just described, the changes in the wind’s direction everywhere take place under the operation of special local influences which often disguise the more general law, and make it difficult to trace. Thus the south-west monsoon begins in the Arabian Sea with west and north-westerly winds, which draw round as the year advances to south-west and fall back again in the autumn by north-west to north. In the Bay of Bengal the strength of the south-west monsoon is rather from the south and south-east, being succeeded by north-east winds after October, which give place to northerly and north-westerly winds as the year advances. Among the islands of the Malay Archipelago the force of the monsoons is much interrupted, and the position of this region on the equator otherwise modifies the directions of the prevailing winds. The southerly summer winds of the Asiatic seas between the equator and the tropic do not extend to the coasts of Java, and the south-easterly trade winds are there developed in the usual manner. The China Sea is fully exposed to both monsoons, the normal directions of which nearly coincide with the centre of the channel between the continent of Asia and the eastern islands.
The south-west monsoon does not generally extend, in its character of a south-west wind, over the land. The current of air flowing in from over the sea is gradually diverted towards the area of least pressure, and at the same time is dissipated and loses much of its original force. The winds which pass northward over India blow as south-easterly and easterly winds over the north-eastern part of the Gangetic plain, and as south winds up the Indus. They seem almost entirely to have exhausted their northward velocity by the time they have reached the northern extremity of the great Indian plain; they are not felt on the table-lands of Afghanistan, and hardly penetrate into the Indus basin or the ranges of the Himalaya, by which mountains, and those which branch off from them into the Malay peninsula, they are prevented from continuing their progress in the direction originally imparted to them.
Among the more remarkable phenomena of the hotter seas of Asia must be noticed the revolving storms or cyclones, which are of frequent occurrence in the hot months in the Indian Ocean and China Sea, in which last they are known under the name of typhoon. The cyclones of the Bay of Bengal appear to originate over the Andaman and Nicobar islands, and are commonly propagated in a north-westward direction, striking the east coast of the Indian peninsula at various points, and then often advancing with an easterly tendency over the land, and passing with extreme violence across the delta of the Ganges. They occur in all the hot months, from June to October, and more rarely in November, and appear to be originated by adverse currents from the north meeting those of the south-west monsoon. The cyclones of the China Sea also occur in the hot months of the year, but they advance from north-east to south-west, though occasionally from east to west; they originate near the island of Formosa, and extend to about the 10th degree of N. lat. They are thus developed in nearly the same latitudes and in the same months as those of the Indian Sea, though their progress is in a different direction. In both cases, however, the storms appear to advance towards the area of greatest heat. In these storms the wind invariably circulates from north by west through south to east.
The heated body of air carried from the Indian Ocean over southern Asia by the south-west monsoon comes up highly charged with watery vapour, and hence in a condition to release a large body of water as rain upon the land, whenever it is Rainfall. brought into circumstances which reduce its temperature in a notable degree. Such a reduction of temperature is brought about along the greater part of the coasts of India and of the Burmo-Siamese peninsula by the interruption of the wind current by continuous ranges of mountains, which force the mass of air to rise over them, whereby the air being rarefied, its specific capacity for heat is increased and its temperature falls, with a corresponding condensation of the vapour originally held in suspension.
This explanation of the principal efficient cause of the summer rains of south Asia is immediately based on an analysis of the complicated phenomena actually observed, and it serves to account for many apparent anomalies. The heaviest falls of rain occur along lines of mountain of some extent directly facing the vapour-bearing winds, as on the Western Ghats of India and the west coast of the Malay peninsula. The same results are found along the mountains at a distance from the sea, the heaviest rainfall known to occur anywhere in the world (not less than 600 in. in the year) being recorded on the Khasi range about 100 m. north-east of Calcutta, which presents an abrupt front to the progress of the moist winds flowing up from the Bay of Bengal. The cessation of the rains on the southern border of Baluchistan, west of Karachi, obviously arises from the projection of the south-east coast of Arabia, which limits the breadth of the south-west monsoon air current and the length of the coast-line directly exposed to it. The very small and irregular rainfall in Sind and along the Indus is to be accounted for by the want of any obstacle in the path of the vapour-bearing winds, which, therefore, carry the uncondensed rain up to the Punjab, where it falls on the outer ranges of the western Himalaya and of Afghanistan.
The diurnal mountain winds are very strongly marked on the Himalaya, where they probably are the most active agents in determining the precipitation of rain along the chain—the monsoon currents, as before stated, not penetrating among the mountains. The formation of dense banks of cloud in the afternoon, when the up wind is strongest, along the southern face of the snowy ranges of the Himalaya, is a regular daily phenomenon during the hotter months of the year, and heavy rain, accompanied by electrical discharges, is the frequent result of such condensation.
Too little is known of the greater part of Asia to admit of any more being said with reference to this part of the subject, than to 745 mention a few facts bearing on the rainfall. In northern Asia there is a generally equal rainfall of 19 to 29 in. between the Volga and the Lena in Manchuria and northern China, rather more considerable increase in Korea, Siam and Japan. At Tiflis the yearly fall is 22 in.; on the Caspian about 7 or 8 in.; on the Sea of Aral 5 or 6 in. In south-western Siberia it is 12 or 14 in., diminishing as we proceed eastward to 6 or 7 in. at Barnaul, and to 5 or 6 in. at Urga in northern Mongolia. In eastern Siberia it is about 15 to 20 in. In China we find about 23 in. to be the fall at Peking; while at Canton, which lies nearly on the northern tropic and the region of the south-west monsoon is entered, the quantity is increased to 78 in. At Batavia in Java the fall is about 78 in.; at Singapore it is nearly 100 in. The quantity increases considerably on that part of the coast of the Malay peninsula which is not sheltered from the south-west by Sumatra. On the Tenasserim and Burmese coast falls of more than 200 in. are registered, and the quantity is here nowhere less than 75 or 80 in., which is about the average of the eastern part of the delta of the Ganges, Calcutta standing at about 64 in. On the hills that flank Bengal on the east the fall is very great. On the Khasi hills, at an elevation of about 4500 ft., the average of ten years is more than 550 in. As much as 150 in. has been measured in one month, and 610 in. in one year. On the west coast of the Indian peninsula the fall at the sea-level varies from about 75 to 100 in., and at certain elevations on the mountains more than 250 in. is commonly registered, with intermediate quantities at intervening localities. On the east coast the fall is far less, nowhere rising to 50 in., and towards the southern apex of the peninsula being reduced to 25 or 30 in. Ceylon shows from 60 to 80 in. As we recede from the coast the fall diminishes, till it is reduced to about 25 or 30 in. at the head of the Gangetic plain. The tract along the Indus to within 60 or 80 m. of the Himalaya is almost rainless, 6 or 8 in. being the fall in the southern portion of the Punjab. On the outer ranges of the Himalaya the yearly fall amounts to about 200 in. on the east in Sikkim, and gradually diminishes on the west, where north of the Punjab it is about 70 or 80 in. In the interior of the chain the rain is far less, and the quantity of precipitation is so small in Tibet that it can be hardly measured. It is to the greatly reduced fall of snow on the northern faces of the highest ranges of the Himalaya that is to be attributed the higher level of the snow-line, a phenomenon which was long a cause of discussion.
In Afghanistan, Persia, Asia Minor and Syria, winter and spring appear to be the chief seasons of condensation. In other parts of Asia the principal part of the rain falls between May and September, that is, in the hottest half of the year. In the islands under the equator the heaviest fall is between October and February.
Flora and Fauna
The general assemblage of animals and plants found over northern Asia resembles greatly that found in the parts of Europe which are adjacent and have a similar climate. Siberia, north of the 50th parallel, has a climate not much differing from a similarly situated portion of Europe, though the winters are more severe and the summers hotter. The rainfall, though moderate, is still sufficient to maintain the supply of water in the great rivers that traverse the country to the Arctic Sea, and to support an abundant vegetation. A similar affinity exists between the life of the southern parts of Europe and that in the zone of Asia extending from the Mediterranean across to the Himalaya and northern China. This belt, which embraces Asia Minor, northern Persia, Afghanistan, and the southern slopes of the Himalaya, from its elevation has a temperate climate, and throughout it the rainfall is sufficient to maintain a vigorous vegetation, while the summers, though hot. and the winters, though severe, are not extreme. The plants and animals along it are found to have a marked similarity of character to those of south Europe, with which region the zone is virtually continuous.
The extremely dry and hot tracts which constitute an almost unbroken desert from Arabia, through south Persia and Baluchistan, to Sind, are characterized by considerable uniformity in the types of life, which closely approach to those of the neighbouring hot and dry regions of Africa. The region of the heavy periodical summer rains and high temperature, which comprises India, the Indo-Chinese peninsula, and southern China, as well as the western part of the Malay Archipelago, is also marked by much similarity in the plants and animals throughout its extent. The area between the southern border of Siberia and the margin of the temperate alpine zone of the Himalaya and north China, comprising what are commonly called central Asia, Turkestan, Mongolia and western Manchuria, is an almost rainless region, having winters of extreme severity and summers of intense heat. Its animals and plants have a special character suited to the peculiar climatal conditions, more closely allied to those of the adjacent northern Siberian tract than of the other bordering regions. The south-eastern parts of the Malay Archipelago have much in common with the Australian continent, to which they adjoin, though their affinities are chiefly Indian. North China and Japan also have many forms of life in common. Much still remains to be done in the exploration of China and eastern Asia; but it is known that many of the special forms of this region extend to the Himalaya, while others clearly indicate a connexion with North America.
The foregoing brief review of the principal territorial divisions according to which the forms of life are distributed in Asia, indicates how close is the dependence of this distribution on climatic conditions, and this will be made more apparent by a somewhat fuller account of the main features of the flora and fauna.
Flora.—The flora of the whole of northern Asia is in essentials the same as that of northern Europe, the differences being due rather to variations of species than of genera. The absence of Northern Asia. the oak and of all heaths east of the Ural may be noticed. Pines, larch, birch are the principal trees on the mountains; willow, alders and poplars on the lower ground. The northern limit of the pine in Siberia is about 70° N.
Along the warm temperate zone, from the Mediterranean to the Himalaya, extends a flora essentially European in character. Many European species reach the central Himalaya, though few are known in its eastern parts. The genera common to the Himalaya and Europe are much more abundant, and extend throughout the chain, and to all elevations. There is also a corresponding diffusion of Japanese and Chinese forms along this zone, these being most numerous in the eastern Himalaya, and less frequent in the west.
The truly tropical flora of the hotter and wetter regions of eastern India is continuous with that of the Malayan peninsula and islands, and extends along the lower ranges of the Himalaya, gradually becoming less marked and rising to lower elevations as we go westward, where the rainfall diminishes and the winter cold increases.
The vegetation of the higher and therefore cooler and less rainy ranges of the Himalaya has greater uniformity of character along the whole chain, and a closer general approach to European forms is maintained; an increased number of species is actually identical, among these being found, at the greatest elevations, many alpine plants believed to be identical with species of the north Arctic regions. On reaching the Tibetan plateau, with the increased dryness the flora assumes many features of the Siberian type. Many true Siberian species are found, and more Siberian genera. Some of the Siberian forms, thus brought into proximity with the Indian flora, extend to the rainy parts of the mountains, and even to the plains of upper India. Assemblages of marine plants form another remarkable feature of Tibet, these being frequently met with growing at elevations of 14,000 to 15,000 ft. above the sea, more especially in the vicinity of the many salt lakes of those regions.
The vegetation of the hot and dry region of the south-west of the continent consists largely of plants which are diffused over Africa, Baluchistan and Sind; many of these extend into the hotter parts of India, and not a few common Egyptian plants are to be met with in the Indian peninsula.
The whole number of species of plants indigenous in the region of south-eastern Asia, which includes India and the Malayan peninsula and islands, from about the 65th to the 105th meridian, was estimated by Sir J.D. Hooker at 12,000 to 15,000. Indian region. The principal orders, arranged according to their numerical importance, are as follows:—Leguminosae, Rubiaceae, Orchidaceae, Compositae, Gramineae, Euphorbiaceae, Acanthaceae, Cyperaceae and Labiatae. But within this region there is a very great variation between the vegetation of the more humid and the more arid regions, while the characteristics of the flora on the higher mountain ranges differ wholly from those of the plains. In short, we have a somewhat heterogeneous assemblage of tropical, temperate and alpine plants, as has been already briefly indicated, of which, however, the tropical are so far dominant as to give their character to the flora viewed as a whole. The Indian flora contains a more general and complete illustration of almost all the chief natural families of all parts of the world than any other country. Compositae are comparatively rare; so also Gramineae and Cyperaceae are in some places deficient, and Labiatae, Leguminosae and ferns in others. Euphorbiaceae and Scrophulariaceae and Orchidaceae are universally present, the last in specially large proportions.
The perennially humid regions of the Malayan peninsula and western portion of the archipelago are everywhere covered with dense forest, rendered difficult to traverse by the thorny cane, a palm of the genus Calamus, which has its greatest development in this part of Asia. The chief trees belong to the orders of Terebinthaceae, Sapindaceae, Meliaceae, Clusiaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Ternstroemiaceae, Leguminosae, laurels, oaks and figs, with Dilleniaceae, Sapotaceae and nutmegs. Bamboos and palms, with Pandanus and Dracaena, are also abundant. A similar forest flora extends along the mountains of eastern India to the Himalaya, where it ascends to elevations varying from 6000 to 7000 ft. on the east to 3000 or 4000 ft. on the west.
The arboreous forms which least require the humid and equable heat of the more truly tropical and equatorial climates, and are best able to resist the high temperatures and excessive drought of the northern Indian hot months from April to June, are certain Leguminosae,. Bauhinia, Acacia, Butea and Dalbergia, Bombax, Skorea, Nauclea, Lagerstroemia, and Bignonia, a few bamboos and palms, with others which extend far beyond the tropic, and give a tropical aspect to the forest to the extreme northern border of the Indian plain.
Of the herbaceous vegetation of the more rainy regions may be noted the Orchidaceae, Orontiaceae, Scitamineae, with ferns and other 746 Cryptogams, besides Gramineae and Cyperaceae. Among these some forms, as among the trees, extend much beyond the tropic and ascend into the temperate zones on the mountains, of which may be mentioned Begonia, Osbeckia, various Cyrtandraceae, Scitamineae, and a few epiphytical orchids.
Of the orders most largely developed in south India, and more sparingly elsewhere, may be named Aurantiaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Balsaminaceae, Ebenaceae, Jasmineae, and Cyrtandraceae; but of these few contain as many as 100 peculiar Indian species. Nepenthes may be mentioned as a genus specially developed in the Malayan area, and extending from New Caledonia to Madagascar; it is found as far north as the Khasi hills, and in Ceylon, but does not appear on the Himalaya or in the peninsula of India. The Balsaminaceae may be named as being rare in the eastern region and very abundant in the peninsula. A distinct connexion between the flora of the peninsula and Ceylon and that of eastern tropical Africa is observable not only in the great similarity of many of the more truly tropical forms, and the identity of families and genera found in both regions, but in a more remarkable manner in the likeness of the mountain flora of this part of Africa to that of the peninsula, in which several species occur believed to be identical with Abyssinian forms. This connexion is further established by the absence from both areas of oaks, conifers and cycads, which, as regards the first two families, is a remarkable feature of the flora of the peninsula and Ceylon, as the mountains rise to elevations in which both of them are abundant to the north and east. With these facts it has to be noticed that many of the principal forms of the eastern flora are absent or comparatively rare in the peninsula and Ceylon.
The general physiognomy of the Indian flora is mainly determined by the conditions of humidity of climate. The impenetrable shady forests of the Malay peninsula and eastern Bengal, of the west coast of the Indian peninsula, and of Ceylon, offer a strong contrast to the more loosely-timbered districts of the drier regions of central India and the north-western Himalaya. The forest areas of India include the dense vegetation and luxuriant growth of the Tarai jungles at the foot of the eastern Himalaya, and wide stretches of loosely-timbered country which are a prevailing feature in the Central Provinces and parts of Madras. Where the lowlands are highly cultivated they are adorned with planted wood, and where they are cut off from rain they are nearly completely desert.
The higher mountains rise abruptly from the plains; on their slopes, clothed below almost exclusively with the more tropical forms, a vegetation of a warm temperate character, chiefly evergreen, soon begins to prevail, comprising Magnoliaceae, Ternstroemiaccae, subtropical Rosaceae, rhododendron, oak, Ilex, Symplocos, Lauraceae, Pinus longifolia, with mountain forms of truly tropical orders, palms, Pandanus, Musa, Vitis, Vernonia, and many others. On the east the vegetation of the Himalaya is most abundant and varied. The forest extends, with great luxuriance, to an elevation of 12,000 ft., above which the sub-alpine region may be said to begin, in which rhododendron scrub often covers the ground up to 13,000 or 14,000 ft. Only one pine is found below 8000 ft., above which several other Coniferae occur. Plantains, tree-ferns, bamboos, several Calami, and other palms, and Pandanus, are abundant at the lower levels. Between 4000 and 8000 ft. epiphytal orchids are very frequent, and reach even to 10,000 ft. Vegetation ascends on the drier and less snowy mountain slopes of Tibet to above 18,000 ft. On the west, with the drier climate, the forest is less luxuriant and dense, and the hill-sides and the valleys better cultivated. The warm mountain slopes are covered with Pinus longifolia, or with oaks and rhododendron, and the forest is not commonly dense below 8000 ft., excepting in some of the more secluded valleys at a low elevation. From 8000 to 12,000 ft., a thick forest of deciduous trees is almost universal, above which a sub-alpine region is reached, and vegetation as on the east continues up to 18,000 ft. or more. The more tropical forms of the east, such as the tree-ferns, do not reach west of Nepal. The cedar or deodar is hardly indigenous east of the sources of the Ganges, and at about the same point the forms of the west begin to be more abundant, increasing in number as we advance towards Afghanistan.
The cultivated plants of the Indian region include wheat, barley, rice and maize; various millets, Sorghum, Penicillaria, Panicum and Eleusine; many pulses, peas and beans; mustard and rape; ginger and turmeric; pepper and capsicum; several Cucurbitaceae; tobacco, Sesamum, poppy, Crotolaria and Cannabis; cotton, indigo and sugar; coffee and tea; oranges, lemons of many sorts; pomegranate, mango, figs, peaches, vines and plantains. The more common palms are Cocos, Phoenix and Borassus, supplying cocoa-nut and toddy. Indian agriculture combines the harvests of the tropical and temperate zones. North of the tropic the winter cold is sufficient to admit of the cultivation of almost all the cereals and vegetables of Europe, wheat being sown in November and reaped early in April. In this same region the summer heat and rain provide a thoroughly tropical climate, in which rice and other tropical cereals are freely raised, being as a rule sown early in July and reaped in September or October. In southern India, and the other parts of Asia and of the islands having a similar climate, the difference of the winter and summer half-years is not sufficient to admit of the proper cultivation of wheat or barley. The other cereals may be seen occasionally, where artificial irrigation is practised, in all stages of progress at all seasons of the year, though the operations of agriculture are, as a general rule, limited to the rainy months, when alone is the requisite supply of water commonly forthcoming.
The trees of India producing economically useful timber are comparatively few, owing to the want of durability of the wood, in the extremely hot and moist climate. The teak, Tectona grandis, supplies the finest timber. It is found in greatest perfection in the forests of the west coasts of Burma and the Indian peninsula, where the rainfall is heaviest, growing to a height of 100 or 150 ft., mixed with other trees and bamboos. The sal, Shorea robusta, a very durable wood, is most abundant along the skirts of the Himalaya from Assam to the Punjab, and is found in central India, to which the teak also extends. The sal grows to a large size, and is more gregarious than the teak. Of other useful woods found in the plains may be named the babool, Acacia; toon, Cedrela; and sissoo, Dalbergia. The only timber in ordinary use obtained from the Himalaya proper is the deodar, Cedrus deodara. Besides these are the sandalwood, Santalum, of southern India, and many sorts of bamboo found in all parts of the country. The cinchona has recently been introduced with complete success; and the mahogany of America reaches a large size, and gives promise of being grown for use as timber.
The flora of the rainless region of south-western Asia is continuous with the desert flora of northern and eastern Africa, and extends from the coast of Senegal to the meridian of 75° E., or from the great African desert to the border of the rainless tract Western Asia. along the Indus and the southern parts of the Punjab. It includes the peninsula of Arabia, the shores of the Persian Gulf, south Persia, and Afghanistan and Baluchistan. On the west its limit is in the Cape Verde Islands, and it is partially represented in Abyssinia.
The more common plants in the most characteristic part of this region in southern Arabia are Capparidaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and a few Leguminosae, a Reseda and Dipterygium; palms, Polygonaceae, ferns, and other cryptogams, are rare. The number of families relative to the area is very small, and the number of genera and species equally restricted, in very many cases a single species being the only representative of an order. The aspect of the vegetation is very peculiar, and is commonly determined by the predominance of some four or five species, the rest being either local or sparingly scattered over the area. The absence of the ordinary bright green colours of vegetation is another peculiarity of this flora, almost all the plants having glaucous or whitened stems. Foliage is reduced to a minimum, the moisture of the plant being stored up in massive or fleshy stems against the long-continued drought. Aridity has favoured the production of spines as a defence from external attack, sharp thorns are frequent, and asperities of various sorts predominate. Many species produce gums and resins, their stems being encrusted with the exudations, and pungency and aromatic odour is an almost universal quality of the plants of desert regions.
The cultivated plants of Arabia are much the same as those of northern India—wheat, barley, and the common Sorghum, with dates and lemons, cotton and indigo. To these must be added coffee, which is restricted to the slopes of the western hills. Among the more mountainous regions of the south-western part of Arabia, known as Arabia Felix, the summits of which rise to 6000 or 7000 ft., the rainfall is sufficient to develop a more luxuriant vegetation, and the valleys have a flora like that of similarly situated parts of southern Persia, and the less elevated parts of Afghanistan and Baluchistan, partaking of the characters of that of the hotter Mediterranean region. In these countries aromatic shrubs are abundant. Trees are rare, and almost restricted to Pistacia, Celtis and Dodonaea, with poplars, and the date palm. Prickly forms of Statice and Astragalus cover the dry hills. In the spring there is an abundant herbaceous vegetation, including many bulbous plants, with genera, if not species, identical with those of the Syrian region, some of which extend to the Himalaya.
The flora of the northern part of Afghanistan approximates to that of the contiguous western Himalaya. Quercus Ilex, the evergreen oak of southern Europe, is found in forests as far east as the Sutlej, accompanied with other European forms. In the higher parts of Afghanistan and Persia Boraginaceae and thistles abound; gigantic Umbelliferae, such as Ferula, Galbanum, Dorema, Bubon, Peucedanum, Prangos, and others, also characterize the same districts, and some of them extend into Tibet.
The flora of Asia Minor and northern Persia differs but little from that of the southern parts of Europe. The mountains are clothed, where the fall of rain is abundant, with forests of Quercus, Fagus, Ulmus, Acer, Carpinus and Corylus, and various Coniferae. Of these the only genus that is not found on the Himalaya is Fagus. Fruit trees of the plum tribe abound. The cultivated plants are those of southern Europe.
The vegetation of the Malayan Islands is for the most part that of the wetter and hotter region of India; but the greater uniformity of the temperature and humidity leads to the predominance of certain tropical forms not so conspicuous in India, Eastern Asia. while the proximity of the Australian continent has permitted the partial diffusion of Australian types which are not seen in India. The liquidambar and nutmeg may be noticed among 747 the former, the first is one of the most conspicuous trees in java, on the mountains of the eastern part of which the casuarina, one of the characteristic forms of Australia, is also abundant. Rhododendrons occur in Borneo and Sumatra, descending to the level of the sea. On the mountains of Java there appears to be no truly alpine flora, Saxifraga is not found. In Borneo some of the temperate forms of Australia appear on the higher mountains. On the other islands similar characteristics are to be observed, Australian genera extending to the Philippines, and even to southern China.
The analysis of the Hong Kong flora indicates that about three-fifths of the species are common to the Indian region, and nearly all the remainder are either Chinese or local forms. The number of species common to southern China, Japan and northern Asia is small. The cultivated plants of China are, with a few exceptions, the same as those of India South China, therefore seems, botanically hardly distinct from the great Indian region, into which many Chinese forms penetrate, as before noticed. The flora of north China, which is akin to that of Japan, shows manifest relation to that of the neighbouring American continent, from which many temperate forms extend, reaching to the Himalaya, almost as far as Kashmir. Very little is known of the plants of the interior of northern China, but it seems probable that a complete botanical connexion is established between it and the temperate region of the Himalaya.
The vegetation of the dry region of central Asia is remarkable for the great relative number of Chenopodiaceae, Salicornia and other salt plants being common; Polygonaceae also are abundant, leafless forms being of frequent occurrence, which Central Asia. gives the vegetation a very remarkable aspect. Peculiar forms of Leguminosae also prevail, and these with many of the other plants of the southern and drier regions of Siberia, or of the colder regions of the desert tracts of Persia and Afghanistan, extend into Tibet, where the extreme drought and the hot (nearly vertical) sun combine to produce a summer climate not greatly differing from that of the plains of central Asia.
Fauna.—The zoological provinces of Asia correspond very closely with the botanical. The northern portion of Asia, as far south as the Himalaya, is not zoologically distinct from Europe, and these two areas, with the strip of Africa north of the Zoological Regions. Atlas, constitute the Palaearctic region of Dr. Sclater, whose zoological primary divisions of the earth have met with the general approval of naturalists. The south-eastern portion of Asia with the adjacent islands of Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Philippines, form his Indian region. The extreme south-west part of the continent constitutes a separate zoological district, comprising Arabia, Palestine and southern Persia, and reaching, like the hot desert botanical tract, to Baluchistan and Sind, it belongs to what Dr. Sclater calls the Ethiopian region, which extends over Africa, south of the Atlas. Celebes, Papua, and the other islands east of Java beyond Wallace’s line fall within the Australian region.
Nearly all the mammals of Europe also occur in northern Asia, where however, the Palaearctic fauna is enriched by numerous additional species. The characteristic groups belong mostly to forms which are restricted to cold and temperate Mammals and birds. regions. Consequently the Quadrumana, or monkeys, are nearly unrepresented, a single species occurring in Japan, and one or two others in northern China and Tibet. Insectivorous bats are numerous, but the frugivorous division of this order is only represented by a single species in Japan. Carnivora are also numerous, particularly the frequenters of cold climates, such as bears, weasels, wolves and foxes. Of the Insectivora, numerous forms of moles, shrews and hedgehogs prevail. The Rodents are also well represented by various squirrels, mice, and hares. Characteristic forms ot this order in northern Asia are the marmots (Arctomys) and the pikas or tailless hares (Lagomys). The great order of Ungulata is represented by various forms of sheep, as many as ten or twelve wild species of Ovis being met with in the mountain chains of Asia, and more sparingly by several peculiar forms of antelope, such as the saiga (Saiga tatarica) and the Gazella gutturosa, or yellow sheep. Coming to the deer, we also meet with characteristic forms in northern Asia, especially those belonging to the typical genus Cervus. The musk deer (Moschus) is also quite restricted to northern Asia, and is one of its most peculiar types.
The ornithology ot northern Asia is even more closely allied to that of Europe than the mammal fauna. Nearly three fourths of the well-known species of Europe extend through Siberia into the islands of the Japanese empire. Here again, we have an absence of all tropical forms, and a great development of groups characteristic of cold and temperate regions. One of the most peculiar of these is the genus Phasianus, of which splendid birds all the species are restricted in their wild state to northern Asia. The still more magnificently clad gold pheasants (Thaumalea), and the eared pheasants (Crossoptilon) are also confined to certain districts in the mountains of north eastern Asia. Amongst the Passeres, such forms as the larks, stone chats, finches, linnets, and grosbeaks are well developed and exhibit many species.
The mammal fauna of the Indian region of Asia is much more highly developed than that of the Palaearctic. The Quadrumana are represented by several peculiar genera, amongst which are Semnopithecus, Hylobates and Simia. Two peculiar forms of the Lemurine group are also met with. Both the insectivorous and frugivorous divisions of the bats are well represented. Amongst the Insectivora very peculiar forms are found, such as Gymnura and Tupaia. The Carnivora are likewise numerous, and this region may be considered as the true home of the tiger, though this animal has wandered far north into the Palaearctic division of Asia. Other characteristic Carnivora are civets, various ichneumons, and the benturong (Arctictis). Two species of bears are likewise restricted to the Indian region. In the order of Rodents squirrels are very numerous and porcupines of two genera are met with. The Indian region is the home of the Indian elephant—one of the two sole remaining representatives of the order Proboscidea. Of the Ungulates, four species of rhinoceros and one of tapir are met with, besides several peculiar forms of the swine family. The Bovidae or hollow-horned ruminants, are represented by several genera of antelopes, and by species of true Bos—such as B. sondaicus, B. frontalis and B. bubalus. Deer are likewise numerous, and the peculiar group of chevrotains (Tragulus) is characteristic of the Indian region. Finally, this region affords us representatives of the order Edentata, in the shape of several species of Manis, or scaly ant-eater.
The assemblage of birds of the Indian region is one of the richest and most varied in the world, being surpassed only by that of tropical America. Nearly every order, except that of the Struthiones or ostriches, is well represented, and there are many peculiar genera not found elsewhere, such as Buceros, Harpactes, Lophophorus, Euplocamus, Pajo and Ceriornis. The Phasianidae (exclusive of true Phasianus) are highly characteristic ot this region, as are likewise certain genera of barbets (Megalaema), parrots (Palaeornis), and crows (Dendrocitta, Urocissa and Cissa). The family Eurylaemidae is entirely confined to this part of Asia.
The Ethiopian fauna plays but a subordinate part in Asia, intruding only into the south-western corner, and occupying the desert districts of Arabia and Syria, although some of the characteristic species reach still farther into Persia and Sind, and even into western India. The lion and the hunting leopard, which may be considered as in this epoch at least, Ethiopian types extend thus far, besides various species of jerboa and other desert-loving forms.
In the birds, the Ethiopian type is shown by the prevalence of larks and stone chats, and by the complete absence of the many peculiar genera of the Indian region.
The occurrence of mammals of the Marsupial order in the Molucca Islands and Celebes, while none have been found in the adjacent islands of Java and Borneo, lying on the west of Wallace’s line, or in the Indian region, shows that the margin of the Australian region has here been reached. The same conclusion is indicated by the absence from the Moluccas and Celebes of various other Mammals, Quadrumana, Carnivora, Insectivora and Ruminants, which abound in the western part of the Archipelago. Deer do not extend into New Guinea, in which island the genus Sus appears to have its eastern limit. A peculiar form of baboon, Cynopithecus, and the singular ruminant, Anoa, found in Celebes, seem to have no relation to Asiatic animals, and rather to be allied to those in Africa.
The birds of these islands present similar peculiarities. Those of the Indian region abruptly disappear at, and many Australian forms reach but do not pass, the line above spoken of. Species of birds akin to those of Africa also occur in Celebes.
Of the marine orders of Sirenia and Cetacea the Dugong, Halicore, is exclusively found in the Indian Ocean and a dolphin, Platanista, peculiar to the Ganges, ascends that river to a great distance from the sea.
Of the sea fishes of Asia, among the Acanthopterygii, or spiny-rayed fishes, the Percidae, or perches, are largely represented, the genus Serranus, which has only one species in Europe, is very numerous in Asia, and the forms are very large. Fishes. Other allied genera are abundant and extend from the Indian seas to eastern Africa. The Squamipennes, or scaly-finned fishes, are principally found in the seas of southern Asia, and especially near coral reefs. The Mullidae or red mullets are largely represented by genera differing from those of Europe. The Polynemidae, which range from the Atlantic through the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, supply animals from which isinglass is prepared; one of them, the mango fish, esteemed a great delicacy, inhabits the seas from the Bay of Bengal to Siam. The Sciaenidae extend from the Bay of Bengal to China, but are not known to the westward. The Stromateidae, or pomfrets, resemble the dory, a Mediterranean form, and extend to China and the Pacific. The sword fishes Xiphidae, the lancet fishes, Acanthuridae, and the scabbard fishes, Trichuridae, are distributed through the seas of south Asia. Mackerels of various genera abound, as well as gobies, blenniesm and mullets.
Among the Anacanthim, the cod family so well known in Europe shows but one or two species in the seas of south Asia, though the soles and allied fishes are numerous along the coasts. Of the Physostomi, the siluroids are abundant in the estuaries and muddy waters; the habits of some of these fishes are remarkable, such as that of the males carrying the ova in their mouths till the young are hatched. The small family of Scopelidae affords the gelatinous Harpodon, or bumalo. The gar-fish and flying fishes are numerous, extending into the seas of Europe. The Clupeidae or herrings, are most abundant, and anchovies, or sardines, are found in shoals, but at irregular and uncertain intervals. The marine eels, Muraenidae, are more numerous towards the Malay Archipelago than in the Indian 748 seas. Forms of sea-horses (Hippocampus), pipe-fishes (Syngnathus), fife-fishes (Sclerodermus), and sun-fish, globe-fish, and other allied forms of Gymnodontes, are not uncommon.
Of the cartilaginous fishes, Chondropterygii, the true sharks and hammer-headed sharks, are numerous. The dog-fish also is found, one species extending from the Indian seas to the Cape of Good Hope. The saw-fishes, Pristidae, the electrical rays, Torpedinae, and ordinary rays and skates, are also found in considerable numbers.
The fresh waters of southern Asia are deficient in the typical forms of the Acanthopterygii, and are chiefly inhabited by carp, siluroids, simple or spined eels, and the walking and climbing fishes. The Siluridae attain their chief development in tropical regions. Only one Silurus is found in Europe, and the same species extends to southern Asia and Africa. The Salmonidae are entirely absent from the waters of southern Asia, though they exist in the rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean and the neighbouring parts of the northern Pacific, extending perhaps to Formosa; and trout, though unknown in Indian rivers, are found beyond the watershed of the Indus, in the streams flowing into the Caspian. The Cyprinidae, or carp, are largely represented in southern Asia, and there grow to a size unknown in Europe; a Barbus in the Tigris has been taken of the weight of 300 ℔ The chief development of this family, both as to size and number of forms, is in the mountain regions with a temperate climate; the smaller species are found in the hotter regions and in the low-lying rivers. Of the Clupeidae, or herrings, numerous forms occur in Asiatic waters, ascending the rivers many hundred miles; one of the best-known of Indian fishes, the hilsa, is of this family. The sturgeons, which abound in the Black Sea and Caspian, and ascend the rivers that fall into them, are also found in Asiatic Russia, and an allied form extends to southern China. The walking or climbing fishes, which are peculiar to south-eastern Asia and Africa, are organized so as to be able to breathe when out of the water, and they are thus fitted to exist under conditions which would be fatal to other fishes, being suited to live in the regions of periodical drought and rain in which they are found.
The insects of all southern Asia, including India south of the Himalaya, China, Siam and the Malayan Islands, belong to one group; not only the genera, but even the species are often the same on the opposite sides of the Bay of Bengal. Insects. The connexion with Africa is marked by the occurrence of many genera common to Africa and India, and confined to those two regions, and similarities of form are not uncommon there in cases in which the genera are not peculiar. Of Coleopterous insects known to inhabit east Siberia, nearly one-third are found in western Europe. The European forms seem to extend to about 30° N., south of which the Indo-Malayan types are met with, Japan being of the Europeo-Asiatic group. The northern forms extend generally along the south coast of the Mediterranean up to the border of the great desert, and from the Levant to the Caspian.
Of the domesticated animals of Asia may first be mentioned the elephant. It does not breed in captivity, and is not found wild west of the Jumna river in northern India. The horse is produced, in the highest perfection in Arabia and the hot Domesticated animals. and dry countries of western Asia. Ponies are most esteemed from the wetter regions of the east, and the hilly tracts. Asses are abundant in most places, and two wild species occur. The horned cattle include the humped oxen and buffaloes of India, and the yak of Tibet. A hybrid between the yak and Indian cattle, called zo, is commonly reared in Tibet and the Himalaya. Sheep abound in the more temperate regions, and goats are universally met with; both of these animals are used as beasts of burden in the mountains of Tibet. The reindeer of northern Siberia call also for special notice; they are used for the saddle as well as for draught.
Asia, including its outlying islands, has become the dwelling-place of all the great families into which the races of men have been divided. By far the largest area is occupied by the Mongolian group. These have yellow-brown skins, black Racial types. eyes and hair, flat noses and oblique eyes. They are short in stature, with little hair on the body and face. In general terms they extend, with modifications of character probably due to admixture with other types and to varying conditions of life, over the whole of northern Asia as far south as the plains bordering the Caspian Sea, including Tibet and China, and also over the Indo-Malayan peninsula and Archipelago, excepting Papua and some of the more eastern islands.
Next in numerical importance to the Mongolians are the races which have been called by Professor Huxley Melanochroic and Xanthochroic. The former includes the dark-haired people of southern Europe, and extends over North Africa, Asia Minor, Syria to south-western Asia, and through Arabia and Persia to India. The latter race includes the fair-haired people of northern Europe, and extends over nearly the same area as the Melanochroi, with which race it is greatly intermixed. The Xanthochroi have fair skins, blue eyes and light hair; and others have dark skins, eyes and hair, and are of a slighter frame. Together they constitute what were once called the Caucasian races. The Melanochroi are not considered by Huxley to be one of the primitive modifications of mankind, but rather to be the result of the admixture of the Xanthochroi with the Australoid type, next to be mentioned.
The third group is that of the Australoid type. Their hair is dark, generally soft, never woolly. The eyes and skin are dark, the beard often well developed, the nose broad and flat, the lips coarse, and jaws heavy. This race is believed to form the basis of the people of the Indian peninsula, and of some of the hill tribes of central India, to whom the name Dravidian has been given, and by its admixture with the Melanochroic group to have given rise to the ordinary population of the Indian provinces. It is also probable that the Australoid family extends into south Arabia and Egypt.
The last group, the Negroid, is represented by the races to which has been given the name of Negrito, from the small size of some of them. They are closely akin to the negroes of South Africa, and possess the characteristic dark skins, woolly but scanty beard and body hair, broad flat noses, and projecting lips of the African; and are diffused over the Andaman Islands, a part of the Malay peninsula, the Philippines, Papua, and some of the neighbouring islands. The Negritos appear to be derived from a mixture of the true Negro with the Australoid type.
The distribution of the Mongolian group in Asia offers no particular difficulty. There is complete present, and probably previous long-existing, geographical continuity in the area over which they are found. There is also considerable similarity Mongolians. of climate and other conditions throughout the northern half of Asia which they occupy. The extension of modified forms of the Mongolian type over the whole American continent may be mentioned as a remarkable circumstance connected with this branch of the human race.
The Mongolians of the northern half of Asia are almost entirely nomadic, hunters and shepherds or herdsmen. The least advanced of these, but far the most peaceful, are those that occupy Siberia. Farther south the best-known tribes are the Manchus, the Mongols proper, the Moguls and the Turks, all known under the name of Tatars, and to the ancients as Scythians, occupying from east to west the zone of Asia comprised between the 40th and 50th circles of N. lat. The Turks are Mahommedans; their tribes extend up the Oxus to the borders of Afghanistan and Persia, and to the Caspian, and under the name of Kirghiz into Russia, and their language is spoken over a large part of western Asia. Their letters are those of Persia. The Manchus and Mongols are chiefly Buddhist, with letters derived from the ancient Syriac. The Manchus are now said to be gradually falling under the influence of Chinese civilization, and to be losing their old nomadic habits, and even their peculiar language. The predatory habits of the Turkish, Mongolian and Manchu population of northern Asia, and their irruptions into other parts of the continent and into Europe, have produced very remarkable results in the history of the world.
The Chinese branch of the Mongolian family are a thoroughly settled people of agriculturists and traders. They are partially Buddhist, and have a peculiar monosyllabic, uninflected language, with writing consisting of symbols, which represent words, not letters.
The countries lying between India and the Mongolian are occupied by populations chiefly of the Mongolian and Chinese type, having languages fundamentally monosyllabic, but using letters derived from India, and adopting their religion, which is almost everywhere Buddhist, from the Indians. Of these may be named the Tibetans, the Burmese and the Siamese. Cochin-China is more nearly Chinese in all respects. It is known that to the Tibeto-Chinese modifications of the pure Mongolian type all the eastern Burmese tribes—Chins, Kachins, Shans, &c.—belong (as indeed do the Burmese themselves), and that a cognate race occupies the Himalaya to the eastern limits of Kashmir.
Some light has been thrown on the connexion between the Tibetan race and certain tribes of central India, the Bhils and Kols; and it seems more probable that these tribes are the remnants of a Mongolian race which first displaced a yet earlier Negroid population, and was then itself shouldered out by a Caucasian irruption, than that they entered India by any of the northern passages within historic times. Mongolian settlements have lately been found very much farther extended into the border countries of north-west India than has been hitherto recognized. The Mingals, who, conjointly with the Brahuis, occupy the hills south of Kalat to the limits of the Rajput province of Las Bela, claim Mongolian descent, and traces of a Mongolian colony have been found in Makran.
The Malays, who occupy the peninsula and most of the islands of the Archipelago called after them, are Mongols apparently modified by their very different climate, and by the maritime life Malays. forced upon them by the physical conditions of the region they inhabit. As they are now known to us, they have undergone a process of partial civilization, first at the hands of the Brahminical Indians, from whom they borrowed a religion, and to some extent literature and an alphabet, and subsequently from intercourse with the Arabs, which has led to the adoption of Mahommedanism by most of them.
The name of Aryan has been given to the races speaking languages derived from, or akin to, the ancient form of Sanskrit, who now occupy the temperate zone extending from the Mediterranean, across the highlands of Asia Minor, Persia and Afghanistan, to Aryans. 749 India. The races speaking the languages akin to the ancient Assyrian, which are now mainly represented by Arabic, have been called Semitic, and occupy the countries south-west of Persia, including Syria and Arabia, besides extending into North Africa. Though the languages of these races are very different they cannot be regarded as physically distinct, and they are both without doubt branches of the Melanochroi, modified by admixture with the neighbouring races, the Mongols, the Australoids and the Xanthochroi.
The Aryans of India are probably the most settled and civilized of all Asiatic races. This type is found in its purest form in the north and north-west, while the mixed races and the population referred to the Australoid type predominate in the peninsula and southern India. The spoken languages of northern India are very various, differing one from another in the sort of degree that English differs from German, though all are thoroughly Sanskritic in their vocables, but with an absence of Sanskrit grammar that has given rise to considerable discussion. The languages of the south are Dravidian, not Sanskritic. The letters of both classes of languages, which also vary considerably, are all modifications of the ancient Pali, and probably derived from the Dravidians, not from the Aryans. They are written from left to right, exception being made of Urdu or Hindostani, the mixed language of the Mahommedan conquerors of northern India, the character used for writing which is the Persian. From the river Sutlej and the borders of the Sind desert, as far as Burma and to Ceylon, the religion of the great bulk of the people of India is Hindu or Brahminical, though the Mahommedans are often numerous, and in some places even in a majority. West of the Sutlej the population of Asia may be said to be wholly Mahommedan with the exception of certain relatively small areas in Asia Minor and Syria, where Christians predominate. The language of the Punjab does not differ very materially from that of Upper India. West of the Indus the dialects approach more to Persian, which language meets Arabic and Turki west of the Tigris, and along the Turkoman desert and the Caspian. Through the whole of this tract the letters are used which are common to Persian, Arabic and Turkish, written from right to left.
Considerable progress has been made in the classification of the various races which occupy the continent to the west of the great Mongolian region. The ancient Sacae, or Scyths, are recognized in the Aryan population, who may be found Racial distribution. in great numbers and in their purest form in the more inaccessible mountains and glens of the central highlands. These Tajiks (as they are usually called) form the underlying population of Persia, Baluchistan, Afghanistan and Badakshan, and their language (in the central districts of Asia) is found to contain words of Aryan or Sanskrit derivation which are not known in Persian. They have been for the most part dispossessed of their country by Turkish immigration and conquests, but they still retain their original intellectual superiority over the Turkish and other mixed tribes by which they are surrounded. Uzbegs and Kirghiz have but small affinity with the Mongol element of Asia. They are the representatives of those countless Turkish irruptions which have taken place through all history. Of the two divisions (Kara Kirghiz and Kassak Kirghiz) into which the Kirghiz tribes are divided by Russian authorities, the Kassak Kirghiz is the more closely allied to the Mongol type; the Kara Kirghiz, who are found principally in the valleys of the Tian-shan and Altai mountains, being unmistakably Turkish. The Kipchaks are only a Kirghiz clan. The language of the Kirghiz is Turki and their religion that of Mahomet. As a nomadic people they have great contempt for the Sarts, who represent the town dwellers of the tribe. The Kalmucks are a Buddhist and Mongolian people who originated in a confederacy of tribes dwelling in Dzungaria, migrated to Siberia, and settled on the Lower Volga. From thence they returned late in the 18th century to the reoccupation of their old ground in Kulja under the Chinese. The Turkoman is the purest form of the Turk element, and his language is the purest form of the Turkish tongue, which is represented at Constantinople by a comparatively mongrel, or mixed, dialect. Ethnographers have traced a connexion between the Turkoman of central Asia and the Teutonic races of Europe, based on a similarity of national customs and immemorial usage. Evidence of an original affinity between Turkoman and Rajput has also been found in the mutual possession by these races of a ruddy skin, so that as ethnographical inquiry advances the Turk appears to recede from his Mongolian affinities and to approach the Caucasian. Turks and Mongols alike were doubtless included under the term Scyth by the ancients, and as Tatars by more modern writers, insomuch that the Turkish dynasty at Delhi, founded by Baber, is usually termed the Mogul dynasty, although there can be no distinction traced between the terms Mogul and Mongol. The general results of recent inquiry into the ethnography of Afghanistan is to support the general correctness of Bellew’s theories of the origin of the Afghan races. The claim of the Durani Afghan to be a true Ben-i-Israel is certainly in no way weakened by any recent investigation. The influence of Greek culture in northern India is fully recognized, and the distribution of Greek colonies previous to Alexander’s time is attested by practical knowledge of the districts they were said to occupy. The habitat of the Nysaeana, and the identity of certain tribes of Kafiristan with the descendants of these pre-Alexandrian colonists from the west, are also well established. To this day hymns are unwittingly sung to Bacchus in the dales and glens of Kafiristan. The ethnographical status of the mixed tribes of the mountains that lie between Chitral and the Peshawar plains has been fairly well fixed by John Biddulph, and much patient inquiry in the vast fields of Baluchistan by Major Mockler, G.P. Tate and others has resulted in quite a new appreciation of the tribal origin of the great conglomeration of Baluch peoples.
The result of trans-border surveys to the north and west of India has been to establish the important geographical fact that it is by two gateways only, one on the north-west and one on the west of India, that the central Asiatic tides of immigration have flowed into the peninsula. The Kabul valley indicates the north-western entrance, and Makran indicates that on the west. By the Kabul valley route, which includes at its head the group of passes across the Hindu Kush which extend from the Khawak to the Kaoshan, all those central Asian hordes, be they Sacae, Yue-chi, Jats, Goths or Huns, who were driven towards the rich plains of the south, entered the Punjab. Some of them migrated from districts which belong to eastern Asia, but none of them penetrated into India by eastern passes. Such tides as set towards the Himalaya broke against their farther buttresses, leaving an interesting ethnographical flotsam in the northern valleys; but they never overflowed the Himalayan barrier. Later most of the historic invasions of India from central Asia followed the route which leads directly from Kabul to Peshawar and Delhi.
By the western gates of Makran prehistoric irruptions from Mesopotamia broke into the plains of Lower Sind, and either passed on towards the central provinces of India or were absorbed in the highlands south of Kalat. In later centuries the Arabs from the west reached the valley of the Indus by their western route, and there established a dynasty which lasted for 300 years. The identification of existing peoples with the various Scythic, Persian and Arab races who have passed from High Asia into the Indian borderland, has opened up a vast field of ethnographical inquiry which has hardly yet found adequate workers for its investigation. To such fields may be added the yet more complicated problems of those reflex waves which flowed backwards from India into the border highlands.(T. H. H.*)
1. The borders assigned to Asia on the west are somewhat arbitrary. The Urals indicate no real division of races, and in both Greek and Turkish times Asia Minor has been connected with the opposite shores of Europe rather than with the lands lying to the east. A juster view of early history is probably obtained by thinking of the countries round the Mediterranean as interacting on one another than by separating Palestine and Asia Minor as Asiatic.
2. The words “Asiatic” and “Oriental” are often used as if they denoted a definite and homogeneous type, but Russians resemble Asiatics in many ways, and Turks, Hindus, Chinese, &c., differ in so many important points that Asiatic characteristics. the common substratum is small. It amounts to this, that Asiatics stand on a higher level than the natives of Africa or America, but do not possess the special material civilization of western Europe. As far as any common mental characteristic can be assigned it is also somewhat negative, namely, that Asiatics have not the same sentiment of independence and freedom as Europeans. Individuals are thought of as members of a family, state or religion, rather than as entities with a destiny and rights of their own. This leads to autocracy in politics, fatalism in religion and conservatism in both. Hence, too, Asiatic history has large and simple outlines. Though longer chronologically than the annals of Europe, it is less eventful, less diversified and offers fewer personalities of interest. But the same conditions which render individual eminence difficult procure for it when once attained a more ready recognition, and the conquerors and prophets of Asia have had more power and authority than their parallels in Europe. Jenghiz Khan and Timur covered more ground than Napoleon, and no European has had such an effect on the world as Mahomet.
3. Attention has often been called to the religious character of Asia. Not only the great religions of the world—Buddhism, Christianity, Islam—but those of secondary importance, such as Judaism, Parseeism, Taoism, are all Religion and civilisation. Asiatic. No European race left to itself has developed any thing more than an unsystematic paganism. It is true that Greek philosophy advanced far beyond this stage, but it produced nothing sufficiently popular to be called a religion. 750 On the other hand Christianity, though Asiatic in its origin and essential ideas, has to a large extent taken its present form on European soil, and some of its most important manifestations— notably the Roman Church—are European reconstructions in which little of the Asiatic element remains. Christianity has made little way farther east then Asia Minor. Modern missions have made no great conquests there, and in earlier times the Nestorians and Jacobites who penetrated to central Asia, China and India, received respectful hearing, but never had anything like the success which attended Buddhism and Islam. Yet Buddhism has never made much impression west of India; and Islam is clearly repugnant to Europeans, for even when under Moslem rule (as in Turkey) they refuse to accept it in a far larger proportion than did the Hindus in similar circumstances. Hence there is clearly a deep-seated difference between the religious feelings of the two continents.
Since Asiatic records go back much farther than those of Europe, it is natural that Asia should be thought the birthplace of civilization. But this originality cannot be absolute, for, whatever may have been the relations of Babylonia and the Aryans, the latter brought civilization to India from the west, and it is not always clear whether similarity of government and institutions is the result of borrowing or of parallel development. Both in Europe and in Asia small feudal or aristocratic states tended to consolidate themselves into monarchies, but whereas in Europe from the early days of Rome onwards royalty has often been driven out and replaced temporarily or permanently by popular government, this change seems not to occur in Asia, where revolution means only a change of dynasty. The few cases where the government is not monarchical, as Arabia, seem to represent the persistence of very ancient conditions.
The contemplation of Asia suggests that progress is most rapid when accompanied by the migration of races or the transplantation of ideas and institutions. Thus Greece excelled the Eastern countries from whom she may have derived her civilization, and Buddhism had a far more brilliant career outside India than in it.
4. In many parts of southern Asia are found semi-barbarous races representing the earliest known stratum of population, such as the Veddahs of Ceylon, and various tribes in China and the Malay Archipelago. Some of them offer General historical outlines. analogies to the Australians. This connexion, if true, must be very ancient, since it apparently goes back to a time when the distribution of land and water was other than at present. In northern Asia are found other aborigines, such as the Ainus of Japan and the so-called hyperborean races (Chukchis, &c.), but no materials are at present forthcoming for their history. There is some record of the migrations of the later races superimposed on these aborigines. The Chinese came from the west, though how far west is unknown: the Hindus and Persians from the north-west: the Burmese and Siamese from the north. We do not know if the Mongols, Turks, &c., had any earlier home than central Asia, but their extensive movements from that region are historical.
The antiquity of Asiatic history is often exaggerated. With the exception of Babylonia and Assyria, we can hardly even conjecture what was the condition of this continent much before 1500 B.C. At that period the Chinese were advancing along the Hwang-ho, and the Aryans were entering India from the north-west. Both were in conflict with earlier races. The influence of Babylonian civilization was probably widespread. Some connexion between Babylonia and China is generally admitted, and all Indian alphabets seem traceable to a Semitic original borrowed in the course of commerce from the Persian Gulf.
Apart from European conquests, the internal history of Asia in the last 2000 years is the result of the interaction of four main influences: (a) Chinese, (b) Indian, (c) Mahommedan, (d) Central Asian. Of these the first three represent different types of civilization: the fourth has little originality, but has been of great importance in affecting the distribution of races and political power.
(a) China has moulded the civilization of the eastern mainland and Japan, without much affecting the Malay Archipelago. In the sphere of direct influence fall Korea, Japan and Annam; in the outer sphere are Mongolia, Tibet, Siam, Cambodia and Burma, where Indian and Chinese influence are combined, the Indian being often the stronger. These countries, except Japan, have all been at some time at least nominal tributaries of China. Where Chinese influence had full play it introduced Confucianism, a special style in art and the Chinese system of writing. After the Christian era it was accompanied by Chinese Buddhism. The cumbrous Chinese script maintains itself in the Far East, but has not advanced west of China proper and Annam.
(b) Indian influence may be defined as Buddhism, if it is understood that Buddhism is not at all periods clearly distinguishable from Hinduism. Its sphere includes Indo-China, much of the Malay Archipelago, Tibet and Mongolia, Moreover, China and Japan themselves may be said to fall within this sphere, in view of the part which Buddhism has played in their development. The Buddhist influence is not merely religious, for it is always accompanied by Indian art and literature, and often by an Indian alphabet. Much of this art is Greek in origin, being derived from the Perso-Greek states on the north-west frontiers of India. Indian alphabets have spread to Tibet, Cambodia, Java and Korea. The history of Indian civilization in Indo-China and the Archipelago is still obscure, in spite of the existence of gigantic ruins, but it would appear that in some parts at least two periods must be distinguished, first the introduction of Hinduism (or mixed Hinduism and Buddhism), perhaps under Indian princes, and secondly a later and more purely ecclesiastical introduction of Sinhalese Buddhism, with its literature and art.
(c) Mahommedanism or Islam is perhaps the greatest transforming force which the world has seen. It has profoundly affected and to a large extent subjugated all western Asia including India, all eastern and northern Africa as well as Spain, and all eastern Europe. Its open advocacy of force attracts warlike races, and the intensity of its influence is increased by the fusion of secular and religious power, so that the Moslem Church is a Moslem state characterized by slavery, polygamy, and, subject to the autocracy of the ruler, by the theoretical equality of Moslems, who in political status are superior to non-Moslems. Thus, whenever the population of a Moslem country is of mixed belief, a ruling caste of Moslems is formed, as in Turkey at the present day and India under the Moguls. Islam is paramount in Turkey, Persia, Arabia and Afghanistan. India is the dividing line: Islam is strong in northern and central India, weaker in the south. But only one-fifth of the whole population is Moslem. Beyond India it has spread to Malacca and the Malay Archipelago, where it overwhelmed Hindu civilization, and reached the southern Philippines. But it made no progress in Indo-China or Japan; and though there is a large Moslem population in China the Chinese influence has been stronger, for alone of all Asiatics the Chinese have succeeded in forcing Islam to accept the ordinary limitations of a religion and to take its place as a creed parallel to Buddhism or any other.
Even more than Buddhism Islam has carried with it a special style of art and civilization. It is usually accompanied by the use of the Arabic alphabet, and in the languages of Moslem nations (notably Turkish, Persian, Hindustani and Malay) a large proportion of the vocabulary is borrowed from Arabic. Hindi and Hindustani, two forms of the same language as spoken by Hindus and Mahommedans respectively, are a curious example of how deeply religion may affect culture.
(d) The great part which central Asian tribes have played in history is obscured by the absence of any common name for them. Linguistically they can be divided into several groups such as Turks, Mongols and Huns, but they were from time to time united into states representing more than one group, and their armies were recruited, like the Janissaries, from all the military races in the neighbourhood. Soon after the Christian era central Asia began to boil over, and at least seven great invasions and more or less complete conquests can be ascribed to these tribes without counting minor movements, (i.) The early invasions of Europe by the Avars, Huns and Bulgarians. 751 (ii.) The invasion and temporary subjection of Russia by the Mongols, who penetrated as far west as Silesia, (iii.) The conquests of Timur. (iv.) The conquest of Asia Minor and eastern Europe by the Turks. (v.) The conquest of India by the Moguls. (vi.) The conquest of China by the Mongols under Kublai. (vii.) The later conquest of China by the Manchus. To these may be added numerous lesser invasions of India, China and Persia.
These tribes have a genius for warfare rather than for government, art or literature, and with few exceptions (e.g. the Moguls in India) have proved poor administrators. Apart from conquest their most important function has been to keep up communications in central Asia, and to transport religions and civilizations from one region to another. Thus they are mainly responsible for the introduction of Islam with its Arabic or Persian civilization into India and Europe, and in earlier times their movements facilitated the infiltration of Graeco-Bactrian civilization into India, besides maintaining communication between China and the West.
5. Babylonia and Assyria.—The movements mentioned above have been the chief factors of relatively modern Asiatic history, but in early times the centre of activity and culture lay farther west, in Babylonia and Assyria. These ancient states began to decline in the 7th century B.C., and on their ruins rose the Persian empire, which with various political metamorphoses continued to be an important power till the 7th century A.D., after which all western Asia was overwhelmed by the Moslem wave, and old landmarks and kingdoms were obliterated.
The materials for the study of their institutions and population are abundant, but lend themselves to discussion rather than to a summary of admitted facts. In the early history of south-western Asia the Semites form the most important ethnic group, which is primarily linguistic but also shares other remarkable characteristics. Two of the greatest religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, are Semitic in origin, as well as Judaism. In politics these races have been less successful in modern times, but the Semitic states of Babylonia and Assyria were once the principal centres for the development and distribution of civilization. It is generally agreed that this civilization can be traced back to an earlier race, the Sumero-Akkadians, whose language seems allied to the agglutinative idioms of central Asia. If this ancient civilized race was really allied to the ancestors of the Turks and Huns, it is a remarkable instance of how civilization thrives best by being transplanted at a certain period of growth. Still less is known of the early non-Aryan races of Asia Minor such as the Hittites and Alorodians. One hypothesis supposes that the shores of the Mediterranean were originally inhabited by a homogeneous race neither Aryan nor Semitic.
The earliest Sumerian records seem to be anterior to 4000 B.C. Shortly after that period Babylonia was invaded by Semites, who became the ruling race. The city of Babylon came to the fore as metropolis about 2285 B.C. under Khammurabi. Assyria was an offshoot of Babylonia lying to the north-west, and apparently colonized before the second millennium. While using the same language as the Babylonians, the Assyrians had an individuality which showed itself in art and religion. In the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. they became the chief power within their sphere and the suzerain of their parent Babylon. But they succumbed before the advance of the Medo-Persian power in 606 B.C., whereas it was not till 555 that Cyrus took Babylon. Assyria, being essentially a military power, disappeared with the destruction of Nineveh, but Babylon continued to exercise an influence on culture and religion for many centuries after the Persian conquest.
6. China.—This is the oldest of existing states, though its authentic history does not go back much beyond 1000 B.C. It is generally admitted that there was some connexion between the ancient civilizations of China and Babylonia, but its precise nature is still uncertain. It is clear, however, that the Chinese came from the west, and entered their present territory along the course of the Hwang-ho at an unknown period, possibly about 3000 B.C. In early historical times China consisted of a shifting confederacy of feudal states, but about 220 B.C. the state of Tsin or Chin (whence the name China) came into prominence, and succeeded in forming a homogeneous empire, which advanced considerably towards the south. The subsequent history of China is mainly a record of struggles with various tribes, commonly, but not very correctly, called Tatars. The empire was frequently broken up by successful incursions, or divided between rival dynasties, but at least twice became a great Asiatic power: under the Han dynasty (about 200 B.C.-A.D. 220), and the T’ang (A.D. 618-906). The dominions of the latter extended across central Asia to northern India, but were dismembered by the attacks of the Kitans, whence the name Cathay. China proper, minus these external provinces, was again united under the Sung dynasty (960-1127), but split into the northern (Tatar) and southern (Chinese) kingdoms. In the 13th century arose the Mongol power, and Kublai Khan conquered China. The Mongol dynasty lasted less than a century, but the Ming, the native Chinese dynasty which succeeded it, reigned for nearly 300 years and despatched expeditions which reached India, Ceylon and East Africa. In 1644 the Ming succumbed to the attacks of the Manchus, a northern tribe who captured Peking and founded the present imperial house.
Until the advent of Europeans, the Chinese were always in contact with inferior races. Whether they expanded at the expense of weak aboriginal tribes or were conquered by more robust invaders, Chinese civilization prevailed and assimilated alike the conquered and the conquerors. It is largely to this that we must ascribe the national conservatism and contempt for foreigners. The spirit of the Chinese polity is self-contained, anti-military and anti-sacerdotal. Rank is nominally determined by merit, as tested by competitive examinations. Society is conceived as regulated by mutual obligations, of which the duties of parents and children are the most important. The emperor is head of the state and the high priest, who sacrifices to Heaven on behalf of his people, but he can be deposed, and no divine right is inherent in certain families as in Japan and Turkey. On the contrary there have been 20 dynasties since the Christian era.
The most conspicuous figure in Chinese literature is Confucius (551-475 B.C.). Though he laid no claim to originality and merely sought to collect and systematize the traditions of antiquity, his influence in the Far East has been unbounded, and he must be pronounced one of the most powerful advocates of peace and humanity that have ever existed. Confucianism is an ethical rather than a religious system, and hence was able to co-exist, though not on very friendly terms, with Buddhism, which reached China about the 1st century A.D. and was the chief source of Chinese religious ideas, except the older ancestor worship. But they are not a religious people, and like many Europeans regard the church as a department of the state.
7. Japan appears to have been formerly inhabited by the Ainus, who have traditions of an older but unknown population, but was invaded in prehistoric times by a race akin to the Koreans, which was possibly mingled with Malay elements after occupying the southern part of the islands. Authentic history does not begin till about the 6th century A.D., when Chinese civilization and Buddhism were introduced. The government was originally autocratic, but as early as the 7th century the most characteristic feature of Japanese politics—the power of great families who overshadowed the throne—makes its appearance. We hear first of the Fujiwara family, and then of the rivalry between the houses of Taira and Minamoto. The latter prevailed, and in 1192 established the dual system of government under which the emperor or Mikado ruled only in name, and the real power was in the hands of a hereditary military chief called Shogun. Japan has never been invaded in historical times, but an attempt made by Kublai Khan to conquer it was successfully repulsed. The chief power then passed to the Ashikaga dynasty of Shoguns, who retained it for about 200 years and were distinguished for their patronage of the arts. The second half of the 16th century was a period of ferment and anarchy, marked by the arrival of the Portuguese 752 and the rise of some remarkable adventurers, one of whom, Hideyoshi, conquered Korea and apparently meditated the invasion of China. His plans were interrupted by his death, and his successor, Ieyasu, who shaped the social and political life of Japan for nearly 300 years (1603-1868), definitely decided on a policy of seclusion and isolation. All ideas of external conquest were abandoned, Christianity was forbidden, and Japan closed to foreigners, only the Dutch being allowed a strictly limited commerce. In 1854-1859 the Christian powers, beginning with the United States, successfully asserted their right to trade with Japan. The influx of new ideas provoked civil war, in which the already decadent Shogunate was abolished and the authority of the Mikado restored. Recognizing that their only chance of competing with Europeans was to fight them with their own weapons, the Japanese set themselves deliberately to assimilate the material civilization and to some extent the institutions of Europe, such as constitutional government. Their progress and success are without parallel. In 1895 they defeated the Chinese and ten years later the Russians. Their exceptional status among Asiatic nations has been recognized by treaties which, contrary to the general practice in non-Christian countries, place all foreigners in Japan under Japanese law.
This sudden development of the Japanese is perhaps the most important event of the second half of the 19th century, since it marks the rise of an Asiatic power capable of competing with Europe on equal terms. Their history is so different from that of the rest of Asia that it is not surprising if the result is different. The nation hardly came into existence till China and India had passed their prime, and remained secluded and free from the continual struggle against barbarian invaders, which drained the energies of its neighbours. It was left untouched by Mahommedanism, and for an unprecedentedly long period kept Europeans at bay without wasting its strength in hostilities. The military spirit was evolved, not in raids and massacres of the usual Asiatic type which create little but intense racial hatred, but in feuds between families and factions of the same race, which restrained ferocity and tended to create a temper like that of the feudal chivalry of Europe. On the other hand it is noticeable that the Japanese have little which is original in the way of religion, literature or philosophy. Unlike the Chinese and Indians, they have hitherto not had the smallest influence on the intellectual development of Asia, and though they have in the past sometimes shown themselves intensely nationalist and conservative, they have, compared with India and China, so little which is really their own that their assimilation of foreign ideas is explicable.
8. Korea received its civilization and religion from China, but differs in language, and to some extent in customs. An alphabet derived from Indian sources is in use as well as Chinese writing. The country was at most periods independent though nominally tributary to China. In the 16th century the Japanese occupied it for a short period, and in 1894 they went to war with China on account of her claims to suzerainty. In 1895 Korea was declared independent.
9. India.—The population of India comprises at least three strata: firstly, uncivilized aborigines, such as the Kols and Santhals, and secondly, the Dravidians (Tamils, Kanarese, &c.), who perhaps represent the earliest northern invaders, and appear to have attained some degree of culture on their own account. The most recent authorities are of opinion that the Kolarians and Dravidians represent a single physical type; but, whatever the historical explanation may be, they certainly have different languages and show different stages of civilization. In prehistoric times they were spread over the whole of India, but were driven to the centre and south of the peninsula by the third stratum of Aryans, and perhaps also by invasions of so-called Mongolian races from the north-west. No historical record has been preserved of these latter, but they appear to have profoundly affected the population of Bengal, which is believed to be Mongolo-Dravidian in composition. The Aryans appear to have been settled to the north of the Hindu Kush, and to have migrated south-eastwards about 1500 B.C. Their original home has been a subject of much discussion, but the view now prevalent is that they arose in southern Russia or Asia Minor, whence a section spread eastwards and divided into two closely related branches—the Hindus and Iranians. There were probably two successive Aryan immigrations, and the tradition of a struggle between them may be preserved in the Mahābhārata. The life of the ancient Aryans, as portrayed in their sacred songs, the Rig Veda, was quasi-nomadic and in many ways democratic, but by the 6th century B.C. settled states had been formed in the Ganges valley. They were absolute monarchies, but the power of the king was tempered by the extraordinary influence possessed by the hereditary sacerdotal class or Brahmans. The position of this class, which has remained till the present day, is connected with the institution of caste, a division of the population into groups founded partly on racial distinctions. The peaceful progress of Brahmanism was hindered by the doctrine of the Indian prince Gotama, called the Buddha, which grew into one of the greatest religions of the world. For many centuries the culture and development of the Hindus depended mainly on the interaction of the old Brahmanical religion and Buddhism. The latter was finally absorbed, and disappeared in India itself, but has spread Indian influence over the whole of eastern Asia, where it still flourishes.
In 326 B.C. Alexander invaded the Punjab. The immediate result was small, but the establishment of Perso-Greek kingdoms in central Asia had a powerful influence on Indian art and culture. It may also have helped to familiarize the Hindu mind with the idea of an empire, which appeared among them later than in other Asiatic countries. The first empire, called Maurya, reached its greatest extent in the time of Asoka (264-227 B.C.), who ruled from Afghanistan to Madras. He was a zealous Buddhist and gave the first example of a missionary religion, for by his exertions the faith was spread over all India and Ceylon. No Hindu empires have lasted long, and the Maurya dominions broke up fifty years after his death.
In the next period (c. 150 B.C.-A.D. 300) India was invaded from the north by tribes partly of Parthian and partly of Turki (Yue-chi, &c.) origin. Owing to the absence of dated records, the chronology of these invasions has not yet been set beyond dispute, but the most important was that of the Kushans, whose king Kanishka founded a state which comprised northern India and Kashmir. They were Buddhists, and it is probable that the Mahayana or northern form of Buddhism was due to an amalgamation of Gotama’s doctrines with the ideas (largely Greek and Persian) which they brought with them. Much of Sivaism has probably the same origin. Another native empire, known as Gupta, rose on the ruins of the Kushan kingdom, and embraced nearly the whole peninsula, but it broke up in the 5th century, partly owing to the attacks of new northern invaders, the Huns. The Malava dynasty maintained Hindu civilization in the 6th century, and from 606 to 646 Harsha established a brief but brilliant empire in the north with its capital at Kanauj. This epoch is marked by the renaissance of Sanskrit literature and the gradual revival of Hinduism at the expense of Buddhism. But after Harsha Hindu history is lost in a maze of small and transitory states, incapable of resisting the ever advancing Mahommedan peril. As early as 712 the Arabs conquered Sind, and by the end of the 11th century the whole of northern India was in Moslem hands. Two periods may be distinguished, namely the Turki (1200-1526) and the Mogul empire. The former comprised several dynasties of mixed Turki and Iranian race, but was wanting in coherency. In the neighbourhood of the Moslem capitals, Islam spread rapidly, but in such districts as Rajputana and specially Vijayanagar (Mysore) Hindu civilization and religion maintained themselves.
In 1526 the Moguls descended on India from Transoxiana and seized the throne of Delhi. They never subjugated the south, but the empire which they founded in the north was for about two centuries, under such rulers as Akbar and Shah Jehan, one of the most brilliant which Asia has seen. After 1707 it began to decline: the governors became independent: a powerful 753 Mahratta confederacy arose in central India; Nadir Shah of Persia sacked Delhi; and Ahmed Shah made repeated invasions. A still more formidable danger, the power of the French and English, continued to increase. Amidst such confusion the authority of the Mogul empire rapidly disappeared, but it lasted as a name till the Mutiny (1857).
Indian history until Mahommedan times is marked by the unusual prominence of religious ideas, and is a record of intellectual development rather than of political events. Whatever national unity the Hindu peoples possessed came from the persistent and penetrating influence of the Brahman caste. Kings held a secondary position, and were generally regarded as adventitious tyrants, rather than as the heads and representatives of the nation. Even the great dynasties have left few traces, and it is with difficulty that the patient historian disinters the minor kingdoms from obscurity, but Indian religion, literature and art have influenced all Asia from Persia to Japan.
10. Persia.—The Persians, with whom are often coupled the Medes, appear to be pure Aryans in origin, and the earliest form of their language and religion offers remarkable analogies to the Vedas. It is reasonable to suppose that their ancestors and those of the Hindus at one time formed a single tribe somewhere in central Asia. The religion was remodelled by Zoroaster, who seems to be a historical character and to have lived about the 7th century B.C. About the same time they shook off the domination of Assyria. From the 6th century onwards their empire, then known as Median, began to expand at the expense of the surrounding states. They destroyed Nineveh in alliance with the Babylonians, and half a century later Cyrus took Babylon and founded the great dynasty of the Achaemenidae. The substitution of the Persian for the Median power, which took place with the advent of Cyrus, seems to indicate merely the pre-eminence of a particular tribe and not conquest by another race. The power of the Achaemenidae, when at its maximum, extended from the Oxus and Indus in the east to Thrace in the west and Egypt in the south, but fell before Greece, after lasting for rather more than 200 years. Darius and Xerxes were repulsed in their efforts to subjugate the Greek Peninsula, and Alexander the Great conquered their successor Darius III. in 329. But the greater part of the empire continued to exist under new masters, the Seleucids, as a Hellenistic power which was of great importance for the dissemination of Greek culture in the East. Bactria soon became independent under an Indo-Greek dynasty, and the blending of Greek, Persian, central Asiatic and Hindu influences had an important effect on the art and religion of India, and through India on all eastern Asia. About the same period (250 B.C.-A.D. 227) the Parthian empire arose under the Arsacids in Khorasan and the adjacent districts. The Parthians appear to have been a Turanian tribe who had adopted many Persian customs. They successfully withstood the Romans, and at one time their power extended from India to Syria. They succumbed to the Persian dynasty of the Sassanids, who ruled successfully for about four centuries, established the Zoroastrian faith as their state religion, and maintained a creditable conflict with the East Roman empire. But in the 7th century they were defeated by Heraclius, and shortly afterwards were annihilated before the first impetus of the Mahommedan conquest, which established Islam in Persia and the neighbouring lands, sweeping away old civilizations and boundaries. During the greater part of the Mahommedan period Persia has been ruled by troubled and short-lived dynasties. It attained a certain dignity and unity under Abbas Shah (1585-1628), but in later times was distracted and disorganized by Afghan invasions. The present dynasty, which is of Turkoman origin, dates from 1789.
The achievements of the Persians in art, literature and religion are by no means contemptible, but somewhat mixed and cosmopolitan. Owing to its position, the Persian state, when it from time to time became a conquering empire, overlapped Asia Minor, Babylon and India, and hence acted as an intermediary for transmitting art and ideas, sending for instance Greek sculpture to India and the cult of Mithra to western Europe. It is perhaps on account of this intermediate flavour that the literature of Persia—for instance the adaptations of Omar Khayyam—is more appreciated in Europe than that of other Oriental nations. On the other hand, the wars between Persia and Greece were recognized both at the time and afterwards as a struggle between Europe and Asia; the fact that both combatants were Aryans was not felt, and has no importance compared to the difference of continent.
11. Jews.—The Israelites appear to have been originally a nomadic tribe akin to the Arabs, whom they resemble in their want of political instinct and in their extraordinary religious genius. Among many remarkable qualities they have been distinguished from the earliest times by a species of commensalism, or power of living among other nations without becoming either socially merged or politically distinct. Their traditional history represents them as migrating to the borders of Egypt and living there for some centuries. After the exodus, which perhaps took place about 1300 B.C., they moved northwards again and founded a state of modest dimensions, which attained a short-lived unity under Solomon, but succumbed to internal dissensions and to the attacks of Assyria and Babylon. Shalmanezer destroyed the northern kingdom or Israel in 720, and following the practice of the times deported the majority of the population, whose traces became lost to history. There is no reason why their descendants should not be found to-day in various tribes, but the physical type commonly called Jewish is characteristic not so much of Israel as of western Asia generally. In 588 Nebuchadnezzar carried off the Jews in captivity, but after the Persian conquest of Babylonia they were allowed to return to Palestine in 538. Their institutions and ideas were probably considerably modified during this period. Babylon long continued to be a Jewish centre whence the Jews radiated to other countries. The restored state of Jerusalem lived for about six centuries in partial independence under Persian, Egyptian, Syrian and Roman rule, often showing an aggressively heroic attachment to its national customs, which brought it into collision with its suzerains, until the temple was destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70, and the country laid waste in the succeeding years. But long before this period the Jews of the Dispersion had become as important as the inhabitants of Palestine. From choice or compulsion large numbers settled in Egypt in the time of the Ptolemies, and added an appreciable element to Alexandrine culture, while gradual voluntary emigration established Jewish communities in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy, who facilitated the first spread of Christianity. In spite of chronic unpopularity and recurring persecutions they have spread over nearly all Europe. At the end of the 13th century they were expelled from Spain and many of the exiles moved eastwards. At present the largest numbers are to be found in the eastern parts of Europe. It is remarkable that though the Jews live in relative peace with Asiatics, the great majority of them prefer Europe as a residence.
12. Arabs.—The Arabs have hardly any history before the rise of Islam, although their name is mentioned by surrounding nations from the 9th century B.C. onwards. They appear to have had few states or kings, but rather tribes and chiefs. Their relationship to the Babylonians and Jews is indicated by linguistic and ethnological data. The language and writing of the Semites who, at an unknown period, settled in what is now Abyssinia, show affinities with those of South Arabia, and these Semites may have been immigrants into Africa from that region. It is plain from early Moslem literature that Persian, Christian and especially Jewish ideas had penetrated into Arabia.
With the rise of Mahommedanism occurred a sudden effervescence of the Arabs, who during some centuries threatened to impose not only their political authority but their civilization and new religion on the whole known world. They successfully invaded India and central Asia in the east, Spain and Morocco in the west. The Caliphate under the Omayyads of Damascus, and then the Abbasids of Bagdad, became the principal power in the nearer East. It had not, however, a sufficiently coherent organization for permanence; parts of it became independent, 754 others were first protected and then absorbed by the Turks. The Arab rule in Spain, which once threatened to overwhelm Europe and was turned back near Tours by Charles Martel, was distinguished by its tolerance and civilization, and lingered on till the 15th century.
The collapse of the political power of the Arabs was singularly complete. The Caliphate, though Arabian, was always geographically outside Arabia, and on its fall Arabia remained as it was before Islam, isolated and inaccessible. It is still one of the least known parts of the globe, and has hardly any political link with the outside, for the Arabs of northern Africa form separate states. But in spite of this total political collapse, Arabic religion and literature are still one of the greatest forces working in the western half of Asia, in northern Africa and to some extent in eastern Europe.
13. Ceylon, though geographically an annex of India, has not followed its fortunes historically. According to tradition it was invaded by an Aryan-speaking colony from the valley of the Ganges in the 6th century B.C. It received Buddhism from north India in the time of Asoka, and has had considerable importance as a centre of religious culture which has influenced Burma and Siam. Its medieval history consists of struggles between the native sovereigns and Tamil invaders. A powerful native dynasty reigned in the 12th century, but in 1408 the island was attacked by Chinese, and from 1505 onwards it was distracted by the attacks and squabbles of Europeans. It was partially subjugated, first by the Portuguese and then by the Dutch. In 1796 the Dutch were expelled by the English.
14. Indo-China.—This is an appropriate name for Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Annam, &c., for both in position and in civilization they lie between India and China. Indian influence is predominant as far as Cambodia (though with a Chinese tinge), Indian alphabets being employed and the Buddhism being of the Sinhalese type, but in Annam and Tongking the Chinese script and many Chinese institutions are in use. The population belongs to various races, and also comprises little-known wild tribes, (i.) Languages of the group known as Mōn-Annam are spoken in Annam and in Pegu, an ancient kingdom originally distinct from Burma though now confounded with it. This distribution seems to indicate that they once spread over the whole region, and were divided by the later advance of the Siamese and others. Until Annam was taken by the French, its history consisted of a struggle with the Chinese, who alternately asserted and lost their sovereignty. The Annamese are, however, a distinct race. Cochin China was once the seat of a kingdom called Champa, which appears to have had a hinduized Malay civilization and to have been subsequently absorbed by Annam. (ii.) The Burmese are linguistically allied to the Tibetans, and probably entered Burma from the north-west. The early history consists largely of conflicts between the Burmese and Talaings. The kingdom which was annexed by Britain in 1885 was founded about 1750 by Alompra, who united his countrymen and broke the power of the Talaings. He also invaded Siam. (iii.) The Khmers or Cambodians, whose languages appear to belong to the Mōn-Annam group, form a relatively ancient kingdom, much reduced in the last few centuries by the advance of the Siamese and new a French protectorate. Remarkable ruins dating from perhaps A.D. 800 to 1000 attest the former prevalence of strong Hindu influence, (iv.) The Siamese or Thai, who speak a monosyllabic language of the Chinese type, but written in an Indian alphabet, represent a late invasion from southern China, whence they descended about the 13th century.
15. Malays.—This widely-scattered race has no political union and its distribution is a puzzle for ethnography. At present it occupies the extremity of the Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, the Philippines and other islands of the Malay Archipelago as well as Madagascar, while the inhabitants of most islands in the South Seas, including New Zealand and Hawaii, speak languages which if not Malay have at least undergone a strong Malay influence. It would seem from this distribution that the Malays are not continental, but a seafaring race with exceptional powers of dispersal, who have spread over the ocean from some island centre—perhaps Java. The latest theory, however, is that there is a great linguistic group (which may or may not prove to correspond to an ethnic unity) comprising the Mundā, Mōnkhmer, Malay, Polynesian and Micronesian languages, and that the stream of immigration which distributed them started from the extreme west. Three periods can be traced in the history of the Asiatic Malays. In the first (in which such tribes as the Dyaks have remained) they were semi-barbarous. In the second, Hindu civilization reached the Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatra and other islands. The presence of Hindu ruins, as well as of numerous Indian words and customs, testifies to the strength of this influence. It was, however, superseded by Islam, which spread to the Malay Archipelago and Peninsula before the 16th century. At the present time the Arabic alphabet is used on the mainland, but Indian alphabets in Java, Sumatra, &c.
16. Tibet.—This remote and mountainous country has a peculiar civilization. It has entirely escaped Islam, and though it is a nominal vassal of China, direct Chinese influence has not been strong. The most striking feature is the religion, a corrupt form of late Indian Buddhism, known as Lamaism, which, largely in consequence of the favour shown by Jenghiz Khan and his successors, has attained temporal power and developed into an ecclesiastical state curiously like the papacy.
17. Mongols.—Such civilization as the Mongols possess is a mixture of Chinese and Indian, the latter derived chiefly through Tibet, but their alphabet is a curious instance of transplantation. It is an adaptation of the Syriac writing introduced by the early Nestorian missionaries.
18. Almost all Asiatic countries have a literature, but it is often not indigenous and consists of foreign works, chiefly religious, read either in translations or the original. Thus with the exception of a little folklore the literature Literature, art, science. of Indo-China, Tibet, Mongolia, Korea and Manchuria is mainly Indian or Chinese. The chief original literatures are Chinese, Sanskrit, Pali, Arabic and Persian. The Japanese have produced few books of importance, and their compositions are chiefly remarkable as being lighter and more secular than is usual in Asia, but the older Chinese works take high rank both for their merits and the effect they have had. The extensive Sanskrit literature, which has reached in translations China, Japan and Java, is chiefly theological and poetical, history being conspicuously absent. India has also a considerable medieval and modern literature in various languages. Pali, though only a form of Hindu literature, has a separate history, for it died in India and was preserved in Ceylon, whence it was imported to Burma and Siam as the language of religion. The Pali versions of Buddha’s discourses are among the most remarkable products of Asia. The literatures of all Moslem peoples are largely inspired by Arabic, which has produced a voluminous collection of works in prose and poetry. Persian, after being itself transformed by Arabic, has in its turn largely influenced all west Asiatic Moslem literature from Hindustani to Turkish.
If one excepts the Old Testament, which is a product of the extreme west of Asia, it is remarkable how small has been the influence of Asiatic literature on Europe. Though Greek and Slavonic almost ceased to be written languages under Turkish rule, Europeans showed no disposition to replace them by Ottoman or Arabic literature.
Without counting subdivisions there would seem to be three main schools of art in Asia at present—Chinese, Indian and Moslem. The first contains many original elements. It is feeblest in architecture and strongest in the branches demanding skill and care in a limited compass, such as painting, porcelain and enamel. It is the main inspiration of Japanese art, which, however, shows great originality in its treatment of borrowed themes. Both China and Japan have felt through Buddhism the influence of Indian art, which contains at least two elements—one indigenous and the other Greco-Persian. Unlike Chinese art it has a genius for architecture and sculpture rather than painting. Mahommedan art is also largely architectural and has affected 755 nearly all Moslem countries. Except that the use of Arabic inscriptions is one of its principal methods of decoration, it owes little to Arabia and much to Byzantium. The Persian variety of this art is more ornate, and less averse to representations of living beings. Both Moslem and Chinese art are closely connected with calligraphy, but Hindus rarely use writing for ornament.
In both art and literature modern Asia is inferior to the past more conspicuously than Europe.
As for science, astronomy was cultivated by the Babylonians at an early period, and it is probably from them that a knowledge of the heavenly bodies and their movements spread over Asia. Grammar and prosody were studied in India with a marvellous accuracy and minuteness several centuries before Christ. Mathematics were cultivated by the Chinese, Indians and Arabs, but nearly all the sciences based on the observation of nature, including medicine, have remained in a very backward condition. Much the same, however, might have been said of Europe until two centuries ago, and the scientific knowledge of the Arabs under the earlier Caliphates was equal or superior to that of any of their contemporaries. Histories and accounts of travels have been composed both in Arabic and Chinese.
19. It is only natural that Europe should have chiefly felt the influence of western Asia. Though Europeans may be indebted to China for some mechanical inventions, she was too distant to produce much direct effect, and the Influence of Asia on other continents. influence of India has been mainly directed towards the East. The resemblances between primitive Christianity and Buddhism appear to be coincidences, and though both early Greek philosophy and later Alexandrine ideas suggest Indian affinities, there is no clear connexion such as there is between certain aspects of Chinese thought and India.
Any general statement as to the debt owed by early European civilizations to western Asia would at present be premature, for though important discoveries have been made in Crete and Babylonia the best authorities are chary of positive conclusions as to the relations of Cretan civilization to Egypt and Babylonia. Egyptian influence within the Aegean area seems certain, and the theory that Greek writing and systems for reckoning time are Babylonian in origin has not been disproved, though the history of the alphabet is more complex than was supposed.
In historic times Asia has attempted to assert her influence over Europe by a series of invasions, most of which have been repulsed. Such were the Persian wars of Greece, and perhaps one may add Hannibal’s invasion of Italy, if the Carthaginians were Phoenicians transplanted to Africa. The Roman empire kept back the Persians and Parthians, but could not prevent a series of incursions by Avars, Huns, Bulgarians, and later by Mongols and Turks. Islam has twice obtained a footing in Europe, under the Arabs in Spain and under the Turks at Constantinople. The earlier Asiatic invasions were conducted by armies operating at a distance from their bases, and had little result, for the soldiery retired after a time (like Alexander from India), or more rarely (e.g. the Bulgarians) settled down without keeping up any connexion with Asia. The Turks, and to some extent the Arabs in Spain, were successful because they first conquered the parts of Asia and Africa adjoining Europe, so that the final invaders were in touch with Asiatic settlements. Though the Turks have profoundly affected the whole of eastern Europe, the result of their conquests has been not so much to plant Asiatic culture in Europe as to arrest development entirely, the countries under their rule remaining in much the same condition as under the moribund Byzantine empire.
In general, Europe has in historic times shown itself decidedly hostile to Asiatic institutions and modes of thought. It is only of recent years that the writings of Schopenhauer and the researches of many distinguished orientalists have awakened some interest in Asiatic philosophy.
The influence of Asia on Africa has been considerable, and until the middle of the 10th century greater than that of Europe. Some authorities hold that Egyptian civilization came from Babylonia, and that the so-called Hamitic languages are older and less specialized members of the Semitic family. The connexion between Carthage and Phoenicia is more certain, and the ancient Abyssinian kingdom was founded by Semites from south Arabia. The traditions of the Somalis derive them from the same region. The theory that the ruins in Mashonaland were built by immigrants from south Arabia is now discredited, but there was certainly a continuous stream of Arab migration to East Africa which probably began in pre-Moslem times and founded a series of cities on the coast. The whole of the north of Africa from Egypt to Morocco has been mahommedanized, and Mahommedan influence is general and fairly strong from Timbuktu to Lake Chad and Wadai. South of the equator, Arab slave-dealers penetrated from Zanzibar to the great lakes and the Congo during the second and third quarters of the 19th century, but their power, though formidable, has disappeared without leaving any permanent traces.
The relation to Asia of the pre-European civilizations of America is another of those questions which admit of no definite answer at present, though many facts support the theory that the semi-civilized inhabitants of Mexico and Central America crossed from Asia by Bering Straits and descended the west coast. Some authorities hold that Peruvian civilization had no connexion with the north and was an entirely indigenous product, but Kechua is in structure not unlike the agglutinative languages of central and northern Asia.
20. European influence on Asia has been specially strong at two epochs, firstly after the conquests of Alexander the Great, and secondly from the 16th century onwards. Alexander’s conquests resulted in the foundation of Influence of Europe on Asia. Perso-Greek kingdoms in Asia, which not only hellenized their own area but influenced the art and religion of India and to some extent of China. Then follows a long period in which eastern Europe was mainly occupied in combating Asiatic invasions, and had little opportunity of Europeanizing the East. Somewhat later the Crusades kept up communication with the Levant, and established there the power of the Roman Church, somewhat to the detriment of oriental Christianity, but intercourse with farther Asia was limited to the voyages of a few travellers. Looking at eastern Europe and western Asia only, one must say that Asiatic influences have on the whole prevailed hitherto (though perhaps the tide is turning), for Islam is paramount in this region and European culture at a low ebb. But the case is quite different if one looks at the two continents as a whole, for improvement in means of communication has brought about strange vicissitudes, and western Europe has asserted her power in middle and eastern Asia.
In the 16th century a new era began with the discovery by the Portuguese of the route to India round the Cape, and the naval powers of Europe started one after another on careers of oriental conquest. The movement was maritime and affected the nations in the extreme west of Europe rather than those nearer Asia, who were under the Turkish yoke. Also the parts of Asia affected were chiefly India and the extreme East. The countries west of India, being less exposed to naval invasion, remained comparatively untouched. It will thus be seen that European (excluding Russian) power in Asia is based almost entirely on improved navigation. There was no attempt to overwhelm whole empires by pouring into them masses of troops, but commerce was combined with territorial acquisition, and a continuity of European interest secured by the presence of merchants and settlers. The course of oriental conquest followed the events of European politics, and the possessions of European powers in the East generally changed hands according to the fortunes of their masters at home. Portugal was first on the scene, and in the 16th century established a considerable littoral empire on the coasts of East Africa, India and China, fragments of which still remain, especially Goa, where Portuguese influence on the natives was considerable. Before the century was out the Dutch appeared as the successful rivals of the Portuguese, but the real struggle for supremacy in southern Asia took place between France and England about 1740-1783. Both entered India as commercial companies, but the disorganized condition of the Mogul empire necessitated the use 756 of military force to protect their interests, and allured them to conquest. The companies gradually undertook the financial control of the districts where they traded and were recognized by the natives as political powers. The ultimate victory of England seems due less to any particular aptitude for dealing with oriental problems than to a better command of the seas and to considerations of European politics. At the end of the Napoleonic wars Portugal had Macao and Goa, Holland Java, Sumatra and other islands, France some odds and ends in India, while England emerged with Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon and a free hand in India. Guided by such administrators as Warren Hastings, the East India Company had assumed more and more definitely the functions of government for a great part of India. In 1809 its exclusive trading rights were taken away by Parliament, but its administrative status was thus made clearer, and when after the mutiny of 1857 it was desirable to define British authority in India there seemed nothing unnatural in declaring it to be a possession of the crown.
Another category of European possessions in Asia comprises those acquired towards the end of the 19th century, such as Indo-China (France), Burma and Wei-Hai-Wei (Britain), and Kiao-Chow (Germany). Whereas the earlier conquests were mostly the results of large half-conscious national movements working out their destinies in the East, these later ones were annexations deliberately planned by European cabinets. It seemed to be assumed that Asia was to be divided among the powers of Europe, and each was anxious to get its share or more.
The advance of Russia in Asia is entirely different from that of the other powers, since it has taken place by land and not by sea. Though the geographical extent of Russian territory and influence is enormous, she has always moved along the line of least resistance. She is a moderately strong empire lying to the north of the great Moslem states, and having for neighbours a series of very weak principalities or semi-civilized tribes. The conquest of Siberia and central Asia presented no real difficulties: Persia and Constantinople were left on one side, and Russia was defeated as soon as she was opposed by a vigorous power in the Far East. As the Russian possessions in Asia are continuous with European Russia, it is only natural that they should have been russified far more thoroughly than the British possessions have been anglicized.
There has been great difference of opinion as to the extent to which Alexander’s conquests influenced Asia, and it is equally hard to say what is the effect now being produced by Europe. Clearly such alterations as the construction of railways in nearly all parts of the continent, and the establishment of peace over formerly disturbed areas like India, are of enormous importance, and must change the life of the people. But the mental constitution of Asiatics is less easily modified than their institutions, and even Japan has assimilated European methods rather than European ideas.(C. El.)
Authorities.—The modern bibliography of Asia, including the works of travellers and explorers since 1880, is voluminous. It is impossible to refer to all that has been written in the Survey Reports and Gazetteers of the government of India, or in the records of the Royal Asiatic Society, or the Asiatic Society, Bengal; but amongst the more important popular works are the following:—Richthofen, “China, Japan, and Korea,” vol. iv. Jour. R.G.S., China (Berlin, 1877); Regel, “Upper Oxus,” vol. i. Proc. R.G.S., 1879; Dr Bellew, Afghanistan and the Afghans (London, 1879); Nicolas Prjevalski, “Explorations in Asia,” see vols. i., ii., v., ix. and xi. of the Proc. R.G.S., 1879-1889; W. Blunt, “A Visit to Jebel Shammar,” vol ii. Proc. R.G.S., 1880; Captain W Gill, The River of Golden Sand (London, 1880); Sir R. Temple, “Central Plateau of Asia,” vol. iv. Proc. R.G.S. 1882; Baker, “A Journey of Exploration in Western Ssu-Chuan,” vol. i. Supplementary Papers R.G.S., 1882-1885; Sir C. Wilson, “Notes on Physical and Historical Geography of Asia Minor,” vol. vi. Proc. R.G.S., 1884; General J.T. Walker, “Asiatic Explorers of the Indian Survey,” vol. viii. Proc. R.G.S., 1885; Samuel Beal, Buddhist Records of the Western World (Boston, 1885); Charles Doughty, Travels in Northern Arabia (Cambridge, 1886); Travels in Arabia Deserta (Cambridge, 1888); Venukoff, “Explorations,” vol. viii. Proc. G.R.S., 1886; Ney Elias, “Explorations in Central Asia,” see vols. viii. and ix. Proc. R.G.S., 1886-1887; Arthur Carey, “Explorations in Turkestan,” see vol. ix. Proc. R.G.S., 1887; Henry Lansdell, Through Central Asia (London, 1887); Archibald Colquhoun, Report on Railway Connexion between Burma and China (London, 1887); Major C. Yate, Northern Afghanistan (Edinburgh, 1888); Captain F. Younghusband, The Heart of a Continent (London, 1893); A Journey through Manchuria, &c. (Lahore, 1888); also see vol. x. Proc. R.G.S., and vol. v. Jour. R.G.S.; Dutreuil de Rhins, L’Asie Centrale (Paris, 1889); Pierre Bonvalot, Through the Heart of Asia, trans. Pitman (London, 1889); From Paris to Tonkin, trans. Pitman (London, 1891); Roborovski, translation from Russian Invalide, October 1889, vol. xii. Proc. R.G.S.; “Central Asia,” vol. viii. Jour. R.G.S., 1896; Colonel Mark Bell, “Trade Routes of Asia,” vol. xii. Proc. R.G.S., 1890; W.W. Rockhill, “An American in Tibet,” Century Magazine, November 1890; The Land of the Lamas (London, 1891); Theodore Bent, “Hadramut,” vol. iv. Jour. R.G.S., 1894; “Southern Arabia,” vol. vi. Jour. R.G.S., 1896; “Bahrein Islands,” vol. xii. Proc. R.G.S., 1890; Grombcherski, “Explorations in Kuen Lun,” vol. xii. Proc. R.G.S., 1890; Lydekker, “The Geology of the Kashmir Valley and Chamba Territories,” vols. xiii. and xiv. Geological Survey of India; Max Müller, The Sacred Books of the East (Oxford, 1890-1894); Elisée Reclus, The Earth and its Inhabitants (series, 1890); G.W. Leitner, Dardistan; H.F. Blanford, Elementary Geography of India, Burma, and Ceylon (London, 1890); Guide to the Climate and Weather of India (London, 1889); Lord Dunmore, The Pamirs (London, 1892); A. Tissandier, Voyage au tour du monde (Paris, 1892); Lord Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question (London, 1892); Russia and the Anglo-Russian Question (London, 1889); Problems of the Far East (London, 1894); Captain Hamilton Bower, Diary of a Journey across Tibet (Calcutta, 1893); Szechenyi, Die wissenschaftlichen Ergebnisse der Reise des Grafen Béla Szechenyi in Ostasien (Wien, 1893); R.D. Oldham, “Evolution of Indian Geology,” vol. iii. Jour. R.G.S., 1894; Baron Toll, “Siberia,” vol. iii. Jour. R.G.S., 1894; Delmar Morgan, “The Mountain Systems of Central Asia,” Scottish Geological Magazine, No. 10, of 1894; Sir Frederick Goldsmid, “Persian Geography,” vol. vi. Jour. R.G.S., 1895; Warrington Smyth, “Siam,” vol. vi. Jour. R.G.S., 1895; “Siamese East Coast,” vol xi. Jour. 1898; Prince Kropotkin, “Siberian Railway,” vol. v. R.G.S. Jour., 1895; W.R. Lawrence, The Vale of Kashmir (Oxford, 1895); Captain Vaughan, “Persia,” vol. viii. Jour. R.G.S., 1896; Prince H. d’Orleans, “Yunan to India,” vol. vii. Jour. R.G.S., 1896; “Tonkin to Talifu,” vol. viii. Jour. R.G.S., 1896; Sir T. Holdich, “Ancient and Medieval Makran,” vol. vii. Jour. R.G.S., 1896; The Indian Borderland (London, 1901); India (Oxford, 1904); Colonel Woodthorpe, “Shan States,” vol. vii. Jour. R.G.S., 1896; Report of the Pamir Boundary Commission (Calcutta, 1896); St George Littledale, “Journey Across the Pamirs from North to South,” vol. iii. Jour. R.G.S., 1894, and vol. vii. Jour. R.G.S., 1896; Sir G. Robertson, The Kafirs of the Hindu Kush (London, 1896); Captain Stiffe, “Persian Gulf Trading Centres,” vols. viii., ix. and x. Jour. R.G.S., 1897; Ney Elias and Ross, A History of the Moghuls of Central Asia, from the Tarskh-i-Rastisdi of Mirza Haidar (London, 1898); Grenard, Mission scientifique sur la Haute Asie (Paris, 1898); Dr Sven Hedin, Through Asia (London, 1898); Central Asia and Tibet (1903); Geographie des Hochlandes van Pamir (Berlin, 1894); Captain M.S. Wellby, “Through Tibet,” R.G.S. Jour., September 1898; Captain P.M. Sykes, “Persian Explorations,” vol. x. Jour. R.G.S., 1898; Ten Thousand Miles in Persia (1902); Kronshin, “Old Beds of the Oxus,” Jour. R.G.S., September 1898; Sir W. Hunter, History of British India, vol. i. (London, 1898); Captain H. Deasy, “Western Tibet,” vol. ix. Jour. R.G.S.; In Tibet and Chinese Turkestan (London, 1901); A. Little, The Far East (Oxford, 1905); Captain Rawling, The Great Plateau (London, 1905); Journal of the Royal Geogl. Society, vols. xv. to xxv. (1900-1905); Colonel A. Durand, The Making of a Frontier (London, 1899); R. Cobbold, Innermost Asia (London, 1900).(T. H. H.*)
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