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Asian Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Asia is home to over 60% of the world's population. Not surprisingly, they are found in a variety of ethnic groups and regions. In this lesson, we'll examine the largest groups in Asia.

A Massive Continent

You are probably well aware of just how big Asia is. It is by far the largest continent, with the largest portion of the world's population. Nearly 4.5 billion people call Asia home. With such a large population, it is sometimes helpful for the purpose of discussion to group the hundreds of ethnic groups of Asia into a few larger categories. In this lesson, we'll look at four major ethnic group 'areas' of Asia.

Map of Asia. South Asia is red; East Asia is yellow; Southeast Asia is orange; Central Asia is purple; Southwest Asia is green; Russia is blue and light blue.
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East Asian

One of the largest ethnic bodies within Asia are East Asians - it is yellow on the map. Obviously, this crowd gets a substantial boost from the fact that there are more than a billion Han Chinese, making it the largest ethnic group in the world. These people are spread between both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. However, they are not alone in East Asia. The next largest groups to be found here are the Koreans and the Japanese. There are more than 127 million Japanese people in East Asia, as well as more than 84 million Koreans. In short, there are plenty of people in East Asia.

South Asian

While East Asia may have the largest number of a single ethnic group, South Asia actually has more people. India has 1.2 billion, while Bangladesh has more than 150 million, and Pakistan has upwards of 180 million. Iran, included on our map of the regions of Asia, is often also considered part of Southwest Asia, but has almost 100 million people nonetheless. South Asia is red on our map. That adds up to many more people. However, the ethnic groups of South Asia are not as neatly divided as they are in East Asia. Instead, dozens of ethnic groups exist in these areas. In India, you can find Gujarati, Bengali, and Punjabi people all in the northern tier! Ethnic groups in Pakistan tend to be a bit easier to remember, since the word 'Pakistan' was created to represent the people who lived there - Punjabis, Afghans, Kashmiris, and the Sindh.

Southeast Asian

Between the large populations of East and South Asia is Southeast Asia, which is orange on the map. Here, there are many more ethnic groups. The largest of which, namely the Thai, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Laotians, have their own states. Others, such as the Javanese of Indonesia, are powerful players in larger communities. That said, plenty of smaller ethnic groups, such as the Hmong, once faced discrimination during the more turbulent years of this region's history.

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