Geography of Southern & Eastern Asia

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

Explore the home of almost half the world's population. In this lesson, learn about the geography of Southern and Eastern Asia. Study their location, regions, climate, population and also, some environmental issues.

Southern and Eastern Asia

The countries in each of these two regions can be counted with the fingers of the hands. However, these are the world's most populated areas and almost half of mankind lives there. They also cover enormous land extensions with an incredibly diverse geography, where it is possible to find almost all types of weather and ecosystems.

Location and Political Boundaries

The regions of South Asia and East Asia occupy a large part of this continent and the names imply their main location. South Asia is mostly the Indian Subcontinent, a big land mass that collided against mainland Asia millions of years ago, originating the highest mountains on Earth, the Himalayas. East Asia is north of the Himalayas, up to Russian border to the north and the Pacific Ocean on the east. These regions should not be confused with Southeast Asia, located south of China and east of India and formed by Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Southern Asia (Blue) and Eastern Asia (Orange)
Map of Southern and Eastern Asia

The political boundaries are arbitrarily defined by men, so they don't always correspond with physical barriers like rivers or mountains. Southern Asia is formed by India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan. Sri Lanka and the Maldives are island nations close to the subcontinent and also considered part of this region. Afghanistan is considered by some as part of this region while others include it in Central Asia. Eastern Asia consists mostly of China, which is the largest country in this region. North of China is Mongolia. North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are also part of this region and are located at the eastern end of the continent.

Physical Geography

The natural features of these areas vary widely and change dramatically from one place to the other. Let's explore them from West to East.

Physical Map of Southern and Eastern Asia
Physical Map of Asia

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the westernmost countries of South Asia, defining a natural border between the Indian Subcontinent, the plains of Central Asia, and Iran. This area is mostly mountainous with a dry arid weather. Eastern and southern Pakistan are formed by plains.

East of Pakistan is India, with a diverse geography, including jungles, grasslands, deserts, and mountains. India is a huge peninsula, with the Indian Ocean to the south and west, Southeast Asia to the east, and the Himalayas to the north. The weather is mostly tropical and subtropical with a season of heavy rainfall, known as 'monsoon' season. Bangladesh and northeast India are the humid deltas of several rivers coming from the Himalayas.

Tea Plantation in India
Tea Plantation in India

The Himalayas extend along the northern Indian border. The fertile plains become temperate hills and eventually gelid mountains. This is an area of extreme altitude, with high peaks and glaciers defining the physical border between South and East Asia. Nepal and Bhutan are two countries located almost entirely over the Himalayas.

The Himalayas
The Himalayas

Further north, we are now in China and in East Asia, in the Tibetan Plateau. The high mountains make this an arid region, cold because of the altitude. The Gobi and the Taklamakan deserts are located here and extend further north into Mongolia. To the east, large areas of Mongolia and northern China are covered by grasslands.

To the east and south, the Chinese territory is formed by several hills and mountains. The weather is mostly humid and subtropical. Fertile valleys are located between the hills, running all the way to the Yellow Sea and East Chinese Sea. These valleys are where most of the Chinese population is located.

The Korean Peninsula is to the northeast. It is mostly a mountainous mass of land with some fertile valleys and plains. Finally, Japan is an archipelago of over 6,000 islands, located east of Korea. It is a very active seismic and volcanic zone covered by mountains and forests with little fertile land. The weather is mostly subtropical and temperate, becoming colder to the north.

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