East Asia is the eastern subregion of Asia, defined in both geographical and ethno-cultural terms. The region includes China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan. People indigenous to the region are known as East Asians. China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam belong to the East Asian cultural sphere.
The region was the cradle of various ancient civilizations such as ancient China, ancient Japan, ancient Korea, and the Mongol Empire. East Asia was one of the cradles of world civilization, with . For thousands of years, China largely influenced East Asia (as it was principally the leading civilization in the region), exerting its enormous prestige and influence on its neighbors. Historically, societies in East Asia have been part of the Chinese cultural sphere, and East Asian vocabulary and scripts are often derived from Classical Chinese and Chinese script. The Chinese calendar preserves traditional East Asian culture and serves as the root to which many other East Asian calendars are derived from. Major religions in East Asia include Buddhism (mostly Mahayana Buddhism which came via trade routes from India.[note 4]), Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism, Taoism, Ancestral worship, and Chinese folk religion in Greater China, Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan, and Christianity, Buddhism, and Sindoism in Korea. Shamanism is also prevalent among Mongols and other indigenous populations of northern East Asia such as the Manchus.
East Asians comprise around 1.6 billion people, making up about 38% of the population in Continental Asia and 22% of the global population. The region is home to major world metropolises such as Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo. Although the coastal and riparian areas of the region form one of the world's most populated places, the population in Mongolia and Western China, both landlocked areas, is very sparsely distributed, with Mongolia having the lowest population density of any sovereign state. The overall population density of the region is 133 inhabitants per square kilometre (340/sq mi), about three times the world average of 45/km2 (120/sq mi).
Like the Ancient Greeks and Romans and their profound influence on Europe and the Western World, China already possessed an advanced civilization nearly 1500+ years before its neighbors (c. 2000 BC) and through various Chinese dynasties has exerted cultural, economic, technological, political, and military influence across East Asia up to the present. For many centuries, especially between the 7-14th centuries, China stood as East Asia's most advanced civilization, commanding influence across the region up until the early modern period.
China became the first literate nation in East Asia and has also provided Japan, Vietnam, and Korea with many loanwords and linguistic influences rooted in their writing systems (see Chinese characters). From around 200 BC to 200 AD, the Han dynasty hosted the largest unified population in East Asia, the most literate and urbanized as well as being the most technologically and culturally advanced civilization in the region. And China has always been the most populous epicenter in East Asia as well.
China's impact and influence on Korea began with the Han dynasty's northeastern expansion in 108 BC when the Han Chinese conquered the northern part of the Korean peninsula and established a province called Lelang. Chinese influence would soon take root in Korea through the inclusion of the Chinese writing system, monetary system, rice culture, and Confucian political institutions.
Jōmon society in ancient Japan incorporated wet-rice cultivation and metallurgy through its contact with Korea.
Vietnamese society was greatly impacted by Chinese influence, the northern part of Vietnam was occupied by Chinese empires and states for almost all of the period from 111 BC to 938 AD. In addition to administration, and making Chinese the language of administration, the long period of Chinese domination introduced Chinese techniques of dike construction, rice cultivation, and animal husbandry.
Chinese culture, having been established among the elite mandarin class, remained the dominant current among that elite for most of the next 1,000 years (939-1870s) until the temporary loss of independence under French Indochina. This cultural affiliation to China remained true even when militarily defending Vietnam against attempted invasion, such as against the Mongol Kublai Khan. The only significant exceptions to this were the 7 years of the strongly anti-Chinese Hồ dynasty which banned the use of Chinese (among other actions triggering the fourth Chinese invasion), but then after the expulsion of the Ming the rise in vernacular chữ nôm literature.
As full-fledged medieval East Asian states were established (Korea by 4th century AD and Japan by the 7th century AD), Korea, Japan, and Vietnam actively began to incorporate Chinese cultural and religious influences such as the Chinese language, Classical Chinese in administration, written Han characters, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism (introduced from India via China), Chinese style architecture, state institutions, political philosophies like legalism, music, urban planning, and various scientific and technological methods into their culture and society through direct contacts with succeeding Chinese dynasties. (See East Asian cultural sphere.)
The Imperial Chinese tributary system shaped much of East Asia's history for over two millennia due to Imperial China's economic and cultural influence over the region, and thus played a huge role in the history of East Asia in particular.
As East Asia's connections with Europe and the Western world strengthened during the late 19th century, China's power began to decline. U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry forced Japan to open up. After the 1860s, Japan modernized rapidly with the Meiji Restoration, transforming itself from an isolated feudal samurai state into East Asia's first industrialized nation.
By the early 1900s, the Japanese empire succeeded in asserting itself as East Asia's first modern power. Japan defeated the stagnant Qing dynasty during the First Sino-Japanese War, thereafter annexing Korea and Taiwan from China.
In 1905 Japan also vanquished its imperial rival Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. It was the first major military victory in the modern era of an East Asian power over a European one and shocked the West.
In prelude to WW2, Japan launched an invasion of mainland China in the Second Sino-Japanese War. It annexed Manchuria and absorbed more and more of the eastern coast, committing atrocities like Unit 731 and Nanjing Massacre along the way.
Japan's ultimate imperial dream was the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, which would incorporate Korea, Taiwan, much of eastern China and Manchuria, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Southeast Asia under its hegemonic control, establishing itself as a maritime colonial power in East Asia.
In his 2009 book When China Rules the World, Martin Jacques says that Japan is currently a vassal state of the US, since Japan has no right to wage war and relies on the US military. He also refers to South Korea and Taiwan as vassals of the US.
During the latter half of the twentieth century, Japan has experienced a post war economic miracle. South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan have emerged as Tiger economies. China opened up, entered the World Trade Organization, rose to the 2nd largest economy in the world (1st by PPP), and is starting to reclaim its historical status as a regional and world superpower.
Although there were no wars in the region for decades, the stability of the region remains fragile because of North Korea's nuclear program.
China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam are commonly seen as the core encompassed by the East Asian cultural sphere (as opposed to neighboring nations also within East Asia). Sometimes Mongolia is added to this core as well.
CJKV share a common written language, culture, as well as sharing Confucian philosophical tenets and the Confucian societal value system once instituted by Imperial China. Other usages cite geographic proximity as well as historical and modern cultural and economic ties, particularly with Japan and Korea having strong cultural influences that originated from China. Some scholars include Vietnam as part of East Asia as it has been considered part of the greater sphere of Chinese influence, though some classify Vietnam as a Southeast Asian country. Mongolia is geographically north of China yet Confucianism and the Chinese writing system and culture currently have less of an impact in Mongolia's historically nomadic society (however Mongolia was controlled by China during the Han, Tang, and Qing dynasties). Mongolia is sometimes grouped with Central Asian countries such as Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
Broader and looser definitions by international organizations such as the World Bank refer to the "three major Northeast Asian economies, i.e. China, Japan, and South Korea", as well as Mongolia, North Korea, the Russian Far East and Siberia. The Council on Foreign Relations includes the Russia Far East, Mongolia, and Nepal. The World Bank also acknowledges the roles of sub-national or de facto states, such as Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. The Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia defines the region as "China, Japan, the Koreas, Nepal, Mongolia, and eastern regions of the Russian Federation".
The UNSD division of East Asia is "to obtain greater homogeneity in population, demographic circumstances and accuracy of demographic statistics", but also other common definitions of East Asia contain Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.
There are mixed debates around the world whether these countries or regions should be considered in East Asia or not.
In business and economics, "East Asia" is sometimes used to refer to a wide geographical area covering ten Southeast Asian countries in ASEAN, Greater China, Japan and Korea. However, in this context, the term "Far East" is used by the Europeans to cover ASEAN countries and the countries in East Asia. However, being a Eurocentric term, Far East describes the region's geographical position in relation to Europe rather than its location within Asia. Alternatively, the term "Asia Pacific Region" is often used in describing East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia as well as Oceania.
Observers preferring a broader definition of "East Asia" often use the term Northeast Asia to refer to the greater China area, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan, with Southeast Asia covering the ten ASEAN countries. This usage, which is seen in economic and diplomatic discussions, is at odds with the historical meanings of both "East Asia" and "Northeast Asia".
The culture of East Asia has largely been influenced by China, as it was the civilization that had the most dominant influence in the region throughout the ages that ultimately laid the foundation for East Asian civilization. The vast knowledge and ingenuity of Chinese civilization and the classics of Chinese literature and culture were seen as the foundations for a civilized life in East Asia. Imperial China served as a vehicle through which the adoption of Confucian ethical philosophy, Chinese calendar system, political and legal systems, architectural style, diet, terminology, institutions, religious beliefs, imperial examinations that emphasized a knowledge of Chinese classics, political philosophy and cultural value systems, as well as historically sharing a common writing system reflected in the histories of Japan and Korea. The Imperial Chinese tributary system was the bedrock of network of trade and foreign relations between China and its East Asian tributaries, which helped to shape much of East Asian affairs during the ancient and medieval eras. Through the tributary system, the various dynasties of Imperial China facilitated frequent economic and cultural exchange that influenced the cultures of Japan and Korea and drew them into a Chinese international order. The Imperial Chinese tributary system shaped much of East Asia's foreign policy and trade for over two millennia due to Imperial China's economic and cultural dominance over the region, and thus played a huge role in the history of East Asia in particular. The relationship between China and its cultural influence on East Asia has been compared to the historical influence of Greco-Roman civilization on Europe and the Western World.
*Japan switched the date to the Gregorian calendar after the Meiji Restoration.
Formerly the East Asian Games, it is a multi-sport event organised by the East Asian Games Association (EAGA) and held every four years since 2019 among athletes from East Asian countries and territories of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), as well as the Pacific island of Guam, which is a member of the Oceania National Olympic Committees.