Asia, the supposed birthplace of mankind, is the largest of the continents and the most populous. More than half the human race live on this continent. It comprises about one-third of the land surface of the earth - being twice as large as North America and nearly five times the size of the United States. Its greatest length is 7,500 miles - nearly one-third the circumference of the earth - and it has at once the coldest and the hottest country, as well as the highest and lowest land, within its borders.

Siberia is swept by icy winds from the Arctic Ocean ; Arabia by the hot and fatal simoon. The Himalaya Mountains are the highest in the world ; the Caspian Sea and much of the land near it are below the level of the ocean. Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed, in Arabia, is the hottest, and Yakootsk, on the Lena River in Siberia, is the coldest city in the world Northwestern Asia is a continuous plain ; the southeastern part is an elevated plateau traversed by lofty mountains, and the islands attaching to the continent are but continuations of the mountain chains extended into the sea. They are all of volcanic origin. The highest peak on earth is Mount Everest in the 5°

Himalayas. Its summit is 29,000 feet above the sea, 6,000 feet above the loftiest peak in America.

The rivers in Asia, though of great length, are distinguished for their narrow valleys, and the Obi is the only one that is navigable to any considerable distance. The Yang-tse and Hoang rivers are subject to great changes brought about by the shifting of their channels. In 1851 the Hoang-Ho burst through its banks and poured its waters into the gulf of Pichulu, so changing its course within two years that its mouth was located 250 miles from its former position. The river valleys and plains, which are well watered, are extremely fertile, while the highest central regions and plateaus are dry, sandy and barren. The deserts of Arabia, Persia, Turkestan and Gobi receive little, and, in some places, no rain, while the southern slope of the Himalayas is annually inundated. India is traversed by winds which scorch the entire surface for half the year, and flood it with rain the other half. Destructive cyclones also visit the warm coasts', piling up the waters of the Bay of Bengal and submerging the lowlands of the Ganges.

The mineral products of Asia are numerous, and have been from remote antiquity. No land is more famous for its precious stones, unless it be Africa since the late discovery of the gold and diamond fields there in the last half of the nineteenth century. Most of the large and valuable sapphires, rubies, diamonds and emeralds are from the mines of India ; the finest pearls re from the Persian Gulf and from the waters along the coasts of Ceylon. Gold and platinum are widely diffused throughout the Ural Mountains and the central plateaus. Silver is mined in Siberia . Copper and iron are widely distributed. The vegetable products of Asia are as varied as its climates, temperatures and latitudes, we being able to find here many of the plants and trees belonging to the temperate, torrid and frigid zones. North of the 6oth degree of latitude scarcely any vegetable growth is seen except birches, mosses and lichens, while the southern part of the continent is covered with a dense tropical vegetation. The palm, bamboo and banyan tree are abundant; and rice, cotton, sugar-cane, flax, jute, hemp, poppy and spices are cultivated on the plains and valleys . In Central Asia we find such vegetation as thrives best in the temperate zones. Vast forests of pine, larch, teak, maple and birch extend over the uplands of Siberia, while wheat, tea and rice are cultivated in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Asia. Western Asia produces tobacco, figs, dates, olives; and from this section also comes the famous Mocha coffee.

The animal life of Asia numbers in its catalogue nearly all the domestic animals of the earth, and most of them are native to it. The camel and elephant have been used as beasts of burden here from time immemorial. In the colder regions the bear, wolf, fox, buffalo and several species of wild cattle are common, and also many kinds of deer. In Southern Asia fierce animals and dangerous reptiles abound. Here are found in their native haunts, in the jungle, the rhinoceros, tapir, lion, tiger, hyena and jackal. Here we also the homes of the crocodile, python and the deadly cobra, which slays 20,000 people annually by its bite. The tropical forests are also alive with numerous monkeys and beautiful birds. 786

Asia is the cradle of the earliest civilization of mankind. And to this day more than one-half of the inhabitants of the earth live on that continent - in fact, fully one-half live in China and India alone. The history of this vast horde, divided into many governments, clans, and wandering tribes, is shrouded in much mystery, and, despite the research of antiquarians in modern times, except where the Asiatic has touched the ancient Jew. or later European in war, comparatively little is definitely known. A few of the powerful governments of ancient times, Syria, Assyria, Persia, Babylonia, etc., and those modern nations which have arisen on the sites they occupied, constitute about all that have a definite history yet given to the outside world.

The principal divisions, foreign possessions and populations of Asia at present are:

Countries.

Chinese Empire..........

Japan...............

Persia...............

Anam...............

Siam................

Afghanistan............

Beloochistan............

Arabia . . .............

Independent states and tribes: Turko-mans, Usbecks, Tartars, Caucasians,

Malays, etc............

Foreign Possessions:

Great Britain : British and Further India, Ceylon, Straits Settlements,

Hong-Kong, Aden, etc......

France: Settlements on coasts of Malabar,

Coromandel, etc........

Cochin-China (Saigon).....

Russia: Siberia, Ural provinces,

Transcaucasus, etc........

Turkey: Asia-Minor, Mesopotamia,

Kurdistan, Syria, etc.......

Holland: Dutch East Indies, Java,

Sumatra, Banca, etc.......

United States : Philippine Islands, Portugal: Goa, and Settlements in Hindostan

Macao, etc. (China)......

Malay Archipelago.......

Total..........

Population.

402,680,000

41,090,000

7,653,600

14,000,000

6,000,000

4,000,000

600,000

12,000,000

43,772,000

150,800,000

1,300,000

9,200,000

16,500,000

23,000,000 8,500,000

1,500,000

882,595,600