A wide variety of societies, religions, and ethnicities shape the culture of Asia. The Asian culture is an aggregation of diverse customs, traditions, and social values that form the core of the Asian society. The continent of Asia comprises the geographic and cultural subregions of central, southern, western, and eastern Asia. The Asian continent boasts of a rich cultural heritage that has given the region, an identity of its own.
The different forms of Asian art and literature are widely popular around the world and the widespread influence of the Asian philosophy and religion, especially of East Asia, is worth making a mention of. The cultures of the continent of Asia are the most diverse of world's cultures. Let us take a look at them.
Cultures in Central Asia
Central Asia comprises five former Soviet Socialist Republics, namely, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The most prominent religion in Central Asia is Islam. The vibrant nature of the Central Asian culture is the result of the influences of the Mongols, Persians, and Russians who conquered their land. It also exhibits major influences of Indian, Chinese, and Arabian cultures. The Central Asian cuisine is appreciated throughout the world. Their music is fairly popular in different parts of the world; while their literature hosts a collection of literary works by the Persians, Indians, Arabians, and Chinese.
Cultures in East Asia
China, Japan, and Korea are some of the countries that lie in East Asia. Although different regions of East Asia host diverse cultural traditions, the Chinese influence on the East Asian culture cannot be ignored. The Chinese culture is one of the oldest in the world. Chinese customs and traditions vary across different regions of the country. It is needless to elaborate on the popularity of Chinese food. Chinese architecture and more importantly, Feng Shui, the Chinese system of aesthetics that is one of the vital components of their architecture; are some of the most important elements of the Chinese culture.
Japanese culture is another ancient culture of East Asia. It has evolved over a period of thousands of years, starting from the prehistoric Jomon and Yayoi cultures to the modern-day culture bearing European and North American influences. The Japanese martial arts and sumo wrestling, visual arts like brush-drawn calligraphy, their sculpture styles, and Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, are world-renowned.
Another distinct feature of this region is the equally ancient culture of Korea. The Korean civilization originated around 5000 years ago. The family institution is of prime importance in the Korean culture. Most of the Korean families maintain detailed records of their genealogical origins. The Koreans celebrate birthdays, weddings, and special occasions such as the first full moon, arrival of spring, and New Year.
Most of the traditional festivals of Korea are based on the lunar calendar. The Korean tea and traditional Korean foods like kimchi (fermented vegetables) are some of the important constituents of the Korean cuisine. Korean paintings (prominently using naturalism), the exquisitely beautiful handicrafts and pottery are some of the other important elements of the Korean culture.
Cultures in West Asia
West Asia is shaped by the presence of Arab, Turkish, and Persian cultures. Interestingly, Iraq is one nation that is home to both Persian and Arab cultures. The Arabic cultural traditions are closely associated with Islam. A majority of the Arabs are Muslims. However, there are a considerable number of Jews and Christians in the Gulf countries. Arabic is one of the very ancient literary languages that is believed to have originated in the 6th century.
Interestingly, many English words are derivatives of Arabic words. Arabian music, characterized by a unique tone system, small but well-designed musical instruments and predominance of vocals, form an important constituent of the Arab culture. Description of the Arab culture would be incomplete without the mention of Arabian literature, which is a collection of notable literary works like 'Arabian Nights'.
The culture of Turkey is a combination of the elements of Ottoman, European, and Middle Eastern traditions. The classical and the folk genres of Turkish music make up the rich musical heritage of the country. Brass and percussion instruments play a vital role in Turkish music. Turkish pop and rock are nonetheless popular. Turkish cuisine is a blend of Turkic, Arabic, Persian, and American cuisines. Besides the Arab and Turkish cultures, West Asia is also home to the Persian culture.
Music, an important element of their culture, is indigenous to Iran and all the Persian-speaking countries. Classical Persian music focuses on vocal singing and functions as a spiritual tool. Persian dances emphasize on upper body movements and facial expressions. Apart from the New Year, the Persians celebrate the water and fire festivals and cherish the onset of winter and autumn. The Persian Garden, designed as a representation of paradise on earth, is an excellent example of the art and architecture of the Persians. West Asian culture, is thus, a beautiful blend of customs and traditions of the Arabians, the Persians, and the Turkish.
Cultures in South Asia
The states in north India and countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan share a culture that is influenced by the Indus Valley Civilization and the Maurya, Gupta, and Mughal empires. Sri Lanka shares a Dravidian culture with some of the South Indian states; while the culture of West Bengal and Bangladesh is a mix of the Dravidian and Aryan cultures. There is a striking similarity between the cultures of Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Indian states like Sikkim and Ladakh.
Similarities are observed in cultures of the eastern states of India and South East Asia. Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Hinduism predominate South Asia. Influences from the Indian, Chinese, Christian, and Islamic traditions, have shaped the culture of south-east Asia. Construction of stilt houses, rice paddy agriculture, dances emphasizing movements of the hands, and arts and literature bearing Indian, Chinese, and Buddhist influences are some of the distinctive features of the south-east Asian culture.
This was a glimpse of the rich and varied cultural heritage of Asia. I am sure it has drawn you towards exploring the yet-undiscovered facets of Asian culture. Only a tour to the Asian continent can give you a real taste of Asian opulence.