The culture of Asia encompasses the collective and diverse customs and traditions of art, architecture, music, literature, lifestyle, philosophy, politics and religion that have been practiced and maintained by the numerous ethnic groups of the continent of Asia since prehistory. Identification of a specific culture of Asia or universal elements among the colossal diversity that has emanated from multiple cultural spheres and three of the four ancient River valley civilizations is complicated. However, the continent is commonly divided into six geographic sub-regions, that are characterized by perceivable commonalities, like religion, language and relative ethnic homogeneity. As the largest, most populous continent and rich in resources, Asia is home to several of the world's oldest civilizations, that produced the majority of the great religious systems, the oldest known recorded myths and codices on ethics and morality. However, Asia's enormous size separates the various civilizations by great distances and hostile environments, such as deserts and mountain ranges.
The history of Asia can be seen as the collective history of several distinct peripheral coastal regions such as East Asia , South Asia , Southeast Asia and the Middle East linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe. The coastal periphery was the home to some of the world's earliest known civilizations and religions, with each of the three regions developing early civilizations around fertile river valleys. These valleys were fertile because the soil there was rich and could bear many root crops. The civilizations in Mesopotamia , India , and China shared many similarities and likely exchanged technologies and ideas such as mathematics and the wheel. Other notions such as that of writing likely developed individually in each area. Cities, states and then empires developed in these lowlands. The steppe region had long been inhabited by mounted nomads, and from the central steppes they could reach all areas of the Asian continent.
Given textual and archaeological evidence, it is thought that thousands of Europeans lived in Imperial China during the period of Mongol rule. This occurred primarily during the second half of the 13th century and the first half of the 14th century, coinciding with the rule of the Mongol Empire , which ruled over a large part of Eurasia and connected Europe with their Chinese dominion of the Yuan dynasty — These contacts with the West were only preceded by rare interactions between the Han-period Chinese and Hellenistic Greeks and Romans.
History of Southeast Asia , history of Southeast Asia from prehistoric times to the contemporary period. Knowledge of the early prehistory of Southeast Asia has undergone exceptionally rapid change as a result of archaeological discoveries made since the s, although the interpretation of these findings has remained the subject of extensive debate. Nevertheless, it seems clear that the region has been inhabited from the earliest times. Hominid fossil remains date from approximately 1,, years ago and those of Homo sapiens from approximately 40, years ago.