East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both geographical and ethno-cultural terms. The modern states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. China, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan are all unrecognised by at least one other East Asian state due to severe ongoing political tensions in the region, specifically the division of Korea and the political status of Taiwan. Hong Kong and Macau, two small coastal quasi-dependent territories located in the south of China, are officially highly autonomous but are under de jure Chinese sovereignty. East Asia borders Siberia and the Russian Far East to the north, Southeast Asia to the south, South Asia to the southwest, and Central Asia to the west. To the east is the Pacific Ocean and to the southeast is Micronesia (a Pacific Ocean island group, classified as part of Oceania).
East Asia, especially Chinese civilisation, is regarded as one of the earliest cradles of civilisation. Other ancient civilisations in East Asia that still exist as independent countries in the present day include the Japanese, Korean and Mongolian civilisations. Various other civilisations existed as separate political entities in East Asia in the past but have since been absorbed into neighbouring civilisations in the present day, such as Tibet, Baiyue, Manchuria, Ryukyu and Ainu among many others. Taiwan has a relatively young history in the region after the prehistoric era; originally, it was a major site of Austronesian civilisation prior to colonisation by European colonial powers and China from the 17th century onward. For thousands of years, China was the leading civilisation in the region, exerting influence on its neighbours. Historically, societies in East Asia have fallen within the Chinese sphere of influence, and East Asian vocabulary and scripts are often derived from Classical Chinese and Chinese script. The Chinese calendar serves as the root from which many other East Asian calendars are derived. Major religions in East Asia include Buddhism (mostly Mahayana), Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism, Taoism, Ancestral worship, and Chinese folk religion in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, Shintoism in Japan, and Christianity, and Sindoism in Korea. Tengerism and Tibetan Buddhism are prevalent among Mongols and Tibetans while other religions such as Shamanism are widespread among the indigenous populations of northeastern China such as the Manchus. Major languages in East Asia include Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Major ethnic groups of East Asia include the Han (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan), Yamato (Japan) and Koreans (North Korea, South Korea). Mongols, although not as populous as the previous three ethnic groups, constitute the majority of Mongolia's population. There are 76 officially-recognised minority or indigenous ethnic groups in East Asia; 55 native to mainland China (including Hui, Manchus, Chinese Mongols, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Zhuang in the frontier regions), 16 native to the island of Taiwan (collectively known as Taiwanese indigenous peoples), one native to the major Japanese island of Hokkaido (the Ainu) and four native to Mongolia (Turkic peoples). Ryukyuan people are an unrecognised ethnic group indigenous to the Ryukyu Islands in southern Japan, which stretch from Kyushu Island (Japan) to Taiwan. There are also several unrecognised indigenous ethnic groups in mainland China and Taiwan.
East Asian people comprise around 1.7 billion people, making up about 38% of the population in Continental Asia and 20.5% 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 a 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).[when?]
East Asia has some of the world's largest and most prosperous economies: Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Macau