East Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms. Geographically, it covers about 12,000,000 km², or about 28% of the Asian continent and about 15% bigger than the area of Europe. More than 1.5 billion people, about 40% of the population of Asia or a quarter of all the people in the world, live in geographic East Asia, which is about twice the population of Europe. The region is one of the world's most crowded places. The population density of East Asia, 130 per km², is about three times the world average.
Culturally, it embraces those societies that have long been part of the Chinese cultural sphere:
- displaying heavy historical influence from the Classical Chinese language (including the traditional Chinese script),
- Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism,
- Mahayana Buddhism/Zen-Chan Buddhism,
- and Taoism (Daoism).
This combination of language, political philosophy, and religion (as well as art, architecture, holidays and festivals, etc.) overlaps with the geographical designation of East Asia for the most part, with a few exceptions, such as the overseas Chinese (including those in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the West).
East Asia and Eastern Asia (the latter form preferred by the United Nations) are both more modern terms for the traditional European name the Far East, which describes the region's geographical position in relation to Europe rather than its location within Asia. However, in contrast to the United Nations definition, East Asia commonly is used to refer to the eastern part of Asia, as the term implies. What the UN terms 'East Asia' is often referred to as Northeast Asia.