In a recent business Chinese class, we ended up digressing to the topic of universities and education in Asia. In many of classes I feel we can digress a bit, but the teacher won’t stop us because what’s more important is that we are practicing conversations on subjects we care about. I really enjoy this practice, as I feel I’m in an environment that’s protected from ridicule, and sheltered in understanding of my poor Chinese. What’s also interesting to me, is watching my brain start out speaking in English transliterated into Chinese, and then realizing how that structure just won’t work and pausing in order to turn the whole sentence around.
Anyway, onto the CDotD – the conversation went on to the continents of the Earth, and somehow the teacher did not list Australia. Instead, the North Pole or Arctic was listed in its stead. What?! I said – hang on, what about Australia??
I got a funny look and was told quite matter-of-factly that Australia was part of Asia, and not its own continent. I was stunned! The other two Asian classmates – one a Korean and the other a Korean from Hong Kong didn’t seem surprised at all either.
I turned to my Dutch classmate and he was similarly surprised, but said that they called it Australasia, and not Australia. Thus, Australasia included New Zealand and the other nearby islands. Okay…
I went on to ask friends from home, including a Brit and a Kiwi, just to make sure I was not out of my mind. The Brit agreed with me completely, the Kiwi called it Oceania (I can understand that). Then I was referenced this Wikipedia page, but aforementioned Brit, and it seems it makes perfect sense to call Australia a continent:
“The narrowest meaning of continent is that of a continuous area of land or mainland, with the coastline and any land boundaries forming the edge of the continent.” So, Australia clearly qualifies.. although this gives rise to discussion on how to consider the Americas, etc. Further reading of this Wiki page indicates that this particular definition will give rise to a different consideration in terms of the number of continents (fewer, rather more), but no discussion of Australia being a part of Asia, if anything Europe and Asia are often morphed together to form Eurasia.
I see the references to Australasia and Oceania, but still nothing about this new concept I learned today.
Worse, the page states that China teaches the 7-continent system we Americans are accustomed to — uhhh, apparently not!
So what gives? Is this some Asia-centric thinking?
I asked a pair of Aussies a few days later, and they were surprisingly lax about it and not at all surprised, but the pair also have been living in Asia for years (and I mean Asia by the standard American definition of it!). Has that affected their thinking?
Am I nuts? Come on – can someone help me out here? Or can someone please find more references to this Asian version of the 7 continents and add it onto the Wiki page?
*Crazy Discovery of the Day