Map of Inner Asia, showing the extent of the area studied by the Sinor Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, located at Indiana University in the USA
Map of Inner Asia, showing the extent of the area studied by the CIAS at the University of Toronto.

Inner Asia refers to the northern and landlocked regions spanning North, Central and East Asia. It includes parts of western and northeast China, as well as southern Siberia. The area overlaps with some definitions of 'Central Asia', mostly the historical ones, but certain regions that are often included in Inner Asia, such as Manchuria, are not a part of Central Asia by any of its definitions. Inner Asia may be regarded as the western and northern "frontier" of China proper of the former Qin dynasty and as being bounded by East Asia proper, which consists of China proper, Japan and Korea.[1]

The extent of Inner Asia has been understood differently in different periods. "Inner Asia" is sometimes contrasted to "China proper", that is, the original provinces of China, those with majority Han Chinese populations. In 1800, Chinese Inner Asia consisted of four main areas, namely Manchuria (modern Northeast China and Russian Manchuria), the Mongolian Plateau (Inner Mongolia and Mongolia), Xinjiang (East Turkestan), and Tibet. These areas had been only recently conquered by the Qing dynasty of China and, during most of the Qing period, they were governed through administrative structures different from those of the older Chinese provinces.[2] A Qing government agency, the Lifan Yuan, supervised the empire's Inner Asian regions.

Definition and usage

Alternative conception of Inner Asia showing the Mongolian (or Mongolian-related) areas of Inner Asia that are represented in the Mongolian Digital Ethnography Archive
Alternative conception of Inner Asia showing the Mongolian (or Mongolian-related) areas of Inner Asia that are represented in the Mongolian Digital Ethnography Archive

"Inner Asia" today has a range of definitions and usages.[3] Denis Sinor, for example, used "Inner Asia" in contrast to agricultural civilizations, noting its changing borders, such as when a Roman province was taken by the Huns, areas of North China were occupied by the Mongols, or Anatolia came under Turkish influence, eradicating Hellenistic culture.[4]

Scholars or historians of the Qing dynasty, such as those who compiled the New Qing History, often use the term "Inner Asia" when studying Qing interests or reigns outside China proper.[5]

According to Morris Rossabi, Inner Asia is composed of not only the five Central Asian countries, which includes Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Khazakstan, but as well as Afghanistan, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Manchuria, and parts of Iran.[6]

In other languages

In French, "Asie centrale" can mean either "Central Asia" or "Inner Asia", while Mongolia and Tibet are grouped as "Haute-Asie" (Upper Asia).[7]

The terms meaning "Inner Asia" in the languages of Inner Asia itself are all modern translations of terms in European languages, mostly Russian.[citation needed]

Related terms

Central Asia

Main article: Central Asia

See also: Soviet Central Asia

"Central Asia" normally denotes the western part of Inner Asia; that is, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, with Afghanistan sometimes also included as part of Central Asia. However, The Library of Congress subject classification system treats "Central Asia" and Inner Asia as synonymous.[7]

Central Eurasia

According to Morris Rossabi, the term "Inner Asia" is the well-established term for the area in the literature. However, because of its deficiencies, including the implication of an "Outer Asia" that does not exist, Denis Sinor has proposed the neologism "Central Eurasia", which emphasizes the role of the area in intercontinental exchange.[8] According to Sinor:[9]

The definition that can be given of Central Eurasia in space is negative. It is that part of the continent of Eurasia that lies beyond the borders of the great sedentary civilizations.... Although the area of Central Eurasia is subject to fluctuations, the general trend is that of diminution. With the territorial growth of the sedentary civilizations, their borderline extends and offers a larger surface on which new layers of barbarians will be deposited.

See also



  1. ^ Bulag, Uradyn E. (October 2005). "Where is East Asia?: Central Asian and Inner Asian Perspectives on Regionalism". Japan Focus.
  2. ^ The Cambridge History of China: Volume 10, Part 1, by John K. Fairbank, p37
  3. ^ Book Abstaract: "Inner Asia: Making a Long-Term U.S. Commitment." Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine Authors: Carol D. Clair; Army War Coll Carlisle Barracks Pa. Retrieved: 22 August 2009.
  4. ^ The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1 By Denis Sinor. Retrieved: 22 August 2009.
  5. ^ New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde, ed. Ruth W. Dunnell, Mark C. Elliott, Philippe Foret and James A. Millward
  6. ^ Rossabi, Morris. "Central Asia: A Historical Overview". Asia Society.
  7. ^ a b Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies (RIFIAS). Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Retrieved: 22 August 2009.
  8. ^ Rossabi, Morris (1975). China and Inner Asia: from 1368 to the present day. Pica Press. p. 10.
  9. ^ Sinor, Denis (1997). Inner Asia: History, civilization, languages: a syllabus. p. 4.