Location [Stds. 1, 3]
Place [Stds. 4, 7, 9, 10]
Human-Environment Interaction [Stds. 8, 12, 14-18]
Movement [Stds. 11, 13]
Regions [Stds. 2, 5, 6]

 Standard 5: Regions as Conceptual
and Organizational Units

People create regions to interpret earth's complexity


What is a region? is a reasonable question. "Regions" are to geographers what "eras," "ages," and "periods" are to historians. Such terms are concepts that allow us to organize and identify periods of time and areas of space/place that share certain characteristics. Each of these concepts (region and era, for example) is thus a human construct that serves to characterize time or space.

The region and the activity involved in structuring regions — called "regionalization" — vary in scale from the local to the truly global.
Regions can be hierarchical, nestled within one another as units of earth space at different scales. A neighborhood or village can be a region, just as a coastline or river basin may comprise a region.

Individual countries comprise formal regions, as do areas of common religion or climate, or areas in which rice or fishing dominate. Each such formal region is defined by a set of criteria that is reasonably common or homogeneous across an area.

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The countries included under the formal regional term "East Asia" are

China, Japan, and North and South Korea

The countries included under the formal regional term "Southeast Asia" are

Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam*, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines

With the exception of Laos, the countries of both regions include coastal borders.

* Vietnam can belong to either or both formal regions. This is because the northern portion of what is now Vietnam participated in the civilization shared by what is now China, Japan, and Korea; the southern areas of Vietnam were more closely linked with the civilization shared by South Asia/India and its neighbors.

See the map of East and Southeast Asia:

READING: Understanding the Geography of China: An Assemblage of Pieces [Education about Asia] This article by Robert W. McColl provides the most important information needed to understand the regional subdivisions of China, with useful cues as to how to remember the "pieces" and their relationships to each other.

NOTE: Robert W. McColl wrote two different articles under this title. One, linked above, is an illustrated article published in Education about Asia, vol. 4, no 2, Fall 1999. The second article appears as a background essay (PDF) in the Asia Society's Teacher's Guide to the exhibit Visible Traces: Rare Books and Special Collections from the National Library of China. This background essay provides additional information on the same topics that are discussed in the EAA article, but has no visuals. Teachers and students may want to read both articles to get a fuller understanding of China's diversity.

1) The Loess Plateau; 2) The Sichuan Basin

With links to a travel website introducing each region:

1) Hokkaido: Hokkaido
2) Tohoku: Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Yamagata, Miyagi, Fukushima
3) Kanto: Kanagawa, Tokyo, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba
4) Chubu: Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Gifu, Nagano, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Aichi
5) Kansai: Shiga, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Mie, Wakayama
6) Shikoku: Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi
7) Chugoku: Tottori, Shimane, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Okayama
8) Kyushu: Saga, Fukuoka, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Nagasaki
9) Okinawa: Okinawa

1) Map of Japan's prefectures and prefectural capitals [PDF]; 2) Interactive map of Japan's regions, prefectures, districts, and cities.
Functional regions are organized about a fixed point or node, such as a city, or connected via lines such as in a transportation system. Trade flows, commuting patterns, Internet networks, and communication systems are all mappable functional regions.
One important historical perceptual region can be loosely defined as all of the areas transversed by the fabled Silk Road. This region's intricate cultural character was woven together along trade routes and is chronicled on the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) website, which features a wealth of information including numerous maps, photographs, and texts.
Two maps of the Silk Road: 1) Silk Road Map, AskAsia.org; 2) Silk Road Routes, British Library. The Silk Road ultimately ran from Korea in the East to Rome in the West, as shown in Map 3) 5th-century Trade Routes Map, Asia Society.
LINK: Silk Road Atlas [Silk Road Seattle, University of Washington]
LESSON PLAN: Was the Silk Road the Internet Highway of the Ancient World? [The China Project, GlobalEd.org]
The following readings are recommended for faculty and advanced students only.
"Marketing and Social Structure in Rural China," by G. William Skinner, in The Journal of Asian Studies
Commentary by John Corbett and Stacy Rebich, Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science
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