An equation for accurate estimation of the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is vital for staging and directing the treatment of chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is a source of considerable morbidity and mortality around the world. The Modification of Diet for Renal Disease (MDRD) equation, which includes a racial coefficient, is commonly used. The MDRD equation has been validated in Caucasian populations, but modifying the racial coefficient for Asian countries has resulted in substantially different values that may not be due to race alone. Moreover, it is sometimes difficult to define race, particularly in multi-ethnic populations and among offspring of inter-ethnic marriages. Furthermore, the precision of the MDRD equation is poorer at the early stages of CKD. New markers, such as cystatin C, and new equations may be needed to accurately assess wider ranges of GFR in multi-ethnic countries. We review the development of GFR-estimating equations from an Asian perspective.