Several Chinese indices fell by around eight percent in early trading, while bourses in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan were also hit hard.
The Tokyo-based Nikkei index fell by 3.21 percent in morning trading to below 19,000 points, its lowest point in the last five months.
The sharp fall led Chinese media to use the term ‘Black Monday’ in an echo of the 1987 global stockmarket crash.
Market observers have been watching China anxiously for weeks as the country suffers an abrupt slowdown in economic growth.
The latest loss of value comes in spite of massive Chinese government efforts in recent weeks to shore up markets in the country.
Shanghai's stock market has now lost all of the value it had added in the course of 2015.
In Europe, the markets in Zurich, London, Frankfurt, Paris and Milan all fell by three percent or more.