Eastern world

Eastern world, also known as the East or the Orient, is an umbrella term for various cultures or social structures, nations and philosophical systems, which vary depending on the context. It most often includes at least part of Asia or, geographically, the countries and cultures east of Europe, the Mediterranean region and Arab world, specifically in historical (pre-modern) contexts, and in modern times in the context of Orientalism.[1] It is often seen as a counterpart to the Western world, and correlates strongly to the southern half of the North–South divide.

The Eastern world in a 1796 map, which included the continents of Asia and Australia (then known as New Holland).

The various regions included in the term are varied, hard to generalize, and do not have a single shared common heritage (see Christendom). Although the various parts of the Eastern world share many common threads, most notably being in the Global South they have never historically defined themselves collectively.[2]

The term originally had a literal geographic meaning, referring to the eastern part of the Old World, contrasting the cultures and civilizations of Asia with those of Western Europe (or the Western world). Traditionally, this includes all of East and Southeast Asia, the Greater Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia (Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent).

Conceptually, the boundary between east and west is cultural, rather than geographical, as a result of which Australia is typically grouped in the West, while the Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union, even with significant western influence, are grouped in the East.[3] Other than Asia and some parts of Africa, Europe has successfully absorbed almost all of the societies of Oceania, and the Americas into the Western world,[4][5] Turkey, the Philippines and Israel, which are geographically located in the Eastern world, are considered at least partially westernized due to the cultural influence of Europe.[6][7][8]

Identity politics

Asian concepts

Although the concept of a unified Asian race does exist, its legitimacy is dubious, given how many different countries and cultures Asia comprises.[9][10] This concept is even more debatable due to the fact that common parlance links the "Asian identity" to the people of South and East Asia and exclude regions of Western Asia, which do not typically consider themselves part of the Eastern world; such areas include the Arab nations, Israel, Turkey and Iran.[11]

Asian cultures often have strong traits of nationalism and ethnic individualism, but the presence of many different cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems often results in cultural identities specific to individual nations and ethnic groups, not inclusive of the rest of the continent. People of Asia may prefer not to identify with their continent or region, but rather with their specific nation or cultural group.

The division between 'East' and 'West', formerly referred to as Orient and Occident, is a product of European cultural history and of the distinction between European Christendom and the cultures beyond it to the East. With the European colonization of the Americas the East/West distinction became global. The concept of an Eastern, "Indian" (Indies) or "Oriental" sphere was emphasized by ideas of racial as well as religious and cultural differences. Such distinctions were articulated by Westerners in the scholarly tradition known as Orientalism and Indology. The notion of an Asian identity may, therefore, be considered a primarily European construct. Orientalism, interestingly, has been the only Western concept of a unified Eastern world not limited to any specific region(s), but rather all of Asia together.[12][13]

European concepts

During the Cold War, the term "Eastern world" was sometimes used as an extension of Eastern bloc, connoting the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China and their communist allies, while the term "Western world" often connoted the United States and its NATO allies such as the United Kingdom.

The concept is often another term for the Far East – a region that bears considerable cultural and religious commonality. Eastern philosophy, art, literature, and other traditions, are often found throughout the region in places of high importance, such as popular culture, architecture and traditional literature. The spread of Buddhism and Hindu Yoga is partly responsible for this.


An image of the "Eastern world" defined as the "Far East", consisting of three overlapping cultural blocks: East Asia (green), South Asia (orange), and Southeast Asia (blue)
The spread of Syriac Christianity to East Asia.
Distribution of Eastern religions (yellow), as opposed to Abrahamic religions (violet).
Map of the Middle East

Eastern culture has developed many themes and traditions. Some important ones are:

  • Abrahamic religions (a.k.a. West Asian religions)
    • Christianity – the majority of the modern world adheres to this faith although it isn't widely practiced in its native continent of Asia anymore and since the faith had spread to the Western World the notion of "Europe" and the "Western World" has been intimately connected with the concept of "Christianity and Christendom" many even attribute Christianity for being the link that created a unified European identity.[14] Nonetheless, vibrant indigenous minorities in the Levant, Anatolia, Fars, and Kerala have preserved their ancient beliefs, adhering to Syriac Christianity (i.e. Assyrian and Maronite people), an Eastern Christian sect.[15]
    • Islam – the majority of the world Muslim population have always lived in Asia, due to Islam spreading and becoming the dominant religion of these areas.
    • Judaism – the national religion of the Israelites/Hebrews of the Fertile Crescent, or what is now Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. They eventually evolved into the Jews (particularly Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi) and Samaritans of today.
    • Druze faith – are esoteric ethnoreligious group and they reside primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan.
  • Zoroastrianism – the monotheistic state religion of Sassanid Iran
  • Eastern religions / Eastern philosophy
    • Indian religions
      • Buddhism – the path of liberation attained through insight into the ultimate nature of reality.
      • Hinduism
      • Jainism
      • Sikhism – a religion that developed in the warring plains of Punjab in an atmosphere of ideological clash between Islam and Hinduism. Its followers retain spiritual as well as martial qualities.
    • Taoic religions (a.k.a. East Asian religions)
      • Chinese folk religion
      • Confucianism – the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation.
      • Shinto
      • Taoism
  • Asian Cinema
    • Chinese cinema
    • Hong Kong cinema
    • Indian cinema
    • Iranian Cinema
    • Israeli cinema
      • Jewish cinema
    • Japanese cinema
    • Korean cinema
    • Pakistani cinema
    • Palestinian cinema
    • Philippine cinema
    • Cinema of Turkey
    • Cinema of Egypt
    • Cinema of Lebanon
    • Cinema of Kuwait
    • Cinema of Bahrain
    • Cinema of the United Arab Emirates
  • Middle Eastern cuisine
    • Arab cuisine
    • Armenian cuisine
    • Assyrian cuisine
    • Azerbaijani cuisine
    • Bahraini cuisine
    • Cypriot cuisine
    • Egyptian cuisine
    • Emirati cuisine
    • Georgian cuisine
    • Iranian cuisine
    • Iraqi cuisine
    • Israeli cuisine
    • Jordanian cuisine
    • Kurdish cuisine
    • Kuwaiti cuisine
    • Lebanese cuisine
    • Levantine cuisine
    • Mizrahi Jewish cuisine
    • Omani cuisine
    • Palestinian cuisine
    • Qatari cuisine
    • Saudi Arabian cuisine
    • Syrian cuisine
    • Syrian Jewish cuisine
    • Turkish cuisine
    • Yemeni cuisine
  • South Asian cuisine
    • Afghan cuisine
    • Bengali cuisine
    • Bhutanese cuisine
    • Indian cuisine
    • Maldivian cuisine
    • Nepalese cuisine
    • Pakistani cuisine
    • Sri Lankan cuisine
  • Central Asian cuisine
    • Bukharan Jewish cuisine
    • Kazakh cuisine
    • Kyrgyz cuisine
    • Tajik cuisine
    • Turkmen cuisine
    • Uzbek cuisine
  • East Asian cuisine
    • Chinese cuisine
      • Cantonese cuisine
        • Hong Kong cuisine
        • Macau cuisine
      • Shanghainese cuisine
      • Taiwanese cuisine
    • Japanese cuisine
    • Korean cuisine
      • North Korean cuisine
    • Mongolian cuisine
  • Southeast Asian cuisine
    • Bruneian cuisine
    • Burmese cuisine
    • Cambodian cuisine
    • Christmas Island cuisine
    • East Timorese cuisine
    • Filipino cuisine
    • Indonesian cuisine
    • Lao cuisine
    • Malaysian cuisine
    • Singaporean cuisine
    • Thai cuisine
    • Vietnamese cuisine
  • Culture of Asia
    • Culture of China
    • Culture of Korea
    • Culture of Japan
    • Cultures of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor
    • Culture of Taiwan
    • Culture of Vietnam
    • Cultures of Thailand & Laos
    • Culture of Israel
      • Jewish culture
    • Arab culture
    • Culture of Lebanon
    • Culture of Palestine
    • Culture of Iran
    • Culture of Turkey
    • Culture of Azerbaijan
    • Culture of India
    • Culture of Pakistan
    • Culture of Sri Lanka
  • Oriental medicine
    • Ayurveda
    • Chinese medicine
    • Kampo
    • Traditional Korean medicine
    • Traditional Filipino medicine
    • Traditional Tibetan medicine
    • Traditional Vietnamese medicine

See also


  1. Thompson, William; Joseph Hickey (2005). Society in Focus. Boston: Pearson plc. 0-205-41365-X.
  2. Lee, Sandra S.; Mountain, Joanna; Koening, Barbara A. (2001). "The Meanings of 'Race' in the New Genomics: Implications for Health Disparities Research" (PDF). Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 November 2006. Retrieved 26 October 2006.
  3. Meštrovic, Stjepan (1994). Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism. Routledge. p. 61. ISBN 0-203-34464-2.
  4. "Embassy of Brazil – Ottawa". Brasembottawa.org. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  5. Falcoff, Mark. "Chile Moves On". AEI. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  6. Sheldon Kirshner (16 October 2013). "Is Israel Really a Western Nation?". Sheldon Kirshner Journal. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  7. "EU-Turkey relations". European Information on Enlargement & Neighbours. EurActiv.com. 23 September 2004. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  8. "Fifty Years On, Turkey Still Pines to Become European". Time. 8 September 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  9. Cartmill, M. (1999). "The Status of the Race Concept in Physical Anthropology". American Anthropologist 100(3)651 -660.
  10. For example, "Asian and Indian people" are referred to in the New Zealand Heart Foundation's BMI calculator Archived 2009-05-31 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Khatib, Lina (2006). Filming the modern Middle East: politics in the cinemas of Hollywood and the Arab world. Library of Modern Middle East Studies, Library of International Relations. 57. I.B. Tauris. pp. 166–167, 173. ISBN 1-84511-191-5.
  12. Tromans, 6
  13. from the Latin oriens; Oxford English Dictionary
  14. Dawson, Christopher; Glenn Olsen (1961). Crisis in Western Education (reprint ed.). p. 108. ISBN 9780813216836.
  15. Hindson, Edward E.; Mitchell, Daniel R. (1 August 2013). The Popular Encyclopedia of Church History. Harvest House Publishers. p. 225. ISBN 9780736948074.
  16. "Ramoji Film City sets record". Business Line. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 3 August 2007.
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