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This article is part of the
series on Eastern culture
Culture, Society,
Philosophy, Medicine, Religion, Cinema
Asian art, culture,
Korea, China, Philippines, India, Japan, Vietnam
Ayyavazhi,
Taoism, Confucianism,
Buddhism, Hinduism,
Shintoism, Sikhism
West/East distinction

Eastern world, The Orient, Orientalism

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</font> The term Eastern world refers very broadly to the various cultures, social structures and philosophical systems of "the East", namely Asia (including China, India, Japan, and surrounding regions).

Concept of "the East"Edit

The division between "East" and "West" is a product of European cultural history, and of the distinction between European Christendom and the alien cultures beyond it to the East. Before the discovery of the Americas and the exploration of Sub-Saharan Africa by the Europeans, only North Africa and other Islamic countries to the East were known in detail, though India and China were vaguely known of. The crusades established what became a border between "Eastern" and "Western" peoples. With the European colonization of the Americas the East/West distinction became global. The concept of an Eastern 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. People from the East are known by certain regions in the West as "Oriental". During the Cold War, the term "Eastern world" often connotated the Soviet Union, China and their communist allies, while the term "Western world" often connotated the United States and its NATO allies such as Great Britain and France.

Problems of the conceptEdit

Currently terms such as Western, Near East (or Middle East) and Far East are commonly used to distinguish different cultural spheres, based on the standard two-dimensional layout of the world-map, which has the Americas at the far left (West), Europe and Africa in the middle, and Asia to the right (East). This arrangement is arbitrary because the Earth is round, rather than flat (however this model does ensure that land regions are concentrated in the centre without Eurasia being split in two); therefore, by going west, one will eventually arrive in the east, and when one goes east, one will eventually arrive in the west, provided one keeps going long enough. This is true no matter where one is on the globe's surface (except the Poles, where all directions are either north or south). Because of this, the concept has been criticized for being Eurocentric, however the notional 'central-point' between East and West would be to the east of Europe. Some countries, in particular Russia, do not fit neatly into this opposition.

While Western Orientalist traditions included both Islamic and further Eastern cultures under the generic heading of "the East", the common Abrahamic traditions of Islam and Christianity mean that a case can be made that both Islam and Christianity together form a different cultural sphere from countries further to the East in which the concept of Dharma plays a far more important role than that of an authoritative God. In recent years the concept of "Eastern culture" has increasingly become restricted to East Asian traditions. However, the existence of Islam as a powerful force in countries such as Indonesia makes this usage problematic.

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