The 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 varies depending on the context. It most often includes Asia or, geographically, the countries and cultures east of Europe, including the Mediterranean region and Arab world, specifically in historical (pre-modern) contexts, and in the context of Orientalism. It is often seen as a counterpart to the Western world.
The various regions included in the term are varied, hard to generalize, and do not have a single shared common heritage, as is frequently claimed for the Western world. Although the various parts of the Eastern world may share many common threads, they have never historically defined themselves collectively.
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 (e.g. China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore), the Near East, the Eurasian Steppe, the Greater Middle East, and South Asia (Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent).
Conceptually, the boundary between east and west is cultural and geopolitical, rather than geographical, as a result of which places such as Australia is typically grouped in the West, while the Caucasian and Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union, are grouped in the East. New Zealand and Northern America are also considered a part of the Western world. Furthermore, countries such as Israel and Turkey, which are geographically located outside of Europe, have been considered partially westernized.
In some cases, the definition may be used to refer exclusively to the former Eastern Bloc.
Although the concept of a unified "Asian race" does exist, it usually only refers to cultures and ethnicities from Southeast, East and South Asia. This is due to the fact that common parlance, in English, links the "Asian identity" to the people from these regions and often excludes the regions of Western Asia and the Eurasian Steppe; such areas include the Arab nations, Israel, Turkey and Iran, and Russia, Kazakhstan and Post-soviet space.
The division between the 'East' and 'West', formerly referred to as the Orient and Occident, is a product of Roman cultural history and of the distinction between Western 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 later 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 a unified 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 the East together.
During the Cold War, the term "Eastern world" was used as an extension of the 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. Far 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.
Eastern culture has developed many themes and traditions. Some important ones are:
- Abrahamic religions (a.k.a. Near Eastern or 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. 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 attribute Western Christianity for being the link that created a unified European identity. Nonetheless, vibrant indigenous minorities in the Levant have preserved their ancient beliefs, adhering to Syriac Christianity (i.e. Assyrian and Maronite people), an Eastern Christian sect.
- 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.
- Zoroastrianism — the monotheistic state religion of Sassanid Iran
- Far Eastern religions / Eastern philosophy
- Indian religions
- Buddhism — the path of liberation attained through insight into the ultimate nature of reality.
- 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)
- Indian religions
- Asian Cinema
- West Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine
- South Asian cuisine
- North and Central Asian cuisine
- East Asian cuisine
- Southeast Asian cuisine
- Culture of Asia
- Culture of China
- Culture of Korea
- Culture of Japan
- Cultures of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor
- Culture of Singapore
- Culture of Taiwan
- Culture of Vietnam
- Cultures of Thailand & Laos
- Culture of Israel
- 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
Kebabs are a popular cuisine among Middle Easterners.
Round challah, a special bread in Jewish cuisine
Sushi has become prevalent even among westerners.
Armenian khash (or pacha), which is also commonly eaten by Assyrians, Arabs and Kurds.
Aerial view of Masada, Israel
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