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The term Eastern world refers very broadly to the various cultures or social structures and philosophical systems, depending on the context, most often including at least part of Asia or geographically the countries and cultures east of Europe, north of Oceania. The term is usually not used by people in this region itself, since this Eastern world is a varied, complex and dynamic region, hard to generalize, and although these countries and regions have many common threads running through them, historically they never needed to define themselves collectively against another entity, real or superficial.
The term originally had a literal geographic meaning. It contrasted Asia with the cultures and civilizations of Western Europe. Traditionally, This includes Central Asia (comprising Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), the Far East (comprising mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan in East Asia; Russian Far East in North Asia; plus Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in Southeast Asia), the Middle East (aka the Near East) or Western Asia (comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen), Siberia (aka North Asia), and the Indian subcontinent (comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka plus the British Indian Ocean Territory and the island countries in the Indian Ocean).
In the contemporary cultural meaning, the phrase "Eastern world" includes Asia, as well as many countries of immigrant origin that are multiethnic and multicultural with substantial Asian ancestral populations including North America, Bahamas, South Pacific, etc.
Due to the Mediterranean, or parts of it in both north and south, have formed in Classic times a single cultural and civilizational bloc, and due to the early expansion of the Islamic religion and the Arabic language to all of its southern shores, North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara, sometimes Mauritania and Sudan), the African part of the Greater Middle East, is often regarded as part of the Eastern world, while geographical Asian nations with a significant historical (pre-modern) or formative imprint of West European populations and traditions such as the Philippines, or of those ultimately non- West European in culture and origin whose indigenous populations were forced into Europe and its surrounding areas for a long period of time such as Israel, may be considered Western at least in part or Westernized, including being both Western and Eastern, while Cyprus even became part of the European Union in 2004 under its internationally recognised government (the Greek Cypriot government in the south).
Although the concept of a united Asian people and an Asian race is even more debatable due to the fact that most of the world link the identity of Asian only to the people of South, East and Southeast Asia and so regions like Western Asia that who even though see themselves as part of the Eastern world such as the Arab nations of Western Asia, Israel, Turkey, Iran, and the ethnic groups that come along with these countries do not identify as Asian. Another reason why a Pan-Asian identity is a flawed work in progress concept compared to the mass unity found in the continents of Europe and Africa is the fact that Asia is the most racially and ethnically diverse continent in the world that differs very widely among and within its regions with many different cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems whose people have an even further pan-continental belief of nationalistic, cultural, and ethnic individualism many of whom believe came out of the imperialistic colonization of the continent by foreign Western powers back in colonial times and because of this overt sense individualism across the continent once a specific group(s) is labeled something many groups within Asia will have a hard time identifying with the same label. Most of the people of Asia prefer to identify with their individual nations rather than with their continent, region, or each other and these attitudes can be found throughout the continent.
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, but not to the degree that they are considered a part of Europe as is the case with Asia.
The division between 'East' and 'West' 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. An intriguing fact to be noted is that Orientalism has been the only Western concept that was about a unified Eastern world and not about any specific region(s), but rather all of Asia together.
People from the Eastern world are known by certain regions in the West as "Oriental", while in others, it may still have a racial connotation (such as Brazil, where the more than 2 million Brazilians of East Asian descent are known as brasileiros orientais – in contrast to asiáticos brasileiros, a term that includes all those with recent descent from anywhere in Asia, including the generally white Arab Brazilians, Mizrahi Jews, Armenian Brazilians, Turkish Brazilians) that became outdated or even offensive in others.
During the Cold War, the term "Eastern world" was sometimes used as an extension of Eastern bloc, connoting the Soviet Union, 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.
Eastern culture has developed many themes and traditions. Some important ones are:
- Abrahamic religions (aka 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.
- 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 — an ethnic culture and religion originating with the Ancient Israelites/Hebrews in the Fertile Crescent, or what is now Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. They eventually evolved into the Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi Jews of the diaspora.
- Zoroastrianism — the monotheistic state religion of Sassanid Persia.
- Asian Cinema
- Asian cuisine
- 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 (aka East Asian religions or Far Eastern religions)
- Indian religions
- Oriental medicine
- Adoption of Chinese literary culture in the Sinosphere consisting of Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mainland China, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam
- Arab world
- Central Asia
- Continental union
- East-West dichotomy
- Greater India
- Muslim world
- Silk Road
- Western Asia
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- For example, "Asian and Indian people" are referred to in the New Zealand Heart Foundation's BMI calculator.
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- Tromans, 6
- from the Latin oriens; Oxford English Dictionary
- Dawson, Christopher; Glenn Olsen (1961). Crisis in Western Education (reprint ed.). p. 108. ISBN 9780813216836.