Orient is the East, traditionally comprising anything that belongs
to the Eastern world, in relation to Europe. In English, it is largely
a metonym for, and coterminous with, the continent of Asia, divided
into the Far East, Middle East, and Near East.
The term Oriental is sometimes used to describe people or objects from
2 History of the term
3 Current usage
3.1 British English
3.2 American English
3.3 Australian English
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
The term "Orient" derives from the Latin word oriens meaning "east"
(lit. "rising" < orior " rise"). The use of the word for "rising"
to refer to the east (where the sun rises) has analogs from many
languages: compare the terms "Levant" (< French levant "rising"),
"Vostok" Russian: Восток (< Russian voskhod Russian:
восход "sunrise"), "Anatolia" (< Greek anatole), "mizrahi" in
Hebrew ("zriha" meaning sunrise), "sharq" Arabic: شرق (<
Arabic yashriq يشرق "rise", shurūq Arabic: شروق "rising"),
"shygys" Kazakh: шығыс (< Kazakh shygu Kazakh: шығу "come
out"), Turkish: doğu (< Turkish doğmak to be born; to rise),
Chinese: 東 (pinyin: dōng, a pictograph of the sun rising behind a
tree) and "The Land of the Rising Sun" to refer to Japan. Also,
many ancient temples, including pagan temples and the Jewish Temple in
Jerusalem, were built with their main entrances facing the East. This
tradition was carried on in Christian churches. To situate them in
such a manner was to "orient" them in the proper direction. When
something was facing the correct direction, it was said to be in the
proper orientation.
Another explanation of the term stems from
Rome during the Roman
Empire, specifically the Eastern Roman Empire, or the "Roman Orient",
during the Byzantine Empire. Although the original East-West (or
Orient-Occident) line was the Italian Peninsula's
East Coast, around
600 AD this would shift to the City of Rome. Any area below the City
Rome was considered the Orient, as well as the ethnicities
inhabiting the land, such as Dalmatian Italians, (modern Neapolitans
along with Sicilians, Tunisians, Moroccans, Greeks, etc.), as well as
East of Southern Italy, hence the Italian name "Italia
nord-orientale" (in English Northeast Italy) for Le
Tre Venezie (the 3
Venices) located above the Roman latitude line separating it from
modern Abruzzo; the beginning of the
Orient in the East, while Lazio
is its beginning in the West of the Italian Peninsula.[citation
The opposite term "Occident" derives from the Latin word occidens,
meaning west (lit. setting < occido fall/set). This term meant the
west (where the sun sets) but has fallen into disuse in English, in
favor of "Western world".
History of the term
Further information: Orientalism
Harem Pool by the Orientalist painter
Jean-Léon Gérôme c. 1876;
nude females in harem or bathing settings are a staple of much
In the later Roman Empire, the Praefectura Praetorio Orientis, the
Praetorian prefecture of the East, included most of the Eastern Roman
Empire from the eastern Balkans eastwards; its easternmost part was
the Diocese of the East, the Dioecesis Orientis, corresponding roughly
to the region of Syria. Over time, the common understanding of "the
Orient" has continually shifted eastwards, as European people traveled
farther into Asia. It finally reached the Pacific Ocean, in what
Westerners came to call "the Far East". These shifts in time and
identification sometimes confuse the scope (historical and geographic)
of Oriental Studies. Yet there remain contexts where "the Orient" and
"Oriental" have kept their older meanings (e.g., "Oriental spices"
typically are from the regions extending from the
Middle East to
India to Indo-China). Travelers may again take the
Orient Express train from
Paris to its terminus in the European part
of Istanbul, a route established in the early 20th century.
In European historiography, the meaning of "the Orient" changed in
scope several times. Originally, the term referred to Egypt, the
Levant, and adjoining areas. as far west as Morocco. During the
1800s, India, and to a lesser extent China, began to displace the
Levant as the primary subject of Orientalist research. By the mid-20th
century, Western scholars generally considered "the Orient" as just
East Asia, Southeast Asia, and eastern Central Asia. As recently as
the early 20th century, the term "Orient" often continued to be used
in ways that included North Africa. Today, the term primarily evokes
images of China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and peninsular Southeast
Asia. Throughout the history of the changing sense of the term,
"the Orient" was never equivalent to
Asia as a whole. "The Orient"
being largely a cultural term, large parts of Asia—
notably—were excluded from the scholarly notion of "the Orient".
Equally valid terms for the
Orient still exist in the English language
in such collocations as
Oriental studies (now Asian Studies in some
The adjectival term Oriental has been used by the West to mean
cultures, peoples, countries, Asian rugs, and goods from the Orient.
"Oriental" means generally "eastern". It is a traditional designation
(especially when capitalized) for anything belonging to the
"East" (for Asia), and especially of its Eastern culture. It indicated
the eastern direction in historical astronomy, often abbreviated
"Ori". In contemporary American English, Oriental usually refers to
things from the parts of
Asia traditionally occupied by East
Asians and most
Central Asians and
Southeast Asians racially
categorized as "Mongoloid". This excludes Jews, Indians, Arabs, and
most other South or West Asian peoples. Because of historical
discrimination against Chinese, Korean and Japanese, in some parts of
the United States, some people consider the term derogatory. For
example, Washington state prohibits the word "Oriental" in legislation
and government documents, preferring the word "Asian" instead.
In more local uses, "oriental" is also used for eastern parts of
countries, for example Morocco's Oriental Region. Oriental is also
used as an adjective akin to "eastern", especially in the
Spanish-speaking world. For example, the Philippine islands of Mindoro
and Negros are each divided into two provinces whose titles include
the words "oriental" and "occidental" respectively. The official name
Uruguay is the República Oriental del
Uruguay or Oriental Republic
Uruguay because it is east of the
Since the 19th century, "orientalist" has been the traditional term
for a scholar of Oriental studies; however, the use in English of
"Orientalism" to describe academic "Oriental studies" is rare: the
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary cites only one such usage, by
Lord Byron in
Orientalism is more widely used to refer to the works of the
many 19th-century artists who specialized in "Oriental" subjects,
often drawing on their travels to
North Africa and Western Asia.
Artists as well as scholars were already described as "Orientalists"
in the 19th century. In 1978, Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said
published his influential and controversial book, Orientalism; he used
the term to describe a pervasive Western tradition, both academic and
artistic, of prejudiced outsider interpretations of the Arab and
Muslim worlds, shaped by the attitudes of European imperialism in the
18th and 19th centuries.
In British English, the term Oriental is sometimes used to refer to
East and Southeast
Asia (such as those from China, Japan,
Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia,
Mongolia and Laos). "Asian" in the United Kingdom generally refers to
people from South
Asia (in particular Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri
Afghanistan and Maldives) since
British Asians make up
approximately 6.9% of the population. "Orientals" refers
exclusively to people of
East and Southeast Asian origin, who comprise
0.7% of the UK population as a whole, and 5.3% of the non-European
population. Of these, the majority are of Chinese descent. Orient
is also a word for the lustre of a fine pearl. Hong Kong, a former
British colony, has been called "
Pearl of the Orient".
Distinct within American culture, many
American English speakers
consider the term "Oriental" to be an antiquated, pejorative, and
disparaging term. John Kuo Wei Tchen, director of the
Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute at New York
University, said the basic critique of the term developed in the U.S.
in the 1970s. Tchen has said: "With the U.S.A. anti-war movement in
the '60s and early '70s, many Asian Americans identified the term
'Oriental' with a Western process of racializing Asians as forever
opposite 'others'." In a 2009 American press release related to
legislation aimed at removing the term "oriental" from official
documents of the State of New York, Governor
David Paterson said: "The
word 'oriental' does not describe ethnic origin, background or even
race; in fact, it has deep and demeaning historical roots".
In 2016, President
Barack Obama signed legislation striking the word
from federal law.
In Australian English, the term "Asian" generally refers to people of
East Asian or Southeast Asian descent, such as those of Chinese,
Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, or Filipino descent. Persons of
Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and most other
South Asian descent are referred
to by their respective demonym, but without explicit knowledge, those
people are indeterminately inferred as "Indian".
Orient is usually used synonymously with the area between
Near East and India, including Israel, the Arab world, and Greater
The term Asiaten (English: Asians) means the people of
Southeast Asia. Another word for
Orient in German is Morgenland (now
mainly poetic), which literally translates as "morning land". The
antonym "Abendland" (rarely: "Okzident") is also mainly poetic, and
refers to (Western) Europe.
Land of the Morning Calm
Land of the Rising Sun
Orientalizing Period of Archaic Greek art
School of Oriental and African Studies
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London
Western world (the Occident; the opposite of Orient)
^ Harbaugh, Rick (1998). "東". Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and
Dictionary. Han Lu Book & Pub. Co. p. 227.
ISBN 0-9660750-0-5. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
^ a b c d Lewis, Martin W.; Wigen, Kären (1997). The myth of
continents: a critique of metageography. University ù Africa.
Retrieved 8 November 2011.
^ Hooke, Robert. 1666. Drawing of Saturn in Philosophical Transactions
(Royal Society publication) Volume 1
^ Senate bill (pdf file) Archived 5 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "The World Factbook". cia.gov.
^ Nosal, K R. American Criticism, New York Standard, New York. 2002
^ "2011 Census: Ethnic group, local authorities in the United
Kingdom". Office for National Statistics. 11 October 2013. Retrieved
13 April 2015.
^ 2011 Census: KS201UK Ethnic group, local authorities in the United
Kingdom, Accessed 19 April 2014
^ orient: definition of orient in Oxford dictionary (British &
World English). Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved on 12 April 2014.
^ "Oriental: Rugs or People?". nyu.edu.
^ official 2009 press release Archived 12 February 2013 at the Wayback
^ Weaver, Dustin (2016-05-20). "Obama signs measure striking
'oriental' and 'negro' from federal law". TheHill. Retrieved
[Ankerl, Guy] Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations: Arabo-Muslim,
Bharati, Chinese, and Western (INUPRESS), Geneva, 2000.
Look up Orient, orient, Oriental, or oriental in Wiktionary, the free
The American Oriental Society
The Oriental Institute at University of Chicago
On Asian and Oriental
Model Minority posting by Alan Hu.
The Critic in the
Orient by George Hamlin Fitch
What's the Matter with Saying the Orient? by Christopher Hill for
"About Japan: A Teacher's Resource"