Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The East and The West

From XKCD from Adrian

TDAXP once told me a story of how a textbook of his said that the "Far East" is called such because if one were to travel east from America that is where one would end up. The same book proclaimed Emperor Constantine I was the founder of the Holy Roman Empire.

The terms "West" and "East" are based on interpretations of the development of civilization. The West has its foundation in Ancient Greece while the East at first was Asia, meaning usually Persia. The West saw itself based on logic and limited government while the East believed in their god-kings supremacy. As time progressed Europe and European-based cultures inherited the term the West. The term "Far East" originated out of the desire to differentiate classical Asia from China and Japan, which Europeans were late in learning about.


Anonymous said...

Obviously this Cylindrical Mercator projection's central meridian is not the Prime Meridian but probably somewhere close to the 100th Meridian (W). Not a good view of the world, a more American view with North America in the center. But a great comic and site!

ft said...

In fact, if I remember well the "Far East" is a British invention, the classification of desks at the Foreign (and Colonial ?) Office, with the corrolaries of Middle East and Near East.

Wikipedia has interesting entries on the history of the notions of Far, Middle, and Near East and their changing geographical coverage.
So, for a European the Far is sometimes less far away than you thin, and the near and the middle may be identical. And for the Australian prime minister Menzies in 1939 the Far East of the British became the near north to them.