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For other uses, see Far East (disambiguation).
Far Eastern countries
Far east1.png
Location of the Far East, culturally defined
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 遠東
Simplified Chinese 远东
Literal meaning Far East
Burmese name
Burmese အရှေ့ဖျား ဒေသ
IPA [ʔəʃḛbjá dèθa̰]
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabet Viễn Đông
Thai name
Thai ตะวันออกไกล
Tawan-oak klai
Korean name
Hangul 극동
Hanja 極東
Mongolian name
Mongolian Als Dornod
Japanese name
Kanji 極東
Malay name
Malay تيمور جاوء
Timur Jauh
Indonesian name
Indonesian Timur Jauh
Filipino name
Tagalog Silanganan (poetic)
Malayong Silangan (literal)
Portuguese name
Portuguese Extremo Oriente
Russian name
Russian Дальний Восток
IPA: [ˈdɑlʲnʲɪj vɐsˈtok]
Romanization Dál'niy Vostók

The Far East is an English term (with equivalents in various languages of Europe and Asia; Chinese: 遠東; pinyin: yuǎn dōng; literally: "far east") mostly describing East Asia (including Northeast Asia), Southeast Asia, and the Russian Far East (part of North Asia, a.k.a. Siberia)[1] with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.[2]

The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 12th century, denoting the Far East as the "farthest" of the three "easts", beyond the Near East and the Middle East. For the same reason, Chinese people in the 19th and early 20th centuries called Western countries "Tàixī (泰西)"—i.e. anything further west than the Arab world. The term is less commonly used than in the past[3] as it allegedly connotes the "orientalism" of the 19th century more explicitly than East Asia. Since the 1960s, terms like East Asia and the Orient have become increasingly common.[4] East Asia remains the most common media term for the region today.[3]


Prior to the colonial era, "Far East" referred to anything further east than the Middle East. In the 1500s, King John III of Portugal called India a "rich and interesting country in the Far East[5] (Extremo Oriente)." The term was popularized during the period of the British Empire as a blanket term for lands to the east of British India. In pre-World War I European geopolitics, the Near East referred to the relatively nearby lands of the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East denoted northwestern South Asia and Central Asia, and the Far East meant countries along the western Pacific Ocean and eastern Indian Ocean. Many European languages have analogous terms, such as the French (Extrême-Orient), Spanish (Extremo Oriente), Portuguese (Extremo Oriente), German (Ferner Osten), Italian (Estremo Oriente), Polish (Daleki Wschód), and Dutch (Verre Oosten).

Cultural as well as geographic meaning[edit]

Significantly, the term evokes cultural as well as geographic separation; the Far East is not just geographically distant, but also culturally exotic. It never refers, for instance, to the culturally Western nations of Australia and New Zealand, which lie even farther to the east of Europe than East Asia itself. This combination of cultural and geographic subjectivity was well illustrated in 1939 by Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia. Reflecting upon his country's geopolitical concerns with the onset of war, Menzies commented that:

"The problems of the Pacific are different. What Great Britain calls the Far East is to us the Near North."[6]

Far East in its usual sense is comparable to terms such as the Orient, which means East; the Eastern world; or simply the East. Southeast Asia, the Russian Far East, and occasionally the Indian Subcontinent might be included in the Far East to some extent.

Concerning the term, John K. Fairbank and Edwin O. Reischauer, professors of East Asian Studies at Harvard University, wrote (in East Asia: The Great Tradition): "When Europeans traveled far to the east to reach Cathay, Japan and the Indies, they naturally gave those distant regions the general name 'Far East.' Americans who reached China, Japan and Southeast Asia by sail and steam across the Pacific could, with equal logic, have called that area the 'Far West.' For the people who live in that part of the world, however, it is neither 'East' nor 'West' and certainly not 'Far.' A more generally acceptable term for the area is 'East Asia,' which is geographically more precise and does not imply the outdated notion that Europe is the center of the civilized world."[4]

Today, the term remains in the names of some longstanding institutions, including the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Far Eastern University in Manila, and the Far East University in South Korea. Furthermore, the United Kingdom and United States have historically used Far East for several military units and commands in the region:

Territories and regions conventionally included under the term Far East[edit]

Name of region[7] and
territory, with flag
(2008 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Capital Government Currency Official languages
East Asia
 China[8] 9,598,094[9]
1,370,536,875[10] 161.0 Beijing Single-party led state,[citation needed]
Socialist republic
Yuan (Renminbi) Chinese (Mandarin)[11]
 Hong Kong [12] 1,104 6,985,200 6,352.0 Hong Kong Special administrative region
of the People's Republic of China.
Hong Kong dollar Chinese (Cantonese),[13]
 Macau [14] 28.6 520,400 17,310.0 Macau Special administrative region
of the People's Republic of China
Pataca Chinese (Cantonese),[15]
 Japan 377,873 127,433,494 337.0 Tokyo Parliamentary democracy,
Constitutional monarchy
Yen None
(Japanese as de facto)
 Mongolia 1,564,116 2,951,786 1.7 Ulaanbaatar Parliamentary republic Tögrög Mongolian
 North Korea 120,540 23,301,725 190.0 Pyongyang Juche,
Socialist Republic
North Korean won Korean
 South Korea 100,032 49,044,790 493.0 Seoul Presidential republic Won Korean
 Taiwan[16] 36,188 22,911,292 633.12 Taipei Semi-presidential system New Taiwan dollar Chinese (Mandarin)
Southeast Asia
 Brunei 5,765 381,371 66.0 Bandar Seri Begawan Absolute Islamic Sultanate Brunei dollar Malay
 Cambodia 181,035 14,241,640 78.0 Phnom Penh Constitutional monarchy Riel Khmer
 East Timor[17] 15,410 1,115,000 64.0 Dili Parliamentary republic U.S. dollar / Centavo coins Tetum and Portuguese
 Indonesia[18] 1,919,588 237,512,355 123.8 Jakarta Presidential republic Rupiah Indonesian
 Laos 236,800 6,521,998 25.0 Vientiane Socialist Republic Kip Lao
 Malaysia 329,847 27,730,000 83.0 Kuala Lumpur Federal constitutional monarchy,
Parliamentary democracy
Ringgit Malay
 Myanmar (Burma) 676,578 55,390,000 75.0 Naypyidaw Unitary presidential
constitutional republic
Kyat Burmese
 Papua New Guinea 462,840 6,732,000 14.5 Port Moresby Unitary parliamentary
constitutional monarchy
Kina Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin, and English
 Philippines 300,000 90,500,000 295.0 Manila Unitary presidential
constitutional republic
Peso (Piso) Tagalog and English
 Singapore 707.1 4,588,600 6,489.0 Singapore Parliamentary republic Singapore dollar Malay, English,
Chinese (Mandarin), and Tamil
 Thailand 513,115 63,038,247 122.0 Bangkok Parliamentary democracy,
Constitutional monarchy
Baht Thai
 Vietnam 331,690 86,116,559 253.0 Hanoi Single-party led state,
Socialist Republic
đồng Vietnamese
North Asia
Russia Russian Far East (Russia)[19] 6,215,900[20] 6,692,865[20] 3.0 Moscow Federal semi-presidential republic Ruble Russian and
27 other co-official languages


See also[edit]


  1. ^ AskOxford: Far East
  2. ^ The 'Far Eastern Economic Review' for example covers news from India and Sri Lanka.
  3. ^ a b "A menagerie of monikers". The Economist. 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2011-07-09. "Remember... the Far East? If so, speak softly. Labels are handy ways of sorting out countries by history or geography. But lazily conceived and out-of-date ones are offensive and misleading.... The "Far East", as East Asia used to be called, is indeed far away from Europe but quite nearby for people who live there." 
  4. ^ a b Reischauer, Edwin and John K Fairbank, East Asia: The Great Tradition, 1960.
  5. ^ Robert Sewell (1901). A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar; A Contribution to the History of India. 
  6. ^ Broadcast Speech by Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister
  7. ^   Continental regions as per UN categorisations (map), except 12. Depending on definitions, various territories cited below (notes 6, 11-13, 15, 17-19, 21-23) may be in one or both of Asia and Europe, Africa, or Oceania.
  8. ^   The state is commonly known as simply "China", which is subsumed by the eponymous entity and civilisation (China). Figures given are for Mainland China only, and do not include Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
  9. ^ Includes PRC-administered area (Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract, both territories claimed by India).
  10. ^ Information listed is for Mainland China only. The Special administrative region (i.e. Hong Kong and Macau), the island territories under the control of the Republic of China (which includes the islands of Taiwan, Quemoy, and Matsu) are excluded.
  11. ^ "Law of the People's Republic of China on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language (Order of the President No.37)". Chinese Government. 31 October 2000. Retrieved 21 June 2013. "For purposes of this Law, the standard spoken and written Chinese language means Putonghua (a common speech with pronunciation based on the Beijing dialect) and the standardized Chinese characters." 
  12. ^   Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China
  13. ^ Cantonese, a dialect of Chinese, is a de facto official language of Hong Kong, as Hong Kong's constitution does not specify which dialect of Chinese is the territory's official language.
  14. ^   Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
  15. ^ Cantonese, a dialect of Chinese, is a de facto official language of Macau, as Macau's constitution does not specify which dialect of Chinese is the territory's official language.
  16. ^   Figures are for the area under the de facto control of the Republic of China (ROC) government, commonly referred to as Taiwan. Claimed in whole by the PRC; see political status of Taiwan.
  17. ^   East Timor is often considered a transcontinental country in Southeastern Asia and Oceania.
  18. ^ Indonesia is often considered a transcontinental country in Southeastern Asia and Oceania; figures do not include Irian Jaya and Maluku Islands, frequently reckoned in Oceania (Melanesia/Australasia).
  19. ^   Russia is generally considered a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe (UN region) and Northern Asia; population and area figures are for Asian portion only.
  20. ^ a b Only includes the area of Far Eastern Federal District.


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