The Far East is a geographical region that includes East and Southeast Asia as well as the Russian Far East. South Asia is sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons. The term "Far East" 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. Likewise, in Qing Dynasty of the 19th and early 20th centuries the term "Tàixī (泰西)" – i.e., anything further west than the Arab world – was used to refer to the Western countries.
Since the 1960s, East Asia has become the most common term for the region in international mass media outlets.
As in relating to the remoteness of the territory from Europe, the term Far East informs of an Eurocentric worldview.
Among Western Europeans, prior to the colonial era, "Far East" referred to anything further east than the Middle East. In the 16th century, King John III of Portugal called India a "rich and interesting country in the Far East (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 (Lejano Oriente), Portuguese (Extremo Oriente), German (Ferner Osten), Italian (Estremo Oriente), Polish (Daleki Wschód), Norwegian (Det fjerne Østen) and Dutch (Verre Oosten).
Cultural as well as geographic meaning
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, a Prime Minister of Australia. Reflecting on his country's geopolitical concerns with the onset of war, Menzies commented that:
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 South Asia might be included in the Far East to some extent.
Today, the term remains in the names of some longstanding institutions, including the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Far Eastern University in Manila, the Far East University in South Korea, and Far East, the periodical magazine of the Missionary Society of St. Columban. Furthermore, the United States and United Kingdom have historically used Far East for several military units and commands in the region; the Royal Navy's Far East Fleet, for instance.
Territories and regions conventionally included under the term Far East
- East Asia
- East Asian cultural sphere
- East–West dichotomy
- Far West, a term for Europe
- Four Asian Tigers
- Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Japanese idea from the 1930s-1940s
- Inner Asia
- List of Mongol states
- List of Turkic dynasties and countries
- North Asia
- South Asia
- Southeast Asia
- Tropical Asia
- Turkic migration
- Turkic peoples
- List of conflicts in Asia#East Asia
- List of Chinese wars and battles
- List of wars involving the People's Republic of China
- Indochina Wars
- Korean War
- Pacific War, part of World War II
- Russo-Japanese War
- Clyde, Paul Hibbert, and Burton F. Beers. The Far East: A History of Western Impacts and Eastern Responses, 1830-1975 (1975). online
- Crofts, Alfred. A history of the Far East (1958) online free to borrow
- Fairbank, John K., Edwin Reischauer, and Albert M. Craig. East Asia: The great tradition and East Asia: The modern transformation (1960) [2 vol 1960] online free to borrow, famous textbook.
- Green, Michael. By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783 (2019) excerpt
- Iriye, Akira. After Imperialism; The Search for a New Order in the Far East 1921-1931. (1965).
- Keay, John. Empire's End: A History of the Far East from High Colonialism to Hong Kong (Scribner, 1997). online free to borrow
- Macnair, Harley F. & Donald Lach. Modern Far Eastern International Relations. (2nd ed 1955) 1950 edition online free, 780pp; focus on 1900–1950.
- Norman, Henry. The Peoples and Politics of the Far East: Travels and studies in the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies, Siberia, China, Japan, Korea, Siam and Malaya (1904) online
- Paine, S. C. M. The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949 (2014) excerpt
- Ring, George C. Religions of the Far East: Their History to the Present Day (Kessinger Publishing, 2006).
- Vinacke, Harold M. A History of the Far East in Modern Times (1964) online free
- Vogel, Ezra. China and Japan: Facing History (2019) excerpt
- Woodcock, George. The British in the Far East (1969) online.