Created By: Kn9 on May 19, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on January 7, 2015

Mysteries Of The Orient

Gaining superhuman skill or powers by training under exotic foreigners.

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Trope
In the olden days, one of the surest ways to upgrade to a Bad Ass was to train in a mysterious Asian country—usually Tibet, for obvious reasons, though other countries got in on the fun, too—and learn some of those Mysteries of the Orient.

Mysteries of the Orient cover virtually every kind of secret knowledge, from the secrets of sorcery, psionics, or chi to mysterious martial arts and ninjutsu to whatever else the plot might need.

This trope is Older Than Radio and extremely common. Much like the Yellow Peril or Dragon Lady, the trope thrives regardless of any Unfortunate Implications, though there might be some Lampshade Hanging here and there.


Examples:

Comic Books

Film Live Action
  • The Dark Knight Saga has Bruce Wayne learning how to fight like a ninja from a secret ninja tribe headed by Ras Al Ghoul.

Literature
  • Butler of the Artemis Fowl series received his super-secret training under Madame Ko.

Radio
  • The Shadow learned magic techniques from Tibetan monks in some incarnations.

Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • May 19, 2011
    jaytee
    I Swear We Have This One, but I can't find it.

    This is just a Troper Tale, but pretty much every bio I've had to write for myself involved training in Tibet.
  • May 19, 2011
    foxley
    This the origin of the Golden Age comic book hero the Green Lama (which borrowed heavily from The Shadow).
  • May 19, 2011
    Riddlewizard
    Kill Bill has the main character go through the Training From Hell under a Chinese master. With long white triangular beard and killer mustache, to boot.
  • May 19, 2011
    Fanra
    This is not necessarily racist. Various Asian cultures do have techniques of using the mind and body that other cultures do not. From kung fu to meditation to Tibetan monks who can create body heat through meditation, something considered impossible by Western medical science.
  • May 19, 2011
    SKJAM
    The Pulp Magazine version of the Green Lama (who came first) slightly subverted this by having his powers be the result of training by Tibetan monks made useful by his adding Western science.
  • May 19, 2011
    Gatomon41
    Played with in the Cthulhu Mythos tale Lair of the Star-Spwan: the narrator is captured by a cult, and helps a telepathic Chinese doctor to stop the evil plot.

    Likewise in Frank Belknap Long's The Hounds of Tindalos, an occultist attempts time travel using a drug he learned from Eastern mystics.
  • May 19, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Sgt Kabukiman NYPD: Harry (a white man) gets the power of Kabuki more or less accidentally from its previous holder, an old Japanese man.
  • May 19, 2011
    foxley
    In the Marvel Universe, the Shroud gained his mystic powers through training with the Cult of Kali in India and being branded with the 'Kiss of Kali'.
  • May 20, 2011
    Arivne
    Shamgri La mentions the "wise monks who will teach weary Western travelers...to punch through people's heads" version. It has a lot of "learns fighting abilities and/or mystical powers" examples.
  • May 20, 2011
    purplequeen14
    This character has pretty Badass abilities to start with, but at the end of Fullmetal Alchemist (manga/brotherhood), it's stated that Alphonse will go to Xing to learn Alkahestry from Mei Chang.
  • May 20, 2011
    RazorSmile
    Yeah, this is pretty well covered between Shamgri La and Mighty Whitey. Nonetheless, I'll add John Aman aka the Amazing Man who, like Green Lama, used chemistry to augment his already mystical martial arts (specifically, he got injected with a failed invisibility potion. Instead of turning invisible, he gained the ability to transform into green mist.)
  • May 20, 2011
    Koveras
    Uh, Batman from Batman The Animated Series? And I suspect many other incarnations, as well...

    Also, Erast Fandorin.
  • May 20, 2011
    Hadashi
    Lets not get into the racism thing, the Orient is an actual place and it isn't a derogatory phrase.

    Subverted in Thief of Time when the old martial arts master left the high mountains to go seek wisdom in Ankh Morpork from an old Washer Woman. He also subverts and plays for laughs tropes along the lines of 'Baddass old mentor' and 'don't mess with the elderly'.
  • May 20, 2011
    Jordan
    I suggested a Trained In The East trope at one point but kind of forgot about it. Yeah, this has been a quite common trope.
  • May 20, 2011
    Minkovsky
    I think not only Batman TAS did it. Batman Begins also did that. This even may be Batman's origin story (IDK, I don't read Batman)
  • May 20, 2011
    Rolf
    Film
  • May 27, 2011
    Kn9
    I think this might be ready to launch with the examples we've got so far. Any other comments/additions?
  • May 27, 2011
    Aielyn
    Exotic Training For Power?

    Actually, perhaps this needs to have a supertrope made (if one doesn't already exist), Exotic Equals Magical. Then, this becomes the special case in which exotic training lets you learn magical abilities or superhuman skills.
  • May 27, 2011
    Darkmane

    Note: This is a must-have training for the Mighty Whitey.
  • May 28, 2011
    Aielyn
    OK, I just made a YKTTW for the supertrope, if anyone wants to check it out.
  • May 30, 2011
    StrixObscuro
    See also the Wuxia genre, which probably helped this trope get its footing.
  • January 5, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump, maybe

    Compare Touched By Vorlons
  • January 5, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    I've formatted the examples in the OP.

    Comic Books
    • In the backstory of X Statix, Mr. Sensitive learned how to control his heightened senses through Eastern philosophy... at least, according to his official biography.
  • January 6, 2015
    Arivne
    • Split up the title into words.
    • Blue Linked (badass).
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Italicized work names.
  • January 6, 2015
    Chabal2
    Invoked in Preacher when Jesse (now a sheriff) explains to his deputy that he gained his Compelling Voice (the literal Word Of God-he says somrthing with it, you do it) by training in the Orient (what actually happened is he's the host for the offspring of an angel and a demon, a creature as powerful as God). They both share a laugh and she drops the subject.
  • January 6, 2015
    randomsurfer
    TV:
    • In The Master Lee van Cleef plays a master ninja, the only white man ever to achieve that title. He stayed in Japan after World War II.
    • In Raven Jeffrey Meek plays Jonathan Raven, who was raised in Japan and is a master Martial Artist, now living in Hawaii.
  • January 6, 2015
    MetaFour
    Comicbook:
    • The BPRD villain Memnan Saa is initially presented as a Yellow Peril character—but more information about his past reveals that he's an English occultist who learned secrets of the Hyperboreans from Tibetan monks.
  • January 6, 2015
    sigh824
    Parodied in an episode of How I Met Your Mother. Allegedly, in order to fully utilize his last Barney Slap, Marshall travels far and wide to meeting Slap Masters that all look eerily like Robin, Lily, and Ted respectively (he even sleeps with the Lily character).
  • January 6, 2015
    arivor
    I'm not entirely clear on what the description is trying to, well, describe. Is it only for people who train in the actual orient? Or any faraway land? Or does any secret training count? Also, I could swear we had this one...
  • January 6, 2015
    Snicka
    • In Lamb The Gospel According To Biff, Jesus and his friend Biff learn from not one, but three Oriental masters: the Three Wise Men, portrayed here as a Taoist philosopher and sorcerer, a Buddhist monk, and a Hindu yogi. Subverted, since Jesus, being the son of God, already had the power to perform miracles, but he both mastered his power and refined his philosophy that became Christianity under the training of the Three Wise Men.
  • January 7, 2015
    Argon2
    The Count Of Monte Cristo travels to the East during a Time Skip and returns a charismatic sage who transitions perfectly into Parisian high society.
  • January 7, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    The Mexican comic book hero Kaliman was a man who had been brought up from infancy by a group of Tibetan Monks who worshipped Kali (as a goddess of justice, because Kaliman was pretty much The Cape). The result of his upbringing was a variety of Charles Atlas Superpower, such as the ability to pull off a Faking The Dead trick.
  • January 7, 2015
    zoop
    Is this not the same as Magical Asian?
  • January 7, 2015
    sigh824
    I don't think so. From what I understand, this is trope about the hero traveling to learn skills from them.
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