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A sort of odd mishmash of Japan and China (with occasional bits of Korea and Southeast Asia), mixing various stereotypes about "the Orient" together. Expect to see kung-fu or other martial arts
, panda bears, chopsticks, lots of bowing, shrines, burning incense, Cherry Blossoms
, paper fans, ninja
, and billowing clothing.
Part of the reason for this may derive from the 19th-century history of East Asia, during which only Japan, China, and Siam (now Thailand) successfully resisted colonization by and loss of national identity to Western (or, in the case of the Koreans and Taiwanese, Japanese) cultural hegemony. For slightly more than two generations, then, most Westerners were familiar only with the Japanese, Chinese, and Siamese cultures.
Has mostly become a Discredited Trope
, and split off into individual tropes for Japan
In most console RPGs
set in a Medieval European Fantasy
world, there will be one country or town
that pretty much defines this trope (or the related subtropes). This occurs often even in games made in Japan
(in fact, it seems to be even more prevalent in JRPGs
Curiously, while many people dislike this sort of mishmash when it comes to Medieval East Asian
Fantasy, hardly anyone seems to object to the European
equivalent - apparently having Celtic druids rubbing shoulders with Odin-worshipping High Medieval Teutonic Knights is fine
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Anime and Manga
- Fullmetal Alchemist has the country known as Xing which is based mostly off of China but has some Japanese included as well such as certain Japanese words and Ninja. It's the second most important country since an alternate form of alchemy was created there.
- Seirei no Moribito is set in a Culture Chop Suey Far East country based on a weird amalgamation of Goryeo Korea, Heian and Edo Japan, and a bit of Tang China thrown in for a good measure. Though this is clearly the Alternate Universe and author being a professional culturologist and anthropologist she really shows her work here.
- The Twelve Kingdoms also have the similar setting, although this time the Chinese influence is much greater. It too is generally better executed than is the norm.
- Brilliantly parodied in the Discworld story Interesting Times, set in the Agatean Empire, also called the Aurient (as they have lots of gold). Included Highly-Visible Ninja, sumo, a Red Army (who were also the Terracotta Warriors), a Great Wall, gunpowder, court intrigue (with bowing), Noh plays (a working title for the book was "All Wok and Noh Play"), and some "oriental" features that we all know were invented in the west, like fortune cookies and Willow-Pattern china. The Agatean Empire has a Grand Vizier too, not only in Interesting Times but in Mort as well. "Vizier" was originally an Arabic word and "Grand Vizier" specifically was mainly used by the Ottoman Empire. The idea was to parody every concept that the Western literature has about the Far East, ancient or modern, by taking it to its (il)logical conclusion.
- Seen in the segment of If On A Winters Night A Traveler titled "On a Carpet of Leaves Illuminated by the Moon." It's set explicitly in Japan and is about a student learning something vaguely Zen from a stern master. Falling gingko leaves replace the image of Cherry Blossoms.
- The country of Nippon in His Dark Materials. It's mentioned in passing by the worldly Lee Scoresby, but you can most likely ascertain the details from the name and main setting.
Live Action TV
- Firefly: Runs with a definite "pan-Asian" mish-mash as its background rather than one that is specifically Chinese.
- The GURPS fantasy RPG setting Yrth includes a pseudo-Asian nation called Sahud, which was founded by a random mix of Chinese, Korean and Japanese peasants transported from Earth by the Banestorm. The involuntary settlers attempted to rebuild their social system from their confused memories of what the upper classes looked like from afar, and "modern" visitors will find themselves in a land that seems to be half Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado and half Monty Python's Tale of Genji.
- The Dungeons & Dragons supplement Oriental Adventures (first edition) portrayed a setting with Japanese character classes and Chinese kung fu styles (along with some Indonesian weaponry). The more recent edition was a bit better and made it relatively clear what elements came from which culture (and tells the reader flat-out that samurai don't belong in China or India — hah), but still threw an entire continent together into one big mish-mash.
- Interestingly when Dungeons & Dragons published a Forgotten Realms campaign setting for medieval Asian themed fantasy (Kara-Tur) some of the complaints where that it didn't follow this trope enough, choosing dry historical cultural accuracy at the expense of a less straight, but arguably more entertaining setting. It might not have helped that the states added in Kara-Tur were so Fantasy Counterpart Culture that in one case, the Tibet-analogue, they had forgotten to change the name of the country from Tibet in several parts of the description. Also, several people complained that, while not making a Far Eastern mish-mash was refreshing, it might have worked better if there had been more Fantasy and less Counterpart in the cultures, and the history of the cultures. Clearly for some this trope works.
- Eberron has fun with its Asia-inspired country, the mysterious land of Riedra. Only this isn't your typical Asian-esque realm: think more North Korea with psychic powers and a dash of Cosmic Horror Story.
- The RPG Legend of the Five Rings is all about this. For example, the staple food is rice and sushi. True enough for a clone of medieval Japanese culture, right? Except the Empire itself is modeled after China. As in: huge tracts of inland, a Great Wall (though on the southern border), and a curiously independent island chain off the eastern coast.
- Old World of Darkness Year of the Lotus event gave us East Asian settings for every game. They include Kindred of the East, Hengeyokai, and Land of Eight Million Dreams. However, only the Hengeyokai are actually related to their counterparts in the rest of the world. The other two main books introduced entirely new types of supernatural creatures which, for some unclear reason, only exist in East Asia.
- Lampshaded in Munchkin Fu, where the background says the players are still arguing over whether they're in Tokyo or Hong Kong.
- Warhammer features "Cathay" (an archaic name for China), which keeps the Hobgoblin Khan and Kurgan (Death Metal northern Tatars) out with the "Great Bastion", is ruled by the "Dragon Emperor" and is described as "Land of the Celestial Dragon Monks." Games Workshop claim it is based on a real life culture, but to this day nobody in the Warhammer fandom has ever worked out which. Common consensus is that it is based on Swindon. Like most other civilized nations in the setting, it is often under threat from Norscan raids, Norscans being basically Death Metal Vikings who worship demons. Hilariously, it was nearly taken over by aforementioned Death Metal Tatars 1109 IC or thereabouts. That, and the fact that Tzeentch worship is officially recognized within its borders, is pretty much half of what information is around about it. It should also be noted that Cathay is actually in the far south of the Warhammer world.
- In 1701 A.D. there is a foreign culture called "The Asians" that only has one city. However, the leader is named Liang Wu (a Chinese name) and the cities always have Chinese names. The architecture is mostly Chinese, and the ships used in The Sunken Dragon are Chinese Junks. However, in Mission 9 of the Sunken Dragons, Ramirez, the pirate captain mentions the Asians eating Sushi, which is Japanese. In The Sunken Dragon, they worship the Fire Dragon, but Buddha statues are common in their holy city.
- The Neopets online game has an area known as Shenkuu, which is basically based around this trope.
- The land of Yafutoma in Skies of Arcadia, while mostly Japanese, has a number of Chinese influences as well, including a floating Great Wall.
- The Mortal Kombat series' sustained inability to differentiate between Eastern cultures is a great source of amusement for people who actually can. The first movie alone features a Chinese man going back to a monastery supposedly in China but obviously a Thai temple, greeted by monks dressed in Thai robes, and then a Japanese thunder god appears (played by a white man). There is a good explanation for why so many of the ninja in the series are Chinese; despite looking like the modern day ninja archetype, they are part of a Chinese assassin cult known as the "Lin Kuei", which is explained as having been the progenitor of ninjas in Japan (such as Scorpion's Shirai Ryu clan). Bonus points for the Lin Kuei actually being real. Though, despite superficial similarities they probably had very little to do with Japanese ninja, nor were they mercenaries, just a Badass survivalist sect that happened to teach some no holds barred self-defence and had a penchant' for stealth and forest-dwelling. As in the games, they had a habit of abducting children from other villages to refresh their numbers, but they were more like highly-trained warrior bandits or even Chinese Native Americans than shinobi when its all said and done. Also, they never called themselves Lin Kuei; thats just the name outsiders gave to them. They still exist, but only as a small group dedicated to simply keeping the art alive (minus the child-abducting bandit stuff, of course).
- The world of Jade Empire mostly avoids this by being very largely based on Imperial China, aside from the deliberate fantasy setting, and sticking closely to Chinese culture and folklore. However, there are dashes of Japan thrown in (Silk Fox's ninja-style design, and the two-tailed Fox Spirits), and, according to Word of God, a few bits of Thai and Laotian architecture too. Silk Fox's design arguably is not influenced by Japanese culture as much as it may appear. The relatively modern depiction of ninja, being mysterious and skillful acrobats and dressed completely black, has been a popular way of depicting assassins and spies throughout history in places other than Japan.
- In Guild Wars, the Far East is actually far south, combining elements of several Asian nations and some original ones, with the entire continent of Cantha. Would be a Wutai, expect the Canthan campaign is as large as the original generic fantasy one.
- Happened in Warcraft III when the designers created a race of panda-people whose culture and style of dress was overtly Japanese. When Chinese fans objected to having their national animal depicted as "Japanese", the pandas were re-designed to be more Chinese and less Japanese. As a result, the far south continent of Pandaria in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is explicitly Chinese-inspired.
- The Tengai Makyo games operate on this trope: Japan through the eyes of a 19th century American.
- Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has the Eastwatch, whose party members' names were Japanese.
- Occurs to a limited degree in Uncharted 2, in which there are a few statues of Buddhist gods in Hindu temples where they don't belong. (There is at least one variant of Hinduism that claims Buddha (as in, Siddharta Gautama) was an avatar of Vishnu, but that's probably not it.) Other than that, though, strikingly averted, going so far as to have dialogue in the correct Tibetan dialect and accent for the region.
- MadWorld: Asian Town, the second area, is brutally lampshaded as being The Theme Park Version of Asia in general. It has ninjas, geishas, sumo wrestlers, and various ways to horribly murder people with fireworks. Lampshaded when the Voice with an Internet Connection Amala points out that the people who designed "Great Wall Street" probably haven't even seen a real Chinatown, let alone Asia. In Anarchy Reigns there is a place called "Hong Long" where there are plenty of Asian styled things. It seems to be styled more after China, and at one point Baron says "it's a motherfucken ninja, straight outta Japan."
- In-universe example in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines when you are sent an email asking you to undertake a quest at Kamakazi Zen in Chinatown. Your contact doesn't know why it's got a Japanese name either (and it's spelled incorrectly).
- Fallout 3's Operation: Anchorage DLC takes place in a VR simulation of the reclamation of Alaska from the Chinese Communists, but they also have futuristic ninjas (complete with stealth camouflage suits) wielding katana-style swords, and their commander can be talked into committing seppuku at the end. Note that an actual Japanese samurai, wielding a katana and donning Japanese armor, makes an appearance in Mothership Zeta as an alien abductee. One character repeatedly refers to him as "Chinaman" until another corrects him.
- Shadow Warrior is set in a mishmash of Chinese and Japanese culture — starting with player character Lo Wang, a Japanese, katana-wielding ninja with a Chinese name.
- AdventureQuest Worlds has Yokai Island, which is explicitly based on Japan, but celebrates Lunar New Year in an obvious Chinese style.
- Though the culture is strictly Japanese, other elements of The Order of the Stick's Azure City are decidedly... O-Chul. They also worship the Twelve Gods, the animals of the Chinese zodiac.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender plays with this. Although the entire planet is a mis-mash of Asian cultures, each actual nation is based off of a single culture, or the cultures of a few culturally and geographically similar countries. It's all actually very logically done.
- The Legend of Korra (the Sequel Series to the above-mentioned Avatar) puts a twist on all this by updating the setting to its equivalent of The Roaring Twenties. Furthermore, Republic City presents a justified version of this trope by being a melting pot metropolis, complete with "Little Italy"-style ethnic enclaves.
- Parodied on an episode of Catscratch, where neither Mr. Blick nor Gordon can apparently tell the difference between China and Japan, in spite of claiming to have always wanted to visit China.
Mr. Blick: Soon enough I will fulfill my dream of going to China. Land of the geisha.
Waffle: That's Japan.
Mr. Blick: Land of miso soup.
Waffle: That's Japan.
Mr. Blick: Land of cherry trees.
Waffle: ...That's still Japan.
Mr. Blick: Ah, China.
- King of the Hill
- Hank's new neighbor Kahn goes to some length to explain that he's Laotian, as in "from Laos." Hank and his buddies aren't sure whether that means he's Chinese or Japanese.
- Amazingly, of all people, Cotton gets his ethnicity right. This may have something to do with the fact that Cotton served in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, and thus had some actual exposure to the peoples of the region. Also, in a later episode, Kahn tries to earn membership to an Asian-American country club, but needs to get Hank to join as well (the club is looking for a "token white guy" in order to deflect accusations of racism). At one point, Hank asks Kahn to translate what a few of the members are saying, with Kahn responding "They're speaking Chinese. Do I look Chinese to you?!". Hank just stares back with a poker face.
- By the same token, how many local TV stations called their weekly showings of old kung fu movies something like "Samurai Theater"? More generally, it's common in Western speech to refer to eastern martial arts as either "karate" or "kung fu" regardless of what it is.
- Many Asian-Americans work in restaurants based on countries they have no relation to - e.g. sushi restaurants staffed entirely by Chinese - relying on the average customer's inability to notice the difference. Better yet, the practice of restaurants offering a random variety of foods with varying or dubious Asian origins, especially in smaller towns. It's not uncommon, though somewhat jarring, to visit a Chinese buffet with sushi on the menu. Some places have the good sense to identify themselves as "Asian/Pan-Asian restaurants," but most do not. The Other Wiki has an article about it.
- In Europe, that happened/happens mostly when the local people already thought a certain dish was Chinese (because it was Asian) and the Chinese/Taiwanese immigrants who set up restaurants basically went 'Sure, why not?'. In the Netherlands for instance, most of the dishes they consider Chinese are actually Indonesian. Some of these "Indonesian" dishes were created by enterprising Chinese setting up shop and adapting to the local ingredients and customer base. The Other Wiki has an interesting article on this as well.
- An odd expansion of this trope can be found in the term "Pacific Rim", used (mostly in the western United States) as a sort of code for generic Asian. Thus a "Pacific Rim Festival" will offer foods, crafts, entertainment and whatnot from a wide range of Asian (and, to be fair, Polynesian) cultures, many of them quite far from the Pacific Ocean (one may well find Indian dishes being offered), while utterly ignoring the fact that the actual region also encompasses such places as eastern Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Columbia, El Salvador, Mexico and the western parts of Canada and the US. The film of the same name averted that exclusion; the main cast includes Japanese, American, Russian, Chinese, and Australian pilots. The supplementary material manages to catch most of the other Pacific cultures. The only two characters in the cast who are not from the Pacific Rim are a pair of European scientists, there in a purely advisory capacity.
- There's an important immigrant Asian community in Chile, almost all of them Chinese and Korean, and they are a very unified community which adds to the confusion of the average Chilean who can't see the difference. For example a shopping center owned by Korean and Chinese families is named after the street where is located, but everyone knows it as the "Chinese Mall", so they display that name in the billboard.