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Eastward Endeavor

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The East has always been associated with renewal. The sun rises from this direction, bringing light to the world and, metaphorically, to our minds. The answers coming from the East contrast with the darkness and mystery of the West. It's no wonder that many soul-searching journeys will be headed east. In the ancient world, maps often had East at the top instead of North, giving it the additional meaning of being the "right" direction. note 

While west is a direction associated with unknown and new adventures, east is where the protagonist gets a better understanding of him/herself. In Western works, a cause of this association is often the stereotyped view of Orient, depicting it as a highly spiritual place. This is why many Eastward Endeavors will have mystical elements and take place in The Shangri-La or some equivalent.

Characters seeking cures or wanting to fix something also have a tendency to go east. This is also an opportunity to get rid of something, like a dangerous MacGuffin or a flawed personality. The latter will often be replaced by the "true self" the protagonist will have unlocked by travelling eastwards.

Note: this trope is for when the journey east has symbolism and meaning beyond just "Character X happens to go east". For examples to count, they have to imply renewal, fixing/getting rid of something, or some kind of spiritual quest.

Compare Refuge in the West, where going to the west offers safety. Because of the Sun, it is/was, classically, thought that if the East is a place of renewal and progress, the West is a place of rest and refuge

A Left-Justified Fantasy Map will often lead to this trope. Note that the “east” may be symbolic rather than literal; many stories about American heroes visiting “the east”, i.e. Asia, have them actually traveling west, across the Pacific. It still counts.


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    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Doom is a rare villainous example. He travelled the world after the accident that damaged his face, eventually getting to Tibet and collapsing on a mountainside, where he was rescued by mysterious monks. They taught him their secret disciplines and helped him forge his trademark Powered Armor. He went back to Latveria and took it over, becoming one of the most powerful and effective supervillains in the world.
  • Doctor Strange was a famous surgeon who lost his operating skills after his hands were injured in a car crash. He was also a selfish jerk. Obsessed with finding a cure, he went to Tibet to study magic with the Ancient One. He was only accepted as a student after saving the Ancient One from Mordo's plans, all according to the plan. He mellowed out, became a mystic protector of Earth, and eventually Sorcerer Supreme.
  • Iron Fist: During a journey to the mystical city of K'un L'un in China, Harold Meachum causes the deaths of his business partner Wendell Rand and his wife Heather. Rand's son Danny swears to get his revenge on Meachum and stays in K'un L'un to learn martial arts. He defeats the dragon Shou-Lao to get the power of the Iron Fist. Ten years later, he finds and confronts Meachum, now legless due to an injury that happened after abandoning the Rand family. Danny decides to spare him and focuses his power on superheroics, becoming a master of martial arts.
  • When the X-Men went to Japan for Logan and Mariko's wedding, Storm met Logan's ally Yukio. At the time, Storm was struggling with her repressed passions, unsure if she should drop her usual unemotive attitude. Yukio's daredevil behavior influenced her into nourishing her passions. The change led her to get a mohawk and become stronger than ever, particularly after getting depowered. She even got promoted to team leader for a long time. Finally, the considerable amounts of Ship Tease she had with Yukio unlocked some of her more personal wishes. A later annual showed her heart's desire was to live a carefree life in Tokyo with Yukio.
  • In X-Statix, Guy Smith traveled to the East in pursuit of ways to control his severely-heightened sense of touch.
  • Superman:
    • Given that Supergirl's powers have gone haywire since "The Girl of No Tomorrow", her cousin advises her to go to China and pay a visit to Kong "Super-Man" Kenan and his master I-Ching. Kara listens to I-Ching's lecture on the nature of Qi and its relationship with her powers, learns meditation and relaxation techniques, and manages to regain her focus and become spiritually balanced.
    • In Crucible, Superman's clone Kon visits all kinds of places of worship, including Tibetan monasteries, the Ganges basin, and the Wailing Wall, to find answers to the meaning of life and the reason of his own existence.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • This trope backfired in Carl Barks' classic "Tralla La" story. Uncle Scrooge is so stressed by his money-centric life that he tries to escape it for a while, searching for a place without a monetary system to relax. He and his nephews discover Tralla La, hidden in the Himalayas. However, Scrooge brings his troubles with him, accidentally making bottle caps the new money of Tralla La and ruining the paradise he was looking for.
    • A sequel by Don Rosa has the ducks searching for the mythical city of Xanadu and discovering it's actually Tralla La. The bottle cap situation was solved while they weren't there and Tralla La was back to being a utopia. Scrooge and co. start to enjoy it again until they accidentally flood the city. They actually solve that problem (ironically with the help of the bottle caps, forged into saws to access the floodgate) and leave the city for good.

  • Doctor Strange (2016) is based on the comics, so Stephen Strange gets his hands injured, his career ruined, and hears of the Ancient One. Seeking a cure for his hands, he goes east and is deeply changed by his experience there. His Jerkass tendencies are washed away by his training with the Ancient One, and he eventually realizes he doesn't need perfect hands to practice magic. By the end of the movie, he's as much of a hero as the rest of the MCU, and a pretty good sorcerer to boot.
  • Kingdom of Heaven: Balian, the protagonist, travels from France to Jerusalem to get absolution from his sins. His father, Godfrey, also travels with Balian, and although Godfrey dies before reaching Jerusalem, the time he spent with Balian on their journey gives him catharsis.

  • Discworld: While the disc doesn't have an east (or any of our directions), the trope is parodied via the many monasteries of the Ramtops, where saffron-robed monks carry out many mystical duties of varying importance for the rest of the world. It's mentioned that wisdom is one of the few things that appears bigger the farther away it is, resulting in many people seeking enlightenment coming to the monasteries. Just as many younger monks head off to Ankh-Morpork to learn foreign wisdom. Lu-Tze is particularly successful at it.
  • Invisible Cities frames itself as the stories told by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan about the anachronistic and increasingly surreal cities he encountered on his journey from Venice to Xanadu; however, it's also clear that his physical journey is an introspective journey, as the narration occasionally points out the language barrier between them and claims their dialogues are not spoken aloud. At one point, the Khan points out that Marco Polo has never described his native Venice; Marco Polo responds that he has only ever described Venice, because he cannot describe any other cities except by implicitly comparing it to his home.
  • Hermann Hesse's short novel Journey To The East begins with a group of people, including the narrator, undertaking an eastward journey in search of the "ultimate Truth", a trip that is described as taking them through time, space and imaginary lands. They never actually finish the journey — their group dissolves partway into the Journey due to petty bickering, infighting, and the various personal faults of its members. It turns out later that the Journey was meant as a test of character for its members, one that they failed spectacularly. This could be considered a failed attempt at invoking this trope — they were supposed to overcome their worst qualities as they journeyed, but they didn't, and thus never reached their destination.
  • In Kushiel's Legacy, Phedre journeys to the setting's equivalent of the Middle East to rescue Melisande's son from slavery, but comes to realize that it is central to her patron deities' ineffable plans for her. It becomes abundantly clear when she sees her Darkest Hour coming, tries to back out, and receives a vision of said deities withdrawing their favour if she doesn't carry on.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Hobbit: Bilbo gets dragged into the dwarves' quest to get Smaug's treasure in the east. He's more or less useless at the beginning, but some incidents later (including getting the One Ring and saving the party from huge spiders) he becomes much more competent. In the end, his experiences turned him into a full Gentleman Adventurer.
    • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring travels east and south with the goal of destroying the One Ring. The destination, Mordor, is much more sinister than the usual setting for this trope, but it still manages to unlock the hero in Frodo and Samwise. The other Fellowship members also become incredible badasses during the quest, or even better if they already were.
  • The purpose of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was to find what happened to seven lost lords, but Reepicheep's personal quest was to keep going into the Utter East, whether the edge of the world was an infinite waterfall or the gate of heaven, or drowned with his nose to the sunrise. He achieves his wish, the only character to continue past the point where the ocean was sweet and solid enough to walk on, still paddling his coracle into the unknown.
  • Journey to the West is direction-flipped but otherwise fits this trope, with the travelers starting in China and traveling to mystical and exotic India in the west in order to recover Buddhist teachings.

    Live - Action TV 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: At the end of Season 1, the Stranger decides to continue his journey further in east, in the lands of Rhun, to learn more about why Eru Iluvatar sent him in Middle-earth.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve travelled eastwards after being exiled from Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, gaining knowledge of good and evil. After the murder of his brother and his own banishment, Cain travelled further east towards the land of Nod. All this eventually culminated in the human race, now numerous, moving further and further east until they reached a plain called Shinar, where they built the Tower of Babel, an endeavor that resulted in the newly polyglot human race scattering to the four corners of the Earth. Whether one considers the eventual results of these developments to be for the better or for the worse is a very contentious matter, but in Abrahamic tradition, the journey from ignorance and innocence towards modern humanity began when Adam and Eve (and their eventual successors) journeyed east of Eden.
  • The second half of The Epic of Gilgamesh is concerned with Gilgamesh's journey eastwards in his quest to find a cure for death, after being badly shaken by the death of his friend Enkidu. He travels to the earthly paradise of the gods at the easternmost edge of the Earth and then goes even farther east, across the sea, to the island where the mariner Utnapishtim lives and where he can find a plant that grants back youth. He fails in getting this plant, but in the uttermost east, he learns to accept his mortality and overcomes the fear of death that has hounded him since Enkidu died, returning home a wiser man (at least by the standards of the ancient Middle Eastern societies) and at peace with himself.
  • Catholic churches traditionally have the altar and tabernacle at the east end, playing on an association between the resurrection of Christ and the rising of the sun. Even when the orientation doesn't work out according to compass direction, the altar-end of the church building is still regarded as the "liturgical east," and the Mass begins with the priest (and often an entourage) processing toward it.

    Video Games 
  • In Fallen London, time and space become even more treacherous on the distant edges of the Neath, and it's said that in the far east of the Unterzee is the physical border of Parabola, the surreal Dream World which is otherwise sealed behind mirrors, and the domain of Salt, the nameless god of farewells and horizons. That way you will find your course takes you past Irem, which will be a beacon of red warmth in the cold of the Pillared Sea, and will only ever have existed in the future.
  • Sunless Sea carries on from Fallen London, allowing your Captain to sail East past the edge of the map to encounter "The Sun Beneath The Sea", the waves slowly turning to black to an impossible luminous golden green. The silence there is too much, forcing your ship to turn back toward someplace a little more real, but two of the game's ambitions require you to find a way to continue even further - either by stealing a dirigible and charting a course through starvation and thirst to the undiscovered country, or by walking in the hidden footsteps of Salt to become one with the Traveller Returning.
  • Eastward, as the name suggests, fits this trope, with the characters leaving the safety of their home in the west and traveling steadily further east to learn the truth of the world and their place in it.

    Visual Novels 
  • Played with in Daughter for Dessert. In the “good” epilogue with Lily, the protagonist and Lily wake up in some unspecified country that seems to be somewhere in Asia. It is then that the protagonist prevails upon Lily to go home and see her parents, whom she has not seen in a long time, again.

    Western Animation