Orientalism is loosely referred to as imitation of art or culture from the Middle Eastern countries or Asian countries. Within the term, we might find the history of Lebanon, or the erotic art of India. What used to be known as “chinoiserie” in France referred to the porcelain cups, dishes and vases that resembled Chinese artifacts. Those became extremely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and continue to be popular to this day.
Indian erotic art has captured the imaginations of readers and writers for centuries. Indeed, Indian cuisine is cherished by gourmets all over the world. Indian culture is thought to be the oldest culture still growing, and its contribution has been immense. The architecture of the Indian temples, the Taj Mahal, the sitar, and yoga are the best-known contributions of that marvelous country.
The Japanese have had their own cultural developments, including wood carvings by Hokusai, the culture of the samurai that has influenced many a Western thought, and of course, Zen. In food and drink, tea and rice are ubiquitous throughout Asia, and have spread worldwide in their popularity.
Throughout East Asia, from the ornate temples of Thailand, the world’s tallest buildings in Kuala Lumpur, and the somewhat strange occupation of the French in Indochina, now Vietnam and Laos. The history of those regions is truly remarkable, but is not limited to Asia; indeed, the French have occupied India, and were themselves occupied by various countries and governments.
On the other side of the world, the Arabs have contributed the numeric system that is in wide use all over the world, as well as engineering and architectural feats that we still marvel at.
No discussion of Orientalism can exist without talking about religion. In East Asia, the most prominent religions include Buddhism and Shinto, while in the Middle East, there is Judaism, Islam and of course, Christianity. Those religions and the customs surrounding them grew out of local conditions and traditions, but did not remain in one locale; rather, they have influenced the arts, music, architecture and ways of conducting business. Even the art of war is followed by many and studied by the military as a set of plans that Sun Tzu put forth in his book by the same name as the five essential factors that lead to a successful outcome, not only in war, but in life and business.
Orientalism has even influenced Hollywood, which produces blockbuster movies with Oriental themes, such as The Last Samurai, Shogun, or the latest mini-series, the Bible.
Ah, yes, the Bible. The book itself is not only a best seller year after year, but it is the epitome of Orientalism. The events portrayed in the Bible happened throughout the Middle East, stories of Abraham, Moses, the Hebrews crossing the desert, King David and Jesus.