I haven't read the books; I've only watched the TV series.

Are there any civilisations in A Game of Thrones similar in appearance to Japanese or Chinese cultures (race, buildings, clothes and others cultural aspects)?

The show features a few sets of non-Caucasians:

Dornishmen tend to have olive skin and dark hair, with blondes being rare in that region. Their accents on the TV show seem to suggest a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean culture.

We have also seen the Magnar of Thenn and his people being portrayed as a Slavic or Russian folk.

  • Define "similar in appearance." Oriental-looking people? Living in paper houses? Chinese-pagoda-looking buildings?
    – Kevin
    May 15, 2014 at 16:59
  • 2
    Just throwing this out there "Oriental": Rugs, Not People.
    – phantom42
    May 15, 2014 at 18:18
  • 3
    @phantom42 - It's a black day when you're expected to refer to "Oriental" people as Asian, given that that's a less precise definition.
    – Valorum
    May 15, 2014 at 19:42
  • 2
    At the risk of my last comment being misinterpreted I'll clarify: My reasoning was Asians come from Asia and therefore cannot be in grr martins works. Oriental seemed more of a descriptor - granted there's the Orient and the op did say "look-alike", but I thought it sounded better. If I was wrong someone who does know what they're talking about should go ahead and change it: I'd hate to cause offence.
    – Mac Cooper
    May 15, 2014 at 22:40
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    @phantom42 "Oriental" is the normal term for East Asians in UK English afaik. May 25, 2018 at 12:37

3 Answers 3


I am not exactly sure what you are looking for but the closest civilization shown so far may be the Dothraki, who according to GRRM:

The Dothraki were actually fashioned as an amalgam of a number of steppe and plains cultures... Mongols and Huns, certainly, but also Alans, Sioux, Cheyenne, and various other Amerindian tribes... seasoned with a dash of pure fantasy. So any resemblance to Arabs or Turks is coincidental. Well, except to the extent that the Turks were also originally horsemen of the steppes, not unlike the Alans, Huns, and the rest.

But he goes on to say:

There do exist many other cultures and civilizations in my world, to be sure. The peoples of Yi Ti have been mentioned, as have the Jogos Nhai. I am not sure to what extent those peoples will ever enter this present story, however... their lands are very far away.


In general, though, while I do draw inspiration from history, I try to avoid direct one-for-one transplants, whether of individuals or of entire cultures. Just as it not correct to say that Robert was Henry VIII or Edward IV, it would not be correct to say that the Dothraki are Mongols.

  • 1
    An excellent answer and well referenced.
    – Valorum
    May 15, 2014 at 17:38

We already know from the books that there are cities such as Yi Ti and Asshai to the far east that have not yet been explored in canon. Already a lot of cultures in ASOIAF have similar real-world analogues. Westeros is clearly modeled after Britain during the War of the Roses, with the exception of Dorne, which has a much more Mediterranean feel to it. The free-cities, with their constant warring and trading, remind us of the Italian city-states, or perhaps the German duchies and principalities of the Holy Roman Empire. Farther east we see the Mongolian influence of the Dothraki, with their love of horses, pillaging, and the vast steppes. Then there is Qarth to the south, with a bit of a middle-eastern/silk road analog to it. And of course, Slaver's Bay, which has a mix of Egyptian/Babylonian in it.

So, forgive me for a bit of inference, but with names like "the Jade Sea","Yi Ti", and "Asshai", it seems likely that even further east of the known-world we would begin to encounter far-eastern civilizations. Of course, these places may never play a role in the plot of the story. GRRM wanted to create far-off civilizations that seemed foreign and exotic, so even the locations of these places is still relatively vague.


Yi Ti and the other lands to the east of Westeros/Essos appear to be modelled after Japanese/Chinese cultures from the writings. It's hard to provide an exact quote from the books about how you come to this impression but in The World of Ice and Fire there is a chapter named The Bones and Beyond: Yi Ti which gives some description of the place and it's history. From my reading of the chapter I certainly got the impression it was based on an Oriental style culture.

The cities of Yi Ti are far-famed as well, for no other land can boast so many. If Lomas Longstrider can be believed, none of the cities of the west can compare to those of Yi Ti in size and splendor. "Even their ruins put ours to shame," the Longstrider said...and ruins are everywhere in Yi Ti. In his Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar—the best source available in Westeros on the lands of the Jade Sea—wrote that beneath every YiTish city, three older cities lie buried.

Over the centuries, the capital of the Golden Empire has moved here and there and back again a score of times, as rival warlords contended and dynasties rose and fell. The grey emperors, indigo emperors, and pearl-white emperors ruled from Yin on the shores of the Jade Sea, first and most glorious of the YiTish cities, but the scarlet emperors raised up a new city in the heart of the jungle and named it Si Qo the Glorious (long fallen and overgrown, its glory lives now only in legend), whilst the purple emperors preferred Tiqui, the many-towered city in the western hills, and the maroon emperors kept their martial court in Jinqi, the better to guard the frontiers of the empire against reavers from the Shadow Lands.

The World of Ice and Fire, The Bones and Beyond: Yi Ti

Whilst I can't find an exact quote of George R. R. Martin admitting to basing these Eastern regions off of our own the following certainly implies that he has done and it doesn't quote him denying it.

Since it's a hot-button topic, I commented to George about how some were bothered by what they see as "cultural appropriation" in the novels, citing in particular his presentation of Yi Ti with its obvious influences from Imperial China. George first addressed the term "cultural appropriation" by saying that "it's bullshit." He went on to discuss his own heritage, an American mutt with bits of Italian, German, Irish, etc. in his background, so does that mean he has special rights or ability to write about Italian culture? Of course not. He said that history belongs to everybody, and that the accident of blood or birth doesn't give one any special rights. As to Yi Ti, he discussed it in terms of fleshing the eastern regions out. I noted that I thought that it was quite fascinating, and I think (someone correct me) I pointed out how Yi Ti is this civilization older than that of the Seven Kingdoms, seemingly grander and more advanced, so it wasn't as if it was a negative "appropriation."

So Spake Martin, Srockholm and Archipelacon Report

On a few related side notes, it's worth mentioning that George does not like to make 1 to 1 comparisons to anything. So whilst something may be heavily inspired by something else it won't be directly comparable; he'll add in other influences, his own twist and of course a hint of fantasy.

Well, yes and no. I have drawn on a great many influences for these books. I do use incidents from history, yes, although I try not to do a straight one-for-one transposition of fact into fiction. I prefer to mix and match, and to add in some imaginative elements as well.

So Spake Martin, Historical Influences

George has also mentioned that he's only really included these lands to the East for world building purposes and are not that important to the story he is telling.

There's been an interesting discussion on our forum concerning "orientalism" as it's expressed in your work, and one question it's led to among readers is whether you've ever considered a foreign point of view characters in Essos, to give a different window into events there.

No, this story is about Westeros. Those other lands are important only as they reflect on Westeros.

So Spake Martin, Westeros.org Interview

Lastly, I think it is worth pointing out that George, in 2007 at least, had never been to China and most of his historical influences came from European history.

Hadrian's Wall, of course, I think was the inspiration for the Wall. I've never been to China so I've never had a chance to see their Great Wall but I have been to Scotland and I have walked along what remains of Hadrian's Wall and that was actually an inspiring experience.

So Spake Martin, Second Life Appearance

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