How to say East in Chinese Directions 东 (Dōng)

Understanding the cardinal directions in Chinese can significantly improve your navigation and appreciation of the culture, especially if you are travelling to or studying the region. The significance of the east direction can be seen in the arts and festivities, symbolising growth and the new beginnings associated with the sunrise as the sun rises in the East. Artworks often celebrate the East with scenes of the sun rising over mountains or rivers, symbolising renewal and the continuous rhythm of nature.

In literature, the East is frequently referenced as a source of inspiration and philosophical introspection.

However, it is not only used in cultural expressions but also in finding your location or giving directions. In Chinese, the word for “East” is 东 (Dōng), and this character is pronounced as “Dōng” in pinyin. The translation of 东 is “East” in English. It is commonly used to describe direction and distinguish geographical areas and cultural nuances.

In the context of directions, 东 (Dōng) is combined with other words to denote the eastern part of a city or country. For instance, when discussing the diverse regions of China, one might refer to 中国东部 (Zhōngguó dōngbù), meaning “eastern part of China,” highlighting the location within the vast continent of Asia. Moreover, the term 东方 (Dōngfāng), meaning “the East” or “Oriental,” encapsulates a cultural and historical identity that extends beyond mere geography, often contrasting with Western countries like France or the United Kingdom.

When using this in sentences to describe location or travel, you might say, “请问,东边有什么好玩的地方吗?” (Qǐngwèn, dōngbian yǒu shénme hǎowán dì dìfang ma?), which translates to “Excuse me, is there any fun place in the east?” or “去年我去了中国的东部” (Qùnián wǒ qùle Zhōngguó de dōngbù), meaning “Last year I went to eastern China.” These examples demonstrate how the character 东 (Dōng) integrates into everyday language, clearly expressing location or direction.

In place names, 东 is often part of the name; for example, “东京”(Dōngjīng), which means “Tokyo”, and “东北” (Dōngběi) for “Northeast.” As you engage with the Chinese language and its usage in various contexts, from simple directions to various place names, you become more connected with the oriental culture and the way locations are situated within the continent.

Furthermore, if you’re interested in learning about other cardinal directions, like the Chinese word for “South,” you can visit our page “South” in Chinese

Intercardinal East Direction in Chinese

As you travel across China, a country steeped in history and culture, understanding the concept of direction in the Chinese language will enhance your journey. The importance of “east” in finding directions in Chinese culture extends beyond the simple act of orientation; it is deeply linked with historical navigation methods and contemporary practices. Historically, Chinese navigators used the sun’s position, especially at sunrise, to determine the East and navigate vast distances. This was practical for travel and the layout and design of ancient cities and architecture, where structures were often aligned with the cardinal directions for auspicious reasons.

The intercardinal directions are particularly useful when pinpointing locations more precisely than the basic four-way compass points. Knowing these will aid in your travels, whether exploring the eastern stretches of the Asian continent or navigating the bustling streets of China’s vibrant cities.

Here’s a brief guide to the East intercardinal directions in Mandarin, along with translations and sentence examples:

North-East (NE)

Chinese: 东北

Pinyin: Dōng běi

South-East (SE)

Chinese: 东南

Pinyin: Dōng nán

Common Chinese Phrases and Expressions of 东 (Dōng)

Chinese idioms, known as 成语 (Chéngyǔ), often contain rich cultural meanings and historical references. Many of these idioms include the word “east” (东), reflecting the significance of direction in Chinese culture. Here are several examples, providing a linguistic tour through the subtleties of Mandarin:

东张西望 (Dōng zhāng xī wàng)

  • Translation:Looking in all directions; looking here and there.
  • Explanation: This phrase is used to describe someone who is looking around uncertainly or indecisively as if they are trying to find something or make a decision.

东山再起 (Dōng shān zài qǐ)

  • Translation: Rise again; make a comeback.
  • Explanation: Literally, it means “to rise again in the eastern mountain.” This idiom is often used to describe someone who has regained their position or recovered from a setback, akin to the sun rising in the east, signifying a new day or a fresh start.

东奔西走 (Dōng bēn xī zǒu)

  • Translation: Run east and rush west; run around busily.
  • Explanation: This idiom is used to describe someone who is very busy, running around doing various tasks, much like how one might travel to different places in a bustling Chinese city.

东隅已逝,桑榆暮景 (Dōng yú yǐ shì, sāng yú mù jǐng)

  • Translation: The sun in the east has set, and the evening scene under the mulberry and elm trees.
  • Explanation: It metaphorically expresses that one’s prime time has passed, much like the sun that has moved from the eastern horizon to set, signifying the later stages of life or the end of an era.

东风化雨 (Dōng fēng huà yǔ)

  • Translation: The east wind brings rain; a timely rain.
  • Explanation: This phrase likens the nurturing, moistening rain brought by the east wind in spring to a gentle and enlightening influence, often used in the context of education or culture.

东横西倒 (Dōng héng xī dǎo)

  • Translation: Fall in all directions; collapse in a heap.
  • Explanation: This is often used to describe a disarray scene or depict someone who has collapsed or is sprawled out due to exhaustion or drunkenness.

东窗事发 (Dōng chuāng shì fā)

  • Translation: The incident at the eastern window has been exposed; the plot has been revealed.
  • Explanation: It originally referred to a historical event where a plot was uncovered; now, it’s used more generally to indicate that a secret plan or crime has been discovered.

东拉西扯 (Dōng lā xī chě)

  • Translation: Drag in all directions; digress.
  • Explanation: This phrase is used when someone is speaking or writing off-topic, akin to taking a detour from the main path.

东施效颦 (Dōng shī xiào pín)

  • Translation: Imitate Dong Shi in frowning; blind imitation with ludicrous effect.
  • Explanation: This comes from a story about a woman named Dong Shi who tried to imitate the beautiful frown of another woman, Xi Shi, but only succeeded in making herself look ridiculous. It’s used to caution against copying others without considering if it suits one’s own conditions.

东逃西窜 (Dōng táo xī cuàn)

  • Translation: Flee east and dart west; flee in all directions.
  • Explanation: This describes a situation where someone is trying to escape or avoid a problem by going in many different directions without a clear plan or destination.

These phrases offer a window into the collective psyche of Chinese-speaking countries and their interpretation of “East” within the language. They encapsulate the essence of the oriental culture, where direction and location are deeply embedded within everyday expressions. Whether used in the context of travelling in a certain place, describing the sun’s path across the sky, or metaphorically discussing life’s journey, these idioms are linguistic treasures that enrich communication and deepen one’s understanding of Chinese thought and good expression.

Cultural Significance of East Direction in Chinese

In Chinese culture, “East” (东 Dōng) is imbued with profound significance. As mentioned, it is traditionally associated with the sunrise, representing new beginnings and the promise of a fresh day. This orientation towards the East, where the sun emerges, has deep roots in various aspects of Chinese tradition, including feng shui, culture, and art.

In Feng Shui or Chinese geomancy, the east direction is considered a bearer of prosperity and good health. It is linked to the wood element, which signifies growth and vitality. Therefore, aligning your home or office to face East is believed to harness these positive energies, fostering a space where well-being and abundance thrive. You might hear someone say, “Let’s position the living room to face east to welcome the morning sun and good chi.”

Culturally, the East has been a metaphor for guidance and enlightenment. “Eastern wisdom” is a term often used to describe philosophies and teachings originating from Asian countries, including China, that highlight harmony with nature and the universe. This reverence is also reflected in the arts, where the imagery of the rising sun and the eastern landscapes are prevalent motifs, symbolising hope and rejuvenation.

When you travel through China, you’ll notice the prominence of the East in the names of places. Cities like Shanghai, located on the eastern coast, have been pivotal in China’s economic development, reinforcing the East connection with prosperity and opportunity.

The favourable circumstances of the East extend to celebrations and yearly events as well. For example, during the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, families might place decorations on the eastern side of their homes to invite good fortune for the year ahead. The phrase “东方红,太阳升” (Dōngfāng hóng, tàiyáng shēng), meaning “the eastern sky is red, the sun rises,” from a famous Chinese song, encapsulates the nation’s sentiment towards the East as a herald of progress and a brighter tomorrow.

These cultural nuances underscore the reverence held for the direction “east” in Chinese culture. It is a direction that is not just spatial but also deeply symbolic, playing an integral role in the way places are situated, how time is celebrated, and how art and philosophy are interpreted within the fabric of oriental heritage.


In summary, the direction “east” holds a special place in Chinese culture, representing new beginnings, prosperity, and well-being. This is evident in the practice of feng shui, where east-facing structures are favoured, and in the cultural landscape, where the sunrise represents enlightenment and hope. Cities along China’s eastern coast, such as Shanghai, mostly represent growth and opportunity, while celebrations often incorporate Eastern symbolism to invite fortune. Through art, philosophy, and daily life, the East’s significance is widely known and popular in Chinese society.

If you are eager to learn more about the Mandarin language and explore the rich cultural significance that directions like “east” embody within Chinese culture, enrolling in a Mandarin course could be a rewarding journey. To enhance your understanding of these cultural norms and expressions, consider checking out Linda Mandarin for courses made to a variety of learning needs. Whether it is for a travel destination vacation, a business trip, or just out of curiosity about Chinese culture, learning the language is the first step to getting familiar and comfortable.

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