How do you describe an Asian person without using the word "Asian"?


There’s a game I’m working on where the NPCs are of various nationalities and possibly the PC will get to choose there race as well, but I’ve hit a bit of a snag. The game is set in an alternate world, and while white and black people are easy enough to describe, I find it’s really difficult to explain that a character is Asian in a world where Asia doesn’t exist. :yum:

Superfluous Physical Attributes

Writing With Color is excellent; it’s my go-to starting resource for these kinds of questions. You could maybe start by checking their Asian tag or their description tag. (The description would depend quite a bit on who and where in Asia, of course, too).


“Yellow” is considered a pretty offensive thing to call people of East Asian descent in the United States (maybe other places as well? I don’t know all the history behind it). I am not Asian and it’s possible that different Asian people have different opinions on it, but in general that’s something you should really try to avoid when describing people


You don’t understand they are elves and people with serpents in the head. I mean be afraid to call thing who is not from the supposed race . Is a imaginary world with no asian no america not africa. so be afraid of use colors in a place who hasn’t nothing to do with earth in my opinion is stupid.

Another thing is there is Asian people and real races. So I would use almond eyes fair soft sking and beautiful straight hair.


Besides @Fiogan awesome resource, there is the historical approach people have used/

Historically, many times the dominate culture/nation was used to refer to anyone from that area of the world.

Historical examples: Franks - referring to any European, Arab - referring to anyone from the Mid-East, Roman - referring to anyone from the Roman Empire … this might work with your alternative nationalities.


My problem with that is limited creation of new worlds and systems. If there is no longer a world as we know it. In my opinion we have to investigate in creating new dynamics


She created her own [quote=“Avery_Moore, post:1, topic:26400”]
various nationalities

and that is why I believe it can work well within her world building. I still like @Fiogan 's resource too! :revolving_hearts: :heartbeat:


Having the setting in an alternate world doesn’t exempt it from real-world prejudices and terminology–the people reading your story are still going to be from the real world. You can say “this isn’t offensive in my world because it doesn’t have the history from the real world” but the readers are from the real world and still know the term as offensive.


I’m from Spain, but here it’s not something to be used, either. I only get called yellow when a) people make fun of me and my race/looks, b) I’m getting insulted for the same reasons. Calling someone yellow is not the same as saying “black/white”, it’s like using nigga.

Yeah, look at the Morey thread and the term “pink” (though it wasn’t for white people in this case, but hairless baby rats).


I would never called a human yellow is racist as hell. I am talking about Magical creatures


I think saying “gold” would be fine, I’ve never heard anyone comment on that with regards to describing skin tone.

Do you mean completely non-human things, like dogs, cats, yes birds? Dragons, stuff like that where it isn’t supposed to be like a human, yeah sure it can be yellow. But when it’s something like an elf or a dwarf, where to the player it’s still supposed to be similar to a human and have some kind of human diversity, using outdated and kind of racist terms to describe its skin tone, even if you aren’t trying to use it in a racist way, might be read as unintentionally racist


Well the term I use is golden. But they are elves and not human. I just don’t like people limit their imagination about aliens and stuff. Because be afraid of use colors. I have purple and green I got azure, I got bronze and coffee . I just let vague the pc colour.


Asia is a massive continent with a whole lot of diversity but I’m assuming you’re mainly thinking of East Asia

Again, like @HomingPidgeon said, avoid describing them as yellow. Skin tones vary a lot, even within a single country, but beauty standards tend to emphasise very pale, close to white skin. Other colors can be things like olive or a range of browns (writingwithcolor probably has a post talking about it in depth, but avoid describing it with food words) Also, maybe avoid using tan to decribe skin tone unless the character is specifically sun tanned. It’s just a very vague word

Another thing that somehow a lot of people get wrong is describing eyes. Don’t describe eyes as slanted or small. Not only are those racist caricatures, but those are also qualities usually associated with villain types. Almond shaped is also not that great. I personally don’t feel like it’s offensive, per se, it’s just not really accurate. I think most eyes in general are pretty almond shaped. Many people have monolids or hooded eyelids, but it might be a little weird to stop and describe what a character’s eyelids look like


Do you prefer could choose your pc colour or not? I let it vague for human characters to they could imagine their opcion. Should I let them choose from several options to represent better the race. Most of my characters are not white but anyway, could be feel people from other races better?


There’s a difference between limiting your character design and trying to not offend people. I understand where you’re coming from, but like I said just having a different setting doesn’t mean that real-world prejudices stop existing for your readers. Your readers still want to see themselves in your human-esque creatures–elves included. They aren’t exactly human, but they’ll still be basically read the same as human characters. If somebody makes an alien species that looks like a lizard and says that one of them is yellow, readers will be like “oh, yellow lizard, that happens.” If you make a species that’s basically human except they’re taller and have pointy ears and say that that person is yellow, that’s gonna sound like you mean Asian and you’re using an offensive term for it


In a text game, I think it would be better not to do that and to just keep it up to the player’s imagination


Oriental is an extremely outdated and racist term that should now only refer to fancy carpets and “Eastern appearance” is essentially meaningless, partly because not all East/Southeast Asian people look the same and partly because OP is using a completely fictional world, probably with a different map from the real world


The issue is that the author still needs a baseline to describe them with. @Avery_Moore can come up with a region, country, etc to call their culture and people to make it so that basically whatever term is read like East Asian once the story has introduced them, but before that they need to describe East Asian features in a way that the player will recognize without using terminology specific to real world East Asia

We don’t actually know where on the fictional map their culture/region is, so it might be East, yeah, but it might be somewhere else. The word “Asian” isn’t the only problem, it’s any term that’s specific to real-world Asia


You know? I was surprised when I found out “Oriental” was considered offensive in other countries as its a nothing word here, in fact I would even say that it’s the PC term. I guess it depends on the culture.

But anyway, if it’s set in a fictional world, the character might not be from the east either way.


I have removed all recommendations of and justifications of racist terms. Calling Asian people “Yellow” or “Oriental” is racist. This is the only warning I’ll give.