人 versus 仁 and the values of people supporting other people embedded in Chinese characters

I was lucky to find this article in Japanese on the topic of how I came to believe that “人” meant one thing, and how “仁” is more correct:

人と人が支え合っている字は確かに存在する

I especially loved the warning banner that appears there:

Essentially this author, as well as other authors online, debunk what many folks who watched the popular Japanese TV show “Kinpachi-sensei” or more officially “3年B組金八先生” — which was translated in more than a few languages worldwide, what we learned etymologically about the character “人” (hito = person) is incorrect. But the related character “仁” (jin = compassion) fits the bill.

The left radical of jin is the same as the character hito which rather than signifying a person being supported by another person is said to mean someone bent over sideways and carrying something. The right radical of jin is the character “二” meaning “two” — which correlates to two people making the effort to support the 人 who clearly could use a few extra hands.

人という字は、残念ながら人と人が支え合っている字ではありません。その代わり仁という字が、人と人が支え合っている様子を表していると言えます。だから人と人が支え合って生きて行くことは、間違ったことではないのです

Unfortunately, the character for “person” is not the character that signifies how people must support each other. Instead, it can be said that the character “jin” signifies how people need to support each other. So it is not a mistake to take this meaning away from what has now become common knowledge.

—Norm Noise Blog

This interview with actor Takeda Tetsuya goes one level deeper into how this mistake was made, but also goes into more details around Chinese characters and their depth of meaning:


As an American I can’t help but love this interpretation too:


Alternative views on the idea of “support” are over here.

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