How the Swastika Got into Unicode

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Script standards seems like a relatively innocent topic, but you do encounter the strangest questions. For instance, a few weeks the Unicode list is discussing how to encode Swastika variants. Before you faint with shock, consider

1) The swastika is encoded as a symbol used in historical documents, so we’re stuck with it. It’s actually encoded in the Unihan (East Asian) block at point at U+534D.

2) The swastika is actually a positive sign in the East (India/East Asia). It was even used in a non-political manner in the West...before the rise of the Nazi party. I even found a 1920’s handkerchief from a great aunt with a charming cross stick swastika motif (in blue).

See
Gentle Swastika
Wikipedia

The actual discussion is whether you need swastika variants (e.g. rotated or with different arms). But it also brings up an interesting cultural question - How long should we let the atrocities of the Nazi party hold a symbol hostage?

Right now the display of the swastika is banned in Germany...which has a logic to it. But has some odd consequences in that you can’t sell any WWII comics in Germany, even if they’re from the Allied point of view! You also can’t even sell any manga comics which may have a Buddhist non-violet swastika displayed.

Similarly, someone in the discussion section of the Swastika Wikipedia page did NOT want this page to ever be a "Featured" page, even though the goal was to discuss the positive Eastern uses of the symbol. It can head into censorship territory.

I reject using the symbol in a Neo-Nazi context, but in the spirit of trying to undo a crime of culture, I made some Swastika symbol samples from various Asian fonts. These aren't nearly as toxic.

Curved Swastika and Chinese Stroke Unihan Swastika

About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage (ejp10@psu.edu) for a profile.

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