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Burma: historical flags

before British colonial times

Last modified: 2006-08-26 by ian macdonald
Keywords: myanmar | burma | asia | peacock | elephant |
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A History of Burmese Flags

The history of Burmese flags is interesting, but not yet fully investigated. So I send you a list of my knowledge on this topic. After a look at the CISV archives I got the following for the period till 1945.

Pier Paolo Lugli, 30 March 1998, augmented by Dov Gutterman, 30 July 2000

1300 - 1500 Golden "Hintar" flag

[1500 Golden Horde flag] by Pascal Gross

Based on a source at The early Mons hoisted this flag of the golden Hinthar on a green background.

1300-1885: Thu Ye Gyee flag (Hero's flag)

[Thu Ye Gyee flag] 2:7, by Andy Weir

This could be the first military flag of Myanmar. It is not a rectangular flag. A yellow circle on red, and 3 pointed strips to the edge. Original size was 6'x14'. The yellow circle represents the sun, and 7 animals in 7 colors for the 7 most powerful animals of the universe. These are:
monkey (in gold)
galone (in white)
beloo (ogre) (in yellow)
peacock (in black)
lion (in green)
elephant (in red)
dragon (in light pink)

1700 - 1885 Kongbaung Dynasty flag

[1885 Kongbaung Dynasty flag] by Pascal Gross

White, a peacock [generally on a red disk or inside a red ring]. Based on a source at The earliest records shows that this flag was hoisted in Yangon when the Myanmar King bought Yangon back from the British for 10 million kyats in silver coins (360,000 pounds or 163,293.25 kg of silver). This flag was also hoisted on top of the Myanmar ship when minister U Kaung (Kinwun Mingyee) went to Britain during 1800s.

It has a white background, with a red peacock biting a branch of flowers. It was hoisted with a golden tip at the top of the pole. This original flag was defined as 18 feet high and 27 feet wide.
Dov Gutterman, 30 July 2000

The pre-British flags are not known with certainty. Legras (1858) showed a peacock in natural on a white field for the 'Burmese Empire'. Other sources showed the red ring mentioned above.
Ivan Sache, 28 January 2001

Three wars allowed the progressive colonization of Burma by the British. The flag shown in Album des Pavillons, Laurie's Flag Chart and travellers' notebooks was the blue peacock 'rouant vert et miraillé or' (with a golden wheel 'fimbriated' in gold) on a white field. [My comment: This is the same design shown here, in contradiction to the description "White, a peacock on a red disk or inside a red ring." 'Grand Larousse du XXe siecle' shows a white peacock, outlined in black, on a white disc, surrounded by a red ring, the main field being white.] But: Franciae Vexilla #20/66, December 2000 says the *arms* showed a peacock on a red disk, with four flags with a red disk in saltire.
Ivan Sache, 28 January 2001

Mid 19th century

[Mindon flag] by Ivan Sache

The Burmese king Mindon (1853-1876) moved the capital of his kingdom to Mandalay in June 1857. A painting from that period shows dark red, three-pointed flags with a black cross in the middle. It is not known if these flags were Mindon's standards, army or national flags. The cross might be associated with Christianity since missionaries were already present in the area in the 1850's. The British troops entered in Mandalay on 28 November 1885 and Burma was attached to the British Empire on 1 January 1886. The new colony of Upper-Burma was later attached to Indian Empire on 26 February 1886.
Source: H. Calvarin, Franciae Vexilla #20/66, December 2000.
Ivan Sache, 19 December 2000

1886 - 1939

Part of India. The British (or Indian flag) flew on this territory. (But see note below for the period 1937-1939.)

Burma was incorporated to India and became a separate colony in 1937. The governor's flag was the Union Jack defaced in the middle with the Burmese seal (a green and blue peacock on a golden disk).

Based on Franciae Vexilla #20/66, December 2000, the Commission of Rangoon Harbour used a 1:2 Red Ensign with the Port's seal (three black ships on a white disk, surrounded with a golden garland bearing 'Commissariat port of Rangoon' and crowned) at lower fly. The flag of the colony was similar but with a blue field and the Burmese seal. [My notes: these flags are shown in Flaggenbuch with minor differences, e.g. Port's seal has a light blue disk and the word is of course 'commissioners']
Ivan Sache, 28 January 2001

Other representations of Peacock flags

[Peacock flag of Myanmar] Steve Stringfellow, 20 August 1997

From a pre-1917 cigar box label insert.

In "A Pocket Dictionary of Flags" by John Gaunt Jr. published in 1876 [gau1876], the Burmese flag has a white field with a peacock in full color.

John Niggley, 25 January 1996

[Peacock flag of old Burma] Jorge Candeias, 4 October 1999

The Burmese flag shown on an old flag plate is the old peacock on a white field. I've seen this design in several sources, always with a different peacock, though they all seem to be naturalistically drawn (and coloured). FOTW shows a scan of an old cigar box with this flag. However, Pier Paolo's short history of Burmese flags does not include it, being the "White, a peacock on a red disk or inside a red ring." of until 1886 [being] the closest we can find. I think I've also seen this one, although the simply white one seems to be more frequently depicted. This doesn't mean, of course, that it was indeed in use.

To make the above GIF I simply took clipart and placed it on a white field. It is probably no more correct or incorrect than any other such representation. Which probably means that the accuracy relative to flags really used last century is pretty low. The proportions of the flag (overall, symbol to field, etc.) and the position of the peacock (facing the hoist) were taken from the image in the flagplate. [See below]

[Peacock flag of old Burma] Jorge Candeias

Jorge Candeias, 4 October 1999