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Bod, Bö, བོད་

Last modified: 2006-09-23 by phil nelson
Keywords: tibet | china | jewel | snow lion | rays | sun |
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[Tibetan flag] by Brett Hamilton 26 September 2003
Proportions: 3:4

Tibet: Index of Pages

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Outside Links:

The Flag of Tibet

A photograph of an actual Tibetan Flag made by Tibetan refugees is found on page 25 of Flags Through the Ages and Across the World by Whitney Smith (McGraw Hill, 1975) [smi75b]; these flags were available to subscribers of the Flag Bulletin for a nominal cost at the time of the article about the Tibetan Flag and I have one. The following is from "The story of the flag of Tibet" by Prof. Pierre C. Lux-Wurm, Flag Bulletin, Vol.XII, No. 1 (Spring 1973):

... It is said that the main features of the Tibetan flag were designed in the latter half of the 7th century A.D. by King Srongtsan Gampo, ... The lion emblem first displayed as a war-banner became in time the national flag. The final consolidation of Tibetan independence brought about the addition of the rising sun and the twelve stripes of red and blue, which were introduced by the thirteenth Dalai Lama in 1912...
  • The white triangle at the bottom is a snowy mountain and represents the geographical location of Tibet in the heart of the Asiatic continent.
  • The two lions (in white, with green manes and tails) symbolize the twin system of the temporal and spiritual rule or, in other words, harmony between religious and earthly government.
  • The multicolored round gem (or Wishing Gem) in the lion's paw represents the rule of law based on the endless principle of Cause and Effect 'underlying the Ten Golden Precepts and the Sixteen Humane Principles of Buddhism, which are the source of infinite benefit and peace.'
  • Over the Wishing Gem stand the Three Flaming Jewels symbolizing Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, 'endowed with Twenty-Four Transcendental Attributes.' The Three Flaming Jewels are sometimes identified with the body, speech, and mind, ...
  • The golden rising sun symbolizes freedom, happiness, and prosperity.
  • Beginning at the lower hoist and continuing clockwise, there are twelve stripes in red and blue. They stand for the twelve descendants of the six aboriginal tribes of Tibet. The two colors symbolize two guardian deities known as Mar Nag Nyi, who are the special protectors of the flag. Red is for the male deity Chhyo-kong, blue for the female, Sung-ma.
  • "The yellow border is not a mere ornamentation. It indicates the spread of the golden ideals of Buddhism. But, as I was told, the fact that it only covers three sides of the flag is due to a practical observation: the fly of the flag is left free because, when waving, the cloth gets rid of dust or snow.

Dave Martucci 01 August 1996

From another site, the details are slightly different:

The Tibetan flag was designed by the thirteenth Dalai-Lama in the beginning of the 20th century. It is based on the traditional flags of the Tibetan regiments. From that time, it has been the official flag of Tibet.

Here is the meaning of the symbols:

  • In the centre stands a magnificent snow clad Mountain which represents the great Nation of Tibet widely known as the Land surrounded by Snow Mountains.
  • The six red bands across the blue dark sky represent the original ancestors of the Tibetan people :- the six tribes called Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and Ra which in turn gave the (twelve) descendants. The combination of six red bands (for the tribes) and six dark bands for the sky represents the unceasing enactment of the various deeds of protection of the spiritual teachings and secular life by the black and guardian protector deities with which Tibet has been connected since times immemorial.
  • All the tip of Snowy Mountains, the Sun with its rays shining brilliantly in all directions represents the equal enjoyment of freedom, spiritual and material happiness and prosperity by all the being in the land of Tibet.
  • On the slopes of mountains a pair of snow lions stand proudly, blazing with the means of fearlessness, which represent the country's victorious accomplishment of a unified spiritual and secular life.
  • The beautiful and radiant three-colored jewel aloft represents the ever-present reverence respectfully held by the Tibetan people towards the three gems, the objective of refugee Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
  • The two colored swirling jewel held between the two Lions represents the people's guarding and cherishing the self discipline of correct ethical behavior, principally represented by the practices of the ten exalted virtues and 16 human modes of conducts.
  • Lastly, the adornment with a yellow border symbolizes that the teachings of the Buddha, which are like pure refined gold and unbounded in space and time, are flourishing and spreading.

Source: CSPT (Comité de Soutien au Peuple Tibetain) Bulletin Nr. 11, February 96.
Ivan Sache, 08 October 1996

The Tibetan Flag is illegal in the T.A.R. As is possession of a photograph of the Dalai Lama, for which the punishment is imprisonment. The Peoples Republic of China only refer to the former province of U'Tsang as the Tibet Autonomous Region (T.A.R.) The term "Tibet" itself refers to the three original provinces of U'Tsang, Kham and Amdo (sometimes called Greater Tibet). When the Chinese refer to Tibet, they usually mean the T.A.R., which includes only U'Tsang. Amdo and Kham were renamed by the Chinese as the province of Qinghai, and as parts of Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces, respectively.
Neil Carman, 29 October 1997

Dragonflags No. 2 (1999) [dfs], a supplement of the Canadian Flag Association had a feature on the Tibetan flag, or snow mountain lion flag.

Basically, in the 7th century, under Sontsan Gambo, the Tubo kingdom was divided into 4 rus (flanks), each ru subdivided into an upper ru and a lower ru. Each ru had its own flags. Dragonflags gives the following as information, but no graphic details:

  • red flag with floral border and a red lucky flag for the rear guard.
  • red lion flag and a black black-hearted flag for the left flank.
  • a white lion in the sky flag and a black lucky flag for the right flank.
  • a black flag with white heart and picture of a roc and a pale yellow flag with stripes.

Information elsewhere in Dragonflags also indicates that there were:

  • a flag with two snow-lions facing each other.
  • a flag with a snow-lion standing upright, springing towards the sky.
  • a red flag with a white flame

These were standardized under the thirteenth Dalai Lama, basically creating a national standard from several military standards.
Phil Nelson, 14 November 1999

I have additional details on the national flag from a Chinese website [on a 1945 conference]:

Meanwhile, Britain had persuaded the authorities in Tibet to send a delegation to the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi. The Tibet government complied, and the arrival of the delegation was hailed by the major Indian newspapers. Hugh Richardson, the commercial attaché at the British Embassy in New Delhi, suggested that if the delegation had its own flag it would be claiming to represent an independent country. He wasted no time in notifying the Gaxag. But Tibet had no national flag, and so the Gaxag sent its army&'s flag, which showed a lion against a back ground of snowy peaks.

This is probably the real origin of the national flag. The 13th Dalai-Lama tried to make Tibet fully independent and internationally recognized. The reason why he didn&'t keep the army flag is probably political. Between 1914 and 1933 (death of the 13th), the army went through major reforms. It became a little but real national army with foreign instructors and began to successfully expel the Chinese troops from eastern Tibet.

Nevertheless, the army met three important obstacles:

a) the monasteries were absolutely opposed to a national army who would have diverted young men from religion and religious power
b) the nobility would have lost its privilege and justification with a conscript army
c) the eastern Khampa principalities who wanted to keep their independence both from China and Tibet. The army didn&'t win this political fight, and that's why a new flag rose on Tibet.

Corentin Chamboredon, 20 March 2006