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[Tibetan flag]
by Dave Martucci 1996-August-01

See also:

A photograph of an actual Tibetan Flag made by Tibetan refugees is found on page 25 of Flags Through the Ages and Accross the World by Whitney Smith (McGraw Hill, 1975) ; 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) symbolise 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 symbolising 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.

by Dave Martucci 01 August 1996

From another site, the details are slightly different:

The Tibetan flag was designed by the 13th 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:

  • The proud white mountain, naturally beautiful, in the center of the flag, symbolizes the Land of the great Tibetan Nation. This Land is famous for being surrounded with snowy mountains.
  • The six celeste rays of red light represent the six original Nations of Tibet : Se, Mar, Dong, Tang, Drou, Re.
  • The alternance of red colour for the six nations and blue colour of the sky represents the legitimate ethical behaviour necessary to preserve the government of the union of spiritual and material powers. This union is protected by the two Tibetan tutelary divinities. The first divinity is red, the second is black.
  • The light rays emanating from the sun rising above the peak of the snowy mountain express the spread of freedom, spiritual and material happiness, and prosperity over the whole Tibetan Nation.
  • The brave posture of the two snow lions represents the total victory of any action held by the government of the union of spiritual and material powers. The bravery of the lions is suggested by the five prominent lines of their head.
  • The Three Jewels of Buddhism, with different colours and flashing with beauty and light, evoke the reverence of the Tibetan Nation for the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, which are the three sources of the Refuge.
  • The Jewel of the Whirl of the Joy, with two colours, symbolizes the respect for the principles of the noble tradition. This tradition was stated in the law of the ten virtuous precepts suited to spiritual life and of the sixteen ethical rules suited to non-religious life.
  • The yellow fringe means the development and increase of the Buddha's teachings. They are compared to refined pure gold, in all directions of space and time.

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 PRC 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), 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 13th Dalai Lama, basically creating a national standard from several military standards.
Phil Nelson, 14 November 1999

Reports of other flags seen in Tibet

In the movie "Seven Years in Tibet" there are many supposed images of Lhasa, and in many parts of the city are flown an unknown flag, probably the local flag. It is horizontally blue, yellow and red horizontal, with two white stars in the upper stripe.
Jaume Ollé, 22 January 1998

The movie "Kundun" is about the life of the fourteenth Dalai Lama. In it we see the Flag of Tibet often, but there are a few times when another flag in also shown that may be the personal flag of the Dalai Lama but I'm not sure. I've seen nothing in any of my books about such a flag and I don't really know if such a flag exists. The flag is all white with a symbol of some kind in the middle of the flag, but It is never very clear so I can't really tell much more then that.
Dan Fairbanks, 30 January 1998

Although I have no confirmation of this, I have heard tell of a white flag with either one or two snow lions in the center. The snow lion is a symbol on the standard Tibetan flag, and could well be used for other banners. However, the place to inquire may well be the Tibetan Government in Exile'.
Thomas Robinson, 31 January 1998

I found a black-and-white photograph of a group of Khampa (or Khamba) guerillas, a band of Tibetans fighing the communist occupation forces in the eastern regions of Tibet. In the background is a flag, partialy obscured by the soldiers. I don't know what exactly what it represents, but it looks like two crossed swords on a light background, with a dark border, with five round symbols of some kind. I'm not sure, but it looks as if at least one of the swords is surrounded by flame. There is some Tibetan writing on the right side (I can't see the left).
Thomas Robinson, 10 August 1998

(Editorial Note: a photo of this flag is in Dragonflags, No. 2 attributed to the book In exile from the Land of Snows, John F. Avedon, New York, 1984.

The history of the Khamba (not Khampa) struggle is very complex. Several feudal principalities exist in the zone, and some of they probably has flag own. The principalities armys joined the Khamba revolt The colour of the Khambas soldiers is yellow.
Jaume Ollé, 11 August 1998

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