The Tibetan National Flag
"The Tibetan national flag is intimately connected with the authentic history and royal lineages of
Tibet which are thousands of years old. Furthermore, in the Tibetan Royal year 820 or in the
seventh century of the Christian era, at the time of the Tibetan religious King Song-tzan Gampo
the Great extensive land of Tibet was divided into large and small districts known as "gö-kyi
tong-de" and "yung-g'i mi-de". From these large and small districts, an army of 2,860,000 men
was chosen and stationed along the borders of Tibet, and the subjects thus lived in safety. The
bravery and heroism of the Tibetan people at that time in conquering and ruling even the
adjacent empire of China is well-known in world history.
"At that time, it is recorded that the regiment of Yö-ru tö had a military flag with a pair of snow-lions facing each other; that Yä-ru mä had a snow-lion with a bright upper border; that of Tzang
Ru-iao, had a snow-lion standing upright, springing towards the sky; and the flag of ü-ru tö had a
white flame against a red background, and so forth. In this way. the regiments of each area had
its own individual military standard. Continuing with that tradition up to the beginning of the
twentieth century, various regiments within the Tibetan army have had military flags with either
a pair of snow-lions facing each other, or a snow-lion springing upwards and so forth.
"In the latter part of this period, during the rule of His Holiness the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama,
this eminent spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet enacted many modifications in administrative
policies in accordance with international customs. Based on the formats of previous Tibetan
military flags, His Holiness improved upon them and designed the present, modern national flag.
With an official proclamation, He declared that this would be the uniform, standard flag to be
adopted by all Tibetan military defence establishments. Since the time of that proclamation, all
Tibetan regiments have likewise adopted this flag as their standard.
"The colour scheme of the Tibetan national flag gives a clear indication of all aspects of Tibet in
its symbolism such as the geographic features of the religious. snowy land of Tibet, the customs
and traditions of Tibetan society, the political administration of the Tibetan government and so
"History attests to the fact that Tibet is one of the most ancient nations of the world. Therefore, in
all the three regions of Tibet, irrespective of caste and creed, this national flag inherited from our
ancestors is universally accepted as a common, peerless treasure and even today still continues to
be highly respected and esteemed as in the past."
Quoted from "Tibetan National Flag" © Copyright 1980 Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.
An Explanation of the Symbolism of the National Flag of Tibet
- In the centre stands a magnificent thickly snow
clad mountain, which represents the great nation of Tibet, widely known as
the Land Surrounded by Snow Mountains.
- Across the dark blue sky six red bands spread
representing 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 blue bands for the sky represents the
incessant enactment of the virtuous deeds of protection of the spiritual teachings
and secular life by the black and red guardian protector deities with which
Tibet has had connection for a very long time.
- At the tip of the snow mountain, the sun with its
rays brilliantly shining in all directions represents the equal enjoyment of freedom,
spiritual and material happiness and prosperity by all beings in the land of Tibet.
- On the slopes of the mountain there proudly stand
a pair of snow lions blazing with the manes of fearlessness, which represent
the country's victorious accomplishment of a unified spiritual and secular
- The beautiful and radiant three coloured jewel
held aloft represents the ever-present reverence respectfully held by the
Tibetan people towards the Three Supreme Jewels (the Buddhist objects of refuge: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha).
- The two coloured swirling jewel held between the
two lions represents the peoples' guarding and cherishing the self discipline
of correct ethical behaviour, principally represented by the practices of
the ten exalted virtues and the 16 humane modes of conduct.
- Lastly, the surrounding border of yellow adorning
the perimeter represents the spread and flourishing in all directions
and times of the purified gold like teachings of the Buddha.
to the Tibetan Culture index page.
Image scanned and edited by Sönam
Tenzin. The explanation of symbolism was translated from the Tibetan
in the grade 5 school text book published by the Tibetan Cultural Printing
Press, Dharamsala 1989. Comments and suggestions for improvements are welcome--Sönam
Tenzin. Last updated 1 July 1995.