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Chinese Imperial Nautical Flags

Last modified: 2015-02-28 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: china | chinese empire |
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Commodore of Southern Escadre

[Southern Escadre Commodore] image by Oskar Myszor
source: "Okrety Wojenne" [p9lxx]

Admiral on a Sailing Ship

[Admiral on a sailing ship] image by Oskar Myszor
source: "Okrety Wojenne" [p9lxx]

Admiral on a Steamship

[Admiral on a steamship] image by Oskar Myszor
source: "Okrety Wojenne" [p9lxx]

Merchant Ensign, 1903-1912

[Merchant Ensign]
image by Mario Fabretto

I made some images for the booklet of Aldo Ziggioto (president of CISV) "Dove l'oriente e' rosso: Viaggio vessillologico in Cina e dintorni" distributed as supplement of the "Rivista Marittima, n. 6 June 1996" and, among the others, I also made one for the civil ensign 1903-1912.

The text on the booklet relative to the civil ensign says (more or less):

...In the year 1872 the war and civil ensigns were identical, to make some distinction was necessary: it was decided that the merchant ensign should be a red rectangular flag, charged with a yellow disk in the center. This flag was indeed that of the Chinese shipping line. ... omitted ... The merchant ensign remained unchanged until 1903, when on the yellow disk were placed one (for ships of a single shipowner) or two dragons (two or more shipowners).

Mario Fabretto, 27 April 1997

W. J. Gordon, in the 1915 edition of Flags of the World, stated that the red flag with a yellow disc was that of the China Merchant Steam Navigation Company, and the popular belief that it was the Chinese Merchant Ensign was a mistake. It seems that the addition of one or two dragons onto the disc was an attempt to design a flag which was distinctive yet would not be mistaken by the public. It is doubtful whether the ensign had any official status, and indeed whether it was regularly flown, although it did feature as a decoration on calendars, etc., used in China during that era. Miles Li, 02 February 1999

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Cigarette Card Depiction

[Merchant Ensign] by Antonio Martins

This is one of 50 cards series entitled "Countries Arms & Flags" issued by John Player & Sons [g9b05], a branch of the British Imperial Tobacco Company, in 1905. Other series issued by this Company are "Flags of the League of Nations" (1928) and "National Flags and Arms." (1936).
Antonio Gutierrez, 1 September 2004

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Ensign, circa 1916

[Chinese Saltire Ensign] by Oskar Myszor
source: "Okrety Wojenne" [p9lxx]

The saltire design shows that this was probably used during 1916, when Yuan Shih-Kai was Emperor of China.
Miles Li, 18 May 2002