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Qing Dynasty Flags (China)

Last modified: 2020-07-11 by ian macdonald
Keywords: china | qing dynasty |
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Illustrated manuscript

I found on the Victoria & Albert Museum website some interesting plates from a Qing-era illustrated manuscript: "The Illustrated Regulations for Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Present Dynasty" which was published in Beijing in XVIIIth century (the dates given are 1736-1795). Several of them were to be used by officers, some by the emperor himself. It didn't seem to me they had already been reported. Beware, if you click on individual items you may not find any image. For some reasons, several of them can only be seen on the results page (see the link below).

Source:
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/
Corentin Chamboredon, 26 October 2019

The Illustrated Regulations for Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Present Dynasty (皇朝禮器圖式), published in 1759, was the official regulations of ceremonial paraphernalia used by the Qing Dynasty. These are divided into six sections: religious displays, scientific instruments, official uniforms, musical instruments, ceremonial flags and displays, and military uniforms, flags and weapons. In all these include some 1300 illustrations, complete with descriptions in difficult-to-understand classical Chinese.

To translate all these into English would be a herculean task worthy of a PhD. Nonetheless for those who are seriously undaunted, the Illustrated Regulations make up only a tiny portion of Siku Quanshu (四庫全書, "Complete Library in Four Sections"), fascimile copies of which can be found in the Asian collection of most large university libraries.
Miles Li, 27 October 2019


Wuchang Army

[Wuchang Army flag] image by Jaume Ollé, 01 March 2014 and Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 05 May 2014

Qing Wuchang Army in September 1855 used vertical long five color of black, yellow, red, white and blue flag.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 01 March 2014

A 5:4 flag of five horizontal stripes, black, yellow, red, white, and blue. These are the same colours as on the later Chinese Republic flag of 1912, but the order of the colours differs between the two flags.
I wonder what the meaning of these five stripes was in this earlier flag, as in the later flag each colour is supposed to represent an ethnic group.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 05 May 2014

This case does not represent ethnic group. The five colors derives from famous Chinese Wu Xing philosophy. (五行思想) and represent five elements for life = water (black) earth (yellow) fire (red) metal (white) and wood (blue). Please see further information from Wikipedia article on Wu Xing and Wikipedia article on Color in Chinese culture
Jaume drew the image with accurate colors from the source Chinese paintings of battle field Qing Army 1855.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 05 May 2014


[Wuchang Army flag] recoloured flag according to Chinese Republic flag of 1912
image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 05 May 2014

While the colours are the same on both flags, the two flags do not use the same shades of these colours. I assume the shades Jaume used are those from his source, but I don't know whether the actual flag  had these shades. If this flag used the same shade as we currently have for the later flag, it would look like this.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 05 May 2014


Seven star variant

[Wuchang Army flag] image by Jaume Ollé, 01 March 2014 and Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 05 May 2014

They also used 7 star blue flag with three side white borders.
Source: Atlas of Flags in China 2003.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 01 March 2014

I wonder if the source did depict the flag with stars well - in China, the stars were originally drawn as discs, and connected with wide lines if representing a constellation (there are a few examples). The Western way of depicting them ("mullets") must have caught on only after the Communist victory in 1949 and the cited source, if based only on written description of the flag, probably used the stars from national flag as the model.
In this case, the stars might actually represent the Big Dipper.
Tomislav Todorović, 01 March 2014

I carefully checked the stars in the book however they are not big dippers nor 7 discs connected with wide lines but 7 mullets.
Incidentally Japan also used disc to represent star traditionally like Sengoku Samurai Mouri family banner used in 16th century which depicts three black stars by discs however in 1869 Hokkaido Development Commissioner already started using a mullet flag inspired by US flag.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 01 March 2014

I did not doubt that. Still the pattern suggests that they did represent the Big Dipper constellation, regardless of the particular way of depicting the stars. I did not know that so far. It allows for the stars to have been represented as mullets in this case, too. The discs were used to represent stars in Vietnam as well, like here.
Tomislav Todorović, 01 March 2014

A square blue flag with a white border along the free sides, the flag charged with 7 white five-pointed stars in a reversed S-swirl.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 05 May 2014


Qing Army pennant of Regiment Command

[Qing Army pennant of Regiment Command] image by Jaume Ollé, 01 March 2014

[Qing Army pennant of Regiment Command] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 05 May 2014

Qing Army used yellow flag with red two short bars/ one long bar/two short bars. The flag is pennant of Regiment Command of New Land Forces.
Source: Chinese Military Museum in Beijing.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 01 March 2014

Looks like the trigram for water. I drew what this one would look like if it were symmetrical. I assume Jaume didn't draw it like this exactly because the original isn't that regular.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 05 May 2014