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Khadang regiment of Tibetan Army (Tibet)

Regimental Flags

Last modified: 2015-08-13 by zoltán horváth
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[Tibetan flag]  [Tibetan flag]
obverse side                                     reverse side
images by Corentin Chamboredon, 17 March 2014

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Khadang regiment

[Tibetan flag]  [Tibetan flag]
obverse side                                     reverse side
images by Corentin Chamboredon, 18 March 2014

I had the chance to discover a color video which shows this flag: (from 14:12 to 14:45)
The video was made in 1943 by two American soldiers, captain Ilya Tolstoy and lieutenant Brooke Dolan. They had been sent to Tibet in order to negotiate with the government a possible agreement. The idea was to allow shipments for China to travel through their territory (which the Tibetan government never really accepted). At the time, China's main supply line through Burma had been cut by the Japanese, leaving only Tibet as a possible alternative.
I thought the flag of the Tibetan regiment was just a square Tibetan flag, but the video showed me I was wrong.
First, instead of the yellow border, there are three borders of different colors : yellow at the top, red at the hoist, blue at the bottom. As usual on Tibetan flags, there are one yellow square at the lower hoist and a yellow lozenge in the middle of the border. There should be a second square at the upper hoist but it is hidden, and since the top border is already yellow it wouldn't perhaps be noticeable.
Then, the rays radiating from the sun are also different. In the usual flag, they are alternatively red and blue. Here, there are also two yellow rays (the 2nd and the 11th). As for the thing that appears between the lions' paws, I thought it was a burning ball, but the video shows it in a dark blue color. It doesn't seem to be a ying-yang symbol in a different style, nor a wish-fulfilling gem. As I had written before, the flag is shown with its hoist on the right, still the characters are perfectly readable. Tibetan is written from left to right, and the Tibetan flag is displayed that way, so I think this flag is two-sided.
Corentin Chamboredon, 16 March 2014

In the film, finally, it's clearly visible that these are not the same colour as flag yellow. Maybe these are golden? (That would mean they the upper square would be different from the top border as well.)
String is visible protruding from the lozenge, which supports the idea that this is a matter of fastening the flag to the staff (or that at least it started out that way).
Not just the segments are different, the rays of the sun symbol itself are different as well. They seem less spiky, and there's a lot of them; more than double what's on the current national flag.
I'm not sure either. It has the thick rim of an eight-spoked wheel, but there's something inside it that shows the same shape in all of both shots, so I'd assume it's not merely the way the light falls, or something like that.
There are some other differences as well: The depiction of the flaming jewels has different details, and judging by the line rising up from the  gem the lions holding the jewels up have their paws touching, with the manes merging.
As I don't read Tibetan, I can only comment that the dexter-most character appears to differ between the video and your image. Are these regiment numbers, with this a different number, or is there a different difference in meaning?
I've made a screen-capture. I tried to pick the best frame: The shots are actually of two banners held together, so I've tried pick a frame where the front-most completely obscures the other, yet shows us as much of the interesting bits as possible. I had to remove the actual army and the magnificent mountains to get it under the 25k, sorry.
(It might be interesting to know what "dang" means, or possibly "adang".) If the designs are equal except for their lettering, it would probably  make more sense to list the "regiments" (Who described them thus, if  they really weren't?), with their inscriptions on the flags, rather than 15 sets of almost equal images.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 March 2014

Indeed. It could also be a light green, as the flag shown at Tibetan flags of the imperial era. But it could just look different because of the sun. The soldiers and the flags are facing the sun, so the way the flags are furled might create some shadows. I'm not sure at all.
Tibetan clearly describe twelve segments but say nothing of the rays, except they are supposed to shine in every directions.
I checked with a black and white photograph which had been taken closer to the flag, but I couldn't identify this. The wavy things really looks like those around the burning ball at Tibet 1920 page but with a thick rim, and the inner part is too blurry in both sources to be sure.
As for the chintamani or wish-fulfilling jewel, there are different ways of drawing it, according to the artist. The disc and lotus can be shown, or not. See some examples here.
No the lions' paws dont touch the thing between them nor each other's paw. See the photograph here (I have a file of still better quality if you want to have a look):
I don't read Tibetan too, but I can recognise the letters and these characters are clearly the "ka" letter and the Tibetan digit for one. The scholar Melvyn Goldstein recorded a number of interviews with former Tibetan officials, and you can read their transcripts on Some interviews describe at length the old Tibetan regiments. Some words of the transcripts have a hoverbox and this is what Mr Goldstein writes about the Kadang regiment:
"In the traditional Tibetan army, regiments were numbered alphabetically rather than numerically. Consequently, the Kadang regiment refers to the 1st regiment since "ka" is the first letter of the Tibetan alphabet. It was also called the Bodyguard (Kusung [sku srung]) Regiment of the Dalai lama."
"Q: What was the structure of the Riwoche regiment, how many soldiers? And what kind of military officers were there and where did the soldiers come from?
A: We were the Jadang Regiment.
Q: Why did they name it Jadang?
A: It was named according to the letters in the alphabet. Ja was one of the 30 consonants."
The list is given at, and the sources are quoted at the bottom of the page.
Here are the characters to use for each regiment, except the first one since I already gave them.
Khadang (2nd): ཁ༢
Gadang (3rd): ག༣
Ngadang (4th): ང༤
Chadang (5th): ཅ༥
Chadang (6th): ཆ༦
Jadang (7th): ཇ༧
Nyadang (8th): ཉ༨
Tadang (9th): ཏ༩
Thadang (10th): ཐ༡༠
Dadang (11th): ད༡༡
The following letter is normally "Na", but there is no NaDang regiment in the list I found. So, I will give the numbers corresponding to the following letters, since it seems logical.
Padang (13th): པ༡༣
Phadang (14th): ཕ༡༤
Badang (15th): བ༡༥
Madang (16th): མ༡༦
Corentin Chamboredon, 16 March 2014

If you watch the shots you'll see the flag furl over and throw shadow, and then fold back again; in this image the only shadows are in the folds, none on the hoist border.
But if all regimental flags follow the same pattern, it might be considered a characteristic difference.
From the film I couldn't say whether the lines were part of the lions or of a burning ball. Burning ball it is, but I don't now what's inside it. From the black and white I'd say something with rays, but whether it's 8 spokes with a symbol at the hub or a wishing gem with glow shining outward I can't tell. We'll probably need someone who actually knows what (s)he's seeing.
As the line rising up seems to be a burning ball after all, it can't be part of the lions, neither can the others. So, different from the current flag, the lions neither touch/hold up the jewels nor the gem.
Well, the film most of the time seems to show something non-existent  letter, but with the shadow over it, it seems to match the black and  white picture, where it looks more like a "kha" instead.
So, if it's kha, this is the khadang, which is the second something (dang?). And it's the first I don't know what of that dang(?)?
That's Trapchi, apparently, but since I didn't listen to the video I don't know whether that matches.
Seem to have mossed something again. Poetry and flags don't seem to match very well.
(And one certainly shouldn't trying to break down the song More than Words, from Extreme, in between to find out more about the timing and the tuning. It's kind of distracting.)
One hit for It may have existed after all.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 17 March 2014

Ok. Let's go with golden squares and lozenge.
As long as we don't have any example for other regiments we can't be sure, anyway. Maybe the general design was the same but the colors could vary somehow according to the regiment. Moreover, this color video contradict W. D. Shakabpa (see above) when he wrote:
"In 1918, the Tibetan army was trained in the English style. At the same time, the design of all the banners of the Tibetan military camps was determined. Twelve blue and red sun rays sat upon the peeak of a white snow nountain, while a three eyed jewel was held in the paws of a pair of white lions. It has a gold border."
A golden border ? Not on this flag, though. So what about the others ?
"In 1931 and 1932, the Dalai Lama's bodyguard and the Tibetan army respectively were given banners; each of the banners had a lotus and vajras crossed on a sharp sword, with five colored victory banners hanging."
So the first regiment (bodyguard) has a flag different from those used by the regiments.

[Tibetan flag] image located by Corentin Chamboredon, 17 March 2014

The first letters of the Tibetan alphabet are: Ka, Kha, Ga, Nga. The first two are obviously almost similar to us, but they are still different. The dang part is a shorter form of "dangpo" (wylie: dang-po, དང་པོ), which means "first". What is confusing is that the other regiments also had this dang in their name. We can ignore the Bodyguard regiment which was special, but we would logically expect the Ga regiment to be called the second (nyipa, in Tibetan). So, I guess the best translation we could find would be: First regiment of Kha (numbered 1), First regiment of Ga (numbered 2), First regiment of Nga (numbered 3), etc. I wonder if those names couldn't date back to the imperial era, when Tibetan armies were much more powerful and numerous. Maybe then, there were such things as Third regiment of Kha, Second of Ga, and so on.
And now I suddenly and sadly realize that even I wrote wrongly that the first character was a Ka, while it is indeed a Kha... All my apologies, I shouldn't send emails when I'm tired. So the list I gave is also wrong, then let's do it again. The first character is the letter, the one or two following characters are the digits.
Kadang (Bodyguard regiment): had its own flag
Tibetan army as a whole: also had its own flag
Khadang (1st): ཁ / ༡
Gadang (2nd): ག / ༢
Ngadang (3th): ང / ༣
Chadang (4th): ཅ / ༤
Chadang (5th): ཆ / ༥
Jadang (6th): ཇ / ༦
Nyadang (7th): ཉ / ༧
Tadang (8th): ཏ / ༨
Thadang (9th): ཐ / ༩
Dadang (10th): ད / ༡༠
Nadang (11th): ན / ༡༡
Padang (12th): པ / ༡༢
Phadang (13th): ཕ / ༡༣
Badang (14th): བ / ༡༤
Madang (15th): མ / ༡༥
Trapchi was the place where the regiment had its headquarters, near the hydroelectric plant and several offices of the government, north of Lhasa.
Corentin Chamboredon, 17 March 2014

Indeed, so for the time being the differences are just worth noting.
And the lions aren't holding the three jewels either. (Or the gem if  that's what he means.) Well, unless / -til we find another I guess that  will remain a mystery.
I wonder what happened to these flags.
Maybe it's first/prime subdivision of the whole army? Then subdivisions of the dangpo would be "Seconds", etc..
Well, since the numbers are in their very names, we should probably call Kadang 1st, Khadang 2nd, etc.. They would number to 16, but they would still have only 15 such flags (if that number is mentioned n one of your sources).
But do you have a source for the numbers counting up as well? Since the first character is the letter-numbering part, I could imagine the ༡ to just stand for "dangpo".
Indeed, but I don't know whether in the video they mention being near there, or specifically mention they meet the B-prime.
Well, taking that into considering, what can we now tell from the well-known horses and flags photograph? E.g.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 17 March 2014

Not necessarily. Tibet was once a powerful empire that had to be treated cautiously by its neighbours. I think the British representatives just translated these words with what they knew. The Tibetan word is "magar" (wylie : dmag sgar, with the following meanings :
- military encampment, barracks, military camp, battalion
- building/ barracks/ tent where soldiers stay, military [en]camp[ment]
Tibet-encyclopaedia states that there were other units below the regiments : battalions (mda'), ru (company ?), lding and still others. I have no idea if they were called "seconds".
My only source is the Tibet-encyclopaedia. I have googled the hypothetic other names, but I found nothing. It is indeed possible that the ༡means the dang part of the name.
I also have this photograph in better quality, and it tells us that there was indeed a square in the upper hoist, with another color than the upper border. I think the flag on the left show two more yellow sections, because they look as bright as the upper border. I think this photograph confirms it: The other flag is apparently the double vajra army flag shown above. It also have a distinct border, and squares and lozenge in a different color.
Let's try other photographs. I found several others which may interest us:
This one clearly show the "Ka" letter in the upper hoist. Its borders are very clear so maybe it has a full yellow border. I can see a snow lion and the white mountain, but not the sections. I think I can see a lozenge on the hoist border. Very similar to the Khadang flag. Click on Back to record to read the description.
Probably the same flag, with the same "Ka" letter.
That one is much more interesting. We see again the "Ka" letter, and maybe one clearer section on the obverse. The flag on the left has no characters next to the wish-fulfilling jewel.
That one is already shown at here. I think this is the Khadang flag, since we a distorted "Kha" letter just next to the jewel. It confirms too the squares and lozenge, at least for this regiment.
All this, and the report I had sent about a flag used by General Derge Se make me think that perhaps the characters would not necessarily appear in the same place of the flag : on the white mountain for Khadang, in the upper hoist for Kadang / Bodyguard (and what about their alledged own flag ?), above the sun if this page is not about a rank flag but Dadang regiment.
Corentin Chamboredon, 18 March 2014

I agree. But the one in the video doesn't! When the flag furls and unfurls we can see every sector at some point, and they are as you drew them. So, unless this one is pre-standardisation, (in practice) the flags do differ.
Maybe access it as instead.
I can only discern to lower border, so I'm not sure.
From 1936, so if the flags really were standardised by the 13th Dalai Lama, this would have to be a standard flag. (Hold on: The Dalai Lama died in 1933, so whom did that diplomatic mission in 1943 in the video exchange letters with?)
It's a related design, but unless all the detail we see on the top half of the flag are light patterns, it's different from a regimental flag. If it is the same design after all, would the Ka then be a number of a subdivision?
A visible top border here. but I'm not sure the one sector I can see in the cloth really has a ray shape.
... that we can see.
But then again, we've seen those characters on sinister hoist side only, haven't we? Would they be on just the one side?
As they are supposed to have a different style flag, I don't think the Ka signifies a Kadang flag on these regular style flags.
Can you still see that image of the flag of Derge Se, BTW, as for me it's captioned on page XV, which apparently isn't in the preview.
I wonder: if they are always in pairs, would there be a left flag and a right flag?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 18 March 2014

I think the standardization was quite relative in Tibet in the first decades of the XXth century.
Even if a Dalai lama died or traveled abroad, their were people to talk to. In fact, even the XIIIth Dalai lama rarely had to give his opinion except in the most important cases. All the daily and regular stuff was managed by the Kashag (Cabinet) or by representatives designated either by the former Dalai lama or the Tsongdu (a "national assembly", see this graph if you want to know more).
So in 1936, the leader was the regent, Reting Rinpoche, who was in charge from 1933 to 1940, stepped aside that same year because of misbehaviour and to avoid disgrace on the young XIVth Dalai lama and who tried to launch a coup d'état in 1947 and died in jail shortly after.
Black and white photos are quite helpless for such colorful flags. It was a great luck to find an almost fully displayed flag for few seconds in a color video (which was a rarity even in Europe by that time).
That would be rather strange to put one's unit's distinctive character only on ose side of the flag, but go figure, perhaps that was the custom in the Tibetan army.
I had to zoom to see it. I wondered why the wish-fulfilling jewel looked different. I may be wrong but I think there is a "Kha" letter, which looks like it is a part of the jewel, and something blurred on the right which seems to have the shape of the Tibetan digit 1.
I thought it had to do with the country I live in. Some books can be viewed in some countries but not in others. I have ordered a copy of the book to check that. Regarding the pairs of flags, are there even any examples of such things in other armies?.
Corentin Chamboredon, 18 March 2014

I was thinking more along the lines of: You may have to draw both a 2 yellow sector flag and a four yellow sectors flag.
(But the video about that 1943 journey says: "Their endeavour made possible the exchange of letters and gifts between the President of the United States and his holiness the Dalai Lama ...". It may have made such an exchange possible, but an exchange could not actually have happened until the incarnation of the Dalai Lama was formally recognised, which must have been somewhere near the end of the 1940-s.)
Well, other banners and colours in other countries sometimes have a  completely different reverse, so it wouldn't be that unimaginable. After  all, why would you write something on the reverse of the flag, where no-one would see it? No, neither on the triple jewels, nor on the wishing gem, sorry. I can  see that the former has something sticking out, but as there's a fold there, it may just be that part of the jewels is obscured.
Usually pairs of flags have different functions: One national flag and one unit colour. I couldn't say whether there are other cases where a unit appears to be have two flags of the same design.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 18 March 2014

Here are two flags with four yellow sectors.
The XIIIth Dalai lama died in 1933, and the XIVth was born in 1935 and was formally enthroned in Lhasa in 1940. So when the American military arrived, they met an eight year old boy, and the new regent, Taktra Rinpoche. Anyway, I have just discovered two recent books about the political and military history of Tibet. I will try to find them, I hope they will give me some answers.
Corentin Chamboredon, 18 March 2014