Flags have long been used as key symbols of countries or states. They are used in ceremonies and festivals to promote patriotism and unity. In many cases, they can represent a beacon of hope or even a symbol of strength or loyalty. Many countries have adopted unique designs on their flag, and these can consist of simple shapes or complex symbols and symbolism. But what about the flags of Asia? What are their designs, and what do they symbolize? Let’s find out in this guide to Asian flags!
The current flag of Afghanistan was initially adopted in 1997 and was flown until 2001. It was reinstated in August 2021 by the Taliban rule following the withdrawal of the military presence in the country at the end of the War in Afghanistan. This flag consists of a plain white field with black words of the Shahada in the center. The Shahada is an Islamic oath and creed. However, the internationally recognized flag is still the former tricolor flag. This flag consists of black, red, and green vertical bands with a white national emblem in the center.
Armenia is one of the smallest countries in Asia and is located in the Armenian Highlands. Its national flag was adopted in 1990 and is known as the Armenian Tricolor for its distinctive red, blue, and orange bands. Although the colors can be interpreted in several different ways, the mainly widely used meaning is that red symbolizes the Armenian Highlands and the Armenian people’s constant struggle for survival. Blue symbolizes the sky above, and orange represents the nation’s hard work.
The Republic of Azerbaijan is located on the boundary between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Its national flag was first adopted in 1918 when the country declared independence from its Russian rule. This day is celebrated every year on Azerbaijani Flag Day. The flag is a tricolor and consists of bright blue, red, and green horizontal bands. It also has a white crescent and an eight-pointed star in the very center, symbolizing Islam.
Bahrain is an island in Western Asia with a distinctive red and white flag. The flag has a red background with a white field at the hoist side. The two colors are divided by a serrated strip which forms five triangles. The five triangles represent the Five Pillars, that is, Islam’s fundamental practices.
Located in South Asia, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The flag of Bangladesh consists of a dark green field with a slightly off-center red disc. It was adopted in 1972 and is based upon the previous flag, which had a yellow map of the country inside the red disc.
When it comes to flags, Bhutan’s flag is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive, as it features a white Chinese dragon on a diagonally divided field of yellow and orange. This flag was adopted in 1969 and represents Bhutan’s name in Dzongkha, which translates into ‘Dragon Kingdom’ or ‘Dragon Country.’ Furthermore, the sound of thunder across the Himalayan mountains where the country is located is said to be the voice of dragons, while the accompanying lightning is the fire from their mouths.
Brunei Darussalam is a small country located on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. The current flag of Brunei Darussalam was adopted in 1959. It comprises a yellow field with two diagonal black and white stripes with the country’s national emblem in the center. On the whole, the flag represents peace. The Arabic writing on the emblem that reads, “Brunei, the Abode of Peace,” cements this concept.
Cambodia is located on the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It has one of the more unusual flag designs, as it features an image of the Angkor Wat in the center. The Angkor Wat is an ancient temple in Cambodia. It is considered the largest religious monument in the world. The Cambodian flag has had this image on it since 1850, as it stands for heritage, integrity, and justice.
The current flag of China was adopted in 1949. It is known as the Five-Star Red Flag, as it consists of a red background with four smaller yellow stars arranged in a semi-circle around a larger star. The red field represents the Chinese Communist Revolution, while the stars symbolize the unity of the Chinese people under its leadership. The four smaller stars also represent the four social classes of China’s people.
The flag of Cyprus was designed by the artist İsmet Güney. It was first adopted in 1960, with the current version being used since 2006. The simple design of two olive branches underneath a silhouette of the country represents peace and harmony between Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish communities.
The stunning flag of East Timor was first used for a matter of days in 1975 when East Timor gained its independence from Portugal. However, it didn’t remain independent for long, as just nine days later, Indonesia invaded it. Although Indonesia withdrew in 1999, the country was then administered by the United Nations, and it took a further three years for it to gain independence again. This flag was then officially adopted as the national symbol in 2002.
Although numerous flags have flown over Egypt in the past, the current flag was adopted in 1984. It consists of a tricolor with a golden eagle in the center. The flag represents the country’s history, with the red band symbolizing the blood of the Egyptian people shed in the war against colonization. The white band symbolizes purity, while the black bar below represents the darkness that was overcome.
Known as the “five-cross flag,” the flag of Georgia was originally a banner representing the medieval Kingdom of Georgia which existed from approximately 1008 AD until around 1490. The current flag was adopted in 2004, although it became widely recognized in the 1990s following Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union.
The flag of India was adopted in 1947 and is a tricolor flag with the Ashoka Chakra or Dharmachakra in the center. The Ashoka Chakra is a navy blue 28-spoke wheel that represents the concept of movement, thus symbolizing how India should not resist change but move forward.
The flag of Indonesia is a simple bicolor flag with horizontal bands of red and white. It is officially named Sang Saka Merah-Putih, which means “lofty bicolor red and white.” The flag is based on the 13th-century flag of the Majapahit Empire. The current flag was first used in 1945 and officially adopted in 1950.
Iran’s flag is known as the Three-Colored Flag due to its green, white, and red horizontal bands. It also features the national emblem in red in the center. In white on the top of the red band and the bottom of the green band is the Takbir repeated eleven times in Kufic script. The Takbir is the Arabic phrase “Allāhu ʾakbar,” which means “God is the greatest.” The basic design was first used in 1907, although it featured a different emblem. However, the flag was adopted in its current form in 1980.
The basic design of the flag of Iraq has remained the same since it was first adopted in 1963, with horizontal bands of red, white, and black. The flag also bears the phrase “God is the greatest” in green Kurfic script in the center. This had undergone several changes before the current design was settled in 2008. The four colors used on the flag are believed to be inspired by a poetic verse written by Safi al-Din al-Hilli. It reads, “Our actions are bright, our battlefields are dark, our lands are green, and our swords are red with the blood of our enemies.”
Few symbols are more recognizable than the flag of Israel‘s, which represents the Star of David. This symbol was first used in 1897 by the First Zionist Congress, which was part of a Jewish nationalist movement that saw the emergence of Zionism. However, it was also raised when Israel announced its independence in May 1948, although it wasn’t officially adopted until five months later.
Albeit simplistic in its design, the flag of Japan is distinctive with its bold red circle on a white field. Even though it is officially named Nisshōki, meaning the “flag of the sun,” it is better known in Japan as Hinomaru, that is, “ball of the sun” This is because the county’s nickname is “the land of the rising sun.” The sun is essential in Japanese religion and mythology as the Emperor of Japan is believed to be a direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu.
The flag of Jordan is based on a 1916 flag used in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The first design was a tricolor flag with a red chevron on the hoist side. However, the second design features a white star on the chevron. The star represents the Unity of the Arab people. The star has seven points that represent the seven verses of Al-Fatiha. Al-Fatiha is the first chapter of the Quran and has seven verses that serve as a prayer for guidance.
The flag of Kazakhstan features a golden sun with 32 rays above a soaring golden steppe eagle on a turquoise field. The eagle is a symbol of independence, freedom, and power, while the sun is a symbol of life, wealth, and abundance. On the hoist side is the national ornamental pattern koshkar-muiz, which represents the country’s cultural traditions.
Another flag that features the Pan-Arab colors is Kuwait’s. Red stands for the blood on the warriors’ swords; white symbolizes purity; green represents the fertile land of Arabia, and black the defeated enemies. These meanings are believed to come from a poem that reads, “white are our deeds, black are our battles, green are our lands, red are our swords.”
One of the brightest and most unusual flags is the flag of Kyrgyzstan, which consists of a yellow sun on a red background. The sun’s center features a tunduk, which is the opening in the roof of a yurt and the first thing one sees when waking up in one. The sun has forty rays which represent the number of tribes that were united to fight against the Mongols.
The flag of Laos was first adopted in 1945 by the Lao Issara government and then by the Pathet Lao (the Lao People’s Liberation Army). However, it was then readopted in 1975. Maha Sila Viravong, a famous Lao scholar, designed the flag. He was tasked with creating a new flag different from the royalist flag, which was red with a three-headed white elephant.
One of the most unusual flags is the flag of Lebanon which features a stylized image of a Lebanese cedar tree in the center. The Lebanese cedar is a symbol of Lebanon and is mentioned in many biblical references. Furthermore, the red stripes on the flag represent the blood shed to defend the country against invasion, while the white symbolizes purity and peace.
The flag of Malaysia is also known as the Stripes of Glory, owing to its fourteen alternating red and white stripes. It also features a crescent moon and a fourteen-point star called Bintang Persekutuan, or the “Federal Star.” The stripes represent the states and territories of Malaysia, while the points on the star represent the unity between them.
The flag representing the Republic of Maldives was adopted in its current form in 1965. Early versions of the flag consisted of a simple red field before a black and white hoist and a crescent moon were added to it. In 1953 the moon was changed so that it faced the hoist, but when the Sultanate was restored in 1954, it was not changed back. However, when the Maldives gained independence in 1965, the black and white hoist was removed, leaving the flag in its current form.
Mongolia’s flag was originally adopted in 1945 and has been used in its current form since 1992. The red stripes symbolize eternity, whereas the blue stripe represents the eternal blue sky. On the hoist side is a traditional emblem known as Soyombo, which includes abstracts form representing the sun, moon, earth, water, fire, and a yin and yang symbol.
Some flags are brighter than others, and the flag of Myanmar is a lovely bright tricolor. Yellow, green, and red are the colors that represented the country during its fight for independence. Yellow represents wisdom, happiness, and unity, while green represents fertility and fairness. Red represents bravery, while the white star represents purity and honesty.
Flags, as we know them, are usually rectangular, but Nepal’s flag is the only non-rectangular flag in the world. This type of flag is known as a double-pennon and is crimson red with a blue border. Within the body of the flag are two emblems. One emblem is a crescent moon with eight visible sun rays rising from it, while the lower emblem is a twelve-rayed sun. Including the sun and the moon on the flag represents the hope that Nepal will have the same longevity as them. The moon also represents the cold weather of the Himalayas, whereas the sun symbolizes the warmer weather of the lowlands.
The flag of North Korea is also known as Ramhongsaek Konghwagukgi and was adopted in 1948. The most prominent feature on it is the red star which is a symbol of socialism and communism. However, the red, white, and blue colors on the flag are the country’s national colors. White represents purity, red represents strength and dignity, and blue represents peace.
Several flags around the world feature the country or state’s national emblem. For example, the flag of Oman features the country’s national emblem on the red bar at the hoist side. The emblem consists of a dagger, a belt, and two crossed swords. Furthermore, red represents battles fought, and white represents peace and prosperity. Finally, green represents the Jabal al-Akdar, the ‘Green Mountains’, located in the north of the country.
The flag of Pakistan was adopted in 1945. It features a crescent moon and a five-pointed white star on a green background. The moon and star together represent Islam, while on its own, the star symbolizes knowledge and light. The flag is hoisted every morning at government buildings, schools, and offices to the sound of the national anthem before being lowered again before sunset.
Another unusual flag is the Philippines’ flag. This features a golden sun with eight rays in its white section. Each beam represents a province of the country, while the three smaller stars represent three island groups — Luzon, Mindanao, and Visayas. Another interesting thing about this flag is that it indicates a state of war when flipped upside down.
The flag of Qatar is very similar to the flag of Bahrain and consists of a maroon band separated from a white band on the hoist side by a serrated strip. However, the flag of Qatar has nine white triangles. It is also the only flag in the world that is more than twice as wide as it is tall.
The Russian flag is a tricolor with white, blue, and red horizontal bands. It was first used in 1696 on Russian merchant ships and continued to be used until 1923, both on ships and, at one point, as the flag of the Russian Empire. It was then adopted as the national flag in 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. White symbolizes nobility, blue represents honesty and faithfulness, and red symbolizes courage and generosity.
A few flags feature Arabic inscriptions, and the flag of Saudi Arabia is one of them. It features a green field with an Arabic inscription above a sword. The phrase is the Shahada and reads, “There is no deity but God. Muhammad is the Messenger of God”. As the Shahada is considered holy, the flag is never lowered to half-mast as a sign of mourning.
The flag of Singapore was adopted shortly after Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire in 1959. Initial designs wanted the flag to have an entirely red background. However, this was rejected as being too similar to the flags of Poland and Indonesia. Furthermore, it was designed with only three stars, but two more stars and a crescent moon were later added. This was to ensure that the flag was sufficiently different from the Malayan Communist Party symbol.
One of the most unusual flags is the flag of South Korea which is also known as the Taegukgi. The white background represents peace and purity, while the center circle represents balance in the world. It is known as um-yang; the red half symbolizes the land, and the blue represents the sky. The trigrams represent four fundamental principles — sun, moon, heaven, and earth; the four seasons; and the four cardinal directions — north, south, east, and west.
Easily one of the most stunning flags in use today is Sri Lankan Sinha Flag. Also known as the Lion Flag, this flag features a golden lion on a maroon background holding a kasthane (ceremonial sword) with its right forepaw. The lion represents the Sinhala ethnicity, while the two stripes on the hoist side represent the two main minority groups in the country — the Tamils (Sri Lankan and Indian) and the Sri Lankan Moors (Muslims).
Due to the Syrian Civil War, there are at least two flags in use in the country. One is a red, white, and black tricolor flag used by the Syrian government. Another that is commonly displayed is the green, white, and black tricolor flag. This is known as the Independence Flag and is routinely used by the Syrian National Coalition.
Another tricolor flag is the flag of Tajikistan which has horizontal bands of red, white, and green. It also features a yellow crown surrounded by an arc of seven stars. The crown represents the Samanid dynasty and the Tajik people, while the stars represent the number seven in Persian mythology, which, in turn, represents happiness.
Formerly the flag of the Republic of China, the Blue Sky, White Sun, and a Wholly Red Earth flag is now better known as the flag of Taiwan. It was initially designed in 1895 by the Revive China Society, an anti-Qing group. The red background symbolizes the blood of the people who sacrificed themselves to overthrow the Qing dynasty and create the original Republic of China.
The flag of Thailand is a tricolor flag with horizontal stripes of red, white, blue, white, and red. Red symbolizes the land and its people, white represents religion, and blue stands for the country’s monarchy. Thailand has had many flags over the years, including one featuring a white elephant, but the current flag has been used since 1917.
Also known as the Red Flag, the flag of Turkey features a white crescent moon and a white star on a red background. The flag is actually the same as the flag of the Ottoman Empire that came into use in the 18th century. The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire that controlled large parts of southeast Asia, as well as northern and western Africa. It existed between 1299 and 1922.
When it comes to unusual flag designs, the flag of Turkmenistan certainly fits the bill. Upon the green field is a vertical stripe that consists of five carpet designs representing Turkmenistan’s famous carpet industry. The flag also features a white crescent moon and five white stars. The moon symbolizes Islam, while the stars represent both the Five Pillars of Islam and the five provinces of the country — Ahal, Balkan, Dashoguz, Lebap, and Mary.
United Arab Emirates
The flag of the United Arab Emirates uses the Pan-Arab colors of black, white, red, and green and represents the unity of the Arab nations. Traditionally, each color represents a different aspect of the Arabs and their history. Black represents the Abbasid Dynasty, white the Umayyad Dynasty, red the Hashemite Dynasty, and green represents the Fatimid Dynasty.
The flag of Uzbekistan consists of three horizontal bands of blue, white, and green separated by thin red lines. In the canton are twelve white stars and a white crescent moon. This flag was adopted in 1991, the same year the country gained independence. As well as being a symbol of Islam, the crescent moon represents the birth of the new nation, while the stars symbolize the pursuit of happiness.
The flag of Vietnam consists of a yellow star on a red background. Although it was not officially adopted until 1945, the flag was designed in 1940. It was used that year in an uprising against the French in southern Vietnam. The red background represents bloodshed, while the five-pointed star represents Vietnam’s five main classes of people — soldiers, workers, farmers, intellectuals, and entrepreneurs.
Located in western Asia, Yemen is a country that has a long and divided history. Its flag consists of three horizontal bands of red, white, and black. Although the flag was officially adopted in 1990, it is essentially the same flag as the Arab Liberation Flag that was inspired by the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. The colors used are a sub-set of the Pan-Arab colors and formed the basis for the flags of the former states of North Yemen and South Yemen.
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- Countries With Striped Flags
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Anchiy
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