The Flag of China: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

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Written by Taiwo Victor

Published: January 1, 2023

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The national flag symbolizes a country’s culture, identity, and historical background. Some depict the most respected organizations, such as religious institutions and the royal family. Given the size of China and the presence of diverse ethnic groups and races, the Chinese flag has remained relatively stable for a considerable time. The Chinese flag, like all flags, has distinct definitions and ideologies reflected in its color scheme and design. Throughout history, many nations’ flags have been redesigned — even a massive country with such rich origins as China. So, what are the roots of China’s flag? This article delves into the history, significance, and symbolism of the Chinese flag and other interesting facts. Let’s get started!

China’s Primary Characteristics

The People’s Republic of China, a country with one of the world’s oldest ancient civilizations, is the biggest of all Asian countries and has the world’s largest population. It occupies almost the whole East Asian territory and accounts for roughly one-fourteenth of the Earth’s land area. Only Russia and Canada have a larger land area than China, which is nearly as large as the entire continent of Europe. Beijing is the country’s capital, with many heritage landmarks to visit. Beijing is home to the Great Wall, the world’s 7th wonder and the world’s longest protective wall.

Introduction to the Flag of China

Officially, the Chinese flag is known as the Five-star Red Flag. The People’s Republic of China’s National Flag boasts a red field with a big yellow star on the top hoist-side and four smaller yellow stars (organized in a vertical arc toward the center of the flag). The ratio of the flag’s length to height is three to two.

The History of the National Flag of the People’s Republic of China

The Chinese flag was officially hoisted on October 1, 1949.

During the Ch’ing (Manchu) dynasty, which reigned from 1644 to 1911/12, the majority of Chinese flags were in yellow, the Manchu ethnocultural color. The many centuries-old Qing dynasty crumbled in the early 20th century, which led to the formation of a republican regime in China in 1912. However, during this period, the country was tarnished by a violent civil war and an attack by Japan.

After the civil war ended in 1949, the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong took control of the country. The Preparatory Committee operating for the New Political Consultative Conference arranged a competition to create a new Chinese flag and issued a notice to submit national flag designs on July 4, 1949. The commission had racked up 2,992 design concepts by August 20, 1949. After extensive discussions, Zeng Liansong’s design was chosen and posted in the People’s Daily on September 29, 1949. The People’s Liberation Army raised the first flag on October 1, 1949, to commemorate the founding of the People’s Republic.

Colors and Symbolism of the Flag of China

The five-pointed star on the Chinese flag symbolizes the five elements of Chinese culture.

The red color of the Chinese flag represents the Communist Revolution and the blood of those who died during the Japanese invasion and civil war. Red is also a familiar color in Chinese culture. The splendid golden rays emanating from the vast red land are represented by the yellow color of the stars. The big gold symbol represents the Communist Party of China and its role in governing the country.

The four tinier stars represent the different social classes – the working class, commoners, local urban elites, and the nationwide ruling class (capitalists) – and their interactions, depicting unity under the Communist Party of China’s rule.

The five stars also represent the significance of the number five in Chinese ideology and origins. In addition, the five-pointed star symbolizes the five elements of Chinese culture: water, fire, earth, wood, and metal.

The Flag of China Through the Years

Throughout its different authorities and eras, the Chinese government used various flags. From 1862 to the early 1900s, China’s flag had five colors: yellow, red, white, blue, and black.

The Qing dynasty implemented the “Yellow Dragon Flag” in the nineteenth century, which featured a blue dragon bearing a fiery red pearl on its head on a yellow field. The yellow color signified the Chinese royal family, as only the imperial family chose to wear yellow. Rulers used the blue dragon on the flag to depict Chinese power and strength. The red flaming pearl represented good fortune, wealth, and success. The original model was triangular, but the Qing dynasty chose the rectangular version of the Yellow Dragon flag in 1889.

The Qing dynasty was ousted from power and overthrown in 1912 when China’s last emperor, Pu Yi, stepped down. The new constitution, led by Sun Yat-sen, created a new flag with yellow, blue, black, white, and red parallel stripes referred to as the Five Colored Flag to symbolize the five races of Chinese people: Mongols (blue), Manchus (yellow), Tibetans (black), Hui (white), and Han (red).

Five is a significant number in Chinese symbolism, and it corresponds to the four cardinal points plus the center (that is, China itself), as well as the traditional Five Classics, Five Elements, Five Rulers, and
Five Virtues. The number five was reflected by the yellow stars mostly in the upper hoist portion of the People’s Republic of China flag, which was first officially hoisted on October 1, 1949.

In Conclusion…

As we’ve seen, the Chinese flag offers a plethora of historical information, and it embodies the country’s history and growth from its inception to the present. Furthermore, it is not just the colors and design of the flag that help non-native individuals learn more about the country; the flag itself is a graphic overview of its culture.

Up Next: 

Every Flag In The World: Photos, History, and More

10 Countries With Blue and White Flags, All Listed 

29 Different Countries with Red, White, and Blue Flags 

6 Countries With Blue and Yellow Flags, All Listed


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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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