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Chinese Republic Army Flag 1911-28

Last modified: 2020-07-31 by ian macdonald
Keywords: china | chinese republic | sun | war flag |
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[War Flag of China Republic]
image by Miles Li, 09 May 2015

See also:

Iron Blood 18-Star Flag

A red flag with a black nine-pointed star and yellow disks was used during the conquest of Wuhan on 10 October 1911. It was later considered a "historical" flag and was used as the war flag by the army. It was never used for civil purposes.
Mario Fabretto, 20 October 1997

Officially the 18-star flag ("War Flag") was designed in late September 1911 by Chen Lei and the Zhao brothers, three technical college students in Wuhan at the time. Twenty flags of this design were then made in secret by a local tailor shop owned by the Zhao family (whether this Zhao family was related to the Zhao brothers is not clear).
The 18 stars represented the 18 provinces of China at the time.
Miles Li, 16, 18 March, 2005

[War Flag of China Republic]
image by Miles Li, 09 May 2015

The Iron Blood 18-Star Flag (or simply the 18-Star Flag) was originally designed in August 1907 by a group of Chinese revolutionaries in exile in Japan, as the flag of the Progressive Association. The black and red of the flag symbolized iron and blood respectively; the nine points represented the nine ancient provinces of China, while the eighteen yellow discs ('stars' in traditional Chinese depictions) represented the eighteen provinces of China Proper at the time (the homeland of the majority Han ethnicity, thereby excluding Manchuria, Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet).
On 10 October 1911 the 18-Star Flag was used during the Wuchang Uprising (in modern day Wuhan, Hubei Province), and on 11 October it became the flag of the Hubei Military Government.
On 10 January 1912 the Provisional Senate of the newly established Republic of China passed the first of several resolutions which adopted the 18-Star Flag as the Army Flag, along with the Five-Striped Flag as the National Flag, and the 'Blue Sky, White Sun, All Field Red' flag as the Naval Ensign.
The Provisional President, Sun Yat-Sen, refused to rectify the resolution, partly because he preferred the 'Blue Sky White Sun' design, partly because regarded the 18-Star Flag as not representative of the entire 22 provinces and 2 regions of China at the time, and partly because he wanted the issue to be resolved through a popular referendum. Nonetheless the 18-Star Flag was quickly adopted by the Army as its flag.
Miles Li, 09 May 2015

19-Star Flag

[War Flag of China Republic]
image by Miles Li, 09 May 2015

On 13 February Sun resigned his Presidency; the Provisional Senate elected Yuan Shikai to the office two days later. Meanwhile the debate on flags dragged on for months: among other things, Senators  from Manchuria felt the 18-Star Flag excluded the three Manchurian provinces; to alleviate their concern a proposal was made to amend the 18-Star Flag by adding a nineteenth, large, yellow disc, representing the Central Government, onto the centre of the flag. Then came a counter-proposal to reduce the size of the central disc to the same as the other 18 stars, to avoid any connotation of Central  dominance over the provinces.
Eventually a compromise was reached between the Provisional Senate and Provisional President Yuan, who on 8 June proclaimed the 19-Star Flag as the Army Flag, alongside the Five-Striped Flag as the  National Flag and the Blue Sky White Sun Flag [sic] as the Naval Ensign.
On 17 December 1928 the 19-Star Flag was abolished along with the Five-Striped Flag, in favour of the 'Blue Sky, White Sun, All Field Red' Flag.
Miles Li, 09 May 2015

Regimental Colour of the Chinese Army, 1912-28

[War Flag of China Republic]
image by Miles Li, 09 May 2015

Being provisional in nature, the 18-Star Flag had no official specifications. Some specimens had narrow, stalk-like points; some had discs at the inner ring which were smaller than those at the outer ring. Two renditions are illustrated here, one based on an enneagram/nonagram, the other based on the official specifications of the later 19-Star Flag.
As for the 19-Star Flag, the official specification of the Army Flag showed one point pointing towards the fly; however the official specification of the Regimental Colours had one point pointing upwards. In both cases the distance between the central disc and each disc at the inner ring should be the same as that between each disc at the inner ring and the disc on the same point at the outer ring; some had the inner discs sequenced between the outer discs rather than aligned with them.
Miles Li, 09 May 2015

The official specification was given in Yingzaochi, or 'Architect's Feet', in which one chi ('foot') equals 32cm. For ease of understanding the following specification is stated in centimetres.
Dimension of the flag: 80cm x 96cm, plus 12.8cm black fringe. A white vertical strip, 57.6cm x 11.2cm, was placed at the hoist, 11.2cm from the top and the bottom of the flag, on which the name of the  regiment was written in black letters. The distance from the centre of the central disc to the centre of each disc at the outer ring was 29.44cm; the distance from the centre of the central disc to the centre of each disc at the inner ring was 14.72cm; the radius of each disc was 2.944cm. The flag pole was red, 240cm long x 8cm circumference, with the sleeve of the flag in yellow; at the top of the flag pole was a bronze spearhead, 22.4cm long, with a red tassel underneath, 22.4cm long; at the base of the flag pole was a bronze pike, 16cm long.
Miles Li, 10 May 2015

Version in the Former Headquarter of the Wuchang Uprising

[War Flag of China Republic]
image by Ivan Sarajcic, 30 November 2005
Source: Photograph by J. Patrick Fischer

The Provisional Republican Government was set up on 10 October 1911 by Sun Yatsen and Li Yuanhong, a military commander in Wuchang (today is Wuchang a quarter of Wuhan).
I visited the "Former Headquarter of the Wuchang Uprising" in 2003. In front of the brick building are two war flags at the gate. The stars are looking not so thin, like on Rob Raeside's image (I will post a photo tomorrow).
A small original flag is shown inside. It looks like the war flag with two faded yellow (?, now dirty white) stripes above and below. Inscription says, that this is the army flag of the Wuchang uprising, created by Sun Wu.
More information about the war flag can be found at in Chinese. There is one more other variant of the flag (dated 1906?).
J. Patrick Fischer, 30 November 2005

Photograph with different depiction

[War Flag of China Republic]
image contributed by gefeng, 16 January 2008

Other depictions

[other depictions]
image contributed by gefeng, 16 January 2008
click on image for a larger image