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Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó, 中华人民共和国

Last modified: 2020-07-31 by ian macdonald
Keywords: china | star: yellow (5) |
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[Flag of China] [FIS Code] 2:3 image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 2 December 2016

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According to Carol P. Shaw in the book Flags (Running Press), the red of the flag is the traditional color of revolution; the large gold star represents "the Common Program of the Communist Party"; and the smaller gold stars represent the four classes united by the common program: the workers, the peasants, the petty bourgeois, and capitalists sympathetic to the Party (or "patriotic capitalists").
Bruce Tindall, 03 April 1996

Very early versions of the flag has been in use since the early 1920s by the Communist Party, but was modified to become the present national flag in 1949.
Xuess Wee York Ting , 25 September 1996

When I lived in PRC from 1987-88, I asked about the symbolism of the flag. I was told by several university professors and students on several different occasions that the large star represents the guiding light of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the four small stars represent the four other political parties allowed in the PRC.

These parties accept the legitimacy of the CCP to run the government and that they will not advocate for any change in government. These other parties, whose names I never could ascertain, are basically toothless and lend legitimacy to the PRC's claim to be a multiparty system.
Steven Chapman, 16 August 1999

Whatever the present 'meaning' of the stars on the Chinese communist flag, I believe the original symbolism was the same as the original Republic flag - the Han people of China and the 4 other races (Manchurian, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Muslims). The first republican flag was 5 horizontal stripes red yellow blue white black, which IMO was a very handsome flag. Andrew Yong, 16 August 1999

All books which mention the symbolism of the starlets on the PRC flag have the same explanation. There are at present 8 small parties besides the Communist Party: Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang, Democratic League, Democratic Society for National Construction, Society for Furthering Democracy, Democratic Laborers and Peasant Party, Zhi Gong Dang (Party of Common Interests), Jiusan (=3 September) Society, Democratic Self Determination League of Taiwan, All-Chinese Union of Industrials and Merchants, (that makes 9; one of them might be the coordinating committee - I translated this from the Fischer Weltalmanach 1988) The Statesman's Yearbook 1993-94 and the CIA's World Fact Book 1996-97 confirm the existence of 8 parties besides the CP, which are controlled by the CP.
Jarig Bakker, 16 August 1999

This is a quote from the New York Consulate of the PR of China and other 'official' websites. "The national flag of the People's Republic of China is red in colour, rectangular in shape, with five stars. The proportion between the length and height of the flag is three to two. The five five-pointed yellow stars are located in the upper left corner. One of them, which is bigger, appears on the left, while the other four hem it in on the right.

The red colour of the flag symbolizes revolution; the stars take on the yellow colour in order to bring out their brightness on the red ground. The larger star represents the CPC, while the four smaller ones, the Chinese people. The relationship between the stars means the great unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC.

The national emblem of the People's Republic of China is Tiananmen in the centre illuminated by five stars and encircled by ears of grain and a cogwheel. The ears of grain, stars, Tiananmen and cogwheel are painted golden, and the inner part of the circle and hanging ribbons are painted red because these two colours are traditional Chinese colours representing auspiciousness and happiness.

Tiananmen symbolizes the unyielding national spirit of the Chinese people in their fight against imperialism and feudalism; the ears of grain and cogwheel represent the working class and the peasantry; and the five stars stand for the great unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC."

About 6 years ago, we had a delegation of engineering students visit us (a chemical plant). I brought my small hand flag of the PRC and put it on the luncheon table with the American Flag. I was very surprised at the very strong reaction to seeing their national flag, and the young visitors were almost in tears when they spotted their flag (homesick after 2 weeks). I asked the "chaperone" - they were all female - about the symbolism of the flag, and she gave the political party interpertation, not the usual one cited "peasants, workers, bourgeoisie, and capitalists"
Jerry Lorigan, 17 August 1999

A different interpretation is that the bigger star stands for the Han (Chinese Chinese) and the others for Manchus, (inner) Mongolians, Tibetans and Uyghurs, just like the previous stripped flag -- but I guess that this is out of fashion these days.

The official interpretation, referring the bigger star as the party and the smaller simply the "Chinese people", not referring specifically any meaning for each of them is vague enough to fit any of the earlier explanations.
Antonio Martins, 17 August 1999 

The five-star red flag - The national flag of The People's Republic of China (Beijing: Morning Glory Publishers, 1997), gives this interpretation of its symbolism:

The national flag of the People's Republic of China is the five-star red flag. The red color of the flag is the symbol of the revolution, signifying that the political power of the People's Republic of China is achieved through bloodshed and lives laid down by countless revolutionary martyrs who marched forward wave upon wave in the heroic struggles for the revolution. In the upper-left corner of the flag there are five-pointed yellow stars, of which the big one represents the Communist Party of China and the four small ones the people of all ethnic groups of the country. One point of the big star points right up the flag and of the four small ones each has a point pointing towards the centre of the big star. This shows that the Chinese Communist Party is the force at the core of the leadership of the Chinese people of all ethnic groups who unite closely as one round the Party. With the color of the stars in yellow this means the great cause of socialism has a bright future. With the flag-staff painted white, that is to suggest flawless purity and loftiness."

This explanation differs from the interpretation of the large star as representing the Communist party and the smaller stars as representing the four classes.
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 November 1999

Flag adopted on 27 Sep 1949 and published in People's Daily 29 Sep 1949:
Oleg Schultz, 5 May 2020

Construction Sheet

[Flag of China construction sheet] image by Zejlko Heimer

I have made posters, in a consistent format, and I now have an interest in distributing them. There is Chinese pdf [510 kB] of several of the broadsides and would appreciate your feedback. Some of the studies glorify the designer's intent. Take Hong Kong [pdf - 871 kB] for example. I could not find a construction sheet, but learned that it was designed by an American trained Chinese architect. Assuming a certain design method, I was able to devise the system using architect's favorite proportions of the "golden mean" and diagonal of multiple squares.
Woody Rainey, 16 July 2010

Vertical flag

[Vertical Flag of] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 18 December 2016

Last night I was half-watching a sports programme on TV, which had coverage of an international modern pentathlon series. Several of the events were held indoors in a gymnasium with vertical hanging flags, some of which were very unusual. Sadly, I only managed to see close detail of a couple of them, but they included Brazilian and Chinese flags with the emblems oriented the same way as on a normal horizontal flag. In the case of the Brazilian flag, this led to a very odd appearance.
(Note that dimensions are approximate, based on fleeting glimpses on television).
James Dignan, 29 June 2010

Here's a picture of Chinese vertical flag (redrawn image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 18 December 2016, available here - his could be an incorrect version created by local
Esteban Rivera, 31 January 2011

50th Anniversary


China Ready for 50th Anniversary

By ELAINE KURTENBACH Associated Press Writer

BEIJING (AP) - Huge red lanterns bounced in the breeze and the national flag waved from doorsteps and children's fists as workers in Tiananmen Square put the finishing touches on lavish celebrations that will mark communist China's 50th anniversary.


Despite the genuine patriotism shared by many Chinese, the authorities were taking no chances. Neighborhood committees - the communist government's local enforcers - ordered residents to display flags. Any household with a flag deemed too old had to pay $3 for a new one.

Mark Sensen, 01 October 1999

Use of flag

"In circumstances where the People's Republic of China is represented" beside Taiwan, the normal Taiwan (Republic of China) flag is not used. Instead a flag "to represent Chinese Taipei" is flown. It is not
described. The wording suggests that this is not the same as the Taipei Olympic flag.
Kenneth Fraser, 08 October 2010

National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

[Vertical Flag of] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 18 December 2016

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For PR China: PMS 186 red, 102 yellow. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012