Last modified: 2020-07-11 by ian macdonald
Keywords: tibet | army | regimental flags | gadang |
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image located by Corentin Chamboredon, 13 February 2015
I have found interesting informations in a blog post by Jamyang Norbu, a
Tibetan historian and journalist, about the old Tibetan military flags.
"It could perhaps be mentioned that the Tethong family also has in its possession one of the old battle flags flown by Tibetan regiments. It is a large silk banner about five by seven feet, and depicts a single snow-lion rampant on a field of red."
There is a photograph of this flag, with the following caption :
"Old battle flag of the Gha-dang (Shigatse) regiment belonging to the Tethong family. Note the rabbit (Rebong Loden Shirap) on the moon."
A few details are now made clear by this new photograph.
- First, there is indeed a white rabbit inside the white circle representing the moon.
- Second, there are several symbols repeated on the yellow fly border. I think I recognize a victory banner, surrounded by some sorts of chains.
- Third, the blue pearl is surrounded by flames, which are red as the field, making them not very clear.
- Fourth, the green squares aren't as large as the yellow border.
I had already reported that flag, described on Wikipedia as a Tibetan imperial flag. Should we consider this blog post as a formal identification ?
Beside this, we can read that the author rejects any Japanese influence on the creation of the Tibetan flag. For him, "For anyone with even an elementary appreciation of Tibetan Buddhist art, the aesthetic provenance of the national flag should be fairly obvious. The abundance of bright primary colors (especially golds and reds), the profusion of symbols, the general “busyness” of the design, all somehow (quite inexplicably) coming together in a single harmonious whole, is appreciably in keeping with the principles and genius of Tibetan Buddhist art. The Tibetan flag lacks the wabi, the requisite “reverence for simplicity” of Japanese aesthetics, exemplified in the single red circle on a field of white, which is the Japanese national flag, the Hinomaru."
"Tsarong Dundul Namgyal in his biography of his illustrious father, Tsarong Dasang Dadul, the commander-in-chief of the modern Tibetan army, states that the national flag was first displayed in the late spring of 1916 at the great parade near the Norbulingka when the different regiments of the modern Tibetan army first demonstrated the various military styles (British, Japanese and Russian) that they had been trained in. After reviewing the troops His Holiness subsequently chose the British model, and thereafter the Tibetan army was trained in that method. The whole city turned out to witness the display of troops, their new weapons, new uniforms and the new national flag “…which had been designed and approved by His Holiness.” Dundul Namgyal Tsarong also writes that “His Holiness had also given a detailed description of the Tibetan national flag, written in his own hand. Usually, official writing is carried out by the Chief Secretary, so when His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes something out personally, it is greatly treasured. This description was in the possession of my father until the year 1946, when it was given to the newly formed Foreign Office for preservation.”
The only existing copy of the original design (in exile) is now in the possession of the Tethong family. It was sent from Lhasa to Derge to the headquarters of the Governor of Derge (Dege-chikyap) of Eastern Tibet, Tethong Gyurme Gyatso, sometime in 1919 or 1920. According to his daughter (my mother) Lobsang Deki, the original design was the size of a small hand flag (about 7×10 ins) and painted on white cotton cloth. The bottom half of the cloth had a written description of the various symbols, colors and design elements. My mother recalled her father telling her that the description or praise (toepa) of the flag had been composed (ja-tsom) by His Holiness himself. She remembers the description being in the umay script, though she is not sure whether the calligraphy was that of His Holiness or of a secretary. It was from this source material that the design of the first national flag in exile was established in Mussoorie in 1959."
Corentin Chamboredon, 13 February 2015