Chinese Language Blog

The Chinese Flag Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Culture

There is no symbol of a country more recognizable or important than its flag (国旗 – guó qí). It’s flown in front of important buildings, used in government functions, and also a big part of international events like the Olympics. Chances are you’ve seen the Chinese flag, but do you know what the colors and the design represent? You will in just a few minutes! First, let’s learn a bit of history.

History of the Flag

Zeng Liansong’s original design.

The current flag of China was designed by Zeng Liansong (曾聯松), a citizen from Zhejiang. The inspiration came from an ancient Chinese proverb:

“longing for the stars, longing for the moon”

盼星星盼月亮 – pàn xīng xīng pàn yuè liàng

Zeng named his design “Five Stars on a Field of Red” (紅地五星旗 – hóng dì wǔ xīng qí). He beat out nearly 3,000 other entrants in a competition that was started at the end of the long Civil War. Some modifications were made to his original design, including the removal of the hammer and sickle. The name was also changed to simply “Five Star Red Flag” (紅地五星旗 – hóng wǔ xīng qí), removing the character 地.

Rejected Yellow River design.

Another popular design that was eventually rejected had a horizontal yellow bar going through the middle of the flag to represent the Yellow River (黄河 – huáng hé). The winning design was first flown in Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949, with the founding of the People’s Republic of China after the Communist victory.

Get the whole story on the Chinese flag in this great video from Jabzy.

Colors and Design

Chinese Flag

The flag of China is red (红色 – hóng sè) and yellow (黄色 – huáng sè). The red symbolizes the revolution and the blood that was spilt throughout. It’s said that yellow implies the “yellow race” that Chinese people belong to or that it represents the sun shining down on the country. In the upper left corner, there are five stars. The larger star represents the Communist Party leadership. The idea for the four smaller stars comes from a speech by Mao Zedong, where he defined Chinese people as belong to four classes:

  • the working class

  • the peasantry

  • the urban petty bourgeoisie

  • the national bourgeoisie

The design of the stars is meant to show the unity of the Chinese people around the Communist Party.

Unlike the US, where there’s a flag for each state, the only sub-national flags in China are in the Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of Hong Kong and Macau. It’s actually technically illegal for other provinces/cities to have their own flag.

Where are you from? Leave a story about your country’s flag in the comments below. Even better – write it in Chinese!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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