The flag of China, also known as the Five-star Red Flag,[2] is a red field charged in the canton (upper corner nearest the flagpole) with five golden stars. The design features one large star, with four smaller stars in a semicircle set off towards the fly (the side farthest from the flag pole). The red represents the communist revolution; the five stars and their relationship represent the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The first flag was hoisted by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on a pole overlooking Beijing's Tiananmen Square on 1 October 1949, at a ceremony announcing the founding of the People's Republic.

Other flags used in the People's Republic of China use a red background to symbolize the revolution in conjunction with other symbols. The flag of the People's Liberation Army uses the gold star with the Chinese characters 8-1 (for 1 August, the date of the PLA's founding). The flag of the Communist Party of China replaces all of the stars with the party emblem. Due to government regulations, cities and provinces of China cannot have their own flags; the only sub-national flags that exist are those of the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions. Despite this, at least two cities have adopted flags after the law was passed. The cities of Kaifeng and Shangrao adopted their flags in March 2006 and March 2009 respectively. This implies that the law is either repealed or not enforced.[original research?]


Early flags

One of the first earlier flags of China was the "Yellow Dragon Flag" used by the Qing dynasty from 1644 until the overthrow of the monarchy during the Xinhai Revolution, the Qing dynasty was the last imperial dynasty in China's history. Between 1889 and 1912, the dynasty represented itself with the dragon flag.

Republic of China

The canton (upper corner on the hoist side) originated from the "Blue Sky with a White Sun flag" (青天白日; qīngtiān báirì qí) designed by Lu Haodong, a martyr of the Xinhai Revolution. He presented his design to represent the revolutionary army at the inauguration of the Society for Regenerating China, an anti-Qing society in Hong Kong, on February 21, 1895. This design was later adopted as the KMT party flag and the Coat of Arms of the Republic of China. The "red Earth" portion was added by Sun Yat-sen in winter of 1906, bringing the flag to its modern form. According to George Yeo, the Foreign Minister of Singapore, in those days the Blue Sky with a White Sun flag was sewn in the Sun Yat Sen Villa or Wan Qing Yuan in Singapore by Teo Eng Hock and his wife.[3][4]

During the Wuchang Uprising in 1911 that heralded the Republic, the various revolutionary armies had different flags. Lu Hao-tung's "Blue Sky with a White Sun" flag was used in the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, and Guizhou. In Wuhan, a flag with 18 yellow stars was used to represent the 18 administrative divisions at the time. In Shanghai and northern China, a "Five-Colored Flag" (五色; wǔ sè qí) (Five Races Under One Union flag) was used of five horizontal stripes representing the five major nationalities of China: the Han (red), the Manchu (yellow), the Mongol (blue), the Hui (white), and the Tibetan (black).

When the government of the Republic of China was established on January 1, 1912, the "Five-Colored Flag" was selected by the provisional Senate as the national flag. The "18-Star Flag" was adopted by the army[5] and the modern flag was adopted as a naval ensign.[6] Sun Yat-sen, however, did not consider the five-coloured flag appropriate, reasoning that horizontal order implied a hierarchy or class like that which existed during dynastic times.

After President Yuan Shikai assumed dictatorial powers in 1913 by dissolving the National Assembly and outlawing the KMT, Sun Yat-sen established a government-in-exile in Tokyo and employed the modern flag as the national ROC flag. He continued using this design when the KMT established a rival government in Guangzhou in 1917. The modern flag was made the official national flag on December 17, 1928 after the successful Northern Expedition that toppled the Beijing government, though the Five-Coloured Flag still continued to be used by locals in an unofficial capacity. One reason for this discrepancy in use was lingering regional biases held by officials and citizens of northern China, who favored the Five-Coloured Flag, against southerners such as the Cantonese/Hakka Sun Yat-sen.[citation needed]

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the invading Japanese established a variety of puppet governments using several flag designs. The "Reform Government" established in March 1938 in Nanjing to consolidate the various puppet governments employed the Five-Coloured Flag. When Wang Jingwei was slated to take over the Japanese-installed government in Nanjing in 1940, he demanded to use the modern flag as a means to challenge the authority of the Nationalist Government in Chongqing under Chiang Kai-shek and position himself as the rightful successor to Sun Yat-sen. However, the Japanese preferred the Five-Coloured flag. As a compromise, the Japanese suggested adding a triangular yellow pennant on top with the slogan "Peace, Anti-Communism, National Construction" (和平反共建國; Hépíng fǎngòng jiàn guó) in black, but this was rejected by Wang. In the end, Wang and the Japanese agreed that the yellow banner was to be used outdoors only, until 1943 when the banner was abandoned, leaving two rival governments with the same flag, each claiming to be the legitimate Nationalist government of China.[7]

The flag was specified in Article Six of the 1947 Constitution. After the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the government of Chiang Kai-shek relocated the sovereign independent country of the Republic of China (ROC) to the island of Taiwan. On the mainland, the communist forces of Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China and adopted their own national flag. On October 23, 1954, the National Emblem and National Flag of the Republic of China Act (中華民國國徽國旗法; Zhōnghuá Mínguó guóhuī guóqífǎ) was promulgated by the Legislative Yuan to specify the size, measure, ratio, production, and management of the flag.[8]

People's Republic of China

A red flag with four small golden stars and one giant gold star at the top left corner. In the giant gold star, a red crossed hammer and sickle is placed in the center.
The original design submitted by Zeng Liansong

On 4 July 1949, the sixth working group of the Preparatory Committee of the New Political Consultative Conference (新政治協商會議籌備會, PCNPCC) created a notice to submit designs for the national flag. After a few changes, the notice was published in the papers People's Daily, Beiping Liberation News, Xinmin News, Dazhong Daily, Guangming Daily, Jinbu Daily and Tianjin Daily during a period between 15-26 July.[9] The list requirements for the national flag were also posted in the notice:

  1. Chinese characteristics (Geography, nationality, history, culture, etc.)
  2. Power characteristics (A people's democratic government, led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance.)
  3. The shape should be rectangular and the length-breadth ratio should be 3:2
  4. The colour should mainly be bright red[10](an early draft of the notice had the colour at dark red, but was changed to bright red by Zhou Enlai).[11]
The "Yellow River" flag design originally preferred by Mao Zedong.

Zeng Liansong, a citizen from Wenzhou, Zhejiang, was working in Shanghai at the time the announcement came out; he wanted to create a flag design to express his patriotic enthusiasm for the new country. In the middle of July, he sat down in his attic for multiple nights to come up with designs. His inspiration for the current design comes from the stars shining in the night sky. He thought of a Chinese proverb "longing for the stars, longing for the moon", (盼星星盼月亮, pàn xīngxīng pàn yuèliàng) which shows yearning. He viewed the CPC as the great saviour (大救星, dà jiùxīng "great saving star") of the Chinese people, being represented by a larger star. The idea for four small stars came from On the People's Democratic Dictatorship a speech by Mao Zedong, which defined the Chinese people as consisting of four social classes, also referred to in Asian cultures as the four occupations (士農工商) shi, nong, gong, shang ("the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie"[12]). Yellow also implies that China belongs to the Chinese people, a "yellow race".[11] After working out the details of the placement of the stars and their sizes (he had tried to put all of the stars in the center, but believed it would be too heavy and dull), he sent his "Five Stars on a Field of Red" (紅地五星旗, hóng dì wǔxīng qí) design to the committee in the middle of August.[1][11]

As of 20 August, a total of 2,992 (or 3,012)[13] designs were sent to the flag committee,[14] which included input from committee members themselves, such as Guo Moruo and Tan Kah Kee.[15] From August 16 to 20, the designs were viewed at the Beijing Hotel and culled down to a list of 38.[1][9] These designs are collected into a book named A Reference of National Flag Designs (國旗圖案參考資料). This book was then submitted to the newly established Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) for further discussion. However, Zeng's design was not included until Tian Han nominated it again.[16]

On the morning of 23 September, the representatives of the CPPCC discussed the national flags, but came to no conclusion. Some disliked the symbolism which Zeng attached to the four smaller stars, and said it should not include the bourgeoisie. The design Mao and others liked had a giant golden star in the corner on a red flag that was charged with a golden horizontal bar. But this design was strongly opposed by Zhang Zhizhong, who saw the golden bar as symbolizing the tearing apart of the revolution from the country.[17] In the night, Peng Guanghan (彭光涵) recommended Zeng's design to Zhou Enlai, Zhou was satisfied with it and asked for a larger copy of the design to be made. Tan Kah Kee also gave his advice to Mao and Zhou that the power characteristics are more important than Chinese geography characteristics, so there was no need to insist on the golden bar which stands for the Yellow River. Two days later, Mao had a meeting in his office about the flag. He persuaded everyone to adopt Zeng's design, with some slight modifications.[18] According to earlier discussions at the Beijing Hotel, the hammer and sickle from Zeng's original design was removed since it was similar to the Flag of the Soviet Union.[16] On 27 September 1949, Zeng's modified design was selected unanimously by the First Plenary Session of CPPCC, which changed the flag's name to "Five-star Red Flag".[1][19]

Mao Zedong pressed the button and raised the flag of China for the first time in the announcement of the founding of the People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949

On 29 September the new flag was published in the People's Daily, so the design could be copied by other local authorities.[20] The flag was officially unveiled in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 1 October 1949, the formal announcement of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The first flag flown over Tiananmen Square was sewn together by Zhao Wenrei (赵文瑞), a seamstress who finished the task around 1 pm on 30 September.[21] Zeng had a hard time believing that his design was picked, due to the missing hammer and sickle from the giant star. However, he was officially congratulated by the General Office of the People's Government as the designer of the flag and received 5 million yuan for his work.[11][22]


Flag of China, Beijing

According to the current government interpretation of the flag, the red background symbolises the revolution and the golden colours were used to "radiate" on the red background. The five stars and their relationship represents the unity of Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. The orientation of the stars shows that the unity should go around a center.[13] In the original description of the flag by Zeng, the larger star symbolizes the Communist Party of China, and the four smaller stars that surround the big star symbolize the four social classes (the working class, the peasantry, the urban petite bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie) of Chinese people mentioned in Mao's "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship". The five stars that formed an ellipse represent the territory of China which is shaped like a Begonia leaf. It is sometimes stated that the five stars of the flag represent the five largest ethnic groups: Han Chinese, Zhuangs, Hui Chinese, Manchus and Uyghurs.[23][24] This is generally regarded as an erroneous conflation with the "Five Races Under One Union" flag, used 1912–28 by the Beiyang Government of Republic of China, whose different-coloured stripes represented the Han Chinese, Hui Chinese, Manchus, Mongols and Tibetans.[23][25]

Construction details, sizes and colours

The construction sheet for the national flag was published on 28 September 1949 by an order from the Presidium of the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.[26] The information can also be found in the document "GB 12982-2004: National flag" that was released by the Standardization Administration of China.[27]

Construction sheet Standard
Construction sheet of Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg
  1. The flag is split into 4 sections, with the top hoist part of the flag being a grid of 15 by 10 units.
  2. The centre of the biggest star is placed at 5 units from the hoist and 5 units from the top of the flag. The diameter of the biggest star's circumscribed circle is 6 units.
  3. Of the 4 smaller stars, the first one is centred 2 units from the top of the flag, 10 units from the hoist; the second one is centred 4 units from the top of the flag and 12 units from the hoist; the third one is centred 7 units from the top of the flag and 12 units from the hoist; the fourth one is centred 9 units from the top of the flag and 10 units from the hoist.
  4. The diameter of each small star's circumscribed circle is 2 units. Each of the top points of the 4 smaller stars are rotated such that they point towards the center point of the larger star.[28]

Improper adherence to these flag dimensions have led to embarrassing diplomatic incidents. During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Chinese flags used during the opening ceremony and two medal ceremonies featured the four small stars incorrectly angled in the same direction, inciting fury in the Olympic organisers.[29]

The Law on the National Flag mentions five possible sizes that could be made for the national flag:[30] According to Article 4 of the Law On the National Flag, people's governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government are directed to authorize companies to make any copy of the national flag.[26] Besides five official sizes for flying on flagpoles, there are another four smaller sizes for other purpose, such as decoration on cars or display in the meeting room.[31]

Size 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Length × width (cm) 288 × 192 240 × 160 192 × 128 144 × 96 96 × 64 66 × 44 45 × 30 30 × 20 21 × 14


The colours of the national flag are regulated in the document "GB 12983-2004: Standard Colour Sample of the National Flag," also released by the Standardization Administration of China. The colours are in the CIE Standard illuminant D65 and the CIE 1964 Supplementary Standard Colourimetric System.[32]

Standard colour sample of the national flag[32]
Fabric Stimulus value Y10 Colour coordinate Allowable error margin
x10 y10
Synthetic fiber Red 9.4 0.555 0.328 All are
Gold 41.2 0.446 0.489
Silk Red 12.3 0.565 0.325
Gold 32.4 0.450 0.463
Cotton cloth Red 9.2 0.595 0.328
Gold 33.0 0.467 0.463
Sleeve White 78.0 The stimulus value Y10 must not be less than 78


The current law about the national flag was passed by 14th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Seventh National People's Congress on 28 June 1990 and was enforced starting 1 October 1990. The main point of the law was to not only set down regulations on how to make the Chinese flag, what it looks like, where it can be flown and how it can be flown. The law also stresses that the national flag is "the symbol and hallmark of the People's Republic of China" and that everyone "shall respect and care for the National Flag."[26]

Folding the flag

  1. Fold horizontally along the centre.
  2. Repeat, fold horizontally along the centre.
  3. Fold vertically along the centre of the flag.
  4. Repeat, fold vertically along the centre of the flag.
  5. Repeat, fold vertically along the centre of the flag.


On 29 September 2017, Hong Kong elected legislator Cheng Chung-tai was convicted of desecrating the flag under the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance.[33] He had been seen turning representations of the flags (not of standard dimensions) upside down in the legislative chamber in October the previous year.[34]

Flags of the Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China

The regional flag (Hong Kong) displayed with national flag.

Due to an order passed by the CPC Central Committee General Office and General Office of the State Council, cities and provinces are no longer allowed to adopt their own symbols.[35] However, both of the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions of China have their own special flags. The precise use of the SAR flags are regulated by laws passed by the National People's Congress.[36][37]

The Regional Flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region features a stylized, white, five-petal Bauhinia blakeana flower in the center of a red field. On each petal is a red star; the stars demonstrate that Hong Kong residents love their motherland while the overall flag design signifies the link re-established between post-colonial Hong Kong and China while demonstrating the "One country, two systems" political principle applied to the region.[38][39] The flag of Hong Kong was adopted on 16 February 1990.[40] On 10 August 1996, it received formal approval from the Preparatory Committee, a group which advised the People's Republic of China (PRC) on Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to the PRC in 1997.[36] The flag was first officially hoisted on 1 July 1997, in the handover ceremony marking the transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China.[41]

The Regional flag of the Macau Special Administrative Region is "Macau green" with a lotus flower above a stylized image of the Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge and water in white, beneath an arc of five gold, five-pointed stars: one large star in the center of the arc and four smaller ones. The lotus was chosen as the floral emblem of Macau. The Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge is a bridge linking the Macau Peninsula and the island of Taipa.[42] The bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks of the territory. The water beneath the lotus and the bridge symbolize Macau's position as a port and its role played in the territory. The five five-pointed stars echo the design of the national flag, symbolizing the relationship Macau has with its mother country.[43] The design was chosen on 15 January 1993 by a committee that was drafting the Basic Law for the Macau SAR and was formally adopted by the Macau SAR Preparatory Committee on 16 January 1999.[44] The flag was first officially hoisted on 20 December 1999, in the handover ceremony marking the transfer of sovereignty from Portugal to China.[45]

Military flags

There are five flags that are used by the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The main feature of these flags is a golden star at the top left corner and two Chinese characters "八一" to the right of the star, all placed on a red background. The characters "八一" (literally "eight one") pay homage to the events on 1 August 1927 (8th month, 1st day); this was when the PLA was created by the Communist Party to start their rebellion against the Kuomintang Government in Nanchang.[46] The main flag of the PLA was created on June 15, 1949 by a decree issued from Mao.[47] The flag has a ratio of 5 by 4, which has a white sleeve measuring ​116 of the flag's length. For ceremonies, a PLA flag with golden fringe is placed on a pole with gold and red spiral stripes and topped with a golden finial and red tassel.[48] Each branch of the PLA, the Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force and Rocket Force, also have their own flags to use. In a 1992 order, the flags of the three branches were defined. The top ​58 of the flags is the same as the PLA flag; the bottom ​38 are occupied by the colours of the branches.[49] The flag of the Ground Forces has a forest green bar at the bottom, the naval ensign has stripes of blue and white at the bottom, the Air Force uses a sky blue bar and the Rocket Force uses a yellow bar at the bottom. The forest green represents the earth, the blue and white stripes represent the seas, the sky blue represents the air and the yellow represents the flare of missile launching.[50][51]

Organizational flags

After the Communist Party of China was founded in 1920, various sections of the party made flags based on what the Bolsheviks used, producing various designs and patterns. The current flag of the CPC was not created until 28 April 1942. On that date, the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau issued a decree announcing the flag and the pattern it should follow.[52] The design was further defined in the CPC Constitution in 1996.[53] The flag has a red background that is charged with the emblem of the CPC in gold at the top left corner.[54] The flag ratio is defined as two by three (24×36 units); the size of the emblem is eight units square, placed four units away from the hoist and three units away from the top of the flag.[53]

The flag of the Communist Youth League of China was adopted on 4 May 1950. The design of the flag consists of the group emblem, a gold star surrounded by a ring of gold, charged on a red field. The construction of the flag consists of making the top hoist portion of the flag into twelve by eighteen units, placing the emblem in the middle of that rectangle. The radius of the emblem is four units.[55]

There are two flags used by the Young Pioneers of China. The first flag that is used is for large detachments. The length of the flag is 90 centimetres and the width is 120 centimeters. A golden badge of the Young Pioneers is placed in the center of the flag. For a medium detachment, a modified flag is used. The flag has a length of 60 centimetres and a width of 80 centimetres. A 20-centimeter triangle is cut out of the fly edge of the flag and the golden emblem is shifted closer towards the hoist.[56]

Customs flag

Customs flag of China

The customs flag is a China's national flag with the emblem of customs at the lower right corner, which consists of a golden key and the Caduceus of Hermes, crossing with each other. The current customs flag was officially adopted in 1 October 1953. The customs flag should be hung at the bow of the customs vessel.[57]

Historical flags


See also


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External links