The Tibetan flag, also known as the ‘snow lion flag and the ‘Free Tibet flag’, was a flag of the military of Tibet, introduced by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1912 and used in the same capacity until 1959. Designed with the help of a Japanese priest, it reflects the design motif of the Japanese military’s Rising Sun Flag. Since the 1960s, it is used a symbol of the Tibetan Independence Movement.
In the early 20th century, after the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the end of control over Tibet by Chinese central government, the Tibetan army received training from the British and Japanese and adopted an army flag. According to the scholar Alexander Berzin, in the face of a continuing Chinese military threat and lack of Russian or British support, Tibet turned to Japan to update the Tibetan army…. Aoki Bunkyo, a Japanese Buddhist priest…also helped design the Tibetan National Flag by adding to traditional Tibetan symbols a rising sun surrounded by rays. This motif comprised the Japanese cavalry and infantry flags of the day and later became the design for the Japanese Navy and Army Flag during World War II. The following makeup, hair and photography was created to capture the beauty of the Tibetan Flag with a deep and sincere appreciation for this captivating region in Asia north-east of the Himalyas. Our model is Rebekah.
A Free Tibet campaigner, Patrick French, corroborates this story, saying that the Tibetan flag was a “regimental banner devised by a wandering Japanese man in the 1920s”. The Dalai Lama’s government in Tibet did not fly the flag on government buildings or on national holidays, and few members of the public knew what the flag looked like. Representatives of the Indian Independence Movement invited Tibetan delegates to the 1947 Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi, which hosted Asian states and Asian independence movements, and the delegates were allowed to display their flag.
The flag continued to be used in the 1950s under the newly established People’s Republic of China, although the flag’s status was unclear. Many in the Communist Party of China felt that the usage of the flag indicated separatism, but the Tibetan local government at the time stressed that the flag was an army flag (the Tibetan army continued to exist parallel to People’s Liberation Army infantries) and not a national flag. Phuntso Wangye claims that Mao Zedong discussed the flag in 1955 conversation with the 14th Dalai Lama. According to the story, Mao told the Dalai Lama that Zhang Jingwu, Zhang Guohua, and Fan Ming told him that Tibet had a “national flag”. The Dalai Lama replied that Tibet had an army flag. Supposedly Mao replied that “you may keep your national flag”. There is no official recognition of this conversation in Chinese documents, though.
According to the Central Tibetan Administration website, the symbolism of the flag includes the mountain representing Tibet, the snow lions of “a unified spiritual and secular life”, three colored jewel of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The flag was adopted as a symbol of the Tibetan independence movement, and has become known as the “Free Tibet flag”. Through the diaspora’s and international protesters’ use of the flag, it became known and used in protest by the Tibetan public. The flag is banned in mainland China.
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Text via Wikipedia
Flag of Tibet | Featuring: Rebekah Äotsch