Flag of the People's Republic of China

Flag of the People's Republic of China

Flag of the People's Republic of China
Name Wǔ Xīng Hóng Qí ("Five Star Red Flag")
Use Civil and state flag and ensign Civil and state flags and ensigns
Proportion 2:3
Adopted September 27, 1949[1]
Design A large golden star within an arc of 4 smaller golden stars, in the canton, on a field of red.
Designed by Zeng Liansong

The flag of the People's Republic of China 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 revolution; the five stars and their relationship represent the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Sometimes, the flag is referred to as the "Five Star Red Flag" (simplified Chinese: 五星红旗; traditional Chinese: 五星紅旗; pinyin: wǔ xīng hóng qí).[2]

The flag was designed by Zeng Liansong, a citizen from Rui'an, Zhejiang. He designed it in response to a circular distributed by the Preparatory Committee of the New Political Consultative Conference (新政治協商會議籌備會, Xīn zhèngzhì xiéshāng huìyì chóubèi huì) in July 1949, shortly after they came to power following the Chinese Civil War. 2,992 (or 3,012, see below) entries were received for the design competition, and Zeng's design was put into a pool of 38 finalists. After several meetings and slight modifications, Zeng's design was chosen as the national flag. The first flag was hoisted by the PLA on a pole overlooking Beijing's Tiananmen Square on October 1, 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 (PLA) uses the gold star with the Chinese characters 81. 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.


History of the design

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 July 4, 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 solicit 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 July 15–26.[3] 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 color should mainly be bright red [4](an early draft of the notice had the color at dark red, but was changed to bright red by Zhou Enlai).[5]

Zeng Liansong 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 countless 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. Later, he realized that the CPC was the great savior (大救星, Dà jiùxīng) of the Chinese people, being represented by a larger star. The idea of four small stars came from an article "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship" written by Mao Zedong, which defined the Chinese people as consisting of four social classes. Yellow also implies that China belongs to the Chinese people, a "yellow race".[5] 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][5]

The "Yellow River" flag design originally preferred by Mao Zedong.

As of August 20, a total of 2,992 (or 3,012)[6] designs were sent to the flag committee,[7] which included input from committee members themselves, such as Guo Moruo and Tan Kah Kee.[8] From August 16 to 20, the designs were viewed at the Beijing Hotel and culled down to a list of 38.[1][3] 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 wasn't included until Tian Han nominated it again.[9]

In the morning of September 23, the representatives of the CPPCC discussed the national flags, but came to no conclusion. Some didn't like the symbolism which Zeng attached to the four smaller stars, and said it shouldn't 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 due to the golden bar symbolizing the tearing apart of the revolution and the country.[10] 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's 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.[11] 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.[9] On September 27, 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][12]

Alternate rejected proposals made for the PRC flag

On September 29, the new flag was published in the People's Daily, so the design could be copied by other local authorities.[13] The flag was officially unveiled in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on October 1, 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 September 30.[14] 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.[5][15]


According to the current government interpretation of the flag, the red background symbolizes the revolution and the golden colors 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.[6] 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 petty 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 (including Outer Mongolia) which is shaped like a Begonia leaf. It is sometimes stated that the five stars of the flag represent the five largest ethnic groups.[16][17] 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-colored stripes represented the Han, Manchus, Mongols, Muslims, and Tibetans.[16][18]

Construction details, sizes and colors

A grid showing the positioning of the golden stars on a red background.
Construction sheet for the national flag.
The stars points are at a 36 degree angle.

The construction sheet for the national flag was published on September 28, 1949 by an order from the Presidium of the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.[19] The flag is split into four sections, with the top hoist part of the flag being a grid of 10 by 15 units. The center 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. Of the four smaller stars, the first one is centered 2 units from the top of the flag, 10 units from the hoist; the second one is centered 4 units from the top of the flag and 12 units from the hoist; the third one is centered 7 units from the top of the flag and 12 units from the hoist; the fourth one is centered 9 units from the top of the flag and 10 units from the hoist. The diameter of each small star's circumscribed circle is 2 units. Each of the top points of the four smaller stars are rotated such that they point towards the center point of the larger star.[20] The information can also be found in the document "GB 12982-2004: National flag" that was released by the Standardization Administration of China.[21] The Law on the National Flag mentions five possible sizes that could be made for the national flag:[22] According to Article four 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 the national flag.[19]

Size Length and width in centimeters
1 288 × 192
2 240 × 160
3 192 × 128
4 144 × 96
5 96 × 64


The colors of the national flag are regulated in the document "GB 12983-2004: Standard Color Sample of the National Flag," also released by the Standardization Administration of China. The colors are in the CIE Standard illuminant D65 and the CIE 1964 Supplementary Standard Colorimetric System.[23]

Standard Color Sample of the National Flag[23]
Fabric Stimulus ValueY10 Color Coordinate Allowable Error
x10 y10
Synthetic fiber Red 9.4 0.555 0.328 All are
\Delta E_{ab}^{\,\bullet}\le 2.0
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 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 June 28, 1990 and was enforced starting October 1, 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."[19]

Folding the flag

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


Subnational flags

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.[24] 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.[25][26]

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.[27][28] The flag of Hong Kong was adopted on 16 February 1990.[29] 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.[25] The flag was first officially hoisted on 1 July 1997, in the handover ceremony marking the transfer of sovereignty.[30]

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.[31] 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.[32] The design was chosen on January 15, 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 January 16, 1999.[33] The flag was first officially hoisted on 20 December 1999, in the handover ceremony marking the transfer of sovereignty.[34]

Five white petals of a flower centered on a red background. There are red star on each petal.
Flag of Hong Kong 
A white flower, placed above a white bridge, centered on a green background. Above the flower are five golden stars.
Flag of Macau 

Military flags

There are four 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 August 1, 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.[35] The main flag of the PLA was created on June 15, 1949 by a decree issued from Mao.[36] The flag has a ratio of 4 by 5, which has a white sleeve measuring 1/16 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.[37] Each branch of the PLA, the Ground Forces, Navy and Air Force, also have their own flags to use. In a 1992 order, the flags of the three branches were defined. The top 5/8 of the flags is the same as the PLA flag; the bottom 3/8 are occupied by the colors of the branches.[38] 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 and the Air Force uses a sky blue bar at the bottom. The forest green represents the earth, the blue and white stripes represent the seas and the sky blue represents the air.[39]

A golden star, along with three Chinese characters, placed on a red background.
A golden star, along with three Chinese characters, placed on a red background. At the bottom of a flag is a green bar.
Ground Forces 
A golden star, along with three Chinese characters, placed on a red background. At the bottom of a flag are stripes of blue, white, blue, white and blue.
A golden star, along with three Chinese characters, placed on a red background. At the bottom of a flag is a sky blue bar.
Air Force 

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 April 28, 1942. On that date, the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau issued a decree announcing the flag and the pattern it should follow.[40] The design was further defined in the CPC Constitution in 1996.[41] The flag has a red background that is charged with the emblem of the CPC in gold at the top left corner.[42] The flag ratio is defined as two by three (24⨉36 units); the size of the emblem is 8 units square, placed four units away from the hoist and three units away from the top of the flag.[41]

The flag of the Communist Youth League of China was adopted on May 4, 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.[43]

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 centimeters 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 centimeters and a width of 80 centimeters. A 20 centimeter triangle is cut out of the fly edge of the flag and the golden emblem is shifted closer towards the hoist.[44]

A golden, crossed, hammer and sickle placed on a red background.
Communist Party of China 
A golden star placed inside a golden ring, all placed on a red background.
Communist Youth League of China 
A gold star placed on top of an red torch with a flame, outlined in gold. This is centered on a red background.
Young Pioneers of China (Large Detachment) 
A gold star placed on top of an red torch with a flame, outlined in gold. This is placed on a red background, where the right edge has a triangle section cut out.
Young Pioneers of China (Medium Detachment) 

See also


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