China flag

The People’s Republic of China flag is comprised of five stars (four small stars surrounding one larger star) on a red background. The red background symbolises the communist revolution, and the stars represent the unity of the Chinese people.

The flag of China was designed by Zeng Liansong. It was first flown over Tianenmen Square on 1 October, 1949 to mark the formation of the People’s Republic of China.

Different organisations within China have slightly different flags, but almost all have the same red background. For example, the Communist Party’s flag contains a hammer and sickle on a red background, and the People’s Liberation Army flag contains the Chinese symbols for 8 & 1 on a red background (to represent the day the PLA was founded).

Special Administrative Regions, such as Hong Kong and Macau also have their own flags. Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China, also has its own, different, flag.

What does the flag of China look like?

The design of the flag of the People’s Republic of China is relatively simple. The bulk of the flag is made up of a red background. One large golden star sits in the upper left quadrant of the flag. Four smaller golden stars are placed to the right of the large star. The proportion of the flag is 3:2.

China flag

The Chinese Government has published a law which explains in detail how the flag should be constructed and displayed, and even how to correctly fold the flag. You can read the law here.

It explains that the flag should be divided into four quadrants. The two bottom quadrants, and the upper right quadrant, are just a red background. The upper left quadrant also has a red background but is divided into 150 small squares, in a 10×15 grid format, to make sure that the stars are placed exactly in the right location (see image below).

China flag construction sheet
Construction sheet with details of where to place stars

The centre of the large star is placed five units in from the hoist (left edge) and five units down from the top of the flag. It must have a diameter of six units.

Then, the four smaller stars are arrayed to the right of the larger star, each with a diameter of two units. Two are placed ten squares in from the left of the flag (one two squares down from the top of the flag, the other nine squares down). The other two stars are placed twelve squares in from the left of the flag (one four squares down from the top, the other seven squares down).

The official colours of the flag of China are set out in “GB 12983-2004: Standard Colour Sample of the National Flag”. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a working link to this document. If you have details, please let us know and we will happily add the link.

Alternatively, you can use the RGB, hex and pantone colours listed in the table below:

Red Yellow
Hex (Gov’t specifications) #9E2B2D #BCAC00
Hex (for web use) #FF0000 #FFFF00
Pantone 186C 115C
RGB 222, 41, 16 255, 222, 0

Note: the official Chinese Government hex values are designed for physical copies of the flag. They do not look good on a computer screen, so we have provided additional colour details that you can use.

What does the Chinese flag mean?

According to Chinese law the People’s Republic of China flag is “the symbol and hallmark of the People’s Republic of China. All citizens and organisations shall respect and care for the national flag”.

The Chinese government explains that the red background of the flag represents revolution. The five stars represent the unity of the Chinese people under the Communist Party, and the yellow colour of the stars represents “the golden brilliant rays radiating from the vast red land.”

The number of stars on the flag is also important because five is a symbolic number in China. Confucius, for example, wrote The Five Classics, which outlined the five core visions which underpinned his philosophy. The Wu Xing school of philosophy is also built around the principle of five elements.

Zeng Liansong, who designed the flag, explained that the four stars represented Mao’s definition of the four different social classes in China – the working class, the peasants, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. These were, in turn, built on an earlier definition of Chinese society by Confucius, who divided Chinese people into the gentry, peasants, artisans and merchants.

The colour yellow is also important in China. It is widely considered to be the most beautiful colour, and has historically been used to represent the Chinese Emperor and freedom.

When was the Chinese flag introduced

The current flag was first used on 1 October 1949. It was flown over Tianenmen Square to proclaim the formal founding of the People’s Republic of China.

A contest was held to choose the new flag and, in total, two thousand, nine hundred and ninety two designs were considered by the committee. They included a flag design based on the Yellow River, which was an early favourite of leader Mao Zedong.

China flag yellow river design
Unchosen design for the flag of China. The bar represents the Yellow River.

The winning flag was designed by Zeng Liansong. He took his inspiration from the Chinese proverb “longing for the stars, longing for the moon” and the recent victory of the Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War, which he believed had saved the people of China. As you can see below, Zeng’s original design had a hammer and sickle in the centre of the large star, but this was removed in the final, approved, version.

Zheng Lansing's original design for the flag of China
Zheng Lansing’s original design for the flag of China. Note the hammer and sickle in the centre of the largest star.

For his troubles, Zeng received a payment of 500 new yuan, and a album from the Communist Party Central Committee.

China flag map

Here is a flag map of China that you can download. To save it to your computer, right click on the image and select save.

Flag Map China Full Size

Communist Party of China flag

Like most communist parties, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has its own flag. Like the national flag, it has a red background and a 2:3 ratio. However, instead of stars, the CPC flag has a golden yellow hammer and sickle in the upper left quadrant.

Flag of the Communist Party of China - note the hammer and sickle in place of the stars.
Communist Party of China flag

The CPC flag was introduced on 28 April, 1942.

The Party’s constitution makes clear that all members must “safeguard the sanctity of the Party emblem and flag”, and all new members of the Communist Party are required to take an oath before it.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Flags

The People’s Liberation Army flag has a red background and a gold star in the upper left quadrant. It also contains the Chinese characters for eight and one. These represent the foundation of the PLA on 1 August 1927 to begin the Communist Party’s conflict against the KMT government.

People's Liberation Army flag
People’s Liberation Army flag

The PLA flag has a different ratio to the flag of China – instead of a 2:3 ratio, it has a 4:5 ratio. It was introduced on 15 June, 1949.

Each of the three branches of the People’s Liberation Army has its own flag. The top 5/8ths of each flag are identical to the main PLA flag – they have a red background, a red star, and the symbols for 8 and 1. However, the lower 3/8ths have a different design to represent each branch of the military. You can see the flags of the PLA Ground Force (Army), Navy and Air Force below.

Ground force
Ground force
Navy
Navy
Air Force
Air Force

Flags of Hong Kong and Macau SARs

Hong Kong and Macau are two Special Autonomous Regions (SARs) within China. They were previously colonies of a European country (Hong Kong was a colony of Britain and Macau was a colony of Portugal) and are able to autonomously run their own affairs. Each has some similarities with the Chinese national flag, but each also has its own distinctive design – in this way, they each reflect the “One country, two systems” philosophy.

Hong Kong
Flag of Hong Kong
Flag of Hong Kong

An orchid tree flower with five petals sits at the centre of the Hong Kong flag. The flower is set on a red background. The similarities to the flag of China can be seen in the red background, and the use of the symbolic number of five petals, each with a red star cutout.

It was first used on 1 July 1997, when sovereignty over Hong Kong was transferred from the United Kingdom to China.

Macau
Flag of Macau
Flag of Macau

A lotus flower on a green background sits at the centre of the Macau flag. Above the flower are five stars, reminiscent of the five stars on the Chinese flag. Below the flag is a representation of the Governor Nobre de Carvalho bridge, which links Macau and Taipa.

The flag of Macau was first used on 20 December 1999, when sovereignty over Macau was transferred from Portugal to China.

Republic of China (Taiwan) flag

The Republic of China, which preceded the People’s Republic of China had its own flag. The flag is still in use today in Taiwan, which still lays claim to the Chinese mainland.

Republic of China (Taiwan) flag
Republic of China (Taiwan) flag

The Republic of China flag has a red background. The upper left quadrant contains a white sun on a navy blue background.

The sun represents the twelve months of the year and the twelve shichen which make up a day (each shichen is two hours long). The red background symbolises the blood spilled in the 1912 revolution to overthrow the Qing, China’s last imperial dynasty.

Qing dynasty flag

The Qing dynasty flag was made up of an Azure dragon and a red sun on a yellow background. The flag was used from 1889 until the Qing dynasty was overthrown in 1912.

Qing dynasty flag
Qing dynasty flag

The dragon is one of four symbolic animals of China (along with the vermillion bird, the white tiger and the black turtle). The red sun represents the three legged crow which was believed to inhabit the sun, and the yellow background represents China and the Chinese emperor. The flag is sometimes also referred to as the Yellow Dragon flag.

A triangular banner with a similar design was also used from 1862 until 1889. Because China did not traditionally have a flag, Chinese ships could not be identified by foreign powers and were at risk of being sunk accidentally. The new flag was introduced to prevent this.

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