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Penang (Malaysia)

Negeri Pulau Pinang 'Mutiara Timur', State of Penang Island 'Pearl of the Orient'

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: penang | pulau pinang | palm tree |
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[Penang (Malaysia)] 1:2 image by Clay Moss, 16 August 2006

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Penang has the only vertically divided flag in Malaysia: (light) blue - white - yellow with a palm tree in the middle.
Jaume Ollé
, 14 January 1996

The flag is a tricolour consisting of vertical stripes of equal width of light blue (at the hoist), white and yellow; on the central (white) stripe is an areca nut palm (known in Malay as pokok pinang) on a mount. Light blue signifies the sea which surrounds the island. The white represents the State itself in its serenity. The yellow signifies prosperity. The betelnut (or areca nut) tree is the tree from which the island takes its name. There is no sultan of this state as it was once a component part of the British Straits Settlements.
Tom W. Koh
, 14 May 1997

The tree in the middle of the flag is the pinang tree which is the state tree of Penang. The Malay word for Penang is Pulau Pinang or Pinang Island.
Giuseppe Bottasini
, 13 August 1997

I received an interesting call from the Penang Governor's office several weeks ago. It turns out that they have seen the Penang flag illustrations I drew up and wondered if I might make a minor modification. The modification is subtle but, (evidently), significant in the minds of Penang folk. I have added a shoot to the palm tree and you can see it pointing straight up out of the top. The shoot is representative of regeneration.
Clay Moss, 16 August 2006

I can say for certain that there are no "official" colors for any component of the flag nor is there an official template for the pinang tree. There are 9 flag manufacturers in Malaysia as best I can tell, and they all make Penang's flag differently. And, the government of Penang uses flags from all of these companies. Penang's flag colors are light blue, white and yellow gold. Take your pick in terms of hue for the blue or yellow gold. You won't be wrong. A darker yellow gold is slowly becoming more popular as ordinary yellow tends to disappear against the white stripe.
Clay Moss, 17 November 2007

Blue-white torse under the palm tree

[Penang (Malaysia)] 1:2 image by Clay Moss, 16 August 2006

Should the palm tree have a blue and white heraldic wreath [torse] under it?
Andrew Yong
, 7 April 1999

If you look at the image there you will see that the bottom of the green mound is cut as if there used to be a torse there. I sometimes see flags with the wreath/torse: I wonder when it was officially removed, or if the flags with wreaths are mistakes.
Andrew Yong
, 8 April 1999

Probably 95% of all flags are manufactured without the torse, but there are still a few old timers who continue to illustrate it.
Clay Moss
, 9 February 2005

The torsed version is still used, particularly by state government. Both flags are civil and government flags. I believe there's a pragmatic explanation as to why the torse disappeared. When screen printing methods began to be used for making the center panels on Penang flags, 3 colors were required if a torse was to be included. Otherwise, the flag could be printed with only 2 colors. It's less expensive and time consuming that way. Now that they're all printed, I wouldn't be surprised the see the torse reappear in a big way. The torsed flags are much more attractive. Also, at some point in time, the number of twists or knots in the torse were reduced from 6 to 5. In older illustrations of Penang's full coat of arms, the torse under the tree is of the 6 twist variety. I have never seen a flag with 6 twists, and wonder if they ever existed.
Clay Moss, 23 February 2005

Recently, I was in a nearby mall, and they have an historical Penang display up at the moment. It is a series of photos showing British Penang being handed over to Malaya. There are several pictures of Penang flags in the display including the main flag that was hoisted during the hand over ceremony. It looks to be probably 6x12 feet and includes the torse under the pinang tree. There's also a picture of the brand new Penang state Governor sitting at his new desk with a Penang flag behind him, also sporting the torse. The last photo that clearly illustrated flags showed several other Penang flags fluttering, all of which had torses. My conclusion is that the torse was initially the norm in the beginning. It is starting to make a bit of a come back and both the torsed and non-torsed flags should be considered at least de facto official.
Clay Moss, 16 August 2006

I have found information in the Penang Government Gazette that shows that the current State flag without the torse under the areca nut tree was formally adopted in 1965. This means that the 1949 flag with the torse has officially been superseded. At the same time a flag for the Governor was adopted. This was in use until 1982, when a banner of the Governor's (new) arms was adopted instead.
Andrew Yong, 31 August 2015

Most Penang flags in use are non-torsed. However, one can still occasionally see a torsed flag flying here and there on the island and in Butterworth.
Clay Moss, 1 September 2015

Greenish Variant

image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 19 September 2010

In this Penang variant the hoist stripe is greenish blue. The palm tree in the white stripe is different in shape and has been placed upon a brownish base. Source: I spotted this flag in April 1999 in Georgetown
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 19 September 2010