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Dalai Lama's Personal flag (Tibet)

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[Dalai Lama flag photograph]
contributed by Corentin Chamboredon, 17 May 2005

[Dalai Lama flag photograph]
contributed by Corentin Chamboredon, 17 February 2006


See also:


Dalai Lama Flag

The movie "Kundun" is about the life of the fourteenth Dalai Lama. In it we see the Flag of Tibet often, but there are a few times when another flag in also shown that may be the personal flag of the Dalai Lama but I'm not sure. I've seen nothing in any of my books about such a flag and I don't really know if such a flag exists. The flag is all white with a symbol of some kind in the middle of the flag, but It is never very clear so I can't really tell much more then that.
Dan Fairbanks, 30 January 1998

This photograph [above on the left shows] two horsemen, probably Khampa resistance fighters. The one on the left is carrying the national flag, and the other one has what was said to be the personal banner of the Dalai Lama. It has a dark border, and on the field I can see several details which remind me those on the old flags of Sikkim.
Corentin Chamboredon, 17 May 2005

The closeup of the flag [above on the right] was in The Dalai Lamas: A visual history by Martin Brauen. Page 184. It shows soldiers and monks making a line in the monastery of Phari where the 14th had fled. The photograph had been taken by Heinrich Harrer who tells us "The first flag is the banner of the dalai-lama, the second is the national flag."

I don't think the design shows a dragon. I would say it rather shows the boddisatva Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig in Tibetan), whose dalai-lamas are the reincarnations. Such a person would logically appear on a such flag, but there is another possibility. It could be Mahakala, the protector of Tibetan Buddhism, and more particularly of ... the dalai-lamas! It is a black-skinned and two, four or six-armed divinity, who destroy enemies of Buddhism and Tibet.
Corentin Chamboredon, 17 February 2006

I found a more detailed photograph of this flag in a book entitled Tibet, histoire d'une tragédie [Tibet, history of a tragedy] by Kim Yeshi, published in 2009 by La Martinière. I still can't see who is the central character, but I can see now three more elements around it :
- the character (probably a divinity) lays on a rectangular wheeled pedestal. This is something very unusual to me. There are various shapes for the pedestals supporting divinities, but I never saw any whith wheels before.
- there is a snow lion on the foreground, near the hoist and beneath the central character.
- I'm not sure but I think that two windhorses (tib : lungta) are drawing the pedestal toward the fly. A windhorse is a mythical animal which carries the prayers and word of the Buddha in the shape of the three flaming jewels (the same which appear on the Tibetan flag) on its back. The prayer flags are called lungta because this creature appears quite often on them.
Corentin Chamboredon, 10 September 2011

Do you think you can maybe send a scanned image of the book for us to see?
Esteban Rivera, 10 September 2011


Panden Lhamo Flag

Finally, eight years after seeing this flag for the first time, I could obtain some precise information about it from a renowned specialist.

"I do not think this is the Dalai Lama's flag. In fact, I have never heard of such a thing. Consequently, I checked this with several knowledgeable old officials from the Dalai Lama's government and they too have NEVER heard of a Dalai Lama's flag, and if such a thing existed, they would have certainly heard and known about it.
However, they think it is a flag of the State Protector deity which would be closely associated with the Dalai Lama. They said there was something kind of banner like this used after the NYears celebration when the "ancient soldiers" were inspected near the Trapchi regiment where the Kalons and all the officials sit in a tent. In front of that tent, the soldiers would hold the two banners of the two state protective deities Nechung and Panden Lhamo. These were circular banners made from yak hair (tendung [tib. rten dung]). So the consensus of my sources is that this is the "banner" of Panden Lhamo in her wrathful demeanor probably wearing her bone ornaments.
Good luck. Hope this helps.
Melvyn C. Goldstein, Ph.D.
John Reynolds Harkness Professor in Anthropology
Co-Director, Center for Research on Tibet (http://www.case.edu/affil/tibet/),
Case Western Reserve University,
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Member, National Academy of Sciences"

As for Panden (also written Palden) Lhamo, you can find more informations about her here and there :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palden_Lhamo
http://www.himalayanart.org/search/set.cfm?setID=164
http://www.himalayanart.org/search/set.cfm?setID=2126
Corentin Chamboredon, 27 September 2012

[Panden Lhamo flag photograph] [Panden Lhamo flag photograph] [Panden Lhamo flag photograph]
images contributed by Corentin Chamboredon, 01 September 2014

I checked this movie to see if the flag shown was similar to the one on the photographs shown above. There is some similarities, but it is not the same. The flag in the movie is rectangular, while the photos show a rather square flag. There is no border, and some elements are lacking : there is neither wheeled pedestal under the main character, nor snow lion near it. There are also no wind-horses, but I'm still unsure about them.
There are three cropped screen-captures of this flag and a bigger photograph can be seen here.
Corentin Chamboredon, 01 September 2014


Here is a little report of a Tibetan flag which appears in a documentary. Tibet: The Bamboo Curtain Falls, is a 1981 episode of The World About Us that documents the history of political struggle between Tibet and China through archival film shot by western travelers in the early part of the century. It was broadcasted on BBC2 in 8/4/1982. The flag in question appears from 12:55 to 13:02 first (the Dalai lama travels to Beijing in 1954), then from 21:00 to 21:05 (the Dalai lama visits monasteries to pass his Buddhist studies degree in 1959). Sadly, I was unable to find the origin of this footage but given the context, those images were very likely taken by the Dalai lama's photographer, Jigme Taring.

I have not much to say about the flag, given the poor quality of the footage but it's still quite a luck these moments were taken with a color camera. The flag itself looks square and has a yellow field and a reddish border. And that's it for the sure things.

Now, I will speculate a little. I took a few screenshots in frame by frame with the hope I could maybe distinguish some more details. But not really. At first I thought this flag looked very much alike an unidentified military flag I had reported before (red field and yellow border) but in fact its colors are inverted. Then, after taking a long look in full screen, I wonder if, maybe, this flag couldn't be the Dalai lama flag reported at xt-dalai.html. The video is either too blurry, too dark or too bright to be sure, but it seems to me there is some big emblem on it, with some unfilled space in the upper fly. Which is also the case on the two photographs of the Dalai lama flag. But maybe I'm just imagining things.

Two other flags appears from 19:29 to 19:33 (on the extreme left). They have a red field with some white emblem in the middle. Again, the video does not allow me to be sure of anything, but I think those are flags of the Tibetan army.

Sources :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l531heFf5y0
http://bufvc.ac.uk/dvdfind/index.php/title/av73996
https://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/u702976
Corentin Chamboredon, 7 December 2017