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Director of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission in Tibet

Last modified: 2020-07-11 by ian macdonald
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[Director of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission flag]
image by Tai Yu-liang, 07 April 2014

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I was watching a video about Tibet when I saw three horsemen holding Chinese flags. I recognized the post-1928 flag of the Republic of China, the naval jack, and a third flag I didn't know. It is orange and has a black Chinese character in the middle. The video probably dates back to a periode ranging from the 1930s to 1949. It appears from 9:27 to 9:34. Does anyone know this flag ?
Corentin Chamboredon, 13 March 2014

The times of the story in this video should be since 1943 to 1946. The three flags in the video are the post-1928 flag of the Republic of China, the flag of Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) (which is identical to the naval jack), and the flag for the Director of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission in Tibet Office (maybe a fictional flag.)
The black Chinese character pronouced as "shen," and it's the Director's surname. In ancient China, it's used to putting the leader's surname on the middle of the flag to show this group belonging to whom.
Akira Oyo, 14 March 2014

In A history of modern Tibet, 1913-1951 (1989, University of California Press), Melvyn Goldstein writes:

"Chiang therefore altered his approach and initiated a program aimed at regaining the friendship of Tibet and settling the Tibet question peacefully. This new Chinese strategy began in late 1943, when Chiang replaced Kung with an influential and extremely capable Chinese Buddhist named Shen Tsung-lien.
Shen arrived in Lhasa on 8 August 1944 and immediately made a good impression on Tibetans."

I'm not sure when Mr. Shen left Tibet, but at the latest he was expelled, along all Chinese officials and 300 to 400 Chinese individuals by the Tibetan government on 8 July 1949.
Corentin Chamboredon, 14 March 2014

I had not noticed it before, but there is also a vertical line of text near the hoist. I don't think it can be read. Since I don't know what was written, I put a vertical line of Xs instead. The name of Mr Shen Tsung-lien is also written Shen Zonglian (沈宗濂).
Corentin Chamboredon, 03 April 2014

I noticed the vertical line of Chinese text when you asked last time. Resolution of the video, however, is too low to read what was written. In ancient China, it's also used to writing the leader's title in the vertical line near the hoist. In this case, the line of Chinese probably means "the Director of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission in Tibet Office (蒙藏委員會駐藏辦事處處長)".
Akira Oyo, 03 April 2014

Tibet doesn't seem the typical environment for a naval jack. Does it have a different function as well?
Looks similar to 決, but I wouldn't know what that means in Mandarin in this context.
There also seems to be a line of some 14 characters along the hoist, if they are characters: The resolution is such that all that's visible is a string of 14 interconnected blobs. Of course, they could actually be a string with 14 knots, but since Chinese flags often have a name or function here, the assumption that they are characters seems justified.
I wouldn't know how to date the individual shots, but this runs more or  less under the comment that in the mid 1940-s a Chinese representative  arrived in Lhasa.
Giving it a few seconds extra so YouTube can start counting while it's still loading:
Leave the video rolling for Chinese unit colours: Blue sky, white sun,  with a (presumably) red border and fringe of tails in what look like all  the colours of the rainbow. The white tube bears four characters I can't read.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 03 April 2014

This flag was not the naval jack, but the flag of Chinese Nationalist Party, also known as "Kuomintang" and ruling China since 1928-49. Its flag is identical to the naval jack.
Under its ruling, almost all the officials and the officers were its members, and the National Flag and the Party Flag always showed together.
It's the style of Chinese Army Troops flag (see: These four Chinese characters means "Lhasa Primary School" (拉薩小學).
The naval ensign was adopted in 1912, while the admiral's ensign was instituted identical to KMT's Party Flag. Sixteen years later, the naval ensign became the National Flag, and the Party Flag became the naval jack. There is only one reason for design of the National Emblem and the Party Emblem: "the Party leading the Country." It is why the two emblems are so similar with each other. Actually, the Party Emblem is included in the center of the National Emblem. It's also why the Flags always showed together.
Akira Oyo, 04-09 April 2014

Ah, I think I have read something about it before. The Chinese mission which arrived in Lhasa made several offers to the Tibetan government such as the creation of a modern Chinese school. There was therefore at least one school for the few hundreds of Chinese citizens living in or around Lhasa (representatives of the Chinese government, of course, but also several traders). The British tried to open a modern school twice (in the 20s and in the 40s) at the request of the Tibetan government, but the conservative monastic power strongly (and violently) reacted and they were closed in a very short time. Some rich families sent their children in India to give them modern education.
I found some allusion to this school :
In Lost in Tibet: The Untold Story of Five American Airmen, a Doomed Plane, and the Will to Survive, by Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt (2004, Globe Pequot) p. 132 :
"The Chinese arrived as a group - an organized contingent that as soon as it appeared issued an invitation of its own. The Chinese wanted the five Americans - and, of course, both the Sherriffs - to join them in yet another celebration, this time a lunch followed by dinner, which they planned to hold the following day at the Chinese mission in Barkhor Square. The invitation, formally written and formally presented, was signed by all the important Chinese groups in Lhasa: "the Chinese Resident Office of the Commission on Mongolian and Tibetan affairs; the Chinese radio station; the Chinese school of Lhasa; the Chinese meteorological station; the Peking merchants of Lhasa; the Yunnan merchants in Lhasa; the Szechuan merchants in Lhasa; and the Chinese Mohammedans in Lhasa.""
And in Tibet and Nationalist China's Frontier: Intrigues and Ethnopolitics, 1928-49, Hsiao-Ting Lin (2011, UBC Press)
p. 153:
"In order to counteract the opening of an English school in Lhassa, some Nationalist officials originally proposed to set up several new Chinese-style schools in cities such as Tashilhunpo, Giamda, and Chado. Yet fearing political and financial objections, the Chongqing Ministry of Education shifted its responsibilité onto the MTAC at the las minute. High officials of the Ministry of Education asserted that once the MTAC had succeeded in getting Lhasa's permision for the entry of the Chinese educational and cultural institutions, the Ministry would surely assist the establishment of new Chinese schools in Tibet."
p. 184-185:
"The expansion of the Chinese school in Lhasa, as a result of the Wu Zhongxin mission of 1940, further offered Chongqing a legitimate excuse to dispatch more staff to work in Tibet. By 1945 the two major intelligence units of the Nationalist government, the Invetigation and Statistics Bureau of the Military Affairs Commission, and the Second Chamber of the Ministry of Military Ordinance, respectively established their positions in Tibet. According to one autobiographical source, nearly all the Chinese staff holding important official positions in Lhasa, such as master of the Chinese School in Lhasa, director of the wireless station, and head of the meteorological station, were serving concurrently as Chinese secret agents."
Corentin Chamboredon, 04 April 2014

"Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission" (MTAC) is an organization within ROC Executive System, and it was equal to a ministry in administrative ranking. According to the official site, the title of its chief is "Minister" (see: Mr. Shen was designated as the Director of "Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission" in Tibetan Office. The office was a branch of MTAC in Tibet, and he was the chief of the office, but not the chief of MTAC. The ranking of his position was systematically lower than the Minister of MTAC.
Akira Oyo, 06 April 2014