A Qing dynasty banner | Mandarin Mansion

A Qing dynasty banner

however well-planned, battlefields tended to become quite chaotic in the heat of battle. Traditional armies relied on flags for communication and providing structure. As such, traditional armies placed great importance on flags and banners, the Qing dynasty military was no exception. Every commanding officer had its own flag and used it to lead his troops. The flag was a rallying point for his soldiers; wherever it went, they went. If the flag went down, and no-one picked it up to take over the flag bearer's role, the men were in chaos.

As such, flag bearers commanded great respect. They were the courage of the army: As long as they kept going, their men would follow them. For the overseeing battlefield commander the flags were also of considerable importance: It told him which units were still in the field, and where they were. This enabled him to make informed decisions on what to do, where to send backup, etc. If a certain unit's flag fell, the unit did not exist anymore for the eye of a distant observer.

Two banners for the various troops of the hanjun or "Chinese Martial", an all Han army with Manchu-like status.

The Qing regulations I am familiar with describe hundreds of flags and banners, and even then many a battle painting shows types not covered. Especially on late battle paintings many flags were fielded that are not listed. Perhaps the applying regulations were lost, or there was a high degree of autonomy in late Qing flag design.

Size: 58 x 40 cm (without sleeve)

Presented here is an orange silk banner with a five clawed imperial dragon chasing the pearl of wisdom, surrounded by waves. All decoration is done in silk thread or silk wrapped with silver stitched on te flag, double sided. The work is quite well done, with a rather expressive dragon. The condition is that of what you'd expect of a battlefield trophy, which is probably how it reached my part of the world.

The orange color does not correspond to any of the regular Eight Banners colors, being yellow, white, blue, and red, nor the Green Standard Army with their green flags so we can only guess who fielded it. The shape is similar to some Green Standard Army and Hanjun flags. The imperial five clawed dragon indicated they were loyal to the Qing side, and must have fielded the flag before the empire fell in February 1912. The natural dyes that seem to be used suggest it was probably made before the 1860's.

A battle painting of the recapture of Kothan and capture of the rebel chief Garla, second East turkestan Campaign of 1828. Palace Museum Collection.

A very rare example of a Qing dynasty flag, with royal dragon emblem.


Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com

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