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Flags with Dragons

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Written by   504
8 months ago
Topics: Vexillology, Flags, Wales, Malta, Bhutan, ...

Essentially, there are three contemporary national flags depicting a dragon: Wales, Malta and Bhutan. We will also look at one historical flag, namely the one of Qing China (1889-1912).

Wales

The flag of Wales shows “red dragon passant on a green and white field”. The dragon was originally a symbol of an old Welsh king: Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd. Green and white symbolise the Royal family Tudor.

The origin of the Welsh dragon is a matter of speculation. The oldest record of it is from about 828 AD and Historia Brittonum. But there are those, believing it to have Roman origin, evolved from Roman Draco standards. However it is with that, Historia Brittonum tells us about a fight between two underground serpents - later, in connection with a prophecy by Merlin, interpreted as a red dragon and a white dragon – the Britons and the invading Saxons.

There are also those who claim that the red dragon was King Arthur's battle standard. What is really the truth is lost in the mists of history. However, King Arthur's father was called Pendragon (King Uther Pendragon). There is a story about how he took that epithet and started to use a dragon standard after having seen a comet with a head looking as a dragon. This information comes from Geoffrey of Monmouth, but is probably not true. It is more likely that king Uther's epithet, pendragon, meant that he was the head of the warriors – a title for a commander. The word literally means ”dragonhead”, but “dragon” can mean “warrior”.

(Below from left to right: Flag of Wales, Flag of Malta, and detail from the Flag of Malta, showing St. George & the Dragon.)


Malta

As for the Maltese flag, the dragon is in a George Cross, an award given to Malta in 1942 by the British king George VI. It depicts St. George and the Dragon, a legend I previously discussed in detail in Mar Girgis - St. George & the Dragon.

The background is red and white. Perhaps the origin of these colours is connected with Norman King Roger I of Sicily, whose fleet conquered Sicily. He is said to have given these colours to Malta in 1090 AD. This story is questionable, however; the colours are most likely taken from the Knights of Malta, whose flag shows a white cross on a red background.

Bhutan and Qing China

The flags of Bhutan and Qing China were explained in Greedy Old Men, Dragons & Leaping Through the Dragon's Gate. Here I will just discuss details, which were not included there. For more information, interested readers are advised to read said article.

Why do Eastern dragons sometimes hold or look at a coloured circle or a sphere, and what symbolises the circle or sphere?

According to the Chinese myth about the carp who entered the dragon's gate (becoming a dragon) – as was related in Greedy Old Men, Dragons & Leaping Through the Dragon's Gate – the dragon also chases and grabs the pearl of wisdom. That is imperial wisdom. The early emperors of China claimed dragon descent.

The dragon is supposed to get its strength and power from the pearl, which is sometimes associated with thunder, at other times with the moon, the sun, or an egg.

Above, on the flag of Qing China (1889-1912), the red “sun” in the upper left corner is the Pearl of Wisdom.

In the already mentioned article, we also saw the flag of Bhutan (above) and the Druk (thunder dragon) there. It holds a sphere in the claws of each limb. These spheres are described as “norbu”, jewels. I'm sure there is some connection to the idea of the pearl of wisdom, but the official explanation of the flag is that the “jewels” symbolise the wealth and prosperity of Bhutan.

The colours of the background symbolise Buddhism (orange) and tradition (yellow).

Albeit being one of the most unique and fascinating flags of today, the design suffers from badly combined colours. Flags normally become better if they are coloured according to the heraldic rule of tincture.

Related articles:

Mar Girgis - St. George & the Dragon

Greedy Old Men, Dragons & Leaping Through the Dragon's Gate

Vexillology & Heraldry

Fleur-de-lis & The Lily of Florence

La Tricolore: What is the Origin of Its Colours and Design?

Nisshōki, Taegeukgi & the Nordic Cross

Muslim & Arab Flags and their Symbolism

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Avatar for Mictorrani
Written by   504
8 months ago
Topics: Vexillology, Flags, Wales, Malta, Bhutan, ...
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Comments

Yes, but more in flags, to be honest :D

Thanks, I've read some of them, I will have to read the rest! :)

Keep up the good work!

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8 months ago

I am obsessed with world flags! This is such a good insight to the dragon flags and I enjoyed reading it! :) However, I would not ever notice the little dragon on Malta flag! :O

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8 months ago

No, the dragon on Malta's flag is hard to see.

Nice that you are interested in flags. Are you interested in heraldry too?

I have written several articles about flags and symbols. You have links to some of them in the end of the article above. You can also follow the link to "symbols", where even more articles are listed.

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8 months ago