At the heart of symbolism

The flag of Macau

(Detailed page)


The flag of Macau

The colours of the flag

The flag of Macau is represented by a white central pattern topped by an arc of five golden yellow five-pointed stars on a green background. The central pattern is composed of a three petal lotus flower placed above a bridge overhanging a water pattern shaped in the form of a basin.

Green is the colour of water, yin, complementary to the colour red of fire, yang. It marks the beginning of the ascent, of the rise of the terrestrial yin towards the celestial yang. It is the colour of initiation par excellence. In the ascending scale of the rainbow colours, green constitutes the prelude to yellow, the median colour of the spectrum. It symbolizes, in ancient China, the “Middle Path”, the way of harmonization between Earth and Heaven, yin and yang.

White gathers all rainbow colours in an undifferentiated state. It symbolizes the principle at the source of all visible colours and, in a more general way, of all things of the manifested world. It represents the celestial principle at the origin of the terrestrial manifestation in all its forms.

The lotus

The being's realization is often symbolized by the blooming of a flower on the surface of “Water”. In the East, this flower is generally a lotus.

Water represents the passive principle compared to Fire considered as active. It makes lotus the passive principle yin, the vase where the active principle yang flows. The receptacle aspect of the lotus is even strengthened by the layout of the Water container shaped as a basin. The lotus contains all possibilities of the being's development, which are underlined by the white colour.

The lotus flowering symbolizes the being who has left the obscure depths of Water to fully open himself and let his possibilities emerge in full light. Possibilities which cover the physical, psychic and spiritual aspects. This ascending gradation goes through all kinds of being's states, from the lowest to the highest. A rise symbolized by…

The bridge

The bridge connects two river banks, two states, two worlds, horizontally between men and vertically between men and the beyond, between Earth and Heaven. At the beginning, Heaven and Earth were unified and they were separated by the very fact of the manifestation of things which are represented by the sea occupying the released space. Then, the bridge brings together what was separated and allows restoring the original unity of things in their primeval undifferentiated state.

The bridge symbolizes the way between two river banks, two states or two domains and can be crossed in both directions. Just as man driving on a bridge can not go halfway back, the being concerned with the rising towards higher states can not throw a glance backwards as long as he has not achieve his ultimate goal at the risk of going back to the previous state, if not below.

Man crosses the bridge to quit the physical state to become a true being, i.e. centred in himself, and moreover the transcendent being, i.e. whose centre coincides with the World Centre. Arrived at the end of the travel, he will find the lost unity of the original state again and become a fully accomplished being. Then, he will be able, if he feels like it, to go back to his starting point without losing anything.

The five-pointed stars

The Water basin and the lotus are turned upwards and receive the influences symbolized by the arc of five stars, turned downwards. These influences can only be those of principles at the source of the manifestation of possibilities contained in the flower.

Five elements of the Chinese traditionIn the Chinese tradition, the physical or material manifestation is based on five “elements” or elementary principles. Four of them are associated with the compass points as on the opposite diagram: north water yin, west metal yin, east wood yang and south fire yang. The fifth element, earth, is located at the centre for it represents the balancing point between yin and yang, the place of transition between the yin elements (water, metal) and yang ones (wood, fire).

The process of generation-destructionThese elements have the distinctive characteristic to proceed from each other in a double cyclic generation (water, wood, fire, earth and metal) and destruction (wood, water, fire and metal) process summarized in the opposite star diagram (for more details, see the flag of Hong Kong). Consequently, it is natural to associate the five elements with the five five-pointed stars forming an arc above the lotus. The central element, earth, naturally corresponds to the largest star and the yin and yang elements to the stars located on both sides.

The Water basin and the lotus are crossed by an invisible axis symbolizing the vertical bridge linking Earth and Heaven. It allows the terrestrial influences to rise and the celestial influences to be manifested. The downward influences are spreading in the horizontal plan from the centre located at the base of the flower. They extend in all directions of the terrestrial plan symbolized by the four compass points. The three lotus leaves illustrate perfectly the vertical way prolonged by the horizontal ways. The transverse bridge under the lotus reinforces this last aspect to underline that the matter is mainly about terrestrial, physical or material manifestation.

The colours and the pattern of the flag contribute to give a real coherence to it, beyond the apparent amalgam of elements as diverse as a flower, a bridge and stars.


  • René Guénon:
  • “Symbols of Sacred Science”, Sophia Perennis Publisher 2004;
  • Notably, chapters 63 on “The symbolism of the bridge” and 64 on “The rainbow and the bridge”.
  • “The Great Triad”, Sophia Perennis Publisher, 2001.
  • Particularly, chapter 18 on “The true man and the transcendent man”.
  • Marcel Granet:
  • “The Chinese Thought”, Albin Michel Publisher, 1988.
  • In particular, chapter 3 on “Numbers”.