The colours of the flag
Red and dark blue are two “extreme” colours of the visible rainbow spectrum. The “higher” red colour is closer to Heaven whereas the “lower” dark blue one is closer to Earth. Red is associated with the top of the temporal power whereas blue corresponds to the industrious population.
The white colour characterizes the visible light emanating from the sun and composed of all colours of the rainbow spectrum. It represents the Principle, source of colours in particular and any thing in general, notably the fundamental Heaven-Earth polarity.
In ancient China, the Emperor fulfilled the function of “mediator” between Heaven and Earth. It was therefore natural to link him to the rainbow medium colour, yellow, the colour of the sun.
The twelve-branched star
The central place of the sun in the physical world is reflected into the astral bodies movement, the cycle order, the energy generation etc. However, its physical importance should not let us lose sight of its symbolic reach for a better comprehension of the world in its totality. Thus, the alternation of day or light (yang) and night or obscurity (yin) puts forward the deep complementarity of apparent oppositions, which are unified within the famous yin-yang symbol.
As a mediator between Heaven and Earth, the Emperor had to ensure the harmony between the world beyond and the world below. It resulted in a conformity between the apparent run of the sun in the sky and the function of the Emperor ruling the earth of China from his residence.
By the end of the Third Millennium before our era, China was divided into nine provinces: a central province located in the middle of eight others oriented according to the compass and intermediary points. This division made in the image of nine attached squares is attributed to Yu the Great (Ta Yu) and was inspired by the diagram of “Lo-shu” that, in accordance with the legend, was displayed on a turtle shell. The Emperor naturally lived in the middle province and in the Ming Tang (“Temple of Light”) 1 also made up of nine rooms arranged as the nine provinces.
The Ming Tang facades, oriented according to the compass points, possessed three openings each in accordance with the following geometric layout:
- The eastern openings corresponded to the three months of spring;
- The southern openings to the three months of summer;
- The western openings to the three months of autumn;
- The northern openings to the three months of winter.
Consequently, there is a relationship between the openings associated with the twelve months of the year and the twelve-branched star on the flag. The latter can only represent the sun and its twelve rays pointing at the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.
Indeed, the Emperor used to accomplish in the Ming Tang, during the annual cycle, an circumambulation modelled on the apparent run of the sun. In spring, he stood in the middle room and turned towards east. Then, he successively stood in front of each of the twelve openings related to the twelve months of the year to promulgate the appropriate orders. Thus, the Emperor identified himself with the twelve Zodiac signs punctuating the annual cycle of the sun.
It follows that the flag of Taiwan puts forward the ruler's function: to light the country with his wisdom as the sun illuminates the firmament with its splendour in order to maintain the link uniting Heaven and Earth.
- René Guénon:
- “The Great Triad”, Sophia Perennis Publisher, 2001.
- Particularly, chapter 16 on the “Ming Tang”.
- Marcel Granet:
- “The Chinese Thought”, Albin Michel Publisher, 1988.
- In particular, chapter 3 on “Numbers”.
1 back Let us note by passing that the ideogram Ming (Light) is composed of two characters representing the Sun (yang) and the Moon (yin). It is a matter Light in its global manifestation, at once direct and reflected, for yang is never without yin and yin without yang.