Tibetan flag brings together several symbols
The Ithaca Journal[Thursday, October 11, 2007 14:26]
By Jennie Daley
Journal Staff

Palden Oshoe said the one thing he undoubtedly misses about Tibet while in Ithaca is its snowy mountains.

While he appreciates the water everywhere around Ithaca, it is no substitute for the Himalayas. “The small hills seem to help me,” he said of Ithaca's topography.

Oshoe's affinity for the Himalayan mountains is reflected in the country's flag. Often used as a symbol by those who support Tibetan independence, the symbols in the flag encapsulate many of the defining characteristics of the country.

Ancient roots

The current design is an amalgam of flags used by ancient military groups in Tibet. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama, as part of his efforts to bring Tibetan government in line with international norms, incorporated the various flags' symbols into today's Tibetan flag. The flag was officially created in 1912.
Today in Tibet, owning the Tibetan flag is a criminal offense, which explains why it is such a potent symbol of resistance to Chinese rule in the country.

Specific meanings

The central field of the flag is dominated by a large white triangle from which blue and red rays emanate. The triangle represents the snowy, mountainous region of Tibet. According to the government in exile, Tibet is often known as the Land Surrounded by Snow Mountains.

The red rays radiating from the mountain represent the six ancestral tribes of the Tibetans and the blue rays represent the sky. The combination of the two is explained as representing the protection brought to the country by the combination of secular and spiritual beliefs.

At the tip of the mountain sits a yellow orb that represents the sun with its rays pointing in every direction. Shining over everything, it represents the belief that all people in Tibet should enjoy the light of freedom, spiritual and material happiness, and prosperity.

In front of the mountain, two stylized snow lions face each other “blazing with the manes of fearlessness,” signifying the country's victorious accomplishment of a unified spiritual and secular life, according to the government in exile's Web site.

The two lions are holding up two items. One is a three-colored jewel with the colors signifying “the Three Supreme Jewels,” which are symbols in Buddhism for the Buddha, the Dharma and Sangha. These are considered the three refuges of Buddhism, with the Dharma being the philosophical teachings and Sangha referring to the refuge provided by monastic life.

The other item in the lions' hands signifies the practices of self-discipline and ethical behavior taught by Tibetan Buddhism.

Surrounding all of this is a three-sided border in yellow intended to show the teaching of Buddhism spreading in all directions.

jdaley@ithacajournal.com

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