The Flag

I have no creativity in introducing this topic, but as I’ve been asked about it before (and not had a ready answer), I figured it was time to dedicate a post to the national flag of Mongolia. In case you don’t already know what it looks like, here it is:

This is the current flag of Mongolia, and it has existed in this form since the start of democracy in 1992, when the nation transitioned from being the Mongolian People’s Republic (a communist state). There wasn’t much of a change to the flag between the MPR and the current state; they just dropped the communist star above the soyombo symbol on the left of the flag. (Example of former flag here.)

The tricolors of the Mongolian flag represent the eternal blue sky (the blue stripe, naturally!) and thriving for eternity (red stripes). The soyombo symbol has existed in Mongolia for centuries, and has appeared on various iterations of Mongolia’s national flags throughout history. I’ve mentioned this symbol in previous posts, particularly in the posts about Zanabazar and Mongolian writing systems, although I didn’t break down the symbolism there. And now I’m going to do the lazy writer thing and share directly from the Wikipedia article on the symbol:

The Soyombo has ten elements in the columnar arrangement of abstract and geometric symbols and patterns. They are fire, sun, moon, two triangles, two horizontal rectangles, the Taijitu (yin and yang) and two vertical rectangles. The elements in the symbol are given the following significance (from top):

Fire is a general symbol of eternal growth, wealth, and success. The three tongues of the flame represent the past, present, and future.

Sun (●) and moon symbolizes the existence of the Mongolian nation for eternity as the eternal blue sky. Mongolian symbol of the sun, moon and fire derived from the Xiongnu.

The two triangles (▼) allude to the point of an arrow or spear. They point downward to announce the defeat of interior and exterior enemies.

The two horizontal rectangles (▬) give stability to the round shape. The rectangular shape represents the honesty and justice of the people of Mongolia, whether they stand at the top or at the bottom of society.

The Taijitu symbol (☯) illustrates the mutual complement of man and woman. It is interpreted as two fishes, symbolizing vigilance, because fish never close their eyes.

The two vertical rectangles (▮) can be interpreted as the walls of a fort. They represent unity and strength, relating to a Mongolian proverb: “The friendship of two is stronger than stone walls.”

Soyombo symbol”, Wikipedia.

The flag is not the only place you’ll spy the soyombo symbol in Mongolia. It adorns official documents, tugrik banknotes, government buildings, and even a vodka brand. So now you know! If you’re ever on Jeopardy, maybe this will be your saving random knowledge. 😉

2 comments

  1. I don’t think I’ve seen the flag before, it’s memorable, so I’m pretty sure. Also, I’ve never heard the yin/yang described as fish, but once you said it, I totally see it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s