History of the Vietnamese National Flags
Pham Van Thanh
         Prior to the French Revolution in 1789, the form of government of most countries in the world was parliamentary or monarchical, where the King or Queen and their relatives ruled the country and possessed most of the national properties. After the revolution, in 1793, the French Parliament selected three colors to symbolize their national flag. The color blue represents "freedom," the white stands for "equality," and the red is for "fraternity." The connotations of the three colors of the French national flag are complementary to common popular human goals. Due to this reason other free and democratic nations, including the United States; have adopted red, white, and blue as the fundamental colors for their national flags.

         Since the monarchial time thousands of years ago, the Vietnamese have utilized flags to symbolize a dynasty. Flags were also used to represent the rank of a person, such that of a king or a general. For example, the flag of the king usually had a dragon embroidered in the center. Similarly, the flag of the general usually had one of the colors of the Five Elements that he was born under, according to his birth hour and date. The colors of the Five Elements are: white for Metal, blue for Wood, black for Water, red for Fire, and yellow for Earth. Every dynasty also selected a flag with a distinct shape and colors harmonized according to the Yin-Yang philosophy as a symbol for the great accomplishments of that dynasty. For instance, the Ly Dynasty chose the Five Element flag with the character Ly at the center; the Nguyen Dynasty picked the royal yellow for the color of its flag. The flags of kings or the flags of dynasties, nevertheless, only represented the kings and were raised exclusively at the royal palace or places where they were visiting. Unlike the French national flag, these flags did not stand for the entire country consisting of the government, the land, and its people.
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