The Vietnam flag, with its bold red background and golden star, is a potent symbol that encapsulates the nation’s history, values and aspirations. From its inception during the struggle for independence to its role in uniting a nation, the Vietnamese flag is a testament to the resilience and unity of a remarkable people.
This piece explores the captivating tale behind Vietnam’s national flag, its historical significance and the vibrant identity it represents.
What is Vietnam flag?
The national flag of Vietnam, officially known as the National Flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is locally recognised as the “cờ đỏ sao vàng”, which translates to the ‘red flag with a golden star’, and also as “cờ Tổ quốc”, meaning the ‘flag of the Fatherland’. This flag was designed in 1940.
The flag’s design includes a red background, symbolising revolution and the sacrifices made during struggles for independence. The golden star at the centre of the flag represents the five main classes in Vietnamese society: intellectuals, farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, and soldiers. These classes are fundamental to the nation’s development and progress.
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The flag has a rich historical background. It was initially used during the uprising against French colonial rule in southern Vietnam in 1940. Subsequently, it was adopted by the Viet Minh, a communist-led organisation formed in 1941 to oppose Japanese occupation.
After the end of World War II, Viet Minh leader, Ho Chi Minh, declared Vietnam’s independence and, on September 5, 1945, officially adopted the Viet Minh flag as the flag of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). In 1954, following the Geneva Accords, the DRV became the government of North Vietnam. The flag was modified on November 30, 1955, to have pointier rays on the star.
Notably, until the conclusion of the Vietnam War in 1975, South Vietnam used a different flag, which featured a yellow background with three red stripes. However, the red flag of North Vietnam was adopted as the flag of the unified Vietnam in 1976.
Vietnam flag history
The history of the flag of Vietnam reflects the nation’s complex political developments over the years. Traditional imagery dating back to AD 40 shows the Trung sisters wearing yellow turbans during their revolt against the North (China). These yellow turbans were used as a signal for the beginning of fights.
Emperor Gia Long, who reigned from 1802 to 1820, adopted a yellow banner with a red circle in the centre as the national standard. During the late 19th century, as the French gradually gained control of Vietnam, the national flag of France was flown. Cochinchina, from 1862 to 1945, was under exclusive French authority, while Annam and Tonkin were protectorates with a mix of Vietnamese and French administration. Several flags were flown in these regions, including the French flag, the protectorate flag and the Long Tinh flag.
The Japanese occupied Vietnam from 1941 to 1945. In 1945, they overthrew the French colonial authorities and declared the Empire of Vietnam with Bảo Đại as emperor. The Quẻ Ly flag, featuring a red quẻ Ly on a yellow background, was adopted during this period. After Japan’s surrender, Bảo Đại abdicated, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed on September 2, 1945. It adopted the red flag with a golden star.
The French returned later in the same month but faced resistance from the Vietminh, particularly in the North. In June 1946, the French declared Cochinchina an autonomous republic, which adopted a flag with three blue stripes on a yellow background.
In 1947, the government’s name was changed to the “Provisional Government of Southern Vietnam” in preparation for a merger with the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam. The flag of the State of Vietnam, featuring three horizontal red bands on a yellow background, was adopted in 1948. This flag represented the Quẻ Càn or Qian trigram, symbolising heaven. It was later used by the Republic of Vietnam, commonly known as South Vietnam.
On June 8, 1969, the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (Viet Cong) adopted a tricolour flag, similar to that of North Vietnam. It had a red half at the top, a blue half at the bottom, and a yellow star in the centre. This flag replaced the yellow one after the fall of Saigon and was used until the reunification with North Vietnam on 2nd July 1976.
In more recent times, there have been debates and controversies surrounding the display of the Vietnamese flag in certain cities in the United States, reflecting the ongoing significance of this symbol in the Vietnamese diaspora.
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Vietnam flag meaning
The flag of Vietnam holds a profound meaning, intricately woven into its design. This red and gold emblem represents the spirit and aspirations of the Vietnamese people.
The flag’s design is a striking composition of a bright five-pointed golden star set against a fresh red background. Its rectangular shape, with a width equal to two-thirds of its length, is defined by the 1992 constitution of Vietnam. This emblem carries a rich shades of meanings:
- Revolution and bloodshed: The red background of the flag symbolises the relentless spirit of revolution and the sacrifices made during the struggle for independence. It stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of the Vietnamese people to achieve their goals.
- Unity and diversity: The golden star at the flag’s centre holds profound significance. It represents the unity of the Vietnamese people from various walks of life. The five points of the star symbolise the five main classes in Vietnamese society—intellectuals, farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, and soldiers. This unity is at the heart of the nation’s strength and progress.
- Historical significance: The flag’s history is deeply intertwined with Vietnam’s quest for independence. It first emerged during the Southern Uprising of 1940, a significant event in the struggle against French colonial rule. Over the years, it became the symbol of resistance and determination against various forms of oppression.
Vietnam flag colours
The Vietnamese flag has a rich history and symbolism. According to Article 141 of the 1992 constitution, the flag consists of a rectangular red background with a bright, five-pointed golden star in the centre. The flag’s red background is said to represent the blood of the people, while the yellow foreground symbolises the colour of the people’s skin during times of oppression from Japanese rule. The five points of the star stand for intellectuals, peasants, workers, traders and soldiers.
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