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16 intriguing world flags and their hidden meanings

Some of these have very interesting origins.

OUR NATIONAL FLAGS are part of our identities, but what else do we know beyond recognising their shapes and colours?

From Austria’s legendary blood-splattered tunic to North Korea’s flag of purity and friendship, here are the hidden meanings behind 16 flags from around the world.

1. Austria

austria

Austria’s flag design is one of the oldest national banners. According to legend, in 1191, following a fierce battle in the Third Crusade, Leopold V, Duke of Austria, wore a white tunic that had become splattered with blood. After removing his white belt or sash, a white band was revealed – untouched by blood. The red-white-red combination was adopted as his banner.

2. Bahrain

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Red is a traditional colour for flags of Persian Gulf states. the white serrated band (with five white points) on the hoist side represents the five pillar of Islam. Until 2002, the flag had eight white points, but this was reduced to five to avoid confusion with the Qatari flag, which is maroon with eight white points.

3. Cambodia

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Red and blue are traditional Cambodian colours, and the white three-towered temple represents Angkor Wat. The Cambodian flag is the only national flag to incorporate a building in its design.

4. China

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Red represents revolution, and the stars symbolise the four social classes: the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie (capitalists), united under the Communist Party of China, the biggest of the stars.

5. Ethiopia

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Known as the Pan-African colours, green represents hope and the fertility of the land; yellow symbolises justice and harmony; and red stands for sacrifice and heroism in defence of the land. The centre disc, added in 1996, symbolises peace, unity and equality of the nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia.

6. Germany

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These colours have played an important role in German history, and can be traced back to the medieval banner of the Holy Roman Emperor, which had a two-headed black eagle with red claws and beak on a gold field.

7. North Korea

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The broad red bank symbolises revolutionary traditions; the narrow white bands stand for purity strength, and dignity; and the blue bands signify sovereignty, peace and friendship. The central red star represents socialism.

8. South Korea

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The South Korean flag is called the Taegukgi. White is a traditional Korean colour that represents peace and purity. The red and blue represent the positive and negative cosmic forces of the yin and yang. Each trigam, or kwae, from the ancient I Ching or Book of Changes denotes one of the four universal elements that express the principle of movement and harmony.

9. Mexico

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Green signifies hope, joy and love; white represents peace and honesty; and red stands for hardiness, bravery, strength and valour. The coat of arms is derived from a legend that a wandering Aztec people were to settle at a location where they would see an eagle on a cactus eating a snake. The city they founded, Tenochtitlan, is now Mexico city.

10. Nepal

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Nepal is the only country whose flag is not rectangular or square. The two overlapping right triangles represent Hinduism and Buddhism. Red represents the rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower, and is a sign of victory and bravery; the blue border signifies peace and harmonty. The moon represents serenity and the shade and cool water in the Himalayas, and the sun depicts the heat in the lower parts of Nepal.

11. Philippines

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The blue stands for peace and justice; the red symbolises courage, and the white equilateral triangle represents equality. The sunrays recall the first eight provinces that sought independence from Spain, and the stars represent the three major geographical divisions of the country: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. In wartime, the flag is flown upside down.

12. South Africa

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The flag colours do not have any official symbolism, but the Y is said to represent the “convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity”. Black, yellow and green are found on the flag of the African National Congress, while the red, white and blue are the colours in the flags of the Netherlands and the UK, who ruled South Africa during the colonial era.

13. United Kingdom

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This flag is properly known as the Union Flag but it commonly called the Union Jack. It is a combination of the red cross of Saint George, patron saint of England, edged in white superimposed on the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, which is itself superimposed on the diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland.

14. United States of America

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Known as Old Glory, the 50 stars represent the 50 states, and the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies. Blue stands for loyalty, devotion, truth, justice and friendship; red symbolises courage, zeal and fervency; while white denotes purity and rectitude of conduct.

15. Argentina

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The light blue and white represent the clear skies and snow of the Andes. The sun with a human face, known as the Sun of May, is a representation of Argentina’s independence as well as Inti, the Incan god of the sun.

16. Vatican City

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Yellow represents the pope’s spiritual power, and white represents his worldly power. The coat of arms of the Holy See are made up of the crossed keys of Saint Peter with the three-tiered papal tiara mounted on top.

Samantha Lee

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