Oriental Heraldry


This page is a response to a question posed on the "Mongols-in-the-SCA" egroups mailing list.
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Someone asked:
        Is there any such thing as "heraldery" used by the mongol armies in the early/mid 13th century (around the time of the invasion of eastern europe).  I am aware of the "yak tail banners" and such described by Capinni but I am wondering if other type of banners/flags were used to identify individuals (as in the west) or units?

to which Puppy Khan replied:
        The yak tail banners you refer to was part of the personal standard of Chingghis Khan which subsequently came to be the standard of the Empire and all Mongols. Even to this day it is often used by Mongols in conjuction with whatever "official" flag they may use, as it has become a symbol of their heritage. The full standard as described by the secret history is a white
leather triangle with 9 yak tails hanging from it. Although 9 yak tails in any fashion is what is often used nowadays, mostly in a row.
        The fact that this was someone's personal standard implies that others had personal standards, but I would venture to guess that these actually represented the tribes as well as who led the tribe as a single concept.  What the rules / standards for how these were devised for different people is beyond my research. I'm not even certain of the orientation of the of the triangle of leather, The Dark Horde has it pointing down, I copied this style for my banner hoping they knew something I didn't, but many pictures I've seen had banners with an edge to the pole carrying them streaming back, although still close to equilateral, I think these were later period Persian.  In short, I don't know.  ...but I thought I would share some thoughts on the subject.
         I do know that they also used banners of different colors for troop signals within a battle. One thing that terrified the Poles in Leignitz was their ability to coordinate movements without making any sounds. It's possible that some artist renderings confused these signal banners for standards.

Mongolog Ordiin Khaan Tangghudain Gulugjab
Puppy Khan of the Silver Horde
puppy@viahistoria.com
AIM: PuppyKhan
YM: PuppyKhan

"The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase
them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear
to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your
bosom their wives and daughters."
- Temujin (Chingghis Qahan)

to which Chai added:
        I hadn't answered either (due to the time-crunch I am currently experiencing), but your post sounded pretty "knowledgeable" to me, Puppy!
        For info on the troop signalling methods I recommend The Devil's Horsemen by James Chambers (and BTW Cecilia Holland, in her historical novel, Until the Sun Falls, nicely describes this signalling.)  There are numerous Chinese paintings of Mongol standards that depict a sort of pennon identical to the traditional Chinese standards.  It is generally a triangle 2-3 ft wide at its base and 3-4 ft tall.  Turn that on its side add scallop or flame shaped dagging on the 2 long sides and attach the short side (base) to an upright flag pole.  The ones I have seen in scrolls have been of solid bright colors, occasionally with another color to the dagging.  They look a lot like European pennons, but slightly fatter and shorter.
         There is a similar medieval Chinese banner in a rectangle (2-3' x 4-5') which attaches to the pole on one long side and has a horizontal bar extending on the top to hold the banner straight.  The free long side should have small elongated triangles (3'' x 8-10") spaced along the edge.  This type is also seen in Chinese illustrations of Medieval Mongol encampments (like the 14th c scroll depicting the story of Lady Wen-chi).
          For those of you with low speed machines I apologize for the attached jpg picture files.  I've attached a .jpg of reproduction 15th c Ming banners I saw recently on the Great Wall which had 3 colors and Chinese symbols, and of banners in an imperial procession in a recreated 12th c Sung village in Kaifeng.  Any of these would certainly be adaptable with SCA heraldry for use in the SCA.  Any one interested in talking about period references can find me at Pennsic XXIX in the Dark Horde Moritu camp--I'll bring (some of) my books and pictures....

Chai'usun
-------------------------------------------------
Jana Russ    jana@uakron.edu
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
 

At Riverside Park in Kaifeng (a recreation of Kaifeng during the 12th century) these "Sung" horsemen had great fun galloping around the village and posing for tourists.  Note the "flame" dagging on the banner edges.  The "Emperor," his warlords, and army greet the visitors to the park during opening ceremonies.  The park is based entirely on a 12th century scroll depicting the village when it was the Imperial capital of the Sung Dynasty (976-1279 AD).

 
This section of the Great Wall, just outside of Beijing at Badalang, is of Ming (1368-1644 AD) construction.  The banners are replicas in the style of Ming banners found in the Great Wall Museum at the entrance to this section. The high winds and lack of budget for repairs both take a toll on these banners as seen here. 

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