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Tibetan Resistance (Tibet)

Last modified: 2007-05-27 by phil nelson
Keywords: tibet | khamba guerillas | swords: crossed (blue) | dragon | snow lion | tiger | garuda | sword (flaming) | bathang | jha lithang |
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Khampa Guerillas

[Kampba flag]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 23 March 2007

I found a black-and-white photograph of a group of Khampa (or Khamba) guerillas, a band of Tibetans fighting the communist occupation forces in the eastern regions of Tibet. In the background is a flag, partially obscured by the soldiers. I don't know what exactly what it represents, but it looks like two crossed swords on a light background, with a dark border, with five round symbols of some kind. I'm not sure, but it looks as if at least one of the swords is surrounded by flame. There is some Tibetan writing on the right side (I can't see the left).
Thomas Robinson, 10 August 1998

(Editorial Note: a photo of this flag is in Dragonflags, No. 2 [dfs] attributed to the book In exile from the Land of Snows, John F. Avedon, New York, 1984.

The history of the Khamba (not Khampa) struggle is very complex. Several feudal principalities exist in the zone, and some of them probably have their own flag. The principalities armies joined the Khamba revolt. The colour of the Khambas soldiers is yellow.
Jaume Ollé, 11 August 1998

After the Chinese invasion of 1950, two resistance movements rose: the Chushi Gangdruk (four rivers, six ranges, the traditional name of Kham) and the Tensung Danglang Maggar (Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Tibet). The first one was a group of Khampa, the people who live between Tibet and China. Before 1950, there were still several kingdoms which turned Tibet against China in order to remain "independent". Those kingdoms decided that Chinese were too dangerous for them and that they must fight the Chinese.

They finally joined the Tibetan resistance essentially made up of the Tibetan army and led by Andrug Gompo Tashi. They harassed Chinese troops from the kingdom of Mustang, Nepal, with the help of the CIA until 1974 when China forced Nepal to expel them. The CIA stopped help to them because the Sino-US relations improved. Their flag was yellow with two crossed blue swords, one of them being in fire. I saw another version in a book with 4 animals on the corners and two letters on both sides of the swords. I don't know what it is.
Corentin Chamboredon, 17 May 2005

Last year I had found a good picture of the Tibetan resistance flag, which show two blue crossed swords on a yellow field, but I had once seen another version of it with animals in the corners. And today, I found it! This a photograph showing Tibetan resisters during the 50's. The flag they display is still yellow with two swords, one of them being in fire. The animals are: on the upper fly, perhaps a tiger (or a mythical animal that I don't know) and the famous snow lion on the upper hoist. A dragon with clouds in the lower fly and a garuda in the lower hoist. The hoist is on right and there is a khatag on it. The original page is at:
Corentin Chamboredon, 26 June 2005

I found new information in Buddha's Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Communist Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet by Mikel Dunham.

Chapter VI explains that in 1957 the founder of the group, Gompo Tashi Andrugtsang (a rich khampa trader), had called several leaders of the Tibetan resistance together in his home. After having chosen their name, the participants created a new flag. "On a yellow field, two drawn and crossed swords, one of them burning."

The yellow field is the color of their religion, Buddhism, and represent their will to protect it from the Chinese. The burning sword is Manjushri's weapon (he is the bodhisattva of Wisdom), who destroy the roots of ignorance. Ignorance is seen as the origin of communism. The drawn sword shows the bravery of Khampas warriors and their hereditary legacy: it is the only weapon they can make by themselves.
Corentin Chamboredon, 23 March 2007


[Bathang flag]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 23 March 2007

This second flag appears in Dunham's book Buddha's Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Communist Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet (in black and white) and in Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother's Story by Diki Tsering (in color). It is the same flag with red Tibetan script on it, and four mythical animals on the corners (a tiger, a snow lion, a garuda and a dragon). Dunham describes it as the regimental flag of Bathang, but a Tibetan-speaker translated the text for me. The text is Jha (on the left) and Lithang (right). It might rather be the Lithang regiment. Jha is the Tibetan name of the crane. These words could refer to a famous old poem written by the VIth Dalai lama, who could refer to the place of his future incarnation (Lithang) when he was taken away to China by Mongol soldiers.

White crane!
Lend me your wings
I will not fly far
From Lithang, I shall return

Corentin Chamboredon, 23 March 2007