The flag of South Vietnam served as the South Vietnamese national flag during that country's existence between 1948 and 1975. The flag, being of a defunct state, is no longer officially used in Vietnam today, but is still shown and used overseas by many Vietnamese expatriates, particularly those residing in North America.

The flag was originally inspired by Emperor Thành Thái in 1890,[1] and was revived by Lê Văn Đệ and re-adopted by Emperor Bảo Đại in 1948.[2] It was the flag of the former State of Vietnam (the French-controlled areas in both Northern and Southern Vietnam) from 1949 to 1955, and later of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) up until 1975, after the fall of Saigon. The flag consists of a yellow field and three horizontal red stripes and can be explained as either symbolising the unifying blood running through northern, central, and southern Vietnam, or as representing the symbol for "south" (as in, south from China (Vietnam itself) and also nam meaning south), in Daoist trigrams.

Although the South Vietnamese state ceased to exist in 1975, today the South Vietnamese flag still finds use among private citizens in other countries. Many Vietnamese expatriates (Viet Kieu), particularly former South Vietnamese citizens who fled Vietnam in the late 1970s and 1980s as Boat People, consider the current Vietnamese flag offensive as they see it as being representative of the socialist regime they opposed and fled.[3] From June 2002 onward, in the United States, at least 13 U.S. state governments, seven counties and 85 cities in 20 states have adopted resolutions recognizing the yellow flag as the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag.[4][5][6][7] In contemporary Vietnam, attempts to display this flag had resulted in prosecutions for "propaganda against the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam".[8]



Vietnamese expatriates parading with the South Vietnamese flag during Tet festivities in a North American Little Saigon.
A South Vietnamese flag being flown over a Buddhist temple in the U.S. state of Illinois, alongside the U.S. flag.

During the reign of Emperor Gia Long (1802–1820), the yellow flag was also used as the symbol of the Empire of Vietnam. This was continued as the Emperor's flag when the Court of Hue became a French protectorate.

In 1890, the Emperor Thành Thái issued a decree, adopting the yellow flag with three red stripes for the first time as the national flag (Đại Nam (National Flag) 1890-1920). Some claim this flag (called The Yellow Flag for short) is the first true "national flag" of the Vietnamese people for it reflects the aspiration and hope of the people, not just the emperors, for independence and unification of the Viet nation.[2][9][10] The meaning and design of Thành Thái's flag and artist Lê Văn Đệ's flag are almost the same – gold background with 3 horizontal red stripes across the center representing Vietnam's 3 geographic & cultural regions (Northern, Central, and Southern), but Thành Thái's flag had stripes which are lighter red and wider.[2]

After the deportation and exile of the Emperors Thành Thái and Duy Tân, the new pro-French puppet king Khải Định chose to change the imperial flag, replacing the three strips which signified the three regions of Vietnam (North, Central, and South) with a single horizontal band of red. Formally known as the "Long Tinh", the flag was the official flag of the Nguyễn Court.

In 1945 with the French ousted by Japan, Prime Minister Trần Trọng Kim of the newly restored Empire of Vietnam adopted another variant of the yellow flag. It included three red bands but the middle band was broken to form the Quẻ Ly Flag. Derived from the trigrams, Quẻ Ly is the sixth of the Bát Quái (the Eight Trigrams – (Ba gua) in I Ching): Càn, Khâm, Cấn, Chấn, Tốn, Ly, Khôn, Đoài. It was chosen to symbolize the sun, fire, light, and civilization. And most importantly, it represents the southern lands, that is Vietnam. This flag was used briefly from June to August 1945 when Emperor Bảo Đại abdicated.

On 2 June 1948, the Chief of the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam, Brigadier General Nguyen Van Xuan, signed the decree with the specifications for the Vietnamese National Flag as follows: "The national emblem is a flag of yellow background, the height of which is equal to two-thirds of its width. In the middle of the flag and along its entire width, there are three horizontal red bands. Each band has a height equal to one-fifteenth of the width. These three red bands are separated from one another by a space of the band's height." When the former Emperor Bảo Đại was made chief of state in 1949, this design was adopted as the flag of the State of Vietnam.

The three red bands have the divination sign of Quẻ Càn (乾), the first of the Eight Trigrams mentioned above. Quẻ Càn represents heaven. Based on the traditional worldview of the Vietnamese people, Quẻ Càn also denotes the South, the Vietnamese Nation, Vietnamese people, and the people's power. Another interpretation places the three red bands as symbols of the three regions of Vietnam: North, Central, and South.

With the foundation of the republic in 1955, the flag was adopted by the successor state, the Republic of Vietnam (more commonly known as South Vietnam). It was the national flag for the entire duration of that state's existence (1955–1975) from the First Republic to the Second Republic. With the capitulation of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the Republic of Vietnam came to an end and the flag ceased to exist as a state symbol. Afterwards, it has been adopted by many in the Vietnamese diaspora to symbolically distance themselves from the Communist government and continues to be used either as an alternative symbol for ethnic unity or as a protest tool against the current government.

Political significance

Vietnamese-American Heritage flag displayed along El Cajon Blvd, San Diego in commemoration of April 2010

The flag of the former South Vietnam (also used under Emperor Thành Thái) remains highly controversial, particularly in the case of Vietnamese Americans, Vietnamese Australians, and other Vietnamese around the world who fled Vietnam after the war, who call it the "Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag."

Displaying this flag in public in Vietnam have resulted in prosecutions for propaganda against the state.[8]

In the United States, few Vietnamese expatriates use the current flag of Vietnam,[11] which many of them consider offensive. Instead, they prefer to use the flag of South Vietnam in its place. The same is true for Vietnamese Canadians in Canada, Vietnamese Germans in western Germany, for Vietnamese in the Netherlands, France and Norway, and for Vietnamese Australians in Australia.

  • In 1965, the South Vietnamese flag's design was incorporated into the Vietnam Service Medal which was created by President Lyndon Johnson and designed by Thomas Hudson Jones and Mercedes Lee.
  • When a Vietnamese American video tape store owner displayed the current flag of Vietnam and a photo of Ho Chi Minh in front of his store in Westminster, California, in 1999, a month-long protest against it climaxed when 15,000 people held a candlelight vigil one night, sparking the Hitek Incident (Hitek was the name of the store).[12]
  • A faux pas by the United States Postal Service in using the current Vietnamese flag in a brochure to represent the Vietnamese American community that it serves caused outrage among Vietnamese Americans and resulted in an apology.
  • In 2004, many Vietnamese American students at the California State University, Fullerton threatened to walk out on their graduation ceremony when the university chose to use the current flag of Vietnam to represent its Vietnamese students. The Vietnamese American students demanded that the university use the former flag of South Vietnam instead. This resulted in the university scrapping all foreign flags for the ceremony.
  • In 2006, Vietnamese-American students at the University of Texas at Arlington protested against the use of the Vietnamese flag in the Hall of Flags in Nedderman Hall and the exclusion of the South Vietnamese flag at a cultural diversity show during International Week.[13] After weeks of protests, the university decided to scrap all flags from the display.
  • During World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, tensions flared between the 800 Vietnamese pilgrims who used the flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the 2300 Vietnamese Australians pilgrims who used the Republic of Vietnam flag.[14]
  • In 2008, many protested against Nguoi Viet Daily News, a Vietnamese-language newspaper in Orange County, California, for publishing a photograph of an art installation[15] depicting a foot spa bearing the colors of the flag.[16]
  • In October 2014, the Vietnamese Student Association chapter at the University of Arizona discovered that the University had removed the South Vietnamese flag from the campus bookstore's Flag Display (which includes flags from all over the world to celebrate the diversity found among students). Afterwards, the VSA chapter launched an online petition in protest to the decision.[17] The University then responded and explained that the removal was due to a misunderstanding amongst the staff. It then apologized and promised to reinstall the flag afterwards.
  • From 2002 onward, the lobbying efforts of Vietnamese Americans resulted in the state governments of Virginia, Hawaii, Georgia, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma,[6] Louisiana,[18] Ohio,[19] California,[20] Missouri,[21] Pennsylvania,[22] and Michigan[23] recognizing it as the symbol of the Vietnamese American Community. Also, at least 15 counties and 85 cities in 20 states have also adopted similar resolutions.[5][7]
  • In 2015 in Australia, both the Maribyrnong City Council and the Greater Dandenong City Council passed motions recognising the "Co Vang" Vietnamese Heritage Flag.[24][25]

Colors and dimensions


Scheme Yellow Red
Pantone Yellow 116[citation needed] Red 032[citation needed]
CMYK[citation needed][citation needed]
RGB (255,255,0)[citation needed] (250,60,50)[citation needed]
Hex triplet #FFFF00[citation needed] #EF4135[citation needed]
NCS S 0570 G70Y[citation needed] S 0580 Y80R[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ Dang, Thanh Thuy Vo (2008). Anticommunism as cultural praxis: South Vietnam, War, and Refugee Memories in the Vietnamese American Community. San Diego, California. Retrieved 2011-03-28. The three stripes represent the three distinct regions of Vietnam, connecting the geographically separated 'yellow-skinned' Vietnamese by the same red blood. The yellow flag originated during the rule of Vietnam's Emperor Thành Thái (1890) of the Nguyễn dynasty. 
  2. ^ a b c d Chế độ Cộng sản Việt Nam (2013-06-04). "Tìm lại những lá cờ hoàng gia xưa ở Việt Nam". Kỷ vật lịch sử. Cuộc vận động Sưu tầm và Tuyên truyền Kỷ vật lịch sử Công an Nhân dân. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2014-09-25. 
  3. ^ "The Other Vietnamese Flag - Asian Recipes". asiarecipe.com. 
  4. ^ Do, Anh Do, By Anh. "Nearly 40 years after war's end, flag of South Vietnam endures". latimes.com. 
  5. ^ a b States and Localities Recognizing the Vietnamese Freedom and Heritage Flag Archived May 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b Quoc Ky Vietnam: A Map and List of state and city legislation recognizing the Freedom and Heritage Flag Retrieved 2013-8-7
  7. ^ a b Vietnamese American Television: List of states and cities that recognize the Vietnam Freedom and Heritage Flag Retrieved 2013-8-7
  8. ^ a b Tây Thành (2013-05-16). "Nguyễn Phương Uyên bị phạt 6 năm tù, Đinh Nguyên Kha 10 năm tù". Thanh Niên. Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  9. ^ Cahoon, Ben. "Vietnam". www.worldstatesmen.org. 
  10. ^ The National Flag of Viet Nam: Its Origin and Legitimacy or in Vietbao.com or in PDF Archived May 12, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Christian Collet, Pei-te Lien (2009). The transnational politics of Asian Americans. Temple University Press. p. 67. 
  12. ^ KOCE, Saigon, USA, 2004
  13. ^ A.J. Eaton (2006-04-20). "Protests will last until finals week". The Shorthorn Online. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  14. ^ David Ramli (2008-07-15). "Vietnamese Flag Choice Sparks Ideological Debate". Special Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  15. ^ "art installation". 
  16. ^ My-Thuan Tran (2008-02-12). "Vietnamese Americans protest published photo". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  17. ^ "HELP GET OUR FLAG BACK!". 2014-10-02. Retrieved 2016-08-19. 
  18. ^ Louisiana Legislature. "RS 49:153.3". Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  19. ^ Ohio Legislature, 126 SB 114
  20. ^ Office of the Governor, Executive Order S-14-06
  21. ^ Missouri Legislature, HCR0026I
  22. ^ Pennsylvania Legislature, HR 863
  23. ^ Michigan Legislature, Resolution No. SR148 and HR16
  24. ^ "Maribyrnong to allow flying of former South Vietnam flag". News. Retrieved 2015-12-15. 
  25. ^ "Recognition of the Vietnamese Heritage Flag by Greater Dandenong City Council". SBS Your Language. Retrieved 2015-12-15. 

External links

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