Tug (banner)

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A banner flown in Sükhbaatar Square, Ulaanbaatar
A 19th century Ottoman tugh

A tug (Mongolian: туг [tʰʊɡ], Turkish: tuğ, Ottoman Turkish: طوغ ṭuġ or توغ tuġ, Old Turkic: 𐱃𐰆𐰍, romanized: tuğ) or sulde (Mongolian: сүлд), (Tibetan: བ་དན) is a pole with circularly arranged horse or yak tail hairs of varying colors arranged at the top. It was historically flown by Turkic tribes such as Tuğluğ Confederation[2] and also during the period of the Mongol Empire, and later used in derived Turco-Mongol khanates. It was also used by the Ottoman Empire, a state which was founded by Turkic Oghuz tribes.[3] In the 17th century, it was also adopted by Slavic cavalry (cossacks, haidamaka), under the name bunchuk (Ukrainian: Бунчук, Polish: Buńczuk) which is the reflection of the original Turkic word boncuk. It is still used by some units of the Polish military.[4]


Early history[edit]

The Turkic word tu:ğ, for traditional Turkic standards made from horse-tails or bunches of horse-hair, was borrowed from Middle Chinese *dok 纛 "banner, standard" (whence also standard Chinese ).[5] Chinese observers stated that Göktürks displayed a tuğ decorated with a wolf's head at their camp's gate in order not to forget their origin from a she-wolf ancestress.[6][7] A Western Turkic tribal confederation, the Duolu, was possibly named after tuğ, if Old Turkic Tuğluğ (𐱃𐰆𐰍𐰞𐰍), which means "have flags (banners), have standards", indeed underlay various Chinese transcriptions.[8] It was also used by Mongolic tribes too. The white-haired banner is used as a peacetime symbol, while the black banner was for wartime. Usage of the horse tail is symbolic because horses were central to the Mongols' livelihood. This is similar to the use of horse tail hairs for the morin khuur.

The original white banner disappeared early in history, but the black one survived as the repository of Genghis Khan's soul. The Mongols continued to honor the banner, and Zanabazar (1635–1723) built a monastery with the special mission of flying and protecting the black banner in the 17th century.[9] Around 1937, the black banner disappeared amidst the great purges of the nationalists, monks and intellectuals, and the destruction of monasteries.

Modern era[edit]

The Nine White banners[edit]

The Nine White banners came into renewed significance in Mongolia after democracy was adopted in the early 1990s as a symbol of the traditional Mongolian state, replacing the previous communist red flags.

The state banner flown by the Mongols, the Есөн хөлт цагаан туг, (Yesön Khölt tsagaan tug, 'Nine Base White Banners)', is composed of nine flag poles decorated with white horse tail hairs hanging from a round surface with a flame or trident-like shape on the top. The Nine White Banners was a peacetime emblem used exclusively by the Khans in front of their yurt. The central banner is larger in size than the rest and is placed in the center of the other eight. The modern Mongolian nine white banners are kept in the Government Palace in Ulaanbaatar. On National Pride Day, a traditional ceremony for the Nine White Banners is held.[10]

Black banners[edit]

The Dörvön khölt khar sulde[11][12] (Дөрвөн хөлт хар сүлд) or the lit.'Four Base Black Banners' was used in wartime. It is made of black horse tail hairs and flown in the same fashion. According to the illustrated Japanese chronicle Mōko Shūrai Ekotoba, the banner of the Mongolian Yuan fleet that invaded Japan was black. The modern Mongolian black banners are kept in the Ministry of Defense.

Tugs in the Mongolian military[edit]

Within the Mongolian Armed Forces, the black tug is used as the finial in military colours' flagpoles, while the white tug is used by the Mongolian State Honor Guard and is the finial in the colours of the civil security services.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boeheim (1890), pp. 510, 511
  2. ^ Kenzheakhmet, Nurlan. Ethnonyms and Toponyms of the Old Turkic Inscriptions in Chinese sources. Studia et Documenta Turcologica. pp. 302–304.
  3. ^ Довідник з історії України. За ред. І. Підкови та Р. Шуста. — Київ: Генеза, 1993.
  4. ^ Бунчук // Энциклопедический словарь Ф.А. Брокгауза и И.А. Ефрона
  5. ^ Clauson, Gerard (1972). An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-13th Century Turkish. Oxford University Press. p. 464
  6. ^ Zhoushu vol. 50. quote: "旗纛之上,施金狼頭。侍衞之士,謂之附離,夏言亦狼也。蓋本狼生,志不忘舊。"
  7. ^ Suishu vol. 84 quote: "故牙門建狼頭纛,示不忘本也。"
  8. ^ Kenzheakhmet, Nurlan. Ethnonyms and Toponyms of the Old Turkic Inscriptions in Chinese sources. Studia et Documenta Turcologica. pp. 302–304.
  9. ^ Jack Weatherford Genghis Khan, p.XVI
  10. ^ "Symbol of Peace and Eternity, the Nine White Banners". MONTSAME News Agency. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  11. ^ Монгол Улсын бүх цэргийн хар сүлдний товч танилцуулга
  12. ^ "WWW.MEDEELEL.MN". medeelel.mn. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  • Boeheim, Wendelin (1890). Handbuch der Waffenkunde: Das Waffenwesen in seiner historischen Entwickelung vom Beginn des Mittelalters bis zum Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts. E. A. Seemann, Leipzig. [1]
  • William Erskine. A history of India under the two first sovereigns of the house of Taimur, Báber and Humáyun. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1854. Pg 265. [2]
  • Zdzislaw Zygulski, Ottoman Art in the Service of Empire, Hagop Kevorkian Series on Near Eastern Art & Civilization, New York University Press (1992).

External links[edit]