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Shanghai International Settlement

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[Shanghai international settlement]
Zeljko Heimer and Antonio Martins

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Flag of the Shanghai international settlement

There were three municipalities in Shanghai. The international settlement, represented by the flag above, was governed by a municipal council elected by the acceptable foreign, and later Chinese, ratepayers. France ended its special status in 1946 in exchange for the Chinese evacuation of the northern parts of Vietnam
Phil Abbey, 28 October 1997

Origins of the flag

Some time ago I shared with this group the flag used by the International Settlement at Shanghai. The following link describes it in full. For those with weak web access I have included the text.


From the North China Herald, July 8, 1916

The following notes from a correspondent of antiquarian tastes will be of interest to many who have wondered how the Municipal Seal came into existence.

The Municipal Seal at present in use was designed by Mr. Oliver, the then Municipal Engineer, was approved by the Council in December, 1868 and brought into use in April, 1869.

At that time 11 countries had treaties with China. These, in the order of the dates of their treaties, are as follows: Russia, Great Britain, America, France, Belgium, Sweden and Norway, Germany (i.e. Prussia), Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Italy.

With the exception of Belgium the flags of all these countries are included, whereas Austria and Portugal are represented, although they apparently had no treaties.

The flags represented are as follows:

Top left hand shield: Great Britain, America, France, Germany.

Top right hand shield: Russia, Denmark, Italy, Portugal.

Lower Shield: Norway and Sweden, Austria, Spain, Holland.

Countries having treaties with China but whose flags are not represented on the shield are: Belgium, Japan, Cuba, Brazil.

There is a considerable amount of contortion of the flags although this is apparently unavoidable. This can only be detected by noting from which side each flag is supposed to be hung. The system adopted has been that, looking from the centre, the flag pole is supposed to be on the left of the flag.

There was a considerable amount of objection to the design of the seal, and in 1870 Mr. Oliver prepared another in the form of a Shield with four quarters showing a railway train opposite a pagoda, a steamer opposite to a junk, and the word "Priress" underneath. This together with a heterogeneous assortment of other designs was exhibited, but at the Ratepayers Meeting which followed it was agreed that none of the new designs proved entirely satisfactory, and, on the motion of Mr. T. W. Kingsmill, it was decided that "the present seal shall remain as the common seal of the Council until the production of a more satisfactory design."

In 1895 Mr. Mayne pointed out that the council of the seal is faulty, but the Council decided that as it had been in use so long no change was desirable.

Phil Abbey, 15 November 1998

My father (now 80 yrs.) and step mom were both residents of the Shanghai International Settlement during the Japanese occupation years. He has a slightly different version of the municipal seal used on the flag, one that is missing the German flag and is simply a white space where the flag would have been. He tells me this modification was a protest against the German European aggression of the time. He has more information regarding this, as the seal was used on other items such as school tie pins and probably the school flag, too. The area schools were not co-educational, so the girls school may well have a different but similar flag design.
Andy Kliene, 5 December 2000

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