The flag of Tibet, also known as the snow lion flag, was introduced by the 13th Dalai Lama using the design motif of Japanese military flags - a rising sun surrounded by sun-rays - as the background.
Exactly when the flag was introduced is unknown. It was used as the Tibetan army flag in Tibet at least until 1959. Later, it became a symbol of the Tibetan independence movement.
The official site of the government-in-exile of Tibet explains the significance of the flag as follows:
* In the centre stands a magnificent thickly snow clad mountain, which represents the great nation of Tibet, widely known as the Land Surrounded by Snow Mountains.
* Across the dark blue sky six red bands spread representing the original ancestors of the Tibetan people: the six tribes called Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and Ra which in turn gave the [twelve] descendants. The combination of six red bands (for the tribes) and six dark blue bands for the sky represents the incessant enactment of the virtuous deeds of protection of the spiritual teachings and secular life by the black and red guardian protector deities with which Tibet has had connection for a very long time.
* At the tip of the snow mountain, the sun with its rays brilliantly shining in all directions represents the equal enjoyment of freedom, spiritual and material happiness and prosperity by all beings in the land of Tibet.
* On the slopes of the mountain there proudly stand a pair of snow lions blazing with the manes of fearlessness, which represent the country's victorious accomplishment of a unified spiritual and secular life.
* The beautiful and radiant three coloured jewel held aloft represents the ever-present reverence respectfully held by the Tibetan people towards the Three Supreme Jewels (the Buddhist objects of refuge: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha).
* The two coloured swirling jewel held between the two lions represents the peoples' guarding and cherishing the self discipline of correct ethical behaviour, principally represented by the practices of the ten exalted virtues and the 16 humane modes of conduct. The swirling jewel coincidentally shares some appearance resemblance with the yin and yang symbol from Taoism.
* The surrounding border of yellow adorning the perimeter represents the spread and flourishing in all directions and times of the purified gold-like teachings of the Buddha.
* Furthermore, the side without a yellow border represents Tibet's openness to non-Buddhist thought.