LEARN ABOUT THE UNIQUE TRADITION OF HERALDRY
True heraldry, as now generally understood, has its roots in medieval Europe. However, there have been other historical cultures which have used symbols and emblems to represent families or individuals, and in some cases these symbols have been adopted into Western heraldry. For example, the coat of arms of the Ottoman Empire incorporated the royal tughra as part of its crest, along with such traditional Western heraldic elements as the escutcheon and the compartment.
Mon (紋), also monshō (紋章), mondokoro (紋所), and kamon (家紋), are Japanese emblems used to decorate and identify an individual or family. While mon is an encompassing term that may refer to any such device, kamon and mondokoro refer specifically to emblems used to identify a family.[further explanation needed] An authoritative mon reference compiles Japan’s 241 general categories of mon based on structural resemblance (a single mon may belong to multiple categories), with 5116 distinct individual mon (it is however well acknowledged that there exist lost or obscure mon that are not in this compilation).
The devices are similar to the badges and coats of arms in European heraldic tradition, which likewise are used to identify individuals and families. Mon are often referred to as crests in Western literature, another European heraldic device similar to the mon in function.
Japanese helmets (kabuto) also incorporated elements similar to crests, called datemono, which helped identify the wearer while they were concealed by armour. These devices sometimes incorporated mon, and some figures, like Date Masamune, were well-known for their helmet designs.
Communist states often followed a unique style characterized by communist symbolism. Although commonly called coats of arms, most such devices are not actually coats of arms in the traditional heraldic sense and should therefore, in a strict sense, not be called arms at all. Many communist governments purposely diverged from the traditional forms of European heraldry in order to distance themselves from the monarchies that they usually replaced, with actual coats of arms being seen as symbols of the monarchs.
The Soviet Union was the first state to use this type of emblem, beginning at its creation in 1922. The style became more widespread after World War II, when many other communist states were established. Even a few non-socialist states have adopted the style, for various reasons—usually because communists had helped them to gain independence—but also when no apparent connection to a Communist nation exists, such as the emblem of Italy. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the other communist states in Eastern Europe in 1989–1991, this style of heraldry was often abandoned for the old heraldic practices, with many (but not all) of the new governments reinstating the traditional heraldry that was previously cast aside.
A tamga or tamgha “stamp, seal” (Mongolian: тамга, Turkic: tamga) is an abstract seal or stamp used by Eurasian nomadic peoples and by cultures influenced by them. The tamga was normally the emblem of a particular tribe, clan or family. They were common among the Eurasian nomads throughout Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages (including Alans, Mongols, Sarmatians, Scythians and Turkic peoples). Similar “tamga-like” symbols were sometimes also adopted by sedentary peoples adjacent to the Pontic-Caspian steppe both in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, such as the East Slavs, whose ancient royal symbols are sometimes referred to as “tamgas” and have similar appearance.
Unlike European coats of arms, tamgas were not always inherited, and could stand for families or clans (for example, when denoting territory, livestock, or religious items) as well as for specific individuals (such as when used for weapons, or for royal seals). One could also adopt the tamga of one’s master or ruler, therefore signifying said master’s patronage. Outside of denoting ownership, tamgas also possessed religious significance, and were used as talismans to protect one from curses (it was believed that, as symbols of family, tamgas embodied the power of one’s heritage). Tamgas depicted geometric shapes, images of animals, items, or glyphs. As they were usually inscribed using heavy and unwieldy instruments, such as knives or brands, and on different surfaces (meaning that their appearance could vary somewhat), tamgas were always simple and stylised, and needed to be laconic and easily recognisable.
Every sultan of the Ottoman Empire had his own monogram, called the tughra, which served as a royal symbol. A coat of arms in the European heraldic sense was created in the late 19th century. Hampton Court requested from Ottoman Empire the coat of arms to be included in their collection. As the coat of arms had not been previously used in Ottoman Empire, it was designed after this request and the final design was adopted by Sultan Abdul Hamid II on April 17, 1882. It included two flags: the flag of the Ottoman Dynasty, which had a crescent and a star on red base, and the flag of the Islamic Caliph, which had three crescents on a green base.
Aetas dulcissima adulescentia est