The banners had hierarchical structure. The minimum unit was niru (or 佐領 zuoling in Chinese; 300 men). The next was jalan (or 參領 canling; 5 niru) and 5 jalan consisted a gūsa (banner). Of course, these were ideal numbers and their actual sizes varied substantially.
|Plain Yellow Banner||gulu suwayan i gūsa||正黃旗 zhenghuangqi||Right||Upper|
|Bordered Yellow Banner||kubuhe suwayan i gūsa||鑲黃旗 xianghuangqi||Left||Upper|
|Plain White Banner||gulu šanggiyan i gūsa||正白旗 zhengbaiqi||Left||Upper|
|Bordered White Banner||kubuhe šanggiyan i gūsa||鑲白旗 xiangbaiqi||Left||Lower|
|Plain Red Banner||gulu fulgiyan i gūsa||正紅旗 zhenghongqi||Right||Lower|
|Bordered Red Banner||kubuhe fulgiyan i gūsa||鑲紅旗 xianghongqi||Right||Lower|
|Plain Blue Banner||gulu lamun i gūsa||正藍旗 zhenglanqi||Left||Lower|
|Bordered Blue Banner||kubuhe lamun i gūsa||鑲藍旗 xianglanqi||Right||Lower|
Although the banners were instrumental in the Qing Empire takeover of China in the 17th century from the Ming Empire, they began to atrophy in the 18th century, and were militarily useless by the 19th century. The Banners proved unable to either defeat Western powers such as Britain in the Opium Wars nor were they able to defend the dynasty against internal revolts such as the Taiping Rebellion.
By the late 19th century, the Qing Dynasty began training and creating New Army units based on Western training, equipment, and organization. Nevertheless, the banners remained in existence as a military force (albeit an ineffective one) until the fall of the Qing in 1911.
Each banner had sumun as nominal subdivisions, which also means arrow. In southern Mongolia, several banners made up a league (chuulghan; 盟 meng). In the rest, including northern Mongolia, northern Xinjiang and Qinghai, ayimagh was the largest administrative division. While it restricted the Mongols from crossing banner border, the dynasty protected Mongolia from population pressure from China.