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Hóng : Hung : vast (flood). Mén : gate, door, family, sect, &.28
The Chinese Freemasons' history stretches back to mid-seventeenth century secret societies in Southern China.
Myths of the Hongmen
Ming restoration?
Xi Lu Legend
Triads and Tongs
What about Freemasonry?
Chee Kung Tong in B.C.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Hongmen
Chinese Freemasons today
The sodality of Freemasonry that evolved out of the European Enlightenment bears no resemblance, other than the name, to another society—one that finds its origins in Southern China. Styling itself in English as The Chinese Freemasons, this body might be better termed the Vast Family (Hongmen) or Hall of Universal Justice (Chee Kong Tong).
THE STUDY OF the early history of Chinese secular and religious societies—once obscured by conflicting legends and politically motivated myth-making—has been greatly aided by the opening of the National Palace Museum Archives in Taipei and the First Historical Archives in Beijing in 1978. The resulting wealth of information has clearly demonstrated that at least two previously held beliefs about these societies are entirely wrong.
Dispelling the myths
Hui kuài : Meet, meeting, union, society
Before the Chinese Freemasons was a mutual aid society and the Kuomintang (Quo Min Tong) of Taiwan was a political party, there was the Hung Moon (Hongmen) and the Chee Kung Tong. Before them was the Tiandihui. And before that... there was a legend.
There are two principal mistaken beliefs about the Tiandihui, the claimed predecessor to the Hongmen. The first, that it originated in Shaolin Temple, dates from its earliest history. The second, that the Tiandihui was either anti-Manchu or proto-revolutionary, can be credited to Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his fellow revolutionaries in the years leading up to the Xinhai Revolution, (1911/10/10-1912/02/12). There is also a third belief—easily dispelled— that there is a connection or common source between these mutual aid societies and regular Freemasonry.
Before the Tiandihui
The Qing had captured Beijing in 1644, and numerous sworn brotherhoods (jiebai xiongdi)—acting in open struggle rather than as secret societies—continued armed resistance for a generation. Outlawed, these groups were small, independent, and without formal names, ceremonies or traditions.
The first phase in the development of Chinese secret societies is represented by rudimentary gatherings of small numbers of people during the Kangxi era (1662-1722). These societies, like the earlier sworn brotherhoods, were perhaps inspired by Romance of Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi) and Outlaws of the Marsh (Shuihuzhuan): romantic tales depicting sworn brotherhoods and blood oaths.
During the Yongzheng era (1723-1735), these brotherhoods gave way to societies known as hui, formed for the purpose of mutual aid. Still outlawed, they began to acquire formal names such as the Father-Mother Society in Fumuhui in 1728. Only fifteen or sixteen such societies appear on archival records before 1755. Ming Restoration was not mentioned in connection with any of them.1
The Tiandihui
Tiandihui : Heaven and Earth Society
It is now generally accepted that the Tiendihui (Heaven and Earth Society)—one of almost 200 groups that sprung up after 1755—was founded sometime in 1761 at Guanyinting (Goddess of Mercy pavilion), Gaoxi township, in Zhangpu county, Zhangshui prefecture, Fujian Province, by Ti Xi, whose real name was Zheg Kai (d. 1779 aged 68).
Tiandihui literally means the society, hui, of the heaven, tian, and the earth, di. The practice of its members was to address heaven as their father and earth as their mother. There is also some suggestion that the Tiandihui had a close connection with the expansion of the Taoist religion.2 The Tiandihui can be considered a form of poor man's huiguan, or native-place association, for China's declassé migrants. The Huiguan traditionally provided meeting grounds, lodging, financial assistance and some regulation of trade to the financially stable elements of society, often under a formal corporate organization that managed communal property. In the case of the Tiandihui, both the founders and members came from the lowest and most marginal ranks of Chinese society, preoccupied with the issue of survival. The motive for rebellion was not political gain but personal profit, at a time when armed robbery and petty piracy were time-honoured survival strategies.3
Chinese name characters contain multiple levels of significance. The attempted assassination of Liu Bang, at the Hongmen Banquet (211 BCE), was immortalized in Romance of Three Kingdoms, an inspiration for early sworn brotherhoods. In this instance Hong signifies swan, goose or grand. The assassination attempt was disguised as a sword dance, swordplay being one of the "three uniques" of the Tang Dynasty.
The first Tiendihui uprising of 30 April 1768, when about eighty men attacked the western gate of Zhangpu, led to the Qing subsequently arresting 365 accused members. The records of confessions fail to mention Ti Xi or Teindihui by name. A second uprising the following year had similar results. Motivated by rebellion and self-interest, by 1786 the Teindihui had ceased to be exclusively a product of a mobile alien migrant population but had became assimilated into indigenous communities for mutual aid, collective violence and rebellion. Feuding was also frequently a local motivation.
The Lin Shuangwen affair in Taiwan, sparked by a family feud started on 17 January 1787, occupying Zhanghua, Fengshan and Zhuluo and, lasting for almost a year, first brought the society to the attention of the Qing authorities. From Qing records we read of initiates sacrificing a cock before an incense altar, swearing their brotherhood in blood, crawling under crossed swords, and taking an oath.4 Later reports included mixing chicken or cock blood with wine or ash, and sometimes blood from the initiate's middle finger, and swallowing it.
It should be noted that anti-Manchu rhetoric, slogans or confessions are noticeably absent from any uprisings throughout this period, as are any mention of Zheng Chenggong, or evidence of the Xi Lu Legend.5
"At the end of the eighteenth century the Tiendihui, at least as far as we now know from the documents at hand, was quite unlike the White Lotus or other religious sects whose customs and beliefs were grounded in sutras or scriptures. It's branches tended to spring up spontaneously, formed by leaders who were themselves often confused about the nature of their undertaking."6
The importance of three
Sanhehui : San Hop Hwai :Three Harmonies Society
The Sanhehui (Three Harmonies Society), founded on 4 January 1812 by Yan Guiqiu as a mutual aid society in Guangdong province, and the Sandianhui (Three Dots Society) were just two whose names echoed the number three. In 1833 Li Jiangsi told Li Kui that the Three Dots Society was originally the Increase Brothers Society, which was called the Sanhehui (Three Unities or Triad Society). These, and many other groups, lead uprisings ranging from armies of a reported 2,000 to gangs of less than a dozen, motivated generally by hopes of personal profit. There was no centralized leadership or planning to any of these groups, or their uprisings.
Independent of purpose and action, these groups shared a common blood oath, password and phrase: "Kaikou buliben; chushou bulisan". The significance of the number three was stressed by the password "three, eight, twenty-one" (sanba nianyi) which had replaced the earlier password "five dot twenty-one".
It is the commonality of threes in the various societies names that led English administrators to label the societies Triads. Many of the tongs or hui being little more than criminal gangs, few English or Chinese administrators distinguished between the criminal groups and the mutual benefit societies. Depending on the economic climate, the distinction may have been moot.
Ming restoration?
The first written evidence of Ming restorationism dates from 1800 when the phrase "Restore the Ming House" was part of an oath taken by members of Qiu Daqin's Tiandihui society in Guangdong. In 1811 Huang Biao changed his name to Zhu Biao, claiming to be a scion of the Ming dynasty, but like earlier slogans, this was more a rallying cry than a goal. Ma Shaotang's 1831 poem : "When the red flag is unfurled, the heroes will come, sons of Heaven from outside will come to restore the Ming dynasty" had an emotional appeal but was not backed by any concrete programme.
"Histories that espouse Ming Loyalism as the raison d'être of the Tiendihui tend to be based on internally generated sources and, in particular, on its creation myth, the "Xi Lu Legend."7
The Tiandihui was not visibly anti-Manchu at the time of its founding, with their slogan "Obey Heaven and follow the Way" being a time-honoured expression unrelated to rebellion. Two existing documents, an oath and a register dating from 1787, make no reference to the Ming but do refer to the fictional heroes of the Peach Garden from Romance of Three Kingdoms.
Between 4 September and 15 October 1802 the first Tiendihui uprising took place in Guangdong, lead by an Increase Brothers Society leader named Chen Lanjisi (1776-1802). This uprising inspired further uprisings, robberies and reprisals. Liangguang Governor-general Ruan Yuan wrote in 1811 : "Their intention is only to obtain wealth to use; they are not plotters of illegalities [rebellion], but their intention to incite good people to rob is a local evil."8 Ming restorationism was equally not a motive for the greater majority of Taiwan uprisings between 1787 and 1862.
In 1802 one of the slogans Chen Lanjisi chose during the Tiandihui uprising in Boluo county was "Obey Heaven, follow the Ming", an obvious evocation of the earlier slogan but meaningless considering that the uprising was centered on a rivalry between Heaven and Earth Societies and the Ox Head Society (Niutouhui), a protective association organized by local landlords and property holders with more in common with the earlier Huiguan. "...the slogan "Fan-Qing fu-Ming" (...support the Ming) that has been so closely linked to much of Tiandihui history seems to have emerged relatively late—in conjunction with the Taiping Rebellion (1850s)." 9
The desire for revenge, protection or gain still seemed to be primary motives. While the main message was mutual aid, the Tiandihui was also a money making enterprise with robbery and extortion as a foundation. This easily began a movement in the late nineteenth-century into organized crime, prostitution, smuggling and gambling.
It was not until the late nineteenth century that a serious effort was undertaken to depict the Tiandihui as ant-Manchu. In 1903 Guangfu Hui member, Tao Chengzhang (T'ao Ch'eng-chang), in his article "Jiaohui yuanliukao" linked the term Hong to the dynastic founder of the Ming, referring to his reign title Hongwu (1368-98). Tao was also the first to impute the society's founding to Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga), also claiming Chen Jinnan as an earlier founder, although the name nowhere appears in the historical record. It was also Tao Chengzhang who divided the popular associations into northern White Lotus religious sects and northern secular Tiandihui.10 Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People (1924) further elaborated on these themes but he was neither a scholar nor historian and relied on the anectodal evidence of society members.
Dr. Sun and his fellow revolutionaries knew that they needed a rallying point for Chinese communities outside China and they intentionally rewrote the Tiandihui history to that purpose. To use the Hongmen, Dr. Sun needed to create an anti-Manchu consciousness by endowing the society with a revolutionary pedigree—contrary to the Xi Lu Legend which was anti-government, not ant-Manchu. The revolutionaries portrayed the Tiandihui as a key element in early Chinese resistance against the Manchus, a romanticized perception that persists to this day.11
Twentieth century research has been plagued by political interests in defending Sun Yat-sen in the 1920s and 1930s, or calls for anti-Japanese resistance in the 1940s, or later, the Guomindang interest in identifying themselves with the Tiandihui in the 1950s. In communist China, research focused on identifying the Tiandihui as proto-revolutionaries engaged in the class struggle.
The Xi Lu Legend
Red Flower Pavilion. Ting : pavilion, stall. Hua : flower. Hóng gong : red, bonus. Note the bat motif, signifying good fortune. (116 Pender St., Vancouver.)
If the anti-Manchu history is unsupported by evidence, what about the history linking the Hongmen to Shaolin Temple? The traditional history, in short, is that the monks of Shaolin temple aided the Emperor to repel some ill-defined Xi Lu barbarians, they refused the offered reward, are accused of plotting rebellion, their temple is destroyed by the Emperor, and only five monks—sometimes named Ng Mui, Jee Shin Shim Shee, Fung Doe Duk, Miu Hin and Bak Mei— survive. The temple is variously described as being in Gansu province, or Jiulian Mountain, with the events taking place in 1647, 1674, 1728 or 1732. The Xi Lu Legend appears to be a merging of at least seven different versions of the story.
This legend may be considered a mythicizing of an historical event in 1641 involving monks of the real Shaolin temple located on Mount Song in Henan province, combined with messianist "Luminous King" traditions dating to the sixth century.
"The five monks then went to different parts of China and formed five "lodges" to plan the overthrow of the Ching Dynasty. The first lodge was responsible for Fujian and Kansu province, the second lodge was responsible for Kwang Tung (Guangdong) and Kwang Si provinces. The third lodge was in charge of Yunan and Szechuan provinces. The fourth lodge was responsible for Hunan and Hupei provinces. The fifth lodge was responsible for Chekiang, Kiangsi and Honam provinces." 12
In the historical epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms Guan Yu, later deified as Kuan Kung (Kwan Cong), swore the Peach Garden Oath with Liu Bei and Zhang Fei: "Though not born on the same day of the same month in the same year, we hope to die so." (116 Pender St., Vancouver.)
In a further conflation of legends regarding the Five Elders—Choi Dakjung, Fong Daaihung, Mah Chiuhing, Wu Dakdai, Lei Sikhoi—one, Fong Daaihung, is said to have founded what was to become the Chinese Freemasons of Canada; one founded what would become the Chee Kong Tong Supreme Lodge Chinese Freemasons of the World, New York, and the Hung Moon Chee Kung Tong in San Francisco. A third group in South America is reported, but the Chinese Freemasons of Canada are said not to recognize them. While the historical veracity of the legends is no longer promoted, there appears to be little interest in exploring the true history.13
Triads and Tongs
Triad is an English word, first applied by Dr. William Milne in 1821, in recognition of the prevalence of the number three in the various societies' names. There being no Chinese word for secret societies, Chinese writers historically referred to sects : jiaomen and political associations : huidang. The word Tong, meaning meeting hall or an interest/family group that meets in a hall, was also common and was similarly adopted.14
Táng : hall, court, cousin.
The various Tiandhihai or Hongmen of the nineteenth century were uncoördinated, highly independent, and certainly not keeping extensive records of their operations. Most of what is known is taken from information collected by government officials—not a sympathetic source. How some of the groups went on to become, or inspire, organized criminal organizations; how some went on to become, or inspire, political parties or ideological movements; and how others evolved into, or maintained their identities as, mutual aid social clubs will not be detailed here.
"There was a clannishness evoking Sicilian omertà, but the spirit of fraternity was by no means universal, and wherever the triad lodges formed themselves, whether in Singapore or San Francisco, they were apt to do so in rival dialect groups. Grouping by dialect was the first and most spontaneous of the characteristics of the overseas Chinese community, and the special sentiment of the emigrants for their home district was reflected in the remarkable network of native-place or dialect associations which they established in all the places in which they settled."29
The point is that the terms Triad and Tong, while generally used to refer to criminal gangs, have a meaning and usage that extends to legitimate organizations.
Other Chinese Freemasons
Bing Kong Tong = to grasp, hold, maintain ; public, common, honorable, just ; hall, large room.
Few of the dozen or more North American tongs survived the tong wars of the 1850s through 1920s in forms other than trade unions or benevolent societies, whatever criminal element involved having been purged. The Bing Kong Tong (Binggong Táng) was one of the powerful Tongs in San Francisco's Chinatown during the early 20th century with branches as far north as Seattle and inland into Arizona and Utah. By the 1930s it had started using the name "Chinese Free Masons" and today many of their buildings remain, displaying the masonic square and compasses or the phrase "Chinese Free Masons".
Is there a link to Freemasonry?
“The metaphorical and symbolic use of the square, compasses, level and plumb rule in early Chinese writings does not demonstrate any early form of Freemasonry or link to the Tiandihui or Hongmen Societies.”
It was again Dr. Milne who started scholars on the search for a masonic connection. The number of freemasons who have taken an interest in the Tiandihui is noteworthy; Carl Glick, J. S. M. Ward and W. G. Stirling being among the more notable nineteenth century researchers. It is to these early researchers that we can assign responsibility for the once widely held belief that there was a common heritage between European Freemasonry and the Tiandihui.15
Based on a superficial similarity in the use of passwords and initiations, and the prevalence of the number three, many theories were proposed regarding a common heritage in some mythological distant past. Such theories soon foundered on the obvious differences, and the even more obvious political or criminal nature of many of the societies.
The common origin theory has long since been disavowed, the few surface similarities more than offset by the equally obvious difference, namely, the ideological gulf that separated Freemasonry from the Tiandihui.
The Hongmen or Chee Kung Tong in British Columbia
Chee (Chi) Kung Tong : Zhi : send, result in, fine, delicate, &. Gong : public, official, general, impartial. Táng : hall, court, cousin.
Following the discovery of gold deposits along the Fraser River, on 18 June 1858 the first group of 300 American Chinese arrived in Victoria on board the Caribbean. By January 1860, nearly 1,200 Chinese settlers and fortune hunters had passed through Victoria for the gold fields along the Fraser River and the Dewdney Trail from Hope to the Kootenays. At its height in the early 1860s, Barkerville had a Chinese population of around 5,000. It is claimed that some 90% of these Chinese miners from San Francisco—most of them originally from Guangdong province—were members of Hongmen.16
In 1863 the first Hongmen society, named after Hong Shun Tang (Hung Sun Tong) in San Francisco, was established in the mining town of Barkerville. Hong Shun Tang was a common name for societies of Hongmen: there is a Hong Shun Tang in Malaysia. The origins of the San Francisco society, established in 1849, are said to trace back to the second founder, Fong Dai Shing, in Guangdong, China.17
Hong : vast (flood). Shùn : obey, suitable, along, in order. Táng : hall, court, cousin.
The Hongmen, renamed Chee Kung Tong (Gee Kung Tong) in 1876, established tongs in Quesnel Forks (1859), Barkerville, Cumberland (1929-1950) and Rossland. These were mutual aid societies, focused on establishing rules of conduct in the gold fields, and resisting encroachment by individuals or other societies claiming the right to initiate members.18
First established in Vancouver in 1892, Chee Kung Tong renamed itself the Chinese Freemasons in 1920.19 Appealing to shopkeepers and small merchants as much as it did to migrant workers, it could be said to have had more in common with the Huiguan than the Tiandihui. Originally siding with Sun Yat-sen, after 1912 they felt themselves betrayed by Sun Yat-sen in China and increasingly marginalized by local Kuomintang.
DaHan gongbao : large chinese public journal.
To aid in promoting the society's political views, as well as to recruit members, in 1907 they established a newspaper, Dahan gongbao (The Chinese Times), which continued to publish until 3 October 1992.20 The society's later falling out with local Kuomintang infused the society's politics for much of the twentieth century. The Chinese Freemasons had no effective channel to influence events in China but would take every opportunity to issue lengthy statements condemning both the Chinese Communist and Nationalist regimes. This also brought them into conflict with the pro-Communist Chinese Youth Association who accused them in 1970 of phoney neutrality and pseudo-patriotism.21
Not only vocal in Chinese poiitics, the society was a supporter of local arts and youth groups. In 1934 they organized Jin Wah Sing (Raise the Chinese Voice) a theatrical troupe active into the early 1960s. It is said that their Chinese-language schools and other recreation facilities enabled them to recruit new members while other societies withered. Active in civic politics, the society found itself working alongside groups such as the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) and the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA) in successfully blocking a plan to construct a freeway through Vancouver's Chinatown. They were also active in local celebrations. "The Freemasons regularly paid homage to the supposed founders of their secret brotherhood back in China several centuries ago, and they took great pride in their teachings of loyalty and righteous behavior." 22
Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Hongmen
Xingzhonghui (Revive China Society). Xing : start, prosper, excitement. Zhòng : middle, among, Chinese, in progress. Hui : society.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, regarded as the National Father of modern China, is reported to have joined the Chee Kong Tong in Hawaii in 1904. Although also reported to have been a "senior figure" or "active office bearer", details are not forthcoming. The Chung Yee Wui and another group he is claimed to have joined, the Kwok On Wui (National Peace Club), have also been reported as political groups he started within the Hongmen community.
"While rallying for assistance from overseas Chinese living mainly in North America and in Europe, he utilized the Chi Kung Tong to publicize the work of his Republican Party in the overthrow of the Ching Dynasty."23 Chee Kong Tong members provided much of his funding—but Sun records that they were hesitant to acknowledge what he claimed was their revolutionary origins.
Tongmenghui : T'ung Meng Hui (Chinese United League). (Tóng, Tòng : same, equal, together, with. Méng (Ming): league, alliance, oath. Hui kuai : meet, meeting, union, society.
Sun Yat-Sen visited North America on three occasions: in July 1897, 1910 and 1911. Sun writes of his first visit that he found the Chinese Freemasons relatively uninterested in revolutionary discussion.24 On his second visit he travelled to Vancouver from San Francisco by train in February 1910, then travelling east across Canada. He returned in February 1911 to be met by crowds thronging his train. Well received in Vancouver,25 he met resistance in Victoria. "Chungshan were very enthusiastic about supporting him but the Sze-Yup people were doubtful."26
The fact that he felt the need to establish other secret societies such as Zhongguo Tongmenghui or "Chinese United League", in Tokyo, Japan, on 20 August 1905, and Shao'nian Xueshe (Young China Association), in San Francisco in 1909, suggests that the Chee Kung Tong, whatever its involvement, was not suitable for revolutionary action. The Tongmenghui, perhaps created in Hawaii in 1897, split away after August 1912 to form the nucleus of Sun's new Kuomintang, or "Nationalist Party". From this period perhaps also can be dated the evolution of the secretive Hong Men to the socially active Chinese Freemasons.
Chinese Freemasons in Vancouver
Today, the Chinese Freemasons in Vancouver, using the Dart Coon Club to own and administer their property, maintain two buildings in Vancouver's Chinatown on Pender Street, and two non-profit housing projects. Currently some forty societies across Canada are administered by the Chinese Freemasons Headquarters of Canada, incorporated federally on 31 May 1971. A recent publication of the society lists fifteen "lodges" administered by regional bodies in Toronto, Calgary, Vernon, Vancouver and Victoria.
Min zhi dang (Min Chih Tang; Mon Gee Dong) : Min : the people, folk, popular, civilian. Zhi : control, peace, cure, study, &. Dang : political party, club, gang.
The Vancouver Dart Coon Club was established in 1918, reportedly to protect local property from supporters of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen who wished to use Hongmen resources to fund his government. It is known that Chee Kung Tong constructed the building at 1 West Pender Street in 1906 and 1907, and that they morgaged it to assist Dr. Sun in 1911.
Although membership has been as great as 6,000, there are perhaps 2,500 members in Canada today. Initiating youths as young as eleven, the group admits both men and women and today is as much a social club as a benevolent society.
Dart Coon : Dá : reach, attain, notify, &. Quán : rights, power, authority, &. Shè : society, agency, &.
While loosely affiliated as "Chinese Freemasons", the societies operate under a number of names, the Chee Kong Tong Supreme Lodge Chinese Freemasons of the World, New York, the Worldwide Chinese Freemason Hung Moon Chee Kung Tong (Hung Mun) Supreme Lodge, in Tepai, Tawain, and the Chee Kung Tong, Chinese Free Mason - Main, in Manila, Philippines, being the more notable ones. The relationship of these international bodies to the Vancouver Hongmen appears to be more fraternal than hierarchical. While Hongmen appears in their full name, Chee Kung does not.
Reports from members in the early 1960s record the use of a single four or five hour initiation ceremony. The "working tools" or ceremonial devices were a sword, axe, square and compasses. No aprons of a masonic nature were worn although candidates for initiation had their left trouser leg rolled up to the knee. This last suggests the unintentional influence of regular Freemasonry.27 Members today will also admit to a variation on the original blood oath.
Main entrance, Pender St., Vancouver.
The use of the square and compasses emblem is not uniform. The Dart Coon Club Headquarters of Canada, with offices at 557 Fisgard St, Victoria, places one point of the compasses behind the square, the Chinese Masonic Society with offices at 7-9 Waratah Place, Melbourne, Victoria, place both points behind the square, while the Vancouver body places both points in front of the square. The square and compasses emblem is often placed over an eight-pointed star.
Chinese “Freemasons” today
The Chinese Freemasons National Headquarters of Canada was incorporated under the Canadian Corporations Act on 31 May 1971, and registered on 22 July 1971. But "Chinese Freemasons" is a misnomer—the society has no connection to recognized Freemasonry, either as a structure of philosophical beliefs, or in a history of ritual instruction, or in a legend derived from architecture in general or King Solomon's Temple in particular. Exactly when the various societies adopted the name Chinese Freemasons is unclear. Regardless, the societies are too far removed from their own history, legendary or otherwise, to return to the name Hongmen. By that name, the Hongmen is an illegal society in Hong Kong, because of its perceived, or real, association with Triad criminal gangs, while in Taiwan the Hongmen is a recognized political party known as the Zhi Gong Party. Neither are associations that North American Chinese Freemasons may necessarily wish to endorse.
Almost a century and a half after the fact, it would be difficult if not impossible for regular Freemasonry to object to the Hongmen Society's use of the term Freemasons. In fact members of the society strongly defend their right to use the masonic square and compasses emblem, as can be seen during their anniversary celebrations in August 2010 and on the occasional grave marker. Regular freemasons will simply have to live with the confusion and, should the topic arise, point out that there is no similarity or connection between the two societies. The Hongmen is not irregular or clandestine Freemasonry; by the Landmarks of the Order it is simply not Freemasonry.

1. The Origins of the Tiandihui: The Chinese Triads in Legend and History, Dian H. Murray, in collaboration with Qin Biaoqi. Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1994.p. 16.
2.'Luelun Tiandihui De Ciyuan' ('A Brief Essay Concerning the Origin of the Tiandihui,') He Jhengcing. edu.ocac.gov.tw.]
3."...of 196 depositions from the 1788 period in the First Historical Archive, 42% joined Tiandihui for mutual aid, 37% to resist arrest or protection from violence, 16% collected money and only 5% admitted rebellion as a motivation." Murray, p. 36.
4. 'The earliest description of society rituals comes from Yan Yan, the transmitter of the Tiandihui to Taiwan, who in his testemony of 19 July 1788 : "recognition is ensured by such secret signals as extending three fingers, as well as by saying out load, "Five dots twenty-one,." which is a secret code for 'Hong'" Murray, p. 31.
5. Murray, p. 37.
6. Murray, p. 82.
7. Murray, p. 3.
8. Murray, p. 76.
9. Murray, p. 87.
10. Murray, p. 119
11. Memoirs of a Chinese Revolutionary, A Programme of National reconstruction for China by Sun-Yat-Sen with a frontispiece portrait of the author. New York : Ams Press, 1970, reprinted from the edition of 1927, London. SBN : 404-06305-5. hc 254 pp. pp. 190-192.
12.The Triad Myth, Tony Lee, Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Toronto Police Service. usinfo.state.gov (accessed 2007/04/30)
13.Conversation at Chinese Freemasons Headquarters of Canada, 116 East Pender St. Vancouver on 9 February, 2007.
14.Dr. William Milne, "Some Account of a Secret Association in China, entitled the Triad Society," Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 1, part 2 (1826) : 240-50.
15.Carl Glick and Hong Sheng-hwa Swords of Silence: Chinese Societies—Past and Present (1947), more hagiography than history ; W. G. Stirling and J.S.M. Ward The Hung Society or the Society of Heaven and Earth, London : Baskerville Press, 1925-26 (3 vol.) further promoted the idea that the two societies descended from a common mystic ancestor. The first English translation of the society's thirty-six oaths and rules of behaviour was published by T. J. Newbold and F. W. Wilson, "The Chinese Secret Society of the Tien-Ti-Huih," pp. 137-42. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 6 (1841) : 120-58 ; The first translations of society manuscripts, by Charles Gützlaff, appeared in 1846 ; The first full book devoted to the society, Thian Ti Hwui: The Hung-League or Heaven and Earth League was written by Gustave Schlegel in 1866.
16.Canada 1863 - 2003. p. 86. Canada 1863 - 2003. The Chinese Freemasons Contribution for 140 Years. 191 p. 21.5 cm. x 28 cm. Lammar Offset Printing (Overseas Press, Vancouver, Hong Kong. Graphic Design & Layout : Matthew Leung. Elite Communications Design C. Printed in Hong Kong.
17."The Chee Kong Tong is the Chinese Masonic Society of North and South America, and was organized in San Francisco in 1849. There is nothing for which the Chee Hong Tong stands up for so strongly as the right of its members to wear the square and compasses emblem, asserting that its use by them has been longer by nearly two centuries than by Western Freemasons. We marvel at the similarity of the traditions, purposes, and signs of the two societies and realize that the inception of both must have arisen from practically the same cause. They do not now, and have never claimed fraternity with the Western World." Oliver Perry Stidger (1873- ) Commentary on proposed immigration and exclusion law, San Francisco : Allen printing company, 1913.
18. Chih-kung T'ang or Chee Kung Tong established 1876 although first chapter was established in Barkerville in 1862. "There may have been rival chapters of the lodge established in British Columbia, each claiming authenticity for itself. At another place in the text the writer warns of fraud and misrepresentation by persons claiming to be empowered to found new chapters." "From 1882, until 1910, the society was in operation at the Forks in the Tong House, and in the 1890's, brought about a hundred and fifty members." "The order, or a rival society, had been established in Victoria by 1897...." p. 531 ; "At the dedication of the 'Gee Kong Tong' building in Rossland, those present included the 'local president', the 'Kootenay master', and 'the master of the Fraternity for British Columbia', "Rossland Miner, 27 October 1903 ; "This T'ang was originally founded at Mau-si [possibly north of Quesnel] in 1876, and in 1882 it was established in this town." p. 536. Rules of a Chinese Secret Society in British Columbia. Stanford M. Lyman, W. E. Willmott, Berching Ho Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 27, No. 3 (1964), pp. 530-539 [17 pp].
19.Chinese in Vancouver, 1945-80, The, The Pursuit of Identity and Power, Wing Chung Ng, Wing Chung. Vancouver : UBC Press, Vancouver. ISBN: 0-7748-0733-4 p. 13. Cf. 1882 establishment date. We Are Chinese Canadian: The Response Of Vancouver's Chinese Community To Hong Kong Immigrants 1980- 1997 Julianne Rock, History Master of Arts Thesis, Simon Fraser University, 2005. Also note Stidger, above for pre-1920 use of Chinese Masonry title.
20.First known as Dahan Yat Bao (Chinese Daily News) and perhaps originally Wah Ying Yat Bao (a daily newspaper founded by Chinese Christians in Vancouver), its masthead claimed that it had published since 1907. Correspondence received in mid- 2007 from Quan Lim, retired journalist for Dahan Gongbao and author of several articles on the history of the Chinese Freemasons.
21. Wing. p, 87.
22.Wing. p. 65, citing Harry Con, Zhongguo hongmen zai jianada [The Chinese Freemasons in Canada] Vcancouver Chinese Freemasons Canadian Headquarters, 1989) p. 101-09.
23.Lee. Also see Teng Ssu-yu "Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Chinese secret Societies." In Robert Sakai, Studies on Asia. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1963, pp. 81-99 ; W. P. Morgan, Triad societies in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Government Press, 1960, p. 25. Also see "[Sun Yat-sen] was a Triad official of long standing and is reported to have been a 426 "Fighter" official of the "Kwok On Wui, as it was called in Cantonese, in Honolulu and Chicago; this society came under the general supervision of the Cantonese-named Chi Kung Tong, a mainly overseas section of the Triad Hung Mun" W. P. Morgan, Triad societies in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Government Press, 1960, p. 25. Cited by Willmott, p. 533.
24.Sun-Yat-Sen. p. 192.
25."Supported by the Chi Kung Tong (The Chinese Freemasons), he is well received and spends his time promoting the republican cause in Vancouver's Chinatown." Asian North American History Timeline Project, Jim Wong-Chu and Linda Tzang, Charlie Cho. Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society www.explorasian.org (accessed 20007/04/27).
26.Yun Ho Chang interview, Opening Doors: Vancouver's East End, Daphne Marlatt, Carole Itter. Cited in The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, Chuck Davis. Vancouver : Harbour Publishing, 2007. vancouverhistory.ca (accessed 2007/05/02).
27.Jack Meek, "Chinese Freemasonry", Proceedings. Vancouver : Grand Masonic Day, 1987.
28.All translations from Chinese Character Fast Finder, Laurence Matthews. Boston : Tuttle Language Library, 2004. ISBN : 0-8408-3634-5.
29.Lynn Pan, Sons of the Yellow Emperor: A History of the Chinese Diaspora. New York : Kodansha Globe, 1997. ISBN : 9781568360324 Kodansha Globe Series Volume: no. 197. 432 p.

This article was researched and written by Trevor W. McKeown who is painfully aware of the limitations to his knowledge of the Chinese language and culture. A revised version of this text appeared in the peer-reviewed Martial Arts of the World, An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation, "Shaolin Temple Legends, Chinese Secret Societies, and the Chinese Martial Arts", edited by Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth. Vol. 1 and 2. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CL, 2010.


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