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Part 1—Hung Society to Chinese Masonic Society
China has always been a land of mystique and intrigue. It has been said that there are two pursuits which Chinese enjoy, gambling and secret societies. It is my desire to bring their mysteries and machinations to you with this address and, in so doing, provide stimuli for the quest for further knowledge.
To gain an appreciation of the Hung Society and its progression as a secret society to become the ‘Chinese Masonic Society’ (Chinese name, Chee Kung Tong), it is necessary to examine China and the migration of the Chinese in their pursuit of wealth and prestige. Let us commence with China and the Hung Society.
To provide a chronological and conceptual framework for the subsequent in-depth discussion of the Hung Society, it is perhaps best to give a brief outline of the Chinese Dynasties.
China has always had a plethora of ‘Societies’. The first known society was called the ‘Red Eyebrows’, named from the distinctive rouge that they smeared around their eyes. This Society was formed almost two thousand years ago, during the Han Dynasty (206 bc–ad 221). The ‘Red Eyebrows’ was formed in ad 9, when Wang Mang overthrew the dynasty. The regaining of power by the dynasty gave rise to a period of severe instability.
Only two minor dynasties briefly held power; the Northern Sun (960–1126) and the Southern Sun (1126–1279). The northern part of the country finally succumbed to the marauding Juchen nomadic tribes. Hostility continued until the Southern Sun was finally defeated by the Mongols in 1279, thus the Yuan Dynasty began. It was during the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368), which was very unpopular, that the ‘White Lotus’ Society was formed to oust the foreigners. A peasant uprising led to the demise of the Yuan and the creation of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). China was restored to Chinese control and they extended their power into Central and Southeast Asia. In 1644 China was overrun by the Manchu tribes and the Ch’ing or Manchu Dynasty (1644–1911) was created. Two thousand years of Chinese Imperial rule came to an end in 1911, with the overthrow of the Ch’ing Dynasty.
A republican government was established. However, this unfortunately did not herald a period of stability for China. Various warlords and foreign powers became influential in China’s internal affairs and resulted, in 1949, in the creation of the People’s Republic of China under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. The periods of foreign rule in China’s history were the catalyst for some of the societies, which were benevolent or fraternal in nature, to become political, as they had vested interests in seeing the demise of foreign rule. The Hung Society was most interested in seeing the demise of the Manchu or Ch’ing Dynasty and the return of the Ming Dynasty with its Chinese Emperor. Let us now return to the Hung Society.
In the Beginning
The story of the ‘Three Kingdoms’ begins in approximately ad 221, at the end of the Han Dynasty, when parts of China revolted and the Emperor called for volunteers to subdue them. Three came forward: Lui Pei, a cadet of the Han Dynasty, and his two friends, Kwan Yi and Chang Fei. They met in a peach garden and entered into a solemn oath of fidelity by offering prayers, burning incense and sacrificing a black ox and a white horse. As a consequence of this, most of the societies—including the Triads—made offerings in a similar manner. The colours of the sacrificed animals were of special significance, representing the opposing forces of nature, for example: night and day, good and evil, male and female.
At the defeat of the Central Government, Lui Pei assumed the title of Emperor of Shu. One of his loyal friends, Kwan Yi, was captured and put to death. For his loyalty to Lui Pei, Kwan Yi was deified under the name of Kwan Ti and worshiped as the God of War. Kwan Ti became to the military what Confucius was to the literary. When the Hung Society was established, it adopted Kwan Ti as its Tutelary Deity, not only for what he typified as the God of the Soldiers but also for the unswerving loyalty he displayed to a sworn brother.
One hypothesis put forward to explain the formation of the Hung Society is that it was an offshoot of the ‘White Lily’ or ‘White Lotus’ Society. This society started approximately ad 376 and flourished until ad 560–618, when numerous persecutions occurred, firstly aimed at the Buddhist Societies and then directly at the ‘White Lily Society’.
A link between the White Lily and the Hung Society was developed in 1344. During the Yuen Dynasty a rebel leader, Han Shan-Tung, revitalised the White Lily Society. He thought that the coming Buddha was prophesied in the rituals of the White Lily Society. The Son of the Lord, as mentioned in the Triad rituals, is also believed to have originated from the same rituals.
The White Lily Society rose in rebellion against the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. The dynasty was overthrown and a Buddhist monk, Hung Wu, who played a prominent role in the rebellion, was enthroned as the first Emperor of the new Ming Dynasty. China returned to Chinese rule.
During the Ming Dynasty the White Lily, White Lotus, and Hung Societies became interwoven, with one often being referred by the other’s name. The Society of Heaven and Earth and the Ghee Hin Society also appeared as aliases for the Hung Society. In addition to the societies mentioned, China had an abundance of societies and guilds: for example Friendly Societies, Thieves Societies, Burial Clubs and Trade Guilds.
During the era of the Ch’ing or Manchu Dynasty (1644 to 1911), the Hung Society and other societies were persistently persecuted. Because the Hung Society members called themselves Brothers they were mistakenly perceived by the authorities as Christians, which resulted in greater hostility directed towards them. This persecution resulted in the Society becoming political, and numerous actions against the Manchu regime occurred. One such revolt occurred in 1774 when the Grand Master, Wang Lung, led a revolt in the North Eastern Province of Shan Tung, when 100,000 people were killed. The defeated Wang Lung and numerous supporters were executed.
Soon after this incident an offshoot of the Hung Society, the ‘T’in Han Hui’ or ‘The Family of the Queen of Heaven’, appeared. Later this society changed its name to ‘T’in Tei Hui’ or ‘The Brotherhood of Heaven and Earth’. The later title was of special significance being ‘Heaven—Earth—and the Family’, the three forces of nature regarded by the Chinese as the basis of civilisation. Soon lodges known as ‘Sam-Ho-Hui’ or the ‘Society of the Three Rivers’ appeared in Java and the Indian Archipelago.
An uprising led by a village teacher named Hung Hsiu-ch’uan occurred in 1851 and became known as the Taiping Revolt. This was strongly supported by the Hung Society and is often referred to as the ‘Triad Wars’. This revolt would have succeeded had it not been for the support that the Western powers gave to the Ch’ing Dynasty after the rebels captured Nanjing. The Western powers were all too well aware that their trade interests could be affected by the fall of the dynasty.
Dissatisfaction with the opium trade, hostility directed towards the Christian missionaries, and resistance to the foreign institutions saw the development of the Yi Ho Chuan or the ‘Fists of Harmonious Righteousness’ secret society. Because this society’s emblem was a clenched fist, they became known as the Boxers. In 1899 the famous ‘Boxer Rebellion’ occurred when they attacked foreigners and missionaries, destroyed government infrastructure, and laid siege to the foreign embassies in Peking with the intent of killing all inhabitants. A multinational force consisting of European, American and Japanese forces defeated the Chinese army, entered Peking and scattered the Boxers. The secret societies realised after the routing that they no longer could rely on their traditional means of fighting (martial arts and ancient magical charms) against the sophisticated weaponry of the foreign soldiers.
Chinese intellectuals, classical Confucian and foreign educated, sought to improve the lot of the Chinese populace by incorporating the best of the foreign ideas and technology into China, while still maintaining the Chinese culture. These revolutionaries, whose goal was to turn China into a democracy, allied themselves with some of the secret societies, notably the Society of Heaven and Earth. The Societies of Heaven and Earth or the Hung Societies which were situated overseas sent funds to China to assist them in their cause.
Eventually the Manchu Dynasty was overthrown and China reverted to Chinese rule, but now as a Republic. The role of the Hung Society was recognised when Dr Sun Yat-Sen, who was a member of the Hung Society, became the first President of the Republic. His tenure of office was brief; he resigned to allow Yuan Shi-Kai to become President and unite all the groups under his rule. Dr Sun Yat-Sen was appointed Provisional President in Nanking. The Ming Dynasty became known as the ‘Dynasty of Light’ whilst the Manchu Dynasty was known as the ‘Dynasty of Darkness’. The Manchu Dynasty was also referred to as the Ts’ing (meaning darkness) Dynasty.
Most of the Hung lodges operated individually but all were united in the cause to overthrow the Manchu Dynasty. Some of the lodges were tied into a ‘headquarters branch’ or ‘master lodge’. These master lodges consisted of the older members of the Hung lodges and they served not as a governing body but rather a place where the Hung lodges could take their disputes and have them arbitrated upon. It should be noted that the word ‘lodge’ is not used in conjunction with the word ‘Masonic’.
In the Hung Lodge a definite hierarchal structure existed, as illustrated in Appendix A. The major officers consisted of three, the Leader, Incense Master and Vanguard. Under these we have a further five, each being the head of a key section. In Chinese mysticism the numbers 5 (as in the five sections) and 8 (as in the number of officers) had great significance. Five denotes the five founders and the five Provincial Grand Lodges they founded. The five horse dealers were placed in charge of the five minor or lesser lodges. Philosophically, in the Buddhist religion five signifies many traditional beliefs such as the five intestines of man, and five aspirations of man: long life, riches, health, love or virtue and natural death. The Chinese characters for 3, 8, 20 and 1, when conjoined, form the character ‘Hung’. Hung also means red, which is the colour of light. Eight plays a significant part in Chinese tradition, for example there are eight movements when bowing; its magical qualities ensure its proliferation outside houses and on priests’ clothing.
The Incense Master was responsible for the ceremonies of the Order, and the Vanguard’s responsibilities were for the administration of the Society and the conducting of the candidate during the ceremony. The five administrative divisions were General Affairs, Recruiting, Organisation, Liaison and Education. These five sections were highly organised and had defined roles.
General Affairs Section was responsible for the day to day running of the Organisation. The Recruiting Section was charged with the recruitment of members and the distribution of propaganda material. The controlling of activities in the Hung Lodge and the creation of their fighting force was vested in the Organisation Section, while the Liaison Section tended to all communication between the Hung Lodges and the Master Lodge. The welfare of the members, the provision of schools for the children of its members and, most importantly, the arranging of funerals for the members was vested in the Education and Welfare Section. Hung Society members overseas placed a high priority on their bodies being returned to China for a traditional burial. It caused a lot of dismay when, with the overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty and the creation of a Republic, and later the formation of the Communist regime, the practice of the bodies being returned to China for a traditional burial was stopped. Other traditional funeral rites were also stopped.
The ‘Hung Ritual’, as described in The Hung Society or The Society of Heaven and Earth, by J S M Ward and W C Stirling, gives us an insight into a portion of the Hung ritual. It is acknowledged by Stirling that this is not the complete ritual. The ritual is described as a journey through the Underworld to Heaven. Originally the Hung Society was a quasi-religious organization and, with the overthrow of the Ming Dynasty and the introduction of the Manchu Dynasty, it adopted over a period of time definite political leanings. Its teachings also became an allegorical journey to Heaven for those who would fight the Manchu foreign oppressors.
In the ritual detailed in this 1925 edition we note that the candidate was vouched for by an officer of the lodge who would be responsible for him for a period of six months. He was informed that he must not have differences with the members for four years, nor break the ‘36 Rules’ of the Society. The candidate was dressed in a white coat and trousers, having the right arm, shoulder and breast bare and wearing a pair of grass sandals. In China, white is the colour of mourning and typifies a person who has led a pure and good life whilst on earth. Symbolically, the candidate was deemed dead and about to enter on a long journey through the spirit realms. On entering a lodge, he did so under crossed swords, referred to as ‘Crossing the Bridge’, signifying that he had progressed in his Mystical journey of crossing the Bridge from the Isle of the Blest to the Market Place of Universal Peace.
This version of the ritual shows the post-Ming influence. When the Vanguard met the candidate he unbraided his hair, allowing it to hang loose, signifying the abandonment of the queue which had been imposed on the Chinese by the Manchu.
Let down your hair.
The black silk is cut off so that we may serve the Prince of Ming,
But first give me your instructions and save my body.
Tonight we come before the face of the Five Ancestors;
To overthrow Ts’ing and restore Ming is agreeable to Heaven.
The candidate was presented with a basin and towel and told:
Wash away the dust of Ts’ing and the true colour of your face shall appear;
Do away with corruptness and perversity so that you may sit in the Temple of Ming.
He divested himself of his clothes and donned the white coat and trousers
Remove the garments of Ts’ing and put on those of Ming,
For all here know the 36 oaths;
When we enter the Hung gate and see the faithful and loyal,
We come to the Willow City to be instructed in the odes.
The initiates, holding lighted joss sticks, then proceeded on their journey.
After the Vanguard had conducted the candidate through the Hung Gate, two officers of the Society called ‘Grass Sandals’ held the scroll containing the Thirty-six Oaths, the first twelve of which were read. The Master then said:
Ye novices are bound to perform your duty in your allotted
sphere and obey Heaven. Those who do so prosper, and the
disobedient and traitors perish.
Ponder all things carefully ere you make your decision,
Seize every opportunity which auspicious fate provides;
Remember that this oath may never be altered,
Gaze upward and behold God, Who over us presides.
The initiates were then required to take a further twelve oaths, after which they extinguished the joss sticks and vowed never to divulge the secrets of the society.
After being introduced to the leaders and briefed on the hierarchical structure of the society, the initiates were led to the second gate, the Hall of Loyalty and Righteousness. On approaching this gate, guards tapped them on the back with knives or a wooden stick to remind them of the penalty of a violation of their oaths. The Hall housed an impressive display of Chinse icons to ensure that the initiates were held in awe of their surroundings.
The last gate provided access to the City of Willows, where the initiates took the final twelve of the 36 oaths. They proceeded from the City of Willows to the Red Flower Pavilion, also known as the Holy of Holies, representing the final stage in their initiation and the rebirth that was about to take place, and symbolising life after death. The tablets and the altar to the five founders were situated here. It was in front of this altar that the initiate knelt to take the blood oath.
A cockerel was decapitated and its blood mixed in a bowl with sugar and wine. Each initiate’s middle finger was then pricked and the blood mixed with the other blood in the bowl and he drank from the bowl, thus swearing his allegiance to the brotherhood. The initiates were then required to hold a knife or wooden stick over the decapitated cockerel whilst repeating their vows of secrecy which they had undertaken earlier.
At the completion of the reading of the Thirty-six Oaths that relate to his moral duties and appearing as Appendix B the candidate continued his spiritual journey.
The Traditional History of the Hung is narrated to the candidates. This historical account begins at the time of the second Emperor of the Manchu Dynasty, K’ang Hsi, who ascended to the throne in 1662. An invading army, the Eleuths, led by the notorious General Phang Lung Tien, invaded China, causing great destruction and fear to the inhabitants.
The Emperor, whose army was loath to confront the invading force, appealed to the populace for support. A monk from the Shiu Lam (Shaolin) Monastery took one of the Notices that had been circulated, calling for support, and returned to the Monastery. The Abbot, on reading the Notice, exclaimed:
In all the Empire are there not to be found any officers brave enough or sufficiently capable to lead an army against the invaders? If this be so it is our duty to see what can be done to save our country in its hour of peril, for we constitute a well trained body of men, since we have always been well versed in athletics.
The monks, numbering 128 and trained in the art of self defence and war, then armed themselves and presented a Petition to the Emperor at Peking, praying that they may be allowed to fight the invaders.
Having gained the Emperor’s blessing, the monks made their way to the city next in line to the advancing invaders. Early one morning, after invoking the aid of the spirits for victory, they departed to engage the approaching Eleuths. A section of the monks ambushed the invading army and with the help of the spirits caused them to flee. The main force of the monks was waiting at a ravine, Hu-hu-chu, and with the assistance of the spirits defeated the Eleuths. The Abbot and the monks returned in triumph to the Emperor and were received with great ceremony. Numerous gifts were bestowed on them, including an Imperial Seal and a Sword of Honour. The seal consisted of a triangular jade ring which gave the Monastery extensive powers. The edicts issued by them carried the same power as if decreed by the Emperor.
When the Emperor died he was succeeded by his son, Yung Cheng. The Prefect, who was appointed by the Emperor to the District where the Shiu Lam Monastery was situated, on finding out about the Seal, conspired to obtain it by any means. He tried to bribe the monks and, when this failed, wrote to the Emperor informing him that the monks were endeavouring to endanger the peace and rise up against the Emperor. The Emperor requested further information and the Prefect together with soldiers visited the Monastery. There they offered the unsuspecting monks wine that had been poisoned. However the Abbot, on noticing a strange odour coming from the wine, requested the Poison Cup.
Realizing that he had been foiled, the Prefect called on the soldiers to slay the unarmed monks. Only five escaped the treachery—fortunately one with the seal. When the soldiers realised that a small number had escaped they set out to capture them. The monks, fleeing the soldiers, soon came to the ocean and, finding all chance of escape cut off, sank to their knees and prayed to Buddha. Two genii appeared and called out to them. The monks saw a cloud turn into a bridge with two planks, one of iron the other of brass, and by means of this were able to escape the pursuing soldiers. These five monks became the Five Ancestors, the Founders of the Hung Society.
On approaching the Kao Chai Temple, they stopped at a stream and saw a white porcelain censer floating in the stream. Upon retrieving it they noticed that it had two handles and the characters ‘Overthrow Ts’ing and restore the Ming’ inscribed on it. They then exclaimed ‘This is the will of God’.
Continuing on, they came to the grave of one of their fellow monks who had fought the Eleuths and joined with his widow in prayer. During prayer the soldiers appeared and, just as they resigned themselves to their fate, the ground opened and the magic sword of justice appeared. Characters were inscribed on the handle and on one side of which was inscribed ‘Overthrow Ts’ing and Restore Ming’. With this sword they were able to slay a number of soldiers and the remainder took flight. Later the widow heard that the soldiers were returning and, as the monks had departed, she gave the sword to her two sons to take to the monks. The sword from then on has remained with the Hung Society.
To escape the soldiers the women threw themselves into the river and drowned. When the monks heard of this they returned, slew the General and, with the assistance of five horse dealers, escaped. These horse dealers are now known in the society as the Five Tiger Generals.
Travelling on, they came to the Kao-Khi Temple, also referred to in the Hung ritual as the ‘Red Flower Pavilion’, symbolising the womb, the ceremonial rebirth. As they rested that night, a red flame burst from the censer and the monks interpreted this as a divine sign that they should devote their lives to the eradication of the Ts’ing or Manchu Dynasty. They then entered into a solemn oath of brotherhood in accordance with the practice set by their predecessors, Lui Pei, Kwan Yu and Chang Fei. After this they asked the spirits if they should attack the Ts’ing and, not having any Divine Blocks, they threw their cups in the air. As none of the cups broke, they interpreted this as a sign that the Gods were in favour and they should oppose the Ts’ing or Manchu Dynasty.
As they continued their travels, they attracted a large band of followers intent on overthrowing the Manchu. An Abbot of huge proportions, Wan Yun Lung, became their Commander-in-Chief. It was not long before they met the Manchu forces. The battle raged for one month, during which their Commander-in-Chief was slain as he signalled by lowering his arm. The Five Founders (the monks who had escaped from the murderous Prefect), on seeing the sign called the reserves into battle, defeated the Manchu forces and recovered the body of Wan Yun Lung.
As the victorious army of monks and their followers marched with the body of Wan Yun Lung they saw a cloud of five colours which they interpreted as an auspicious sign that Wan Yun Lung, the Commander-in-Chief, was still their Grand Master. It is not unusual in the East for persons of great wisdom, skill or repute to be titled Grand Master. After the funeral rites the Master, Chan Kan Nam, declared that they should spread over China. The reborn Hung Society, or Tien Ti Hui, was constituted into five Provincial Grand Lodges each under one of the ‘Five Ancestors’, the five monks who escaped the treachery at the Shiu Lam Monastery. The five ancestors, namely: Cai Dezhong, Fang Taihong, Ma Chaoxin, Hu Dedi, and Li Sekai, established the Provincial Grand Lodges in the Provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Yunan, Hunan and Zhejiang respectively. Minor Hung lodges were established in the Provinces of Jiangsu, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hubei and Jiangxi. Before departing, the monks also devised signs and words as a means of recognition.
At the completion of the ceremony the candidate is instructed to listen carefully to the Fundamental Rules of the Society, to all of which he must give his full consent under the penalty of his obligation. Appearing as Appendix C is the original Fundamental Rules of the Society in Singapore whilst the Society was operating legally. Appendix D shows a modern version of the Rules as they applied to other Hung or Triad Societies after they had been declared illegal. In all instances there are ten Rules; the number ten holds mystical powers for the Chinese. In the Hung ritual, ten represents the ten lost treasures hidden within each man: Reason, Wisdom, Intelligence, Goodness, Majesty, Power, Creation, Preservation, Transmutation and Union.
At the completion of the ceremony a feast was held to celebrate the admission of the new members.
The Singapore Connection
Over the centuries, Singapore has been subjected to a varied but sketchily recorded history. In the third century a Chinese account referred to Singapore as Pu-luo-chung, meaning the island at the end of the peninsula. A Mongolian court in 1320 sent a mission to Long Yamen (Dragon’s Tooth Strait) to get elephants. In 1330 a Chinese visitor, Wang Dayuan, called the settlement Pancur, and then thirty-five years later, in 1365, it was sacked by the Majapahit Javanese. The first time that it was referred to as Tumasik, the sea town, was when it was overrun by the Malacca. It remained as a small port of call for centuries.
On 29 January 1819 Sir Stamford Raffles, of the British East India Company, landed and established Singapore as a trading port. Strategically it was ideal, being at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, with a deep harbour, and on the strait linking the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
Under British rule Singapore flourished. In 1821 the Chinese population swelled to 1150, a quarter of the total population of 4724. Chinese artisans, farmers, merchants, etc, continued to flock to the trading port and by the end of 1823, out of a total population of 10,683 the Chinese contingent had swelled to 3,317. China’s political and economic situation continued to deteriorate, thus accelerating the immigration to Singapore. By 1849 the Chinese population in the settlement had increased to 28,000 and then in 1867 reached 55,000. As at June 1995 the resident population of Singapore was 2,986,500, of which 2,311,300 or 77% were Chinese residents, Malays 423,500 or 14%, Indians 214,900 or 7%, and the other ethnic groups 36,800 or 1%.
Early in the 19th century the Chinese secret societies were beginning to spread to Singapore. The first to appear, in 1801, was the Ghee Hin Kongsi, an offshoot of the Heaven and Earth Society, or Hung Society, originating from the Chinese southern province of Fujian. In 1810 the Ho Seng was formed, and 1823 saw the formation of the Hai San. By 1824 the strongest by far of these three secret societies was the Ghee Hin. Chinese settlers found in these societies a social and fraternal organisation in which they could relate to each other in the otherwise European-ruled British trading port of Singapore.
Soon after the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles the Chinese, especially from the Fujian province of China, established their own Temple or Josh House, the Thian Hock Keng Temple. The Shrine was dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, Ma Zo Po or Mazu. Because of the sometimes very hazardous nature of the sea passage across the China Sea, the Chinese arriving and departing always showed their gratitude to the Goddess of the Sea. This Temple became the meeting place and place of worship for the Hokkien people, who came from an area south of the Min River in Fujian Province in China. Restoration of the Temple was completed in May 2000 and is managed by the Singapore Hokien Huay Kuan, and has proved popular with tourists and worshipers alike.
A Chinese man who was prominent in the establishment of the Thian Hock Keng Temple was Tan Tock Seng. He was born in Malacca in 1798, being the third son of an immigrant from the Fujian province in China. He commenced buying produce from the Chinese and selling it in the city. His entrepreneurial skills continued, he opened a store in Boat Quay and amassed a fortune. He was very active in the affairs of the Fujian people, being the largest contributor to the building of the Thian Hock Keng Temple, and in 1844 contributed $5,000 for the construction of a hospital which was to bear his name, Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He died in 1850.
In the same era another Chinese man immigrating from Malacca, Si Hoo Keh, was also very prominent in the secret societies in Singapore. Unfortunately little is known about him.
In 1872 the Ghee Hin Society established its headquarters in China Street. Since the inception of this society in Singapore, numerous branches of this society have been formed. Unfortunately, some of these societies turned blatantly into antisocial or criminal groups. Some became involved in the distribution of opium. At this time the opium trade was legal. However some societies began their criminal activities by bypassing the British authorities, who were thus unable to collect the opium taxes. A large portion of the revenue for the settlement was obtained by trading in this commodity.
The British authorities, in an endeavour to control the secret societies, established in 1874 the Chinese Protectorate, specifically to deal with Chinese affairs. Mr William Pickering, who was the Chinese interpreter with the British authorities, was appointed the first Protector of Chinese. He arbitrated in Chinese disputes and all matters pertaining to the Chinese were referred to him. In an endeavour to curb the power of the secret societies, all of the secret societies—together with their members—were required to register with him. He earned the respect of the Chinese community and was known to them as daiyan, Cantonese for ‘great man’. Mr W G. Stirling, co-author of volume 1 of The Hung Society or Society of Heaven and Earth, was an Assistant Protector of Chinese.
It proved very difficult to control the societies or to obtain information on their organisation and activities. Inevitably, the members in each society belonged to a particular geographical area in China having their own customs and language.
Gradually the membership changed from those who originally joined for the fraternalism and benevolence that existed, its moral teachings and mysticism, to those who would use the society to further there own particular criminal intentions. One of the activities they engaged in was coolie-brokering, where they coerced peasant coolies from southern China to go Nanyand (Southeast Asia), where they would acquire their fortune. When they arrived in Singapore, they were kept on board whilst prospective agents or employees were found for them. Cho Kim Sang, who was the leader of the Hokkien Ghee Hin, was one of the power brokers in the coolie trade and very active in the areas of northwest Sumatra and Australia. Some coolies were also supplied with ‘credit tickets’, many of these heading to the new goldfields of Australia. Unfortunately, they soon realised that they would be making their sponsors very rich before they themselves acquired any of the Eldorado.
Members were required to pay fees, which entitled them to welfare benefits and protection from rival societies. Non-members were expected to pay protection money. The immigration of Chinese to Singapore saw a large discrepancy in the ratio of males to females, of approximately 9 to 1. Some of the societies established brothels.
With the continued influx of Chinese, the power that the Ghee Hin had experienced in the past was being threatened by the increased membership of rival secret societies. Several riots occurred in the Settlement because of this discontent. The first occurred in 1851, when 7000 Ghee Hin members in a funeral procession of the late Ho Ah Yam were attacked by 2000 members of the Ghee Hok society. In 1854 the rice riots occurred and lasted for twelve days, with 300 homes being destroyed and an estimated 500 men, women and children being killed. A change in emphasis occurred during the next riot, in 1876, the Post Office riot. This riot was not between rival societies but against the British authorities, over the imposition of a charge to the Chinese for letters and money sent to China. Previously this service was carried out by one of the societies, and the implementation of this edict would deprive them of some of their income. It was not until the Headmen of the Teochew Ghee Hin and the Hai San Kongsi were detained, and the Headman of the Teochew Ghee Hin banished to China, that peace returned.
Changes in Society membership is tabulated in Appendixes E and F. From the figures contained in these appendixes an appreciation is achieved of the effect of immigrants coming from specific areas to the overall society membership.
A turning point occurred on 18 July 1887 when William Pickering, the Protector of the Chinese, was attacked by a Teochew assailant wielding an axe, and received a slash to his forehead. This murder attempt on the Protector of the Chinese was the catalyst for the British authorities, in 1890, to declare all secret societies in the Straits Settlement illegal associations.
At the time of suppression, nine lodges were descended from the Ghee Hin Society. These were:
Hokkien Ghee Hin
Tie Kun Ghee Hin
Kwong Hok or Ghee Khee
Siong Peh Kuan
Kwong Hui Sian
Hailam Ghee Hin
The Ghee Hin Society was also referred to as the Mother Lodge, or Grand Lodge, because of its large membership and offshoots.
As a means of enforcing the suppression of the secret societies, the premises of the Ghee Hin Society and all others were burnt, always in the presence of two officials of the Chinese Protectorate. The only items that were saved were the seals and insignia of each society, which were placed in the custody of the British authorities.
Secret societies continued to operate, carrying out their blood initiations and meeting in obscure places, often in the jungle, with an elaborate system of lookout sentries to warn of any approaching Protectorate force or the police. One of the new secret societies to be established after the suppression order was the Sun Ghee Hin, or New Ghee Hin, which obviously was unauthorised and therefore illegal. It was an offshoot of the Ghee Hin Society and engaged in criminal activities, including murder.
The Hung Society, or the Society of Heaven and Earth, which developed into the Ghee Hin Society, with all its offshoots were illegal in the Straits Settlement. Most folded but it would be naive to think that none continued illegally, perhaps some even to this day.
Societies in Hong Kong
Chronologically we should now direct our attention to Hong Kong. China ceded Hong Kong (Xianggang) to the British after the disastrous Opium War of 1839–42.
In the 18th century, trade between China and Britain was flourishing. Tea, a new beverage to the west, coupled with the trade in Chinese silk and porcelain, proved advantageous to China. China on the other hand was not interested in commodities that the west had to offer. The balance in trade was lopsided and was not addressed until Britain started to export opium and cotton from India to China. Opium trade in China was illegal. However, with its addiction in the populace, and the bureaucratic corruption that existed, opium became one of the staple British exports.
In an endeavour to stem the opium trade, in 1839 the emperor sent Lin Zexu, a commissioner, to Guangzhou (Canton) to enforce the law and eradicate the opium trade. He confiscated opium from the Chinese merchants, detained all of the foreign community and seized and destroyed 20,000 chests of illegal British opium. In retaliation for this act, the British despatched a punitive force of soldiers who defeated the ill-prepared Chinese. The Treaty of Nanjing was signed, which ceded Hong Kong (Xianggang) to the British, opened five ports to British residents and foreign trade (previously foreigners were restricted to certain ports of entry), and granted amongst other things exemption to British subjects from Chinese laws. This treaty was the first of a series signed with the Western nations, later referred to by the Chinese as the ‘unequal treaties’.
Secret societies were well established prior to the ceding of Hong Kong to the British. With corruption endemic, the commodity (opium) being lucrative, and the secret societies becoming increasingly political in their aim to see the demise of the Manchu Dynasty, it is quite easy to understand the escalation in the illegal activities of the secret societies. The Triad society got its name from the British authorities in Hong Kong, after the triangular symbol which represented the society. This symbol represents the Hung symbol, which is enclosed in a triangle, which represents the union between heaven, earth and man.
Hong Kong had become—and is reputed to be, even today—the headquarters of a majority of the Triad societies. In the past these societies recruited and despatched coolie Chinese labourers to Southeast Asia, Australasia and America. The British authorities prohibited the Triads in 1845. In 1900, a former police detective who had collaborated with the Triads published a damaging book on the Hong Kong Triads. This man had been dismissed from the police force on corruption charges in 1897, such was the spread of the tentacles of the Triads. It must be noted that not all the secret societies took on the mantle of the Triads, and not all the Triads were engaged in criminal activities, although after 1845 all were operating illegally in Hong Kong.
When gold was discovered in Australia, it heralded a great influx of many thousands of Chinese, mainly from the thirteen counties around Canton. The Chinese called the Australian goldfields ‘Tsin Chin Shan’, meaning ‘The New Goldfields’.
The thirteen counties around Canton comprised the fertile delta area of the Pearl River, which flowed through Canton to the South China Sea. This area was ideal for the migration of a large number of people, as the rural area saw a proliferation of hard-working, frugal and working-class people, whereas the rich merchants, bankers and wealthy money-lenders were domiciled in Canton. Approximately one third of the Chinese immigrants, mainly artisans, shopkeepers and merchants, paid their own way, while the remainder were farmers who journeyed in search of gold under a credit-ticket system—all in expectations of accumulating wealth and prosperity.
On arrival in the new land, they quickly made their way to the alluvial goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria. By mid-1854, 4000 Chinese had arrived at the goldfields. Unrest between the Europeans and the Chinese soon became apparent. In June 1855 the Legislative Assembly of Victoria passed an Act whereby the Master of a vessel carrying Chinese had to pay a poll-tax of £10 for each Chinese passenger. This resulted in the ships that were carrying Chinese disembarking them at Robe, in South Australia, and they travelled overland to the Victorian goldfields. In 1857 nearly 11,000 Chinese travelled this route. By the end of that year there were 23,625 Chinese on the Victorian goldfields, out of a total of 25,424 Chinese in the Colony.
A very rich alluvial goldfield was discovered at the Palmer River, in Queensland, in 1872. The Chinese wasted no time in travelling to this field from the Colonies of New South Wales and Victoria, and directly from China, predominately the Kwangtung Province. Two additional factors that influenced the migration of Chinese to the Palmer River goldfields were the abolition of the export duty on gold in 1874 and the dynastic decline in China. In 1875 an estimate of the Chinese on the Palmer River goldfield was 12,000, with 75%–85% of these coming from overseas. It is interesting to note that in the month of June, 1875, it was recorded in the Queenslander of 17 July that 4317 Chinese landed at Cooktown, the majority of whom travelled to the goldfields of the Palmer River.
As on the other goldfields, the majority of Chinese who worked the Palmer River and associated goldfields were indentured and, until their debts were repaid with the appropriate interest, they lived a frugal existence. These fields found favour with the Chinese because when the Europeans left one field for a newly discovered goldfield, the Chinese came behind them and worked the deserted claim. Newspaper reports of the time likened them to ants crawling over the hills and gullies, leaving no grain of earth unturned. Such was their thoroughness.
Chinese merchants in Cooktown employed over 500 Chinese to form a human freight chain to carry produce and equipment to the Palmer River goldfields. Goods weighing approximately 150 lbs (66.6 kg) were carried in baskets suspended from a bamboo pole across the shoulders. Resentment between the Europeans and the Chinese increased when it was discovered that the Chinese were burning the grass at the side of the track, which eliminated fodder for the bullock and horse teams bringing the goods and chattels for the European miners.
The precincts around the Palmer River goldfields, especially the Hells Gate area, saw another problem arise for the Chinese. The cannibal aborigines saw the Chinese as a delicacy, a food from heaven, and hundreds of Chinese were ambushed, captured and consumed at leisure. Instances have been reported where the Chinese were tied by their pigtails to branches, to await their inevitable fate.
Vast amounts of gold were shipped out of Australia to China. This practice, together with the cultural differences, work ethics, and distrust, soon caused unrest on the goldfields. This culminated in conflicts on the Bendigo goldfield in 1854, Buckland goldfields in 1857, the notorious riots at Lambing Flat in New South Wales in 1861, and the Palmer River goldfields in Queensland in 1877.
As a result of these riots and the hostility evident between the Europeans and the Chinese, the various Colonies introduced Bills to restrict the immigration of the Chinese. The 1870s saw a growth in the trade union movement in the eastern Colonies. In 1879 the Inter-colonial Trade Union Congress passed a resolution to exclude all coloured labour. The 1880s saw some of the more influential Chinese starting to question the policies inflicted on them. Trade unionists became more active and in 1888 many anti-Chinese campaigns were held.
In 1901 the government passed the Immigration Restriction Act. Some of the merchants in Melbourne belonging to the ‘See Yap Society’ and the ‘Chinese Empire Reform Association’ met to discuss the Act and consequently representation was made to the government to make the Act less restrictive. Persistent representation paid dividends when, in 1906, the Australian Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, confirmed in Parliament that some minor concessions had been made. During this period there was a substantial increase in the number of illegal Chinese entering Australia. They suffered severe hardship during the voyage, being concealed below decks for the duration of the passage. Some died, and were thrown into the sea.
A Chinese Consul General was appointed in March 1909. He endeavoured to persuade the government to relax the immigration laws and to abolish the necessity of Chinese of good repute to provide ‘hand prints’. He was unsuccessful, and it was not until the third Consul General was appointed in 1911 that some concessions were made. The first 20 years of the 20th century saw little change in the Immigration Act; enthusiasm in the Chinese community waned, owing to the absence of change, and the Chinese community in Australia declined.
As the gold started to peter out on the alluvial fields, the Chinese who had come from the Kwangtung Province, who consisted of mainly artisans and peasants, engaged in market gardening, cabinet making and manual work. Their expertise in market gardening, especially in the early years, was widely acknowledged.
On some of the goldfields, Chinese were prohibited from mining. The Chinese soon established market gardens. The supply of fruit and vegetables was essential in the prevention of scurvy. Other Chinese engaged in scrub cutting and clearing. It was reported that they could clear virgin land more efficiently and cheaply than their European counterparts. One, named Jimmy Ah Kew, controlled a Chinese work force of 500 scrub-clearers. In Western Australia the Chinese were not permitted to mine on the rich goldfields but were allowed to engage in other business activities.
Chinese were involved in the wood-working industry, originally manufacturing boxes to transport the gold back to China. As the gold petered out, they then engaged in the cabinet-making industry. This caused a lot of friction with their European counterparts. At the peak of the Chinese furniture trade in Melbourne in 1912 there were 175 Chinese furniture firms. The employees of the Chinese cabinet makers formed the Chinese Workers Union. The Union in 1907 had a membership of 600 and was responsible for settling the wages and working hours of employees.
The involvement of Chinese in the laundry trade caused a lot of resentment with their European counterparts who complained that they worked longer hours and for less money. The number of Chinese employed in this industry was not great, as in the period 1896–1914 an average Chinese laundry employed only two people. The advent of the First World War saw the start of the decline in the Chinese laundry trade.
Chinese merchants enjoyed a reputation based on integrity and sound business ethics. They engaged in the import/export business. Many became storekeepers, greengrocers and fruit merchants. There is also evidence that they were active in banking and the granting of loans to the Chinese community. Whilst some of the stores established on the goldfields and the towns were branches of their parent company in China, others were established by Chinese who had struck it rich on the goldfields.
At the turn of the twentieth century it was recorded by the local newspaper:
In George Street North are located the stores of some of the best known and oldest-established of the Chinese merchants among whom are many who by business acumen have not only amassed considerable fortunes, but also, by the conduct of their lives in public and private, earned the goodwill and esteem of their fellow-citizen.
Trade between Australia and China from 1870 to 1890 was almost entirely controlled by the Chinese merchants. They raised money among their community and established their own shipping line in 1917.
The banana industry quickly developed and, while the markets in Sydney and Melbourne were controlled by Europeans, it was a different scenario in North Queensland. There, in the 1880s the Chinese were the major growers. This was partly due to the problems associated with packing and freighting, and the Chinese were prepared to work long hours, as well as being skilled in crop cultivation and well-financed by their merchant counterparts in Sydney and Melbourne. Some of the wealthy Chinese fruit agents in Sydney obtained land in Fiji and started the cultivation of bananas there.
Resentment soon followed their success and domination of this northern market. In 1906, during a Royal Commission on Customs and Excise in Sydney, it was reported that the Chinese controlled 80% of the banana trade. As a result of public opinion, each Chinese was permitted to lease only 5 acres of land for the cultivation of bananas. In 1921 the Queensland government passed the ‘Banana Industry Preservation Act’ the aim of which was to prevent coloured labour including Chinese from working in the cultivation of bananas. The Act stated in part that it was illegal for any person to grow bananas or be employed in the industry unless he had passed a 50-word dictation test in any prescribed language directed by the Secretary for Agriculture.
This then is an abbreviated background of Chinese endeavours in early Australia.
From Yee Hing to Chinese Masonic Society
Let us now look at the rise of the Yee Hing and the birth of the Chinese Masonic Society. The Chinese, when they came to Australia, were very patriotic to the homeland and maintained close links. One of the ways to maintain these links was to establish secret societies. These societies simultaneously offered the Chinese support, financial assistance, and a place where they could meet and converse with people of the same dialect and ethnic customs. Secret they were, out of necessity, as they became involved in the political affairs of China (remember Chinese Nationals at that time desired to return to their homeland and any political interference was severely punished).
The 1850s saw the formation of the secret societies on the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria. This coincidentally occurred when China was grappling with the Taiping Revolt, which continued until 1864, during which thousands of people were killed. The Manchu Dynasty further suffered from the Sino-Japanese war of 1894–5, in which China was defeated. The British, French, Russians, and even the Italians, seized the opportunity to claim various parts of China for themselves. The Manchu Dynasty was disintegrating. These overseas secret societies then took on the added function of raising funds to assist in the complete demise of the Manchu Dynasty and a return of Chinese home-rule.
At this time of chaos two lines of thought permeated Chinese society—Westernisation and Republicanism. The Westernisation or modernisation movement began in the reign of Emperor Tung Chih (1862–74). Among the planners were Li Hung-chang, a Governor and trusted bureaucrat of the Manchu court, and Tseng Kuo-fan, an outstanding administrator and General. They believed that the regeneration of China was through the utilisation of Western ideas and the adoption of their techniques. Railroads, telegraph systems, industry and the active encouragement of foreign-language learning were some of the initiatives undertaken.
This programme nearly succeeded. In 1898 the Emperor Kuang Hsu, influenced by reformers such as Kang Yu-wei and Liang Chi-choa, issued a decree abolishing the examination system which enabled the educated to have influential positions in the government. However, the Empress Dowager Tzu His, supported by a conservative section of court officials who utterly distrusted reform and Westernisation, seized the throne and imprisoned the Emperor. This was to divide the Chinese both at home and abroad into two factions, one supporting the Nationalist movement with a return of the Emperor and Kang and Liang, the other intent on creating a Republic even with the involvement of force.
The Sydney Scene
Led by Thomas Yee Hing, in 1898 a group of Chinese merchants in Sydney started the Chinese newspaper Tung Wah News which later (in 1902) was known as Tung Wah Times. This group was committed to the reformist views of Emperor Kuang Hsu. The Reformers collapsed in 1898 when the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi overthrew Emperor Kuang Hsu and had him imprisoned. The Reformers then aligned themselves firmly behind the monarchist cause of Kang Yu-wei and Liang Chi-chao. Chinese in Vancouver (Canada) and Sydney formed the Chinese Empire Reform Association, the aim of which was to see the demise of Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi, the reinstatement of Emperor Kuang and the creation of an infrastructure of commerce, banks, shipping lines, etc. They were also charged with raising funds for the cause.
For the first ten years of the 20th century, the Sydney merchants’ cause, under the influential merchant Thomas Yee Hing and with the assistance of the Tung Wah Times newspaper, prospered. Sydney soon became the headquarters for Australia (ten Associations), New Zealand and Canada. The other nine Associations in Australia did not enjoy the same prosperity as their Sydney counterpart, no doubt in some measure because of the influence of Thomas Yee Hing.
Meanwhile, in Sydney the Yee Hing flourished. For them it was relatively easy as, in addition to the dynamic leadership of Moy Sing and James Chuey, there were no other secret societies of influence in Sydney. An article appearing in the Chinese Australian Herald of 15 August 1908 stated that the Grand Masters of the Melbourne and Bendigo Yee Hing attended the opening of the headquarters of the Yee Hing in Blackburn Street, Sydney.
In 1911 the New South Wales ‘Young China League’ was formed, under the leadership of James Chuey, the leader of the Yee Hing in Sydney. The League consisted mainly of members of the Yee Hing Secret Society. The Young China League became firmly involved with the Republican movement of mainland China. Branches of the League had been formed in Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle, Atherton, and Wellington. They became very active and raised funds for their cause in China.
In 1912 the headquarters moved to Mary Street, Sydney, and became the Commonwealth headquarters of the Yee Hing (incorporating the Young China League). When the headquarters was opened in Mary Street, another title in English was added: ‘the Chinese Masonic Society’. The Yee Hing Secret Societies then also became known as the Chinese Masonic Society. This would appear to be the first mention of a ‘Chinese Masonic Society’ in Australia.
The Chinese Masonic Society in the same year started its own newspaper the Chinese Republican News. Among its founders were James Chuey, leader of Yee Hing, and Moy Sing, who was referred to in the Chinese Australian Herald in 1913 as being the Grand Master of the New South Wales Yee Hing. Its circulation was extensive throughout Australasia, South Pacific and China. Two republicans from China, Chiu Kwok-chun and Ng Hung-piu, came out as editors and soon established a favourable reputation in Sydney among Europeans as well as their own ethnic group.
Two of the founders of the Chinese Republican News, Moy Sing and James Chuey, were influential and highly respected within both the Chinese and European communities. Moy was the leader of the New South Wales Yee Hing for 55 years, during which time he is said to have recruited some 3000 members to the society. He died in 1919 at the age of 89. James A Chuey travelled throughout New South Wales, eventually settling down to grow wheat, and augmented this by becoming a wool broker. He amassed a great fortune and his influence and prestige among both the Chinese and Europeans increased. He was a motivator behind the formation of the Sydney Young China League and at its formation in 1911 became its leader. It was under his leadership that the Yee Hing–Young China League–Chinese Masonic Society in New South Wales became unified.
The headquarters of the Chinese Masonic Society in the Australasian region continued to be Sydney. However, in 1919, the headquarters of the World Chinese Masonic Society in San Francisco changed its Chinese name to the ‘Chee Kung Tong’ and advised all Chinese Masonic Societies to adopt this new title. In the same year it was adopted by all the Chinese Masonic Societies in Australasia and remained so for at least 30 years.
These Societies were becoming more unified and hence a lot better organised. By March 1921 the Sydney headquarters of the Chinese Masonic Society had organised four Interstate Conferences. The first conference was held in April 1918 and subsequent ones in April 1919, September 1919 and March 1921.
The combined Chinese Masonic Societies in Australasia decided to have their own official newspaper. This came to fruition in 1921 when the Chinese World’s News commenced circulation. The Grand Master of the Chinese Masonic Society, James Chuey, approached Jue Yin Tin to become the editor of the paper.
There are recorded instances where the Chinese Masonic Society in Sydney hosted gala social and cultural events, entertained foreign dignitaries from China and became a social focal point in Sydney.
It is interesting to note that the remnants of the hard-line Monarchists in Sydney formed the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The soft-line Monarchists formed the Nationalists Association, which lasted only a short time before it suffered the same fate as its predecessor. This demise heralded the end of the Monarchists movement in Sydney.
By 1904 the Association in Melbourne was changing its ideology from a monarchy to a republic. Two scholastic editors came from China to control the Melbourne newspaper. This often resulted in heated debate between the two causes. It was the belief of the monarchists that any revolt against the rule in China would see an invasion by foreign powers to protect their bases and trade interests and China would be further divided.
However, unrest in China continued and, after the Double-tenth Uprising in Wuchang in the Hupei Province in 1911, the monarchists in Sydney realised that their cause for a return of the monarchy was fast diminishing. They moderated their demands and supported a peaceful revolution. In January 1912 the Manchu Dynasty came to an end.
It seems incredible that Yuan Shih-kai, who was an influential General in the Manchu court, was elected Provincial President in China in 1913. He further angered the republicans in 1915, when he declared himself Life President of China, and in 1916 Emperor. Public opinion was running very high against Yuan. In the southern Provinces the military leaders were declaring their provinces’ independence, whilst in the north the warlords were threatening the stability of the area. At the death of Emperor Yuan Shih-kai in 1916, China came under the control of Generals Li Yuan-hung and Tuan Ch’i-jui. Was it to be a return to stability? I’m afraid not.
The Melbourne Connection
From its infancy the Chinese Empire Reform Party in Melbourne did not enjoy the same success as its Sydney counterpart. Chinese societies in Melbourne at the turn of the twentieth century were not unified, with many factions existing. This resulted in the demise of the Chinese Empire Reform Association in 1904.
In the same year a number of Chinese merchants, storekeepers and cabinet-makers founded a new political association, ‘New National Mind Broadening Association’. The insurmountable difference between the Melbourne and Sydney Associations centred around the fact that the Melbourne group did not want a return of the Emperor Kuang Hsu and his supporters, Kang and Liang. The Melbourne group was therefore considered to be a reformist group along republican lines. By 1907 its membership had grown to 600, whist Sydney claimed a membership of 2000.
Lee Yuan Sam was the leader of the Melbourne Yee Hing. He was a miner and storekeeper, and travelled extensively throughout Victoria. During those travels he established many Yee Hing Secret Societies. Unfortunately, as he moved on, the society just established was not always blessed with a dynamic leader, so they remained fragmented. To Lee’s credit it is acknowledged that 3000 out of a total Chinese population of 5600 joined the Yee Hing Secret Society.
A change was soon to overtake the Melbourne Chinese scene. Two noted republican scholars, Lew Goot-chee and Wong Yue-kung, came out from China as editors of the Melbourne Chinese newspaper the Chinese Times, also known as the Ai Kuo Pao, meaning ‘Love Motherland’. They formed a group which held lectures on their cause. This group, in 1911, formed the ‘Young China League’, which successfully united all the Yee Hing groups in Victoria, with the aim of seeing the demise of the Manchu Dynasty and the establishment of a Republic of China under Chinese rule.
In 1914 Lew Goot-chee left Victoria for America. Wong Yue-kung was unable to keep the Young China League going and it ended in disarray, and their newspaper, the Chinese Times, closed. The Yee Hings in the same year restructured and became the ‘Chung Wah Ming Kuo Kung Hui’, and adopted as its English title ‘The Chinese Masonic Society’. For Melbourne it heralded the end of the Secret Society, as it pledged to make its proceedings open to the public and canvassed for the creation of a true Republic of China.
The Melbourne Chinese Masonic Society continued to prosper, along with the other Chinese Masonic Societies in Victoria. In 1920, after raising funds to build there own headquarters, it was opened in Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.
Apart from being attracted to the goldfields, some of the Chinese were engaged as shipwrights on the Endeavour River, in the laundry trade, as gardeners, merchants, cabinet-makers, timber-getters, tailors, hawkers, wood and water suppliers, in places such as Cairns, Tolga, Herberton, Geraldton and many other North Queensland locations. Cooktown also boasted its own Chinese printery and newspaper. However their main attraction outside the quest for the golden grains was to the banana industry in Geraldton (Innisfail) and the agriculture of maize at Atherton.
We are able to ascertain from articles appearing in the Cairns Post that various Yee Hing Secret Societies existed in Cairns and Herberton as early as the 1880s and 1890s. The Cairns Post of 28 April 1908 reported that a new headquarters of the Yee Hing Secret Society had opened. Three years later another lodge of the Yee Hing opened at Cairns with great festivity. Members travelled from Brisbane, Atherton and other centres, and joined with many local European identities to celebrate the event.
Chinese arriving in the Atherton area camped at Piebald Creek and their huts were mainly constructed from corn straw. The Europeans were camped opposite, at Prior’s Pocket, later known as Atherton. Both camps were known as ‘Cedar Camps’, from the huge cedar trees that grew in the area.
In 1886 the Chinese population at the Atherton Chinatown known as Cedar Camp was 104. When the gold started to peter out on the Palmer and other alluvial fields, the Chinese migrated to other towns throughout the north. By the early 1900s the population at Piebald Creek and the surrounding areas of Atherton had reached in excess of 1100 Chinese. When they first arrived at Atherton, the Chinese were mainly involved in timber-getting and land-clearing for the European farmers. However, it was not long before they became involved in agriculture, growing maize and corn. By 1905 the Chinese controlled 80% of the maize grown around Atherton, which represented 30% of the State’s production.
The Yee Hing Secret Society flourished in both Atherton and Herberton. By 1909 they had built their own hall in Chinatown Atherton. It was the largest building in Chinatown and the Leader of the Yee Hing, Lee Sye, was referred to by the Europeans as the ‘head serang or mayor of Chinatown’. Among other interests the Yee Hing were involved in the growing of corn. In 1912 the complexion of the Secret Societies at Atherton changed drastically. In that year a rival group to the Yee Hing, referred to as ‘anti–Yee Hing’, was threatening the stability of the Yee Hing. The leaders of the anti–Yee Hing Secret Society were Fong On and Chong Lee. In a letter of 8 March 1912 from acting Sergeant James Lawrence of the Mareeba Police Station to the Inspector of Police in Cairns, the former stated that a possible reason for the rise of the anti–Yee Hing Secret Society and their antagonism towards the Yee Hing was that Fong On was rejected for membership of the Yee Hing.
However, perhaps it was resentment of a levy imposed upon the corn growers by the Yee Hing on non-members which provided a catalyst for the formation of the anti–Yee Hing Society and its rapid rise in membership. It wasn’t long before they were numerically stronger and displayed much more aggression.
In February 1912 fighting broke out between the two groups in the gambling house of Fong On. It was reported to have been started by the anti–Yee Hing Secret Society and quickly spread through Chinatown, with several hundred Chinese being involved. As the Yee Hing were vastly inferior numerically to the anti–Yee Hing, reinforcements for the Yee Hing came from Cairns and Geraldton. During the remainder of the year minor diminishing altercations occurred. In line with the English title ‘Chinese Masonic Society’ adopted by their New South Wales and Victorian counterparts, the Yee Hing Societies in Queensland also adopted this title. The Yee Hing Society was also then referred to as the ‘Chinese Masonic Society’ and the anti–Yee Hing became known as the anti-Masons.
The cause for which the Secret Societies were striving having been achieved with the fall of the Manchu Dynasty, the Secret Societies of the Yee Hing and the anti–Yee Hing started to sink into obscurity. However, the Yee Hing managed to continue and for a while prospered. Some Chinese came from the anti–Yee Hing Secret Society and also one of their original leaders, Chong Lee, joined the Yee Hing or ‘Chinese Masonic Society’. It is believed that the anti–Yee Hing or anti-Masons were the forerunners of the Atherton–Cairns Chinese Nationalist League, formed in 1917. The other original leader of the anti–Yee Hing, Fong On, was prominent in both of these organisations.
The Barron Valley Advocate of 19 June 1915 reported that the Chinese Masonic Society were ‘paragons of virtue’, raising money for the local ambulance in 1914 and 1915 by way of displays and parades, etc. The same paper on 26 June 1915 reported that a display was held to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of a Chinese Masonic lodge, with the money raised being donated to the ambulance. The Cairns Post has numerous articles reporting the activities of the Chinese Masonic Societies in that region donating money to the ambulance and also the hospital. It has been reported that in some years the money donated to the hospital by Chinese exceeded that of the Europeans.
We know from the records of the Melbourne Chinese Masonic Society that the Yee Hing Society was established or revitalised at Atherton, Cairns, Brisbane, Gordonvale, Toowoomba, Mackay, Rockhampton, Launceston in Tasmania, and Tumut in New South Wales, sometime between 1916 and 1918. Strictly speaking, they did not classify themselves as Secret Societies, as they were open to public scrutiny and the names of the office bearers, etc, were published. At this time the Yee Hing Societies were all known as Chinese Masonic Societies. In 1919 the Atherton Chinese Masonic Society, along with all other Chinese Masonic Societies, and in accordance with the directive from the Australasian headquarters at Sydney, adopted the Chinese title ‘Chee Kung Tong’ whilst still maintaining the English title of Chinese Masonic Society.
Legislation was passed in 1919 prohibiting Chinese renewing their land leases. The Soldiers’ Settlement Scheme came into being, with land previously tilled by the Chinese being offered to the Soldiers. Chinese exited the Atherton area for the coast.
Chinese immigration to New Zealand commenced in 1865. The majority came from the Guangdong Province and headed for the goldfields of Otago and the west coast. Their intentions were similar to those who came to Australia for the gold rush, to seek their fortune and return to China with wealth and the prestige that would accompany it. A few went into the merchant trade, while others tilled the land as market gardeners. As the gold petered out on the various alluvial fields, including dredging an area which they pioneered, the number of Chinese occupying non-mining occupations increased exponentially. Relations between the Chinese and the Europeans were strained.
The New Zealand authorities wanted to drastically decrease the number of Chinese entering New Zealand, but at the same time they had to satisfy the wishes of the Imperial Government in Britain. New Zealand at that time was similar to Australia in that it was a colony of Britain. If the Bill was to totally exclude the Chinese, an option which the New Zealand authorities favoured, it would not receive the approval of the British, as it would have angered China and compromised Britain’s trade dealings with that country. Compromise to this vexed problem was achieved with the introduction in 1881 of a ‘poll-tax’ requiring every Chinese to pay £10 on arrival. The authorities deemed that the Chinese immigration flow was not stemmed sufficiently, so in 1896 the Chinese Immigrants Act was passed, with the poll-tax being increased to £100. The desired effect was achieved.
It is reasonable to assume that an offshoot of the Hung Society, for example the Yee Hing Secret Society, commenced soon after the arrival of the first main influx of Chinese in the mid-1860s to Otago. By the turn of the century the Chinese had started to drift from the goldfields of Otago to the urban areas of Wellington and Auckland. It is on record that in 1907 the Yee Hing Secret Society had formed a branch at Wellington.
In an article appearing in the Chinese Times of 6 November 1909, the Wellington Yee Hing Secret Society donated £1000 towards the revolutionary activities to see the demise of the Manchu Dynasty in China. The same newspaper on 5 August 1911 reported that the Yee Hing Societies in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific donated £26,000 to assist in relieving the financial difficulties of the new regime in China after the fall of the Manchu Dynasty. This was a substantial sum of money, and would have been further enhanced by the exchange rate at the time. No doubt the euphoria of the moment assisted them in their fund-raising.
The Wellington Yee Hing formed an alliance with the Australian Yee Hing Secret Societies, with Sydney being declared the headquarters. The Society’s move towards openness and the eventual adoption of the English title ‘Chinese Masonic Society’, and later the Chinese title Chee Kung Tong, as directed by the World Headquarters in San Francisco, mirrored the other Yee Hing groups.
On 10 October 1925 the Wellington Chinese Masonic Society, or Chee Kung Tong, celebrated the opening of their New Zealand headquarters at Frederick Street, Wellington, with a gala banquet. It is worth noting that among the dignitaries were the Mayor and Archdeacon of Wellington, a cabinet minister and a ‘high office bearer of the Wellington Grand Lodge Masonic Order’. The Chinese Masonic Society was held in very high regard and participated in the raising of funds for charity.
Other Societies existed at this time, but the strongest that dominated the political scene was the Chee Kung Tong. Its main rival was the Kuomintang, which consisted mainly of the intellectual Chinese—while the Chee Kung Tong attracted the average Chinese, such as the miner, merchant and market gardener. It was inevitable that conflicts between the two should occur, as their ideologies were different. Also, the Chee Kung Tong supported Peking, which was the official government, while the Kuomintang Society supported the Kuomintang political party which governed in Canton and which claimed to be the official Chinese government.
When the Kuomintang defeated the Peking government in 1928, thus unifying China, it heralded the commencement of a slow decline in membership for the Chee Kung Tong. New members were going to the Kuomintang or the Nationalist New Zealand Chinese Association, as the Chinese (like all of us) prefer to be on the winning side. The Chee Kung Tong in New Zealand continued with the support of its older members until 1975, when it was formally disbanded.
North American Connection
Imagine the surprise when in 1848 James Wilson Marshall, who was building a sawmill on the banks of the American River, gazed into the river and picked up nuggets of gold. By August that year 4000 miners had arrived, and by the end of the following year in excess of 80,000 miners arrived to make their fortune. Unfortunately, not many found their Eldorado; it is said the smart ones became merchants, storekeepers and farmers.
The resentment shown towards the immigrants, especially the Orientals, was to be repeated in the other goldfields and towns where the Chinese settled. California was the first place to devise, as a means of restricting the flow of immigrants, legislation known as the California Act, which required all alien immigrants to pay an entry fee of $5. This legislation was passed in 1852. The first use of this model of legislation specifically to curb the flow of Chinese was in the Australian colony of Victoria in 1855. The Victorian legislation required the Master of a ship to pay a ‘poll tax’ of ten pound on each Chinese who landed in Victoria. Other Australian colonies followed, with New South Wales imposing a £10 tax in 1861, Queensland likewise imposing a £10 poll-tax on Chinese in 1877—and by 1887 all Australian colonies had a poll-tax imposed on the entry of all Chinese. By way of interest, the last country to abolish this form of statute was New Zealand, in 1944.
Lured by gold fever, some Chinese left the Californian goldfields in 1858, making their way to the new goldfield in British Columbia, in the expectation of amassing their fortune. The first Chinese fraternal/social society to be formed in Canada was the Chi Kung Tong, which was established at Barkersville, British Columbia, in 1862. They later became known as ‘Chinese Masonic Society’ or ‘Chinese Freemasonry’. The Chinese title is often referred to as ‘Hung Men Chi Kung Tong’. The Hung Men refers to the original Hung Society of the Southern Provinces of China.
When the gold output waned, some Chinese remained as usual working in laundries, cabinet-making, market gardens, etc. The construction of the intercontinental railway relied heavily on the Chinese as cheap labourers for this project. Upon its completion, the Chinese who were now out of work used this resource to spread throughout the United States. In 1875 it is recorded that 25% of the male labour market of California was Chinese.
Many of the Chinese in California formed self-interest groups. The most powerful group, the Merchants Company, became the ‘Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of America’. The major Secret Society in San Francisco, California, was the Yee Hing, a branch of the Hung Society. Their dominance amongst the Yee Hing Secret Societies, mainly owing to their numerical strength, was confirmed when they were appointed the World Headquarters of the Yee Hing. To reinforce their status in the Chinese community, and to present a prosperous ‘face’ to the community at large, they operated from a three-storey building in Spofford Alley, in the heart of the Chinatown area of San Francisco.
It was recorded that the Yee Hing had a membership in San Francisco in 1886 of 4500, and in the Americas where the Chinese had penetrated the total membership was 15,000. Their records indicated that they had branches in 390 towns in the United States, Canada, Spanish America and Cuba. San Francisco, as stated earlier, was the World Headquarters of the Yee Hing or ‘Chinese Masonic Society’. In 1919 the Headquarters issued a statement indicating that all ‘Chinese Masonic Societies’ were to be also known by the Chinese title ‘Chee Kung Tong’.
Tong Wars between the Secret Societies were quite frequent, as some of the societies fought to maintain their slice of the gambling, prostitution and opium trade. The authorities were slow to react, especially if it was kept within the confines of Chinatown.
There were six major Tongs operating in North America. Each had an associated gang which conducted the unsavoury part of their operation, the only exception being the Chee Kung Tong or ‘Chinese Masonic Society’, which had no affiliated gang. The six Tongs with their associated Gangs were:
Chinese Masonic Societies (sometimes referred to in North America as Chinese Freemasonry) spread rapidly through the United States of America and Canada, assisted by that mode of transport which they were instrumental in constructing—the railway. In areas such as Boston, San Francisco and New York, the Chee Kung Tong exists even today. There are Chinese Masonic Societies (Chee Kung Tong) in Mexico, Hawaii, England, Canada, and other countries. To give some appreciation of its spread, in the early 1990s Hawaii was host to a world ‘Chinese Masonic Society Conference’.
Some interesting aspects
The late 1600s saw the birth of the Triad Societies. Modern Triads trace their history to the secret political societies formed in China during the 17th century to overthrow the foreign Ch’ing or Manchu Dynasty and restore the Chinese Ming Dynasty to power. The term Triad, later coined by the British authorities in Hong Kong, is based on the triangular symbol found on flags and banners of the early secret societies, predominately the Hung or Heaven and Earth Society. This symbol represents the three essential elements of heaven, earth and man.
Since the title Triad referred to all Secret Societies it is important to realise that not all Triad organizations indulged in criminal activities. Many of the previous Secret Societies still maintained their fraternal/benevolent basis but also most during this period of Chinese history were active in the political arena. The island of Hong Kong became a stronghold of the Triads. With the victory of Britain in the first Opium War of 1839–42 and the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing, China was forced to open its ports and also ceded to Britain the island of Hong Kong. This was the first treaty that China was forced to sign but many more were to follow during the Manchu Dynasty. Britain endeavoured to curb the powers of the Triads by introducing two Ordinances on the ‘Suppression of the Triad Societies 1845’. This, however, did not have the desired effect, as these organizations either went underground or returned to mainland China.
The Chinese populace resented the foreign rule and the autocratic cultural policy that the Manchu Dynasty maintained further polarised the rulers from their citizens.
Triads, Tongs and Gangs
To enable an appreciation of the terms Triads, Tongs and Gangs, the following is offered:
* Generally speaking, the Triads were formed as Secret Societies overseas, and migrated as such to the host country. Generally speaking, they all were involved with criminal activities, including protection, extortion, kidnapping, murder, and people smuggling. Wherever there is money to be made, they would be there.
* Tongs refers to the groups which were in existence over 100 years ago, sworn brotherhoods pledging to assist each other and provide a place where they could socialise. Many, though not all, were involved in illegal activities, usually in the providing of services to their members, for example gambling and opium.
* Gangs originated from two sources. Juvenile gangs started for so-called prestige, branching into self-defence and crime. The other gangs were formed by the Tongs to give them muscle, at the same time allowing them to maintain their respectability and image as a law-abiding Tong.
Square and Compasses
There are analogies to Freemasonry found in the Hung Ritual. We may wonder, therefore, when we read the Hung Ritual, why there is no reference to the square and compasses. One reason could be that the square relates to matter, and in the Hung Ritual it depicts the journey of the spirit through the underworld.
The square and compasses are used widely as symbols by the Chinese. The legendary Founder and Creator of the Chinese State, Fu Hsi, and his Consort, use them as their emblems. Thus, whenever we see them depicted, Fu Hsi is holding in his hand a gallows square, while the Consort is holding a pair of compasses.
In Chinese Classics we find the following references to them. In the Book of History (1200 bc) is: ‘Ye officers of the Government apply the compasses’, and in The Great Learning (500 bc): ‘A man should abstain from doing unto others what he would not they should do unto him, and this is called the principal of acting on the square’. Mencius, the disciple of Confucius, wrote: ‘Men should apply the square and compasses morally to their lives, and the level and marking line besides, if they would walk in the straight and even path of Wisdom, and keep themselves within the bounds of honour and virtue’. Mencius also, in a later book, wrote: ‘A Master Mason in teaching his apprentices makes use of the compass and square. We who are engaged in the pursuit of Wisdom must also make use of the compass and square’.
Some believe that in the early Classics can be found traces of a Secret Society, preceding the ‘Hung Society’, that taught a system of faith by means of Masonic symbols. They also state that in The Chinese Classics, by Legge, reference is made to a symbolic temple in the desert, and the officers of the Society wore distinguishing jewels and leather aprons. The leather apron is important; an ancient statue of the Child Buddha shows him wearing the apron and making a sign, peculiar to the Hung Society, known as the ‘Witness sign’.
Women in the Hung Society?
Apparently women are eligible to join the Hung Society, although I have been unable to locate any direct evidence of such. There were women Founders in the Hung Society, and tablets commemorating this appear in all the Temples. They were not permitted to enter the Temple, but rather a group of officers went to their home with some of the furniture and conducted the ceremony there. In some of the ancient mysteries, women played an important part in the ceremonies.
From the Hung Society, or the Society of Heaven and Earth, we have seen the evolution of a Secret Society to become known as the ‘Chinese Masonic Society’ or ‘Chinese Freemasonry’, and by the Chinese name of Chee Kung Tong. We have discovered a Society which through the ages has in turn been benevolent with its aims to offer help, advice and relaxation to members, and political as in aiding the overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty. Its offshoots appear in many places throughout the world. Members of the Society hold ranks which coincide with Masonic titles. Why was the word ‘Masonic’ added to the title of the Hung or its descendant societies? It has been suggested because the word ‘Masonic’ invokes images of benevolence, charity and order.
Let us continue, and examine the advent of ‘Regular Freemasonry’ in China.
Part 2—Regular Freemasonry in China
Regular Freemasonry has an extensive and complex, although somewhat convoluted, history in China. With this in mind, a brief summary of the hierarchical structure of the various lodges is provided as a precursor to the subsequent detailed analysis of the English, Scottish, Irish, French and Massachusetts Constitutions.
The Hierarchical Structure in China
The United Grand Lodge of England was the first to establish a hierarchical structure for the government of Freemasonry in China. The first Provincial Grand Master was Bro Samuel Rawson.
1847–66 Provincial Grand Lodge of China
1866–75 District Grand Lodge of China
1875–1963 District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and South China
1877–1955 District Grand Lodge of Northern China
1963—— District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and the Far East
In 1905 the first District was established under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Their first District Grand master was Bro Dr G P Jordan.
1905–58 District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and South China
1921–55 District Grand Lodge of North China
1958—— District Grand Lodge of the Far East
With the arrival of the brethren under the Grand Lodge of Ireland, their Grand Lodge established a District Grand Inspector in 1933. Their first appointee was Bro P M Streit.
1933–38 District Grand Inspector
1938–47 Grand Inspector
1947–54 Grand Inspector for Hong Kong and China
1954–67 Grand Inspector for Hong Kong, China and Malaya
1967–88 Grand Inspector for the Far East
1988—— Provincial Grand Lodge of the Far East
When American brethren established a lodge under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1864, the office of District Deputy Grand Master was created immediately, but it was not until 27 December 1891 that Bro D C Jansen was installed in that office.
1864–1950 District Deputy Grand Master
Who would have thought, in 1758, when the members of Lodge Salomon, in Gothenburg, a port on the west coast of Sweden, deliberated the issue of a ‘warrant of constitution’, that this would be the precursor to Freemasonry in China? The lodge granted the request of seven of its members who were employed by the Swedish East India Company, thus enabling them to hold meetings away from home whenever their ship docked and they came ashore. The lodge was named Prince Carl’s Lodge, after the ship in which the seven voyaged. Records are scarce. However, we do know from their fire-damaged records on the first voyage that they held a meeting at Cadiz, a port of call, when four Swedish sailors from the Swedish naval vessels at anchor were balloted for initiation.
In China, foreigners were only just tolerated. Their ships were only allowed access to certain ports and the sailors were only permitted to go to certain areas, and then only on specific days. Records indicate that in 1759 a collection was taken aboard the vessel ‘Adolf Friederich’ for a Masonic Society. It is interesting that some of those who subscribed were later signatories on an application to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Gothenburg for a warrant.
An English Constitution lodge, the Lodge of Amity, meeting in Canton, is recorded on the list of lodges for the premier Grand Lodge of England in 1768. It is thought that this lodge existed for approximately thirty years. No records exist for its consecration or for any returns sent to Grand Lodge.
In the 1780s the Grand Lodge of Sweden, in line with other Scandinavian, Finnish and German Grand Lodges, adopted a change in degree systems. This became known as the Swedish Rite, and consisted of eleven degrees divided into three groups. This structure appealed to the Swedish Canton brethren, when in 1787 they applied to the Grand Lodge of Sweden for a full warrant (refer to Appendix G). The lodge was to be known as the Elizabeth Lodge, after the wife of the Grand Master, the Duke of Sodermanland. On 20 September 1788, Elizabeth Lodge was consecrated.
The first Worshipful Master of Elizabeth Lodge was a stalwart of Swedish Freemasonry in Canton, Brother Smedberg. It was stipulated that the Deputy Master should be a captain of a ship belonging to the Swedish East India Company that regularly sailed to Canton. It was also decreed that the Worshipful Master would always be a Supercargo. The by-laws state: ‘the date of regular meetings shall be whilst the Swedish East India Company’s ships are in China’.
The Grand Lodge of Sweden has the minutes relating to 36 meetings of Elizabeth Lodge, to 1796. During this time, 29 were initiated or affiliated into the lodge. The phraseology of the minutes is quaint; for affiliation, they record: ‘four brethren were adopted by the lodge in order to gain promotion’.
It is recorded that Brother James Chalmers was the fourth and last Worshipful Master of Elizabeth Lodge. Bro Chalmers wrote to the Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Gothenburg, saying that the trading ships were now going to Macau and, with the merchants and the like leaving Canton for Macau, the membership of the lodge was decreasing to an alarming level. Bro Chalmers also mentioned an English lodge in his correspondence, which would appear to be the Lodge of Amity. Elizabeth lodge had its last meeting on 23 February 1812. The lodge was placed in abeyance until 1878, when it was erased. With the union of the premier Grand Lodge (Moderns) and the Grand Lodge of the Antients in 1813, Lodge of Amity was deemed to be defunct, since it had never made a return to Grand Lodge, and consequently was erased.
Unfortunately, this marks the end of the early Masonic lodges in China.
The stimulus for the return of Freemasonry to China was the sheer enthusiasm provided by 12 brethren meeting in the Commandant’s quarters in Victoria, on the island of Hong Kong. From this meeting on 29 April 1844, the Commandant, VWBro J H Cooke, and the other eleven brethren, forwarded a petition to the United Grand Lodge of England for the formation of a lodge. Their efforts were successful, and on 18 September 1844 a warrant was granted for the formation of Royal Sussex Lodge No 735. The lodge met at Victoria, and for the first three years that the lodge operated it was under the direct control of London.
It is interesting that some brethren examining the history of the lodge at a later date were investigating the theory that Royal Sussex Lodge was named after the Irish Royal Sussex Regiment, because of the number of Irish foundation brethren. However, it was established that none of the foundation members was a member of an Irish jurisdiction lodge, and the lodge was in fact named after the Duke of Sussex, HRH August Frederick, Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) from 1813 to 1843. Royal Sussex Lodge flourished and it was not long before the brethren were entertaining thoughts of petitioning for a new lodge.
With many of the populace moving to Canton from Hong Kong, Royal Sussex Lodge applied to the UGLE to relocate its charter to Canton. On 18 February 1848, Royal Sussex Lodge held its first meeting in Canton. The buildings along the river were known as ‘factories’. Here the merchants and foreigners conducted their business, slept and socialized. In one of these factories, known locally as ‘The Club’, it was reported in an article in The Far East in 1854 that, apart from a library, billiard room, rowing club and assembly room, there existed a Freemason’s lodge.
Life in the Orient was never going to be dull, partly because of the vast cultural differences existing between the Celestials and the foreigners. An incident occurred in 1856 when Chinese officials boarded a vessel flying the British flag and took away the Chinese crew. The Irish captain, being on another vessel at the time, escaped capture. The British Consul demanded the return of the twelve crew, and the Chinese authorities refused, saying that some were pirates. Chinese then attacked and captured the forts of the Bogue. The greater Chinese community, interpreting this as a great Chinese victory, burnt down the factories, and destroyed the wharves and port facilities. All of the foreigners were compelled to leave Canton, with most returning to Hong Kong. So, once again, the members of Royal Sussex Lodge were in Hong Kong with the warrant of their lodge. Because of all the upheaval, the lodge went into abeyance in 1858.
Significantly, the Royal Sussex Lodge while operating in Canton sponsored the first Royal Arch Chapter in China in 1851. The Celestial Chapter held its first meeting in March 1852 and the following year a Provincial Grand Chapter was formed in Canton, with one Chapter, namely Celestial Chapter No 735.
We saw previously how Royal Sussex Lodge was flourishing in its first years of operation in Hong Kong, before it moved to Canton. Zetland Lodge No 768, a daughter lodge of Royal Sussex Lodge, had its first meeting on 24 June 1846. It was named after the new Grand Master, Thomas, second earl of Zetland, who succeeded the Duke of Sussex, and who reigned as Grand Master of the UGLE from 1844 to 1870.
There were great celebrations amongst the Masonic brethren when, in 1847, Grand Lodge in its wisdom deemed that, with two lodges operating in Hong Kong, it had sufficient reason to form a Provincial Grand Lodge of China. The first Provincial Grand Master was Bro Samuel Rawson. He was the inaugural First Principal of Celestial Royal Arch Chapter in Canton. Bro Mercer succeeded Bro Rawson as the Provincial Grand Master. In 1859 the United Grand Lodge of England, in an endeavour to distinguish the Provincial Grand Lodges overseas from the Provincial Grand Lodges in England, decreed that those overseas would be known as District Grand Lodges.
Life in Hong Kong became difficult. Parliament was asking persistent questions on the cost of running the colony. A new Governor was appointed and taxes were imposed on the colony’s inhabitants. Zetland Lodge was having its own problems with decreasing membership and apathy. On one occasion when Bro Samuel Rawson visited Zetland Lodge, he was elected a member and immediately elected into the office of Master Elect. As an indication of the plight of Freemasonry in the area, Bro H Kingmiel, a member of Victoria Lodge, said some twenty years later:
There was a time when Masonry in Hong Kong was like the dying flame of a candle flickering in the socket, and there was no one to work the solitary Lodge which existed in the place. Bro Rawson was then resident in Canton, and at a cost of great trouble, inconvenience, and expense to himself, he took energetic measures to gather the almost dying embers together . . . Bro Mercer . . . brought to the discharge of his high position the union of many qualifications. A gentleman, both by descent and nature, a scholar, a man of the highest principles, and an ardent Mason, he contributed in no slight degree to the consummation of Bro Rawson’s work.
Masonry finds a home in Hong Kong
The enthusiasm with which Zetland Lodge commenced its Masonic history is indicated by the efforts of the lodge to construct its own Masonic building. The ceremony was carried out with all pomp and decorum. The Provincial Grand Master, Bro Samuel Rawson, led a procession of Masonic brethren in regalia who were preceded by the bands of the 59th Regiment and the United States naval vessel Susquehanna. When HMS Cleopatra made the signal that the sun was at its meridian, the bells proclaimed high noon and the stone was lowered into position. After the Provincial Grand Master tried the stone with the plumb, level and square, he poured corn, wine and oil on the stone, and the building was declared dedicated to Freemasonry. When the brethren returned to the lodge room, they were addressed by the foundation Master of Zetland Lodge, Bro Mercer.
The Bungalow, as it was affectionately called by the brethren, was replaced by a larger, more impressive building in 1865. This new Masonic building was situated in Zetland Street, in the central business district. In 1944 this building was destroyed by American bombing, as Hong Kong was occupied by Japanese forces. Construction was commenced on the present Zetland Hall in 1949 and the building dedicated to Freemasonry on 30 January 1950.
Shanghai, Northern China
China opened Shanghai to foreigners in 1845. Brethren from Royal Sussex and Zetland Lodges were transferred to this port. They and other Masons in Shanghai were interested in forming a lodge. Consequently, in 1849 a petition was forwarded to the United Grand Lodge of England for the formation of a new lodge, to be called Northern Lodge. The first meeting of Northern Lodge No 832 was held on 1 December 1849, dispensation having been received from the Provincial Grand Lodge of China to hold a meeting. A copy of the dispensation appears as Appendix H. The Master elect, although a member of Royal Sussex Lodge, recorded his Mother Lodge as Lodge Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No 1, Grand Lodge of Scotland. The Senior Warden was a member of Zetland Lodge, and the Junior Warden was a member of a Bengal Lodge.
The lodge prospered. In December 1849 the following meetings of Northern Lodge were held:
11 December both the first and second degrees were worked;
15 December two first degrees;
22 December two third degrees;
24 December two seconds and one first degree;
27 December four first degrees, followed by a banquet.
It would be interesting to read the report from the Inspector of Workings if it occurred today.
This lodge presented a certificate to the candidate for each degree. Some of the by-laws were different from todays:
* Of interest is one referring to balloting: If two negatives appeared, there should be no further ballot, but if one appeared then the ballot should go around for the second time. If the negative was repeated, then exclusion resulted.
* The final toast was a little different: ‘to all poor and distressed Masons wherever they may be dispersed over the globe and may they have a speedy and prosperous return to their respective homes should they wish it’. This was followed by a minute’s silence.
One of the earliest documents of the lodge in existence is a receipt for three dozen bottles of sherry.
During a visit of the Provincial Grand Master, Bro James Rawlings, the Worshipful Master of Northern Lodge approached him with the request to form a Mark lodge attached to Northern Lodge. As the number of Royal Arch Freemasons were very few, the request was denied. However, the Provincial Grand Master agreed to form a lodge of Mark Master Masons and advance qualified brethren. On 15 December 1854, nine brethren were advanced to the Mark degree.
Once again, events occurred which affected the prosperity of the lodge. This was a crucial period in the history of China; the unrest during the Manchu dynasty has been amply illustrated in the previous section dealing with the Hung Society. The foreign section of the community was becoming unsettled, particularly when in 1857 an attempt was made in Hong Kong to kill the European population there by poisoning the bread. Lord Elgin was appointed by the British authorities to act on behalf of the British government in dealing with the Emperor of China. Initially the Emperor dismissed the demands of Lord Elgin and it was not until he advanced on Peking with 20,000 troops and destroyed the Summer Palace that the Treaty of Peking was signed. A degree of tranquillity returned for some forty years.
During this period of Freemasonry, the Royal Sussex Lodge can boast of many influential members. We shall look briefly at two of these brethren:
Richard John, Viscount Suirdale, was the Foundation Senior Warden, and afterwards became the 4th Earl of Donoughmore. Many of the Earls of Donoughmore have been Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, from the 1st Earl who was Grand Master from 1789–1813, to the 7th Earl.
Robert Freke Gould was an eminent Masonic historian. When the Royal Sussex Lodge shifted its warrant to Shanghai in 1863, he was the first affiliate and was later elected the first honorary member of the lodge. In Northern Lodge, he was a Past Master and also the first honorary member of that lodge. He was a Past Provincial Grand Master (EC) of the Provincial Grand Lodge of China, one of the founders of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No 2076 and its second Master. On 3 July 1865, at the request of the English, Scottish and Irish brethren, Bro Gould officiated and laid the foundation stone of the Masonic Hall at Shanghai.
It was becoming increasingly evident that the prosperity of the lodges in Shanghai was in doubt. This was not due to any actions of the authorities towards Freemasonry, but rather the process of attrition. Bro Farmer resigned as District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of North China. He was replaced by Bro W O Barrington, who was appointed the Grand Inspector responsible for the running of the District Grand Lodge of North China (EC). On 21 December 1950, Bro Barrington forwarded a letter to Royal Sussex Lodge and the other remaining English Constitution lodges. The letter asked the lodges, ‘to consider if they should, due to the shortage of resident members, amalgamate with other lodges or transfer their charter to meet elsewhere or they would fade out in an undignified manner’.
At a meeting of Royal Sussex Lodge on 24 April 1952, the following resolution was passed:
that in view of the shortage of Resident Members and the probability of further depletion, the Brethren of this Royal Sussex Lodge No 501 EC now meeting at Shanghai, deem it advisable and in the best interests of the Lodge that the Royal Sussex Lodge No 501 EC shall transfer to and meet at Hong Kong after the summer recess of the year 1952.
Thus the Shanghai history of Royal Sussex Lodge closed that night, and the lodge returned to the city from whence it started, as the first lodge after the rebirth of Freemasonry in China.
The following lodges under the English Constitution, St George’s Lodge No 4575 in Shanghai, and Union Lodge No 1951 and Coronation Lodge No 2931, both from Tientsin (southeast of Beijing, or Peking, near the coast), handed in their charters in 1952. In 1953 Northern Star of China No 2763, of Tsingtao (port city, also known as Quingdao), and Tongshan Lodge No 3001 closed. The following year (1954) Far Cathay Lodge No 2855, of Hankow (inland, on the Yangtze River), and in 1955 Doric Lodge of Ching-kiang No 1433, from Shanghai, finally handed in their warrants. Tuscan Lodge No 1027 decided in 1954 to move their charter to London, consequently on 8 December 1954 the lodge had its first meeting at its new location in London.
Shanghai, once a bustling centre of Masonic activity, was now significantly reduced, with only Northern Lodge of China No 570 (EC) and its associated Chapter Zion No 570, Lodge Cosmopolitan No 428 (SC) and Doric Lodge No 1433 (EC) remaining. Soon Doric Lodge handed in its warrant. An era in English Constitution Freemasonry came to an end in 1960 when, after 111 years of Freemasonry in China, Northern Lodge of China No 570 (EC) and its Chapter Zion No 570 closed and surrendered their warrants.
Early Scottish Freemasonry in China
Scottish Freemasonry came to China by way of Lodge Cosmopolitan No 428, which was consecrated on 28 December 1864 in Shanghai. The consecration ceremony was carried out within an English Constitution lodge. The minutes record:
In the absence of a special commission, the Northern Lodge of China, as Senior Lodge in Shanghai, was opened in due and ancient form by Worshipful Past Master L.G. Dunlop and the Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland having been read by Brother S. Rawson, Past Provincial Grand Master for China, EC, Bro R.F. Gould, Past Master, No 570 EC, and P.P.G.S.W. of Andalusia SC, acting as Installing Master, called on Brother the Revd. John M.W. Farnham to Consecrate the New Lodge, which being done the Right Worshipful Master Elect and Brethren of the ‘Cosmopolitan’ were presented by Brother Sidford, W.M. of the Tuscan Lodge No 1027 EC and having done homage to the Worshipful Master in the East, representing Grand Lodge, Brother Gould then made proclamation . . .
After prayer by the acting Chaplain, the Northern Lodge of China was closed and the Lodge Cosmopolitan opened in the first degree, Brother Charles Melville Donaldson, (after assenting to the usual charges) was Installed as first Right Worshipful Master and saluted with the usual honours.
As the fortunes of Shanghai multiplied, so did the prosperity of the Shanghai lodges. Cosmopolitan Lodge was no exception. In all, there were four Scottish Constitution lodges consecrated in Shanghai.
Lodge St Andrew of the Far East No 493 was consecrated on 28 June 1869 in Shanghai. The charter was returned to Grand Lodge in February 1874 and the lodge went into a period of dormancy. On 4 February 1919 the lodge reopened in Shanghai and continued there until February 1953, when on 5 February of that year the charter was transferred to Hong Kong.
Another Scottish lodge in Shanghai was Lodge Saltoun No 936. This lodge was consecrated on 23 December 1902 and became dormant on 18 September 1952. The youngest of the Scottish lodges consecrated in Shanghai was Lodge Shanghai Kilwinning No 1382, being consecrated on 14 November 1933, but unfortunately became dormant on 19 May 1947.
Let us now return to Lodge Cosmopolitan No 428 SC. Ominous clouds were descending on this Scottish Lodge. On 3 January 1961, the secretary wrote to the Grand Secretary, saying:
It is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you that the active membership of our lodge being now reduced to five, and as further two bros are expected to leave, in the near future, it is not any longer possible, for us, to carry out our regular meetings . . . We have therefore taken the following steps which we trust will meet with your full approval.
1. We have declared the lodge dormant indefinitely.
2. We have put to an end the lease of our present premises and sold out all the lodge furniture in order to reduce our expenses.
3. We have kept only the necessary implements etc. enabling us to reopen the lodge, should this be possible, at a later date.
The present Master of the Lodge expects to remain in Shanghai for some time and will keep you informed of the situation here.
The Grand Secretary replied that the lodge would go into dormancy for one year and that the Grand Master Mason and the Grand Secretary hoped to visit Hong Kong shortly.
On 16 February 1962 the Master of Lodge Cosmopolitan wrote to the Grand Secretary as follows:
Even during these last years, when the activities of the lodge were declining rapidly, we always did our best to keep up the moral qualities and the special reputation of this well named ‘Cosmopolitan Lodge’ for, till recently, its membership of 21 Bro was represented by 11 nationalities.
Now, as the W M of this lodge, I am awfully sorry to tell you that this new year of 1962, virtualizes the worst situation ever known, for if at the time of my last letters dated of the 3rd of January and 24th of February 1961, we were still few members, having some hopes for possible new activities, but alas I now remain the only member of the lodge in Shanghai. So, on account of this very special situation I would not recognize myself the moral right ( and I feel indeed very reluctant) to close for ever our dear lodge which has, during nearly a century, so well succeeded to keep always intouched [sic] the Light of our Master and Great Architect of the Universe as well as His Human virtues.
So could the Cosmopolitan Lodge, on account of the very special conditions prevailing remain, for a certain period dormant? So leaving to its members the greatest possibilities to resume activities in another land.
In reply, the Grand Secretary wrote:
It distresses me very much, to think that Lodge Cosmopolitan can no longer function in Shanghai . . . Some two months ago I had a long talk with one of your distinguished Past Masters, Bro George E. Marden. He and his son, John were with me in Edinburgh. Amongst other things we discussed that Lodge Cosmopolitan No 428 might be transferred to Hong Kong and there to continue as a Lodge of Research.
The necessary requirements were effected in the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge on 2 August 1962.
Thus, the light of Freemasonry was extinguished in Shanghai and, as a consequence, in mainland China, after thirteen years of communist rule. It was fitting that the first lodge in Shanghai under the Scottish Constitution was the last to remain.
The Irish Influence
A lot of the Irish Constitution lodges were started by means of ‘Military’ or ‘Travelling’ warrants. It has been established that in 1813 the number of such warrants issued was: Irish Constitution, 190; English Constitution, 141; and Scottish Constitution, 21. By the 1860s the number of these warrants had increased to 230 for the Irish Constitution, 166 for the English Constitution, and 23 for the Scottish Constitution.
It was by the means of one of these military warrants that Irish Freemasonry arrived in Hong Kong. The 2nd Battalion of the 20th Regiment (the Lancashire Fusiliers) arrived in December 1863. This regiment had a military warrant for Sphinx Lodge No 263 IC, which had been issued on 6 October 1860. The Irish brethren wasted no time, and on 30 December 1863 the lodge had its first meeting in what was known as Kowloon Camp. In July 1864 the Fusiliers were called to active service in Japan and, as a consequence, left Hong Kong. When the regiment arrived back in Hong Kong on 28 July 1866 it continued its Masonic activities in Zetland Lodge’s rooms until 2 March 1867, when the Lancashire Fusiliers departed for South Africa.
The first Irish lodge to be consecrated in China was Lodge Erin. It was consecrated at Shanghai on 12 March 1920, when an ‘occasional meeting’ was held. Out of the twenty-two foundation members, nineteen brethren had to receive the Irish obligation of affiliation. It is interesting to note that the charter of Lodge Erin was first held by a lodge at Keady, County Armagh, erected in 1768 and cancelled in 1833, and then by Corinthian Lodge, of Christchurch in New Zealand, from 1878 until 1891. Lodge Erin was very active in the area of charity, having 20% of all dues and fees going to that cause. Whether it was common practice is unknown, but one of their meetings was recorded as having commenced at 9.15 pm and ‘at 11.30 pm the lodge was closed in Peace, Love and Harmony’.
At a meeting of Lodge Erin at Grosvenor House, Shanghai, on 8 February 1952, the following motion was moved: ‘The Charter of Lodge Erin No 463 IC be sent to Hong Kong and that Lodge Erin change its place of meeting from Shanghai to Hong Kong.’ This lodge was facing the same predicament as the other lodges. On its books it had eight resident members and sixty three absent members. The lodge moved to Hong Kong and the first meeting was held at Zetland Hall on 2 April 1952.
A new lodge, Shamrock Lodge No 712 IC, was consecrated on 8 February 1947 at the temporary Masonic Hall, Hong Kong. Eighteen foundation members, with regalia borrowed from Lodge Erin in Shanghai, and 135 guests assembled to witness the occasion. This warrant, as was often the case with Irish warrants, had been previously issued. In the first instance it had been issued to an unnamed lodge at Stradbally, County Leix, on 1 April 1790 and cancelled on 7 October 1813.
The Irish eyes were smiling on 29 September 1981, when Emerald Lodge of Hong Kong No 883 IC was consecrated by the Deputy Grand Master and acting Grand Master, RWBro Major George Mears Malone, who travelled out from Ireland for this auspicious occasion. (The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, Lord Donoughmore, had died earlier that year.) WBro H S Mok was the Foundation Master, an honour accorded him by virtue of his being the senior Past Master of the Irish Constitution in China.
Enter the Americans
Freemasonry in Shanghai in the 1860s was booming. Trade was running at an unprecedented level and the ships of many countries were plying their trade. The American trade was predominant and at the consecration of Lodge Cosmopolitan No 428 SC, the largest proportion of petitioners from a single country was American.
In December 1864, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts granted a warrant for Ancient Landmark Lodge. This lodge also enjoyed close harmony with the English Constitution. For a number of years, the District Grand Master of the English Constitution, with his officers, conducted their installation ceremony. Then the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts appointed a District Deputy Grand Master to oversee the new lodge. The appointee, RWBro D C Jansen, had his patent signed on 27 December 1891 and it was read in the Ancient Landmark Lodge in September 1892. Bro Jansen’s term was rather short as, during an installation meeting of the lodge in November 1894, he passed to the Grand Lodge Above. His successor was RWBro A W Danforth.
It was not until 1903 that several members of Ancient Landmark Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for a new lodge to be formed, to be known as Cathay Lodge. However, the name Cathay was changed at the request of the English District. They foresaw confusion with their own Far Cathay Lodge. The name chosen for the new lodge was Sinim Lodge, and Sinim Lodge, the second lodge under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, was consecrated on 30 March 1905. The charter of this lodge was transferred to Japan in 1952, where it remains to this day.
Also in 1903, the members of Ancient Landmark Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for third lodge, to be called Orient Lodge and to be stationed in Shanghai. Once again the name was objected to, as Orient Lodge already existed in Massachusetts, so the name was changed to Shanghai, and the lodge was consecrated on 6 January 1905. Mention should be made at this stage that lodges under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts do not carry lodge numbers. Also, the lodge may function as a lodge under dispensation (UD) until the charter is granted and the lodge consecrated. In the case of Shanghai Lodge, the dispensation was granted on 8 October 1903 and this lodge operated as Orient Lodge until it was consecrated as Shanghai Lodge in January 1905.
From 1909 the Americans desired to have a Lodge of Instruction. This came to fruition in 1913 and was known as the American Lodge of Instruction, being funded by the Massachusetts Constitution lodges in Shanghai. The American Lodge of Instruction served the three Massachusetts lodges, Ancient Landmark, Sinim and Shanghai until 1929, when it was replaced by the Shanghai Lodge of Instruction. The difference between the two was that the American Lodge of Instruction concentrated on perfection of ritual, while the Shanghai Lodge of Instruction also provided more general Masonic education. Candidates were required to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Lodge of Instruction before proceeding to the next step.
Trade north of Shanghai was dominated by American ships and merchants, while south of Shanghai their influence was minimal. As a result of this imbalance, American Freemasonry was concentrated in Shanghai and, to a lesser extent, areas north. From 1920 to 1928 there were four lodges operating under dispensation. These lodges were then consecrated under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, from Darien in Southern Manchuria, to Harbin in Northern Manchuria. These lodges operated for a number of years. When the resident members left for other pastures, the attending lodge membership decreased to a level where the viability of the lodge was lost.
With the formation of the District Grand Lodge of China under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts on 24 November 1914 American Freemasonry received a new impetus. By the end of 1917, nearly 300 members belonged to this jurisdiction.
International Lodge (Massachusetts Constitution) in Peking was opened by dispensation on 24 July 1915. Among the foundation members were three Chinese brethren. The first of these was Bro L C Chang, who was initiated on 2 February 1916, and was installed as Master of the lodge in 1926. At a meeting of International Lodge in 1922, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts attended and conferred the third degree on Bro Wang Chung Hui, the Prime Minister of China.
In 1950 the three Massachusetts lodges in Shanghai and one in Peking went into recess. Discussions took place in 1951 to transfer the warrant of Sinim Lodge from Shanghai to Tokyo, Japan. Approval was granted on 19 April 1952. The first meeting of Sinim Lodge held at the Masonic Temple, Tokyo, was on 16 September 1952. The District Deputy Grand Master, RWBro Hyman Hodes, brought the original warrant from Hong Kong and officiated at the open installation ceremony. It was attended by 350 visiting Freemasons, their wives and friends.
The French Connection
When the French expansionist activities in Europe failed in the mid-1800s, they turned their attention to the establishment of a colonial empire. The colonial empire amassed by France was only surpassed by that of Britain.
The Grand Orient of France, which was still ‘regular’, consecrated Loge le Reveil de l’Orient on 10 November 1868 at Saigon. This was followed by another four lodges in Indo-China. Between 1868 and 1874, two lodges were established in China under the Grand Orient of France. These were Lodge Confucius, in Hong Kong, and Lodge Foederis Arca, in Shanghai.
On 11 May 1868, Lodge Confucius was constituted. The eight petitioners were a merchant, a lawyer, a mechanic, and five ocean-going captains. An interesting development in the history of the lodge occurred in November 1868, and is explained in the following letter sent from the District Grand Secretary (English Constitution).
Another letter to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient:
A further letter to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient:
My research has not revealed any activity of this lodge except that recorded in the China Directory for 1874; only two of the founders are listed as being resident in Hong Kong.
In 1873 a second lodge was in the process of being established in Northern China in the French concession of Shanghai. The Lodge Foederis-Arca had eight petitioning members, two of which came from the English Constitution lodges in Shanghai. An unhappy event occurred for the proposed lodge, which is related to in the following communiqué:
I have been unable to ascertain if any meetings of this lodge took place. The lodge took an exceptionally long time, some three and a half years, to reach its development stage. Its petitioning numbers were small and there seemed to be a reluctance to discuss with the lodges of the other two Constitutions in Shanghai the possibility of using their lodge rooms.
Both of these French lodges were formed at a time when the Grand Orient of France was recognized. However, in 1877 the Grand Orient of France severed relations with regular Freemasonry by removing from the ritual all reference to TGAOTU, and the VSL from the lodge furniture.
With the Japanese forces advancing through mainland China, the first Masonic location to feel the effect of war in this area was Shanghai. The Japanese authorities sealed the Masonic buildings and various Masons were interrogated regarding Freemasonry. Many a Mason was imprisoned in the Bridgehouse Prison while awaiting the convenience of the interrogators to question them. Many examples of torture and shocking conditions of internment took place. This Japanese reaction to Freemasonry was repeated as they continued their advance.
It is said that a ritual was smuggled into one of the camps at Shanghai and was used in rehearsing the ceremonies under the guise of playing a game of cards. In Hong Kong there were two camps, one at Shamshuipo, a well guarded POW camp, and the other a civilian camp at Stanley. The District Grand Secretary of the English Constitution reported to Grand Lodge in 1948:
Being the Officer Commanding the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, I was a prisoner in the military camp at Shamshuipo, so none of those who were mobilized could take part in these meetings in the strictly civilian camp at Stanley. I was, however, able to hold a Lodge of Instruction, as a Preceptor, for the first four months of our captivity. After that we were separated from our men and put into a punishment camp, where we had no room to move, and absolutely no privacy or possibility of conducting meetings.
In the Stanley camp, some began to hold meetings in the quarry. On 1 December 1942, Zetland Lodge held a meeting to mark the annual installation ceremony. There were twenty-seven present, including the District Grand Master, who read extracts from The Builder. After prayer and the decision to meet bimonthly, the meeting was closed with prayer. However, the next meeting had to be cancelled, as some antagonists of the Order had heard of the meeting. If the Japanese had learned of this meeting, it would have been fatal; the risk was too high. The second annual meeting was held in December 1943, under a Banyan tree. There, the Master stated that according to the Book of Constitutions he could only serve two terms as Worshipful Master. He then appointed WBro A E Clarke, the senior Past Master present, as Worshipful Master of Zetland Lodge. The third annual meeting was only attended by five brethren, the rest either having passed to the Grand Lodge Above or being in such a condition they could not walk to the Bungalow. Other lodges held similar meetings, all with a high degree of secrecy.
In Brother Owen Hughes’ book Gay Duck, he said of the internees:
Many of them have since told me how much they valued the fact of being Masons during their years of captivity. Those of whom had a mind to do so had ample opportunities to rehearse themselves in their ritual, which must have had a lot to do with the quality of our work in the years to follow, and I can assure you the work really was good. When I saw them a couple of weeks after the surrender they were all skin and bone. They had existed, men and women, old and young, on a diet which the medical authorities reckoned was insufficient in calories to keep them alive, and I feel certain in my own mind that if they had not been released, the Winter of 1945 would have taken a terrible toll.
Activities of Masons in places like Changi are recorded elsewhere, and are beyond the scope of this paper, except to say that the price those Freemasons paid to their country and to their beloved Craft will remain an inspiration to succeeding Freemasons for ever.
Early Chinese Initiates
Unfortunately the period of hostilities and occupation resulted in many Masonic records being lost or destroyed. And there were many instances where lodge records were sent to Tokyo after the places were occupied by the Japanese Imperial Forces.
From available records we are able to establish that the first Chinese to be initiated into Freemasonry was Bro The Boen Keh, ‘Lieutenant of the Chinese’, who was initiated in 1857. Bro Shan Hing Yung, a Lieutenant in the Imperial Chinese Navy, was initiated into the English Constitution lodge at Canton, Lodge Star of Southern China, in October 1889. A merchant, Bro Lie Khong, was initiated into Corinthian Lodge of Amoy, EC, in October 1895.
The District Board of General Purposes of the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and South China, under the Mastership of Bro Sir C P Chater, cmg, became concerned with the admission to the Order of the local Chinese. This resulted in a ruling, in 1898, that it was:
considered inadvisable to provide facilities to the natives of the (Chinese) Empire to enter the Order and thus gain an opportunity to use its privileges for the spreading of revolutionary principles, such uses being distinctly forbidden in Masonry.
It must be remembered that, at this time, activity to overthrow the Manchu Dynasty and return it to Chinese rule was rife, and as it is against the principles of Freemasonry to become involved in any such activity. The Masonic authorities wanted to ensure that they distanced themselves from any involvement of spreading revolutionary principles, either actual or perceived. It is very gratifying when you analyse the situation in the later section, ‘Current Status’, to discover that we have, at least in the English and Irish Constitutions, Masonically integrated with the local Chinese.
Lodge of Tranquillity No 1552 EC, meeting in Sydney, has the distinction of being the lodge in which the first Chinese was initiated in Australia. Quong Tart was initiated on 8 October 1885. He was a successful and well respected businessman who had journeyed to Australia with his uncle in 1859 at the tender age of 9 years. His name was incorrectly recorded by an immigration official on his arrival to Australia; his birth name was Mei Guang Da.
Quong Tart was active in the affairs of his countrymen. After a visit to the goldfields and witnessing the addiction of the Chinese to opium, he commenced an anti-opium campaign and petitioned the government to ban the opium trade. The Emperor of China, in 1888, bestowed on him the title of Mandarin of the Crystal Button. He was affectionately known as the Australian Mandarin.
Bro Quong Tart died on 26 July 1903. For the funeral, he was dressed in his Mandarin robes, and his Master Mason’s apron was placed on the coffin. The Worshipful Master of Lodge of Tranquillity, WBro Archdeacon Langley, gave the eulogy, after which hundreds of mourners accompanied the coffin to the Rookwood Cemetery. The procession was led by his son, and forty Freemasons in regalia accompanied the body of Bro Quong Tart to his final resting place.
In an article appearing in the Keystone of 31 October 1919, mention is made of Brother William Yinson Lee having being initiated into Lodge Southern Cross No 91, United Grand Lodge of New South Wales, in 1903. The article mentions that Bro Lee was a Lewis. Correspondence with the Secretary of Southern Cross Lodge, VWBro Peter Court, PDGIW, has revealed that the first mention in the lodge minutes of Bro William Yinson Lee was on 14 October 1909, recording him as rejoining the lodge. An earlier entry records that William Robert George Lee was initiated on 18 August 1890.
Bro Court goes on to say:
After the affiliation of William Yinson Lee on 14 October 1909, nothing more was of importance in this regard until William Ling, storekeeper, aged 35 years, and Raymond Lee, horsebreeder, aged 28 years, both initiated on 11 April 1912 . . . Probably cousins or relatives of Chinese extraction. Perhaps both were related to William Yinson Lee.
Prior to the formation of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales in 1888, Southern Cross Lodge was known as Southern Cross Alexandria Lodge No 664, Grand Lodge of Scotland. Enquiries undertaken with the Grand Lodge of Scotland revealed that no brother named Lee had been a member of the lodge between the date of consecration, 30 November 1881, and 1888, when it came under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales.
What is interesting is that William Yinson Lee belonged not only to other Orders of regular Freemasonry but was also the Grand Secretary of the Chinese Masonic Society in Australia.
Lodge Tranquillity No 1552 (EC), which became Lodge Tranquillity No 42 (UGLNSW), and Southern Cross Alexandria Lodge No 664 (SC), which became Lodge Southern Cross No 91 (UGLNSW), are both still operating. The jurisdiction of New South Wales has been extended to include the Australian Capital Territory, and is now known as the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
On 1 July 1997 the former British colony of Hong Kong was absorbed into China and reverted back to Chinese rule. I have been most fortunate in obtaining information from the District Grand Secretary of the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and the Far East, WBro P J Nunn, PAGDC, and most of the following information comes from that source.
The English District has sixteen lodges, with a total membership of 1300. However, only 400 of these are domiciled in Hong Kong, and approximately half of these are local Chinese brethren. The percentage of local Chinese membership is increasing.
Since 1990, in the English District three lodges have been consecrated. On 31 October 1990 the Rotarian Lodge of Hong Kong No 9378 was consecrated. Originally, this lodge comprised mainly Rotarians, but now it is mixed, with approximately 75% local Chinese brethren. The Lodge of Lu Pan of Hong Kong No 9387 was consecrated on 29 November 1990, and is 99% local Chinese brethren (Lu Pan was the patron saint of Chinese builders, carpenters, etc.) Then on 27 May 2000 the St Paul’s Lodge No 9718 was consecrated. This lodge was formed by ex-pupils of St Paul’s School, which is adjacent to Zetland Hall, the Masonic Centre in Hong Kong, and comprises approximately 99% local Chinese brethren. Bro Nunn comments: ‘one unique feature is that they meet on Saturdays, and usually dine (Chinese food) with wives and children in attendance—it’s great and it works’.
It is unfortunate that the Scottish Constitution lodges have not changed much in their composition. Total membership is approximately 250, with a large percentage of these retired overseas. About 5% of their membership is local Chinese.
Our Irish brethren have increased their membership. They have an additional four lodges, with the extra bonus of now having their own Provincial Grand Lodge, in lieu of the Inspectorate. They have a total membership of 440, with approximately 95% of the membership being local Chinese.
Lodge Sino Lusitano of Macau No 897 Founded June 1988
Lodge St David No 903 Founded March 1990
Lodge Baden Powell No 929 Founded April 1996
Lodge of Installed Masters No 1001 Founded December 1998
With the formation of Lodge Sino Lusitano of Macau, situated some 48 miles down the coast from Hong Kong, the Irish brethren then created in December 1988 the Provincial Grand Lodge of the Far East. Lodge St David started as a Lodge of Musical Research, and each year they support a music scholarship. The incumbent Provincial Grand Master is a member of Lodge Baden Powell, and is also the Commissioner of Scouts in Hong Kong. The Lodge of Installed Masters has replaced the Irish Lodge of Instruction, but will also, if the occasion arises, work degree ceremonies.
After the British government signed the necessary documentation to return Hong Kong to China, the Chinese authorities travelled to Hong Kong to take opinions from interested parties, for example, religious organizations and societies who had some concerns for the future. Freemasonry, under the leadership of RWBro Christopher Haffner, PDistGM (EC), and assisted by other brethren, made representations to this committee. The Chinese committee in response to the concerns of the Masonic delegation said, in part, that they saw no reason why Masonry should not continue after 1997 provided we complied with the law and that under no circumstances should we attempt to spread into mainland China. It is interesting that in 1993 the British government in Hong Kong amended the Societies Ordinance where Freemasonry was on the exemption list of societies for registration. However, by 1995 a change in Government policy determined that Freemasonry would be deleted from the ‘Exemption Schedule’ and, like other organizations, was now required to register. Brethren in authority in Hong Kong are careful they do not antagonize the Chinese authorities by creating lodges in mainland China.
Bro Nunn reports that some Masons from Hong Kong visited the Masonic buildings in China—no meetings were held and no regalia carried. When the communists came to power, and with the lodges closing down owing to the departure of the expatriates, the empty buildings were taken over by the authorities. In Amoy, the Masonic building was demolished in the year 2000 after a typhoon had destroyed the roof and caused other structural damage. A large wooden ceiling-rose was retrieved and is now in the Masonic Museum in Hong Kong.
The Masonic building in Shanghai houses Medical Associations and a library. Tinjian Masonic building is still recognized by the façade, but inside the changes are considerable. The building is used as a boutique, with the manufacturing of the items being carried on upstairs. The building at Wei-Hai-Wei exists, but there is nothing to indicate its previous use. It is now used by the Chinese Navy Training Department for family planning! At Qingdao, the building is locked and barred. All travel to these centres to view the buildings is formally arranged with the Chinese authorities.
The research I undertook for this paper has given me a wonderful insight into another culture, a paradoxical culture, one so dissimilar from my own, yet shares with mine many common threads. Chinese secret societies have evolved over the centuries, adapting their behaviour and characteristics in accordance with the times. Chinese secret societies have many features in common with secret societies of other cultures; this is not to suggest that one evolved from the other.
The rise of secret societies during the latter stages of the Ming dynasty coincided with the development of symbolic Freemasonry in China and throughout the world. The Chinese seized the opportunity to adopt a title from a respectable and influential society, thereby vicariously gaining the respect of the Europeans.
This is not to say, however, that the ‘Chinese Masonic Society’ did not practice certain fundamental tenets of Freemasonry; some were very active in community affairs and raising monies for charities. They were not active in the political affairs of the host country (although they were strongly active in the political affairs of China).
Migration was, for the Chinese, a means to amass wealth and fortune. As in other communities, they found that their cultural differences, language, and their frugal existence made it harder for them to assimilate into the European community. They formed offshoots of the Hung Society, or Society of Heaven and Earth, such as the Yee Hing Secret Society, Chee Kung Tong, etc. These provided a meeting place for them, where they had fraternal friendship, benevolence, and social discourse with people from the same geographical area of China, thus in many ways substituting for a family.
In the original teachings of the Hung Society, the candidate, during his initiation in the society, was taken on a symbolic journey of the soul through the underworld. The teachings of Freemasonry can be associated with a symbolical journey where we strive to perfect our principles and control our passions from birth to death. Both Societies believe in benevolence, assisting their fellow man and moral self-improvement.
Freemasonry in Hong Kong (China) is alive and prospering. The lodges that have taken the initiative to promote their activities in the local community and attract thei-r membership will succeed. My discussions with WBro P J Nunn, the District Grand Secretary of the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and the Far East (EC), left me encouraged by their enthusiasm.
Regular Freemasonry brought to the foreigners the same privileges and comfort that the Hung Societies brought to the Chinese. China has seen lodges established under Sweden, England, Scotland, France, Ireland, Massachusetts and the Philippine jurisdictions—such a richness of Masonry.
My thoughts are directed to an oft-cited verse by R L Sharp.
A BAG OF TOOLS
Isn’t it strange
That princes and kings,
And clowns that caper
In sawdust rings,
And common people
Like you and me
Are builders for eternity?
Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass,
A book of rules;
And each must make –
Ere life is flown –
A stumbling block
Or a stepping stone.
My appreciation is extended to those who assisted me in my wonderful journey through The Hung Society and Freemasonry the Chinese Way.
Alabaster, C: ‘Freemasonry in China’ in (1889) Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 2:
Bolton, G C: A Thousand Miles Away: a History of North Queensland to 1920, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1972.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15 edn, Helen Hemingway Benton, Chicago, 1974.
Cairns, J: The Chinese Community, Tall Timber and Golden Grain Atherton 1885–1985, G K Bolton Printers, Australia, 1984.
Campbell, J M: ‘Chinese Secret Societies’ in (1893) AQC 6:
Cathcart, M: Manning Clark’s History of Australia, (abridged 1993), Penguin Books, Australia, 1995.
Chater-Cosmo Transactions, numerous, Masonic Research in the Far East, The Paul Chater Lodge of Installed Masters No 5391 EC, Hong Kong.
Chee Kung Tong, The Hung League in New Zealand, catalogue exhibition of Chee Kung Tong, National Library Gallery 10 May–22 June 1991, New Zealand.
Chu, Y K: The Triads as Business, Routledge, New York, 2001.
De Havelland, D W: Gold and Ghosts, vol 4, Australian Print Group, Australia, 1989.
Gould, R F: The Concise History of Freemasonry, Gale & Polden, London, 1920.
Haffner, C: The Craft in the East, Libra Press, Hong Kong, 1977.
Haffner, C: ‘Amoy—The Port and the Lodge’ in (1979) AQC 92:
Haffner, C: ‘Eastern Masonic Frontiers Before the Union’ in (1991) AQC 104:
Henderson, K W and Pope, A R F: Freemasonry Universal, a New Guide to the Masonic World, vol 2, Global Masonic Publications, Williamstown, Australia, 2000.
Holthouse, H: River of Gold, HarperCollins, Australia, 1967.
Horne, A: ‘Robert Freke Gould’ in (1976) AQC 89:
Huston, P: Tongs, Gangs, and Triads: Chinese Crime Groups in North America, Authors Choice Press, Lincoln, 2001.
Kennedy, K H (ed): Readings in North Queensland Mining History, vol II, History Department, James Cook University, Townsville, 1982.
Lee, W Y: ‘Chinese Freemasonry (So Called), Its Connection with British Freemasonry’ in The Keystone, 31 October 1919, United Grand Lodge of New South Wales, Australia.
Lim, I: Secret Societies in Singapore, Singapore History Museum, Singapore, 1999.
MacKenzie, N: Secret Societies, Aldus Books, London, 1967.
Mackey, A G: Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, The Masonic History Company, Illinois, 1958.
May, C: Topsawyers: The Chinese in Cairns 1870 to 1920, History Department, James Cook University, Townsville, 1996.
Moyle, J C: ‘Chinese Secret Societies’ in (1894) AQC 7:
North Queensland’s Mining Heritage Trails, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 1999.
Pike, G: Queensland Frontier, Pinevale Publications, Australia, 1982.
Poole, Rev H: Gould’s History of Freemasonry, vol IV, Caxton Publishing Company, London, 1951.
Reynolds, H (ed): Race Relations in North Queensland, Department of History and Politics, James Cook University, Townsville, 1993.
Savage, P: Christie Palmerston, Explorer, Department of History and Politics, James Cook University, Townsville, 1992.
Ter Haar, B: Ritual & Mythology of the Chinese Triads, Koninklijke Brill NV, Netherlands.
Ward, J S M & Stirling, W G: The Hung Society, Baskerville Press, London, 1925.
Young, C F: The New Gold Mountain, Mitchell Press, Australia, 1977.
Ms Cynthia Alcorn, Librarian, Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Boston.
WBro Yasha Beresiner, LGR (EC), PM 2076 EC.
VWBro Peter Court, PDGIW, Secretary Lodge Southern Cross UGL NSW&ACT.
Ms Lily Dang, translator.
WBro Harold Davidson, Librarian, Billings Masonic Library, Montana.
WBro John Flynn, Library volunteer UGLQ.
WBro Kent Henderson, PJGD (UGLV).
WBro Graeme Love, PJGD (UGLV).
RWBro C Martin McGibbon, ASCA, Grand Secretary, GL Scotland.
WBro Ian Maddox, PSGD, Grand Librarian UGLQ.
WBro Neil Morse, Kellerman Lecturer, UGL NSW&ACT.
WBro Richard Num, Secretary South Australian Lodge of Research, GL SA&NT.
WBro Peter Nunn, PAGDC, District Grand Secretary of the District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and the Far East EC.
WBro George Preston, Grand Lodge Office, GL Scotland.
RWBro Graham White, OAM, PAGM, Grand Secretary UGLQ.
Lastly I acknowledge the support and profession guidance from my son and Bro Mark Stead, FC.
My apologies are extended to anyone who may have been inadvertently omitted from this list.
Typical organisational chart of a Hung Society
The 36 Oaths
1. The first duty of a Brother is to honour his parents. It is forbidden to abuse his Brothers and parents, and if he be so dishonourable as to break this law, may he, within a month, be drowned in the Ocean, his flesh float on the surface of the waters, and his bones be buried in the Ocean bed.
2. A member must not gamble with a Brother separately, but may in a gambling house or in company. He must not look with envious eye upon his Brother’s money or try by clandestine schemes to defraud him. If a member be so brazen as to break this law, may he die by hanging.
3. A member must not, because he is strong, impose on the weak or despise the small. Neither must he quarrel with Brothers because of his wife, or excessively praise his relations in their presence. In days of old it was said, should the Emperor himself break the law it would be a sin for him, and also for the common people. If any member disregard this law may he be struck by five lightnings, or die under a million of knives, and his bones be scattered for ever.
4. A member must not break the laws of the country, neither may he sell opium or spirits. If in consequence of his so doing he be arrested by the Police he must sustain his cause alone. The Society will in no way be responsible for his actions, and he must avoid bringing disrepute upon the Brotherhood. If a Brother disregard this clear injunction, may he be hanged.
5. A member must not thoughtlessly break a law, nor may he do harm to a Brother, be a covetous person, or a receiver of bribes. If any Brother do so offend, may he within one month be stabbed to death by a million knives.
6. A member must not seduce the wife of a Brother. If any member dare to break this law he shall be expelled from the Order, and may he die by being drowned in the Ocean.
7. New and old members alike, without distinction, must obey the Constitutions laid down by our ancestors. Neither may any of them attempt before his proper time to become an officer of a Lodge. If any Brother dare so to do may he die by poison.
8. Members must not quarrel amongst themselves over prostitutes or little friends. The elders must live with the elders and the younger with the younger; be peaceful and refrain from lewdness. Whosoever dares to disobey, may he be chopped into a thousand pieces.
9. No member may interrupt the Master of Instructor during a ceremony, or without permission open the door or walk a single yard into a Lodge room during the ceremony. Whosoever dares so to do may he die at the crossroads, struck by five lightnings, and his blood gush forth from the seven holes.
10. Should a Brother make a call at another Brother’s house he must eat what is set before him, and if it is only rice or conjee he must not complain of the poorness of the meal, or speak of it to others so as to discredit his Brother. If anyone break this rule may he die in the street like a beggar.
11. Brothers must not take pen and paper and write indiscreet letters which will harm a Brother. If any disregard this rule may he die under the knife and his dismembered body be scattered here and there.
12. When the members of the great family are at variance with a member’s own Brother he shall not help his own Brother to defeat the members of the Hung family. If any Brother disregard this obligation may he be cast into the great ocean.
13. If a Brother enter the house of another Brother tea and rice must be served to him, and if any Brother fails to do so may he die by losing his blood along the street.
14. A Brother must not stealthily steal another Brother’s property. If anyone should do so may he die under millions of knives, or be eaten by a tiger as he walks abroad, or bitten by a snake in the water.
15. If on the occasion of a great day, or of a funeral, a Brother’s parents be in need of money to pay the necessary expenses, a Brother must let it be known to the Society and request all the Brethren to assist him. If any member fails to do so may he die in the street by loss of blood.
16. If a Brother has the care of another Brother’s land, garden or crops, Brethren must not induce bad characters to defraud him or try to steal away the things under his care. If any one is so brazen as to disobey this law may he be blasted by lightning, and his body be scattered here and there for ever.
17. If a Brother die and leave behind him a wife and she desires to marry again, a Brother may not take her as his wife. Thus the Brethren must be very careful in making enquires before they marry. If any be so daring as to disobey this law may he be blasted by five lightnings and his body be scattered here and there for ever.
18. If before becoming a member of the Hung family a Brother had a blood feud on account of the murder of his father, as soon as he enters the Hung Gate and becomes a Brother he must cease to hate, and must dispel his enmity against the other Brother. If any Brother disobey may he be drowned in the great Ocean, and his body lost for ever.
19. If a member of the Hung family call at a Brother’s house and ask him to lend him money for travelling expenses, a Brother must lend him the travelling money. If a Brother neglect to render aid may he die in the street.
20. Having performed the ceremonies, on returning home a Brother must not sell the signs and secrets of the Hung Brotherhood. If any Brother be so shameless, may he be killed by tiger or have his eyes bitten by a snake.
21. A member must not boast that he is able to clear up the difficulties of other Brethren, and on this plea obtain from them money for his own purposes. If any member be so brazen, may he be drowned in the great Ocean and his body be lost for ever.
22. If a Brother has received from another Brother money and letters to be handed over to his relations in China, he must remember that these belong to his Brother and it is his duty to hand them over as quickly as possible to the person for whom they are intended. If any Brother fails in this duty, may he be struck by arrows and knives, and be unable to provide for his sons and grandsons.
23. If a member of the Hung family lends a Brother money, the latter must return it in full to the Brother from whom he borrowed it, and show that he is an honest man. If any Brother be so dishonest as not to return the loan, may he be hanged.
24. A Brother must not misuse his power as a member of the Hung family, or with four or five others start a street fight, cause riot, of impose on the weak. If any Brother dares to do so, and refuses to listen to good advice, may he die by poison.
25. If a Brother cheats another Brother, the matter must be reported to the Society and left for it to judge. If a Brother fails to conform to this rule, may he be blasted by lightning.
26. A Brother must not defame another Brother, slander him, or cause the Brethren to quarrel among themselves. Whoever infringes the law may he die under a million knives, and be deprived of descendants for ever.
27. If a Brother comes from one of the two capitals of the Empire, or from one of the thirteen Provinces, and calls at your house, you must receive him kindly, place before him tea and rice, and not become angry with him because he happens to have called when you have not better provisions in the house. If any Brother disobeys this law may he lose his blood through the seven holes.
28. A Brother must not join with three or four others and go here and there making mischief. From the beginning of his career a man should have a definite occupation, which will enable him to provide for himself, and he should take particular care not to cause disturbances or harm to others. May any Brother who thus deliberately causes trouble die miserably.
29. If a Brother receives a letter from any other Brother which contains particulars concerning the Society, this letter must be brought to the knowledge of the Brethren, and be opened and read before everyone in the lodge. Whoso infringes this regulation, may he die through loss of blood from the seven openings.
30. If a Brother leaves home for the purposes of trade and cannot supervise his wife’s conduct at home, and if a Brother see her in adultery, he ought to let it be known to the Brethren, catch the adulterer, and revenge his Brother. If any Brother obeys not this rule, may he be eaten by a tiger or bitten by a snake.
31. If a member recognizes in a candidate a man of bad character, he must not permit him to become a Brother. Should, however, a Brother commit a crime, and be obliged to run away, the Brethren must assist him to escape, and must not betray their Brother in distress for the sake of any reward. Should a Brother be summoned before the Officers of the Government and be made to confess, he must carefully avoid implicating the other Brethren. Whosever dareth to disobey may his eyes be torn out, may he die in the Great Ocean, may his descendants for a hundred generations live in misery, and may the spirits of his ancestors find no rest and be dammed.
32. If a member die and leave behind him a wife and little children, should any outsider or Brother attempt to deprive her of her chastity or property, and her sons being under age and unable to oppose the oppressors, then let her lay the matter before the Brethren, and they must take the part of their sister-in-law, avenge her wrongs, and recover the property. May such as disobey this obligation vomit forth all their blood.
33. A Brother must, as laid down in the rules of the Five Ancestors, always obey and respect his parents, and he shall not allow his wife or concubine to persuade him to disobey them. Whoso dares to break this law, may he be blasted by lightning.
34. It is not permitted for any Brother to propose for election any person known to be employed by the Government, or anyone who, for the sake of reward, desires to learn the secrets of the Society. Failure to conform to this regulation shall be punished by 72 blows with the Red Staff.
35. Tonight you have joined the Brotherhood by a religious ceremony, and before Heaven and Earth must prove yourself sincere by the mixing of blood and the taking of the oath. On returning home you must be careful in walking along the streets and not privately break your oath. Tonight the Gods and the Divinities present here in the Shrines will be judges of each and every one, and if a Brother dares to disobey this rule, may he lose his blood through the seven apertures of the head.
36. Tonight before Heaven, and in the presence of the Brethren assembled for this religious ceremony, you must prove yourself sincere, faithful and righteous, and must imitate the chastity of our Ancestors, so far as concerns widows and orphans. Having passed the Hung Gate and become a Brother, you must, before you confirm you action by severing the cock’s head and mingling your blood with ours, bear in mind these 36 oaths, established by the Five Ancestors. They have been faithfully handed down to us, and every Brother here has pledged himself by the same oaths and has agreed to obey them. If, therefore, anyone be so brazen as to break any of these laws, may he die by losing his blood from the seven apertures, or be drowned in the Great Ocean and his body lost for ever. May the Spirits of his Ancestors be cursed and damned, and may his progeny exist in the deepest misery and want for a thousand generations.
Ten Fundamental Rules
1. If the parents of a member reach old age and die, or if a Brother or his wife dies, the Brethren should be informed thereof, and after taking into consideration the means of the family they will, if necessary, render financial assistance.
2. If a Brother because of an affair be arrested by the police, or by an Inspector of police, and the Headmen are clearly informed of the fact, they will go to the Police, or to the house of the Inspector, and bail out the Brother. At the same time they will consult together as to the next steps which should be taken in order to aid their unfortunate Brother.
3. If a Brother gets into trouble, great or small, and appeals to the Council for help, the members of the Council will first enquire whether he has, during the current year, subscribed to the Spring and Autumn Sacrificial ceremonies. If he has not the Society will not assist him, and moreover will not lightly pass over his omission.
4. If a member has a dispute with a Brother, whether he be in the right or not, he must clearly and truthfully acquaint the Council with all the particulars. The Headmen must then issue a notice calling the two parties before them, and must judge impartially, not showing any secret or unlawful favour.
5. If a member has pressing business responsibilities and finds that his own private means are not sufficient to enable him to carry on his business, he may appeal to the Brotherhood, which will assist him to carry on his business.
6. If a member shall thus have been assisted, as soon as possible he must return the money advance. Let him remember that the Society is by no means wealthy, and not attempt to wriggle out of his debt.
7. On any Brother appealing to the Council the Headmen must be careful not to make invidious distinctions. They must regard all Brothers as equal, and must decide impartially; above all, there must be no secret favour shown.
8. If a member has business in which he requires the assistance of the Brethren, he must apply to the Headmen and explain all the facts clearly. The Headmen will then issue notice to the Brethren to come forward, and these notices must by obeyed.
9. In the event of their being summoned to attend a funeral, members must accompany the cortege and wait until the body is interred. Then, on handing back their notices to the Society, they may return home at once. Any Brother who refuses to come forward when duly summoned will be fined 30 cash, and his disobedience will not lightly be forgiven.
10. Members are expected to attend to and manage their own ‘affairs’ and if they become involved in riots, disturbances at brothels, and the like, or lose heavily while gambling, they must regard such misfortunes as concerning themselves only, and not involve the Society’s money or expect the Headmen to help them out of their difficulties.
On initiating new members the Headmen must carefully explain everything to them, and must give each man a red ticket as a proof of membership, so that if he goes to another country there will be no dispute as to identity.
Modern Variation of Fundamental Rules
1. Members of the Society should be contented with their own lots and not steal or rob in the streets. The penalty for any breach of this obligation is permanent expulsion from the Society.
2. The entrance fee is Five Straits’ Dollars, and the character of all applicants for admission must be carefully investigated before the ticket of membership is issued.
3. The Society shall give a present to any member who gets married.
4. The families of members who are arrested for murder shall be maintained by the Society.
5. The Society shall supply passage money to members who have to run away from the police.
6. Members must help each other if any of them become involved in a street fight. Failure to obey this rule will result in a fine of three dollars.
7. The Society will pay for the medical treatment of any member wounded in a street fight.
8. The Society will bail out any member arrested by the police, and will also pay his fines.
9. Monthly subscriptions, fifty cents, or twenty-five cents from those who have a family ticket. Any member three months in arrears shall be expelled and have his ticket cancelled.
10. The Society will pay ten dollars towards the funeral expenses of members. Anyone who fails to attend the funeral of a Brother shall be fined fifty cents.
Strict obedience is enjoined to the above rules, by order.
Additional Variations of the Fundamental Rules
1. Should a member have a pretty wife you shall not covet her. Should you do so, your ears will be cut off, and for a second offence you will be punished with death.
2. You shall not secretly divulge the pass words or signs to an outsider, or show him the ritual. Death is the penalty for such as break this rule.
3. If you meet a Brother in a gambling den, you shall not cheat him, or sit by and allow him to lose all his money. If you do not obey this rule you shall be punished with 108 blows.
4. If any Brother is in difficulty you must not refuse him assistance. If you fail, or pretend to know nothing of him, your ears shall be cut off.
C.B. Plunket's 1860 list of secret societies in Singapore
State of registered societies at the end of 1889
Petition for the formation of Elizabeth Lodge
We Carl, by the Grace of God, etc, etc, etc, wish everyone peace, unity and progress, etc, etc, etc.
[followed by three pattée crosses]
For as much as it is the declared wish of the Grand Freemasons’ or the Provincial Grand Lodge of Gothenburg, and in particular with regard to the petition presented to us by Brother John Adolf Smedberg, Confidant of Solomon, Supercargo of the Swedish East India Company, together with several zealous Brother Freemasons, to obtain the right to found a Lodge which shall spread the light of the three St John’s Degrees, from the Apprentice Degree up to and including the St John’s Master Degree, for which purpose they have in obedience petitioned for Our gracious consent; We therefore, after gracious consideration of the same, have found this petition to be in accordance with Our Laws, and in accordance therewith on the 21st day of March of this year we especially establish a Capitulation and Instruction, by means of which we therefore graciously order that the aforementioned Brother Smedberg, together with assistant Brethren to be appointed by him for this purpose, shall erect and consecrate a new St John’s Lodge to work in the Empire of China in the city of Canton under the name of Elizabeth Lodge under the jurisdiction of the National Grand Lodge of Sweden and under the supervision of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Gothenburg.
To this end We have graciously chosen the coat of arms and colours below, to be used on the apron and in the work of the Lodge.
[Coloured drawings of apron, coat of arms and a sash or collar follow]
For the same reason We further decree that Brother John Aldof Smedberg, Supercargo, shall be Worshipful Master of the Lodge for as long as he remains in China. The choice of the Deputy Master and other Officers shall be in accordance with the ninth and tenth paragraphs of the Capitulation and Instruction of the Lodge.
And We hereby extend to the Brethren of Elizabeth Lodge all the privileges and rights that are permitted within the laws and are accorded to all St John’s Lodges. We extend to them the gracious shelter and protection of the Supreme Threefold Great Architect of the Universe. Furthermore, We have signed this with Our own hand and caused Our own seal to confirm what has taken place in the East of the City of Stockholm, from the summit where We, as the Representative of Solomon, have Our Seat, where the radiance of light illuminates the work and darkness is dethroned, this 20th day of the 11th month in the 1,787th year after that in which our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was born.
Dispensation for Northern Lodge of China
We, Samuel Rawson Esq. Provincial Grand Master of British [sic] Masons in China and Masonic Jurisdiction thereto belonging
To our Worthy Brother Archibald Dunlop
Reposing the Greatest Confidence in your Zeal, Fervour and
Constancy in the Craft
(By virtue of the power and authority in us vested)
Hereby authorize and empower you to call to your assistance a sufficient number of known and approved Masons in Shanghai, to open a new Lodge to be held there and to proceed to the appointment of the officers of a new Lodge there to be established and constituted to be called and known by the name of
THE NORTHERN LODGE OF CHINA
According to the most ancient and honourable Customs of the Craft, in all ages and amongst all nations in the known world and not contrariwise and make report to us of all your proceedings. This dispensation to remain in force until a Reply is received from the Grand Lodge of England to the application for a Warrant for the New Lodge.
Given under our hand and seal, at the City of Canton, this 5th day of October A.D. 1849 – A.L. 5849.