1—Hung Society to Chinese Masonic Society
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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’.
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’
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.
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
‘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.
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.
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.
down your hair.
black silk is cut off so that we may serve the Prince of Ming,
first give me your instructions and save my body.
we come before the face of the Five Ancestors;
overthrow Ts’ing and restore Ming is agreeable to Heaven.
candidate was presented with a basin and towel and told:
away the dust of Ts’ing and the true colour of your face shall appear;
away with corruptness and perversity so that you may sit in the Temple of Ming.
divested himself of his clothes and donned the white coat and trousers
the garments of Ts’ing and put on those of Ming,
all here know the 36 oaths;
we enter the Hung gate and see the faithful and loyal,
come to the Willow City to be instructed in the odes.
initiates, holding lighted joss sticks, then proceeded on their journey.
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:
novices are bound to perform your duty in your allotted
and obey Heaven. Those who do so prosper, and the
and traitors perish.
all things carefully ere you make your decision,
every opportunity which auspicious fate provides;
that this oath may never be altered,
upward and behold God, Who over us presides.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
the completion of the ceremony a feast was held to celebrate the admission of
the new members.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
the time of suppression, nine lodges were descended from the Ghee Hin Society.
Kun Ghee Hin
Hok or Ghee Khee
Ghee Hin Society was also referred to as the Mother Lodge, or Grand Lodge,
because of its large membership and offshoots.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
the turn of the twentieth century it was recorded by the local newspaper:
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
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.
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.
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.
then is an abbreviated background of Chinese endeavours in early Australia.
From Yee Hing to
Chinese Masonic Society
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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,
They became very active and raised funds for their cause in China.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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:
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’.
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.
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
Chinese populace resented the foreign rule and the autocratic cultural policy
that the Manchu Dynasty maintained further polarised the rulers from their
Tongs and Gangs
enable an appreciation of the terms Triads, Tongs and Gangs, the following is
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
in the Hung Society?
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.
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.
us continue, and examine the advent of ‘Regular Freemasonry’ in China.
2—Regular Freemasonry in China
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
Hierarchical Structure in China
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
Provincial Grand Lodge of China
District Grand Lodge of China
District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and South China
District Grand Lodge of Northern China
District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and the Far East
1905 the first District was established under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Their
first District Grand master was Bro Dr G P Jordan.
District Grand Lodge of Hong Kong and South China
District Grand Lodge of North China
District Grand Lodge of the Far East
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.
District Grand Inspector
Grand Inspector for Hong Kong and China
Grand Inspector for Hong Kong, China and Malaya
Grand Inspector for the Far East
Provincial Grand Lodge of the Far East
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.
District Deputy Grand Master
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.
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.
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.
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
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’.
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’.
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.
this marks the end of the early Masonic lodges in China.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
finds a home in Hong Kong
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.
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.
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.
lodge prospered. In December 1849 the following meetings of Northern Lodge were
both the first and second degrees were worked;
two first degrees;
two third degrees;
two seconds and one first degree;
four first degrees, followed by a banquet.
would be interesting to read the report from the Inspector of Workings if it
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
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.
of the earliest documents of the lodge in existence is a receipt for three dozen
bottles of sherry.
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.
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
this period of Freemasonry, the Royal Sussex Lodge can boast of many influential
members. We shall look briefly at two of these brethren:
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.
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.
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’.
a meeting of Royal Sussex Lodge on 24 April 1952, the following resolution
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scottish Freemasonry in China
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:
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
We have declared the lodge dormant indefinitely.
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.
We have kept only the necessary implements etc. enabling us to reopen the lodge,
should this be possible, at a later date.
present Master of the Lodge expects to remain in Shanghai for some time and will
keep you informed of the situation here.
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
16 February 1962 the Master of Lodge Cosmopolitan wrote to the Grand Secretary
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.
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
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.
reply, the Grand Secretary wrote:
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
necessary requirements were effected in the Quarterly Communication of Grand
Lodge on 2 August 1962.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
letter to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient:
further letter to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Brother Owen Hughes’ book Gay Duck,
he said of the internees:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
at least in the English and Irish Constitutions,
Masonically integrated with the local Chinese.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Court goes on to say:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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’.
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
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.
Sino Lusitano of Macau No 897 Founded
St David No 903
Founded March 1990
Baden Powell No 929 Founded
of Installed Masters No 1001 Founded
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
thoughts are directed to an oft-cited verse by R L Sharp.
BAG OF TOOLS
princes and kings,
clowns that caper
you and me
builders for eternity?
is given a bag of tools,
book of rules;
each must make –
life is flown –
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.
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Freemasonry Universal, a New Guide to the Masonic World, vol 2, Global
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P: Tongs, Gangs, and Triads: Chinese Crime Groups in North America,
Authors Choice Press, Lincoln, 2001.
K H (ed): Readings in North Queensland Mining History, vol II,
History Department, James Cook University, Townsville, 1982.
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.
I: Secret Societies in Singapore, Singapore History Museum, Singapore,
N: Secret Societies, Aldus Books, London, 1967.
A G: Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, The Masonic
History Company, Illinois, 1958.
C: Topsawyers: The Chinese in Cairns 1870 to 1920, History Department,
James Cook University, Townsville, 1996.
J C: ‘Chinese Secret Societies’ in (1894) AQC 7:
Queensland’s Mining Heritage Trails,
Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 1999.
G: Queensland Frontier, Pinevale Publications, Australia, 1982.
Rev H: Gould’s History of Freemasonry, vol IV, Caxton Publishing
Company, London, 1951.
H (ed): Race Relations in North Queensland, Department of History
and Politics, James Cook University, Townsville, 1993.
P: Christie Palmerston, Explorer, Department of History and Politics,
James Cook University, Townsville, 1992.
Haar, B: Ritual
& Mythology of the Chinese Triads, Koninklijke Brill NV, Netherlands.
J S M & Stirling, W G:
The Hung Society, Baskerville Press, London, 1925.
C F: The New Gold Mountain, Mitchell Press, Australia, 1977.
Cynthia Alcorn, Librarian, Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library, Grand Lodge of
Yasha Beresiner, LGR (EC), PM 2076 EC.
Peter Court, PDGIW, Secretary Lodge Southern Cross UGL NSW&ACT.
Lily Dang, translator.
Harold Davidson, Librarian, Billings Masonic Library, Montana.
John Flynn, Library volunteer UGLQ.
Kent Henderson, PJGD (UGLV).
Graeme Love, PJGD (UGLV).
C Martin McGibbon, ASCA, Grand Secretary, GL Scotland.
Ian Maddox, PSGD, Grand Librarian UGLQ.
Neil Morse, Kellerman Lecturer, UGL NSW&ACT.
Richard Num, Secretary South Australian Lodge of Research, GL SA&NT.
Peter Nunn, PAGDC, District Grand Secretary of the District Grand Lodge of Hong
Kong and the Far East EC.
George Preston, Grand Lodge Office, GL Scotland.
Graham White, OAM, PAGM, Grand Secretary UGLQ.
I acknowledge the support and profession guidance from my son and Bro Mark
apologies are extended to anyone who may have been inadvertently omitted from
organisational chart of a Hung Society
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Variation of Fundamental Rules
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.
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
The Society shall give a present to any member who gets married.
The families of members who are arrested for murder shall be maintained by the
The Society shall supply passage money to members who have to run away from the
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.
The Society will pay for the medical treatment of any member wounded in a street
The Society will bail out any member arrested by the police, and will also pay
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
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.
obedience is enjoined to the above rules, by order.
Variations of the Fundamental Rules
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
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.
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.
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
Koon (Ghee Hin)
Chen Kow (Tsung Peh)
Bing (Hok Hin)
of registered societies at the end of 1889
Khee Kwang Hok
for the formation of Elizabeth Lodge
Carl, by the Grace of God, etc, etc, etc, wish everyone peace, unity and
progress, etc, etc, etc.
by three pattée crosses]
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.
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.
drawings of apron, coat of arms and a sash or collar follow]
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.
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.
for Northern Lodge of China
Samuel Rawson Esq. Provincial Grand Master of British [sic]
Masons in China and Masonic Jurisdiction thereto belonging
our Worthy Brother Archibald Dunlop
the Greatest Confidence in your Zeal, Fervour and
in the Craft
virtue of the power and authority in us vested)
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
NORTHERN LODGE OF CHINA
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
under our hand and seal, at the City of Canton, this 5th day of October A.D.
1849 – A.L. 5849.