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Chinese Secret Societies in the United States

Chinese Secret Societies in the United States

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Published by: Zavier Mainyu on Jan 15, 2012
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Chinese Secret Societies in the United StatesAuthor(s): Stewart CulinReviewed work(s):Source:
The Journal of American Folklore,
Vol. 3, No. 8 (Jan. - Mar., 1890), pp. 39-43Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 14/01/2012 18:40
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ChineseSecretSocieties in the United States.
CHINESESECRET SOCIETIESINTHEUNITED
STATES.1IN apaperreadbefore theNumismatic andAntiquarianSocietyofPhiladelphiainDecember,I887,2Igavesomeaccountof asecretsociety,popularlyknownas the fhing,thatexistsamongthe Chi-neselaborersinthe UnitedStates. Since that timeIhave had anopportunitytovisitahall of thissocietyinNewYorkcity,as wellasanothermeeting placethat has beenestablishedinPhiladelphia;toattend the funeralsoftwo membersofthesociety,and to becomefamiliar withtheworkingsofanindependentlocal secretsociety,theproceedingsof whichwereexposedinthecourseof the trialofsome Chinesegamblersinthatcity.Ihavealsohad anopportunityto examine mostof thenotverycopiousliteratureuponthesubjectofChinesesecretsocieties,especiallythe workofGustavSchlegel,entitled"ThianTiHwui.TheHung-LeagueorHeaven-Earth-League.ASecretSocietyamongthe ChineseinChinaandIndia."3Thisvaluablebookcontainscopioustranslationsoftherecordsofthatsocietyconcerningitshistory,government,affil-iationof newmembers,lawsandstatutes,and secretsigns,madefromdocumentsplacedinMr.Schlegel'shandsbythegovernmentof Netherlands-India.Bymeansofit Ihave beenable toidentifythesecretsocietyreferred to inmyformerpaperas a branchof theHeaven-Earth-LeagueorTriadSociety.ThedesignationIking,or"PatrioticRise,"is thewatchwordoriginallytakenbyone of the chiefs of the TriadSociety,4andisthenamebywhichthatsocietyisofficiallydesignated uponitsdiplomas.5The nameofthelodgeinPhiladelphia,HungShunT'ong,
"
HallofObediencetoHung,"isthesameas thatofthelodgeinKwantungandKwangsi,thesecondlodgeoftheHungLeague.6ThehallofthesocietyinPhiladelphiaoccupiestwo rooms onthesecondfloorof ahouseintheChinesecolonyonRaceStreet,wherethenameof thelodge, HungShunT'ong,isdisplayedon agildedsignwithoutthebuilding.Thislodgeisincorporatedunderachar-terobtainedfromthelocalcourts,bearingdateofJuly7,1888,as"TheRoslynBeneficialAssociation."Itsroomsarehandsomelyandexpensivelyfurnishedinthe samemanneras thekungshb,or"PublicHalls"establishedbytheChinesemerchantsofNewYork
1Readatthe AnnualMeetingoftheAmerican Folk-LoreSociety,November
28,I889.
2
ReportoftheProceedingsoftheNumismatic andAntiquarianSociety ofPhiladelphiafortheYears1887-89.Philadelphia,I89o.8Batavia,i866.
4
Schlegel,p.4.
6
Schlegel,p.32.
6
Ibid.p.I8.
39
 
7ournalofAmericanFolk-Lore.
40
and SanFrancisco. There isnothingtodistinguishthemasthehallofthesecretsociety,unlessitmaybe theinscriptionsonthescrolls with whichthe walls are decorated.Thesescrollsare the redpaperhangings,suchasit iscustomaryforindividualstopresenttotradesmenwhentheyopena newshop,and totemplesandlodgeroomson festivaloccasions.Theyall bearthe namesof thedonor.The tenoroftheinscriptionsis inharmonywiththeprofessedob-jectsofthesociety.Thewalls arealsohungwithhandsomelycarvedandgildedwoodentabletswith felicitousinscriptions,thegiftsofcertainclansorstorecompanies,orofassociatedlodgesinneighboringcities.Thenames ofthe membersoftheselodgesarewrittenon alongtabletsuspended alongone side of theroom. Someideaofthenumericalstrengthoftheordermaybeobtained from theselists ofnames,which servetoassistinidentifyingvisitingmembersfromothercities.Acompletelist ofnamesofthemembers of thelocalsociety,with the amountsoftheirsubscriptionsforthedecorationofthehall,issimilarlyarranged upontheoppositesideoftheroom.Theprincipalobjectinthehallistheelaboratelycarvedandgildedshrine ofthegodKwan,containingapictureof thatidol,whichfacesthenorth,andoccupiesthegreaterpartofthe innerroom. Itdiffers innoobservablewayfromthe shrineswhicharealwayserectedbyChineseguildsintheirmeetingplaces.There isanaltar infrontof theshrine,uponwhich arepewtercandlesticks,vases,andan incenseburner,andthe usualobjectswhichareassociated withthegod worshipped;ontheright,apack-agewrappedinredcloth,supposedtocontain his officialseal,andontheleft,a small standof red silkflagsinscribedwiththe charac-terling,meaning"warrant,command."Inthecentreof the standisaminiaturesword,madeofwood.There arealsothe usualimplementsfordivinationuponthealtar,anda white chinabowl1inscribedMbTaitin,
"
TempleoftheGod ofWar." Thelatterisused as anincenseburner.Asmallshrineinscribed tothe"ChineseandForeignLordofthePlace,"before whichalampiskept burning,iscontainedin aclosetontheleftoftheprincipalshrine.Thereis asimilarclosetontheoppositeside,thedoorofwhich isrigorouslykeptclosed. It con-tainsapaperscroll,rudelypaintedwithfiguresofseveralperson-ages,presumablythefounders orpatrondeities of the order.Theseroomsareopentothepublic,butare nevervisitedbyChinesewho donotbelongtotheorder,amongwhom,generally,thesocietyisexe-crated.ThefirstmeetingofthesocietyinPhiladelphiaisrecordedashavingtakenplaceinSeptember,I882.2
1Cf.Schlegel,p.42.
2TheDailyEvening Telegraph, Philadelphia,September16,1882.

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