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Chinese Secret Societies: Historical Events Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 14th, 2021

The Chinese Secret Societies are usually named the Green and the Red Societies. Throughout the late Qing and early Republican periods there emerged in lots of Chinese cities different forms of quasi-armed forces arranged and financially supported by merchants. Authorized and often motivated by the state, merchant forces acted a vigorous role in defending business interests, supporting local order, and offering communal services to the municipal society.

As the merchant militia increased in power, its relations with the country also were subjected to a measured change. Unlike its late Qing forerunner, the previous Republican Tianjin merchant militia attempted hard to keep and enlarge its arranging sovereignty. The status, nevertheless, could hardly endure the subsistence of autonomous merchant armed forces. After a sequence of undertakings in the early 1920s to reinstate official ruling, the warlord government finally separated the Tianjin merchant militia in 1924.

The Robe Brothers, known in Southwest China as Pao Ge (in other areas, they are known as Ge Lao Hui, the Elderly Brothers Society), created in 1661 when the most important anti-Manchu Chinese head Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong) originated a secret association on the island of Taiwan, to infiltrate mainland China which had been surmounted by the assaulting Manchus. Throughout the Republican Period (1911-1949), the Robe Brothers was the hugest secret society in Southwest China; its partakers infused every key component of community and acted a central role in the expansion of Sichuan power relations for this time.

Robe Brothers in Sichuan was frequently an absurdity of good and evil united, duty and right hazed. A Robe Brother might rescue a drowning woman’s life just as effortlessly as he might rape her daughter. Its historical origins of anti-Manchu idyllic prompted it to maintain the key government (the new Nationalist Chinese government) yet it energetically carried on its illegitimate actions despite legislative interference. It was thus not strange when the Robe Brothers became both the aim of the management as well as the assistant of the government. In this meaning, civil authority and state power are interlaced.

In spite of the efforts at demolishing anti-Manchu approaches by the Ch’ing governors, such approaches were maintained at the lowest extent of the community (i.e. villages), where key governmental control was weedy. With the occurrence of anti-Ch’ing uprisings since the late 18th century, anti-Manchu moods that had long been supported underground re- emerged. The ideological origin of the Manchu control was confronted.

The Manchus had attempted to make their empire a legal one in Chinese history by emerging as the protectors of Confucianism and accepting Chinese traditions. After the originating of the West in the 19th century, nevertheless, Confucian political notions came gradually more under assault. Thus if the Ch’ing dynasty went on to endorse Confucian political notions, it would be denounced as rearward and intransigent by the progressive-minded thinkers. If the dynasty gave up Confucian political notions, it would drop the ideological groundwork on which its rule was created for over two centuries. But there appeared the contemporary Chinese nationalism articulated itself in the shape of an anti-Manchu approach.

In the Self-Strengthening Movement (1862-1894), modern armed forces and the navy were expanded. Nevertheless, they were defeated in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95). After 1896, a New Army was founded. But as anti-Manchu nationalism expanded among the New Army warriors, they were not loyal to the dynasty.

Although the roots of secret societies in China date back to such dynasties as Ming, Song, and Qin (third century B.C.), their activities were mainly a direct response to the phenomena of new pressures of social chaos as well as modernization. Such things as the Taiping Rebellion, great progress of urbanization, the widespread of the steamboat in transportation, and, of course, the discharging of almost all soldiers raised to fight the rioters, marginal and displaced persons. Promoting proto-nationalism, mutual aid, and, what is the most important, utopian egalitarianism, such secret societies highly attracted this social mass. These happened because these people desperately need support. And the leaders of secret societies used this for their venal purposes. All these events led to such a situation that the last quarter of the nineteenth century observed a decided flourishing of well-known secret society activities and organized movements.

Secret societies played a great role in such crises as the Taiping rebellion, then the Revolution of 1911, then the well-known agrarian crisis of the 1920s and 1930s, the CCP and GMD conflicts of the following years, and, of course, the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. So we can say that the secret societies supported and consciously led to the struggles of such layers of society as the poor peasantry, the original proto-proletariat, and other poor people, which were against the well-off and their political patrons. They were also used as the instruments of certain economic forces as opposed to the monopolies of the state. We need to mention that there was an undivided presence of secret societies in every huge crisis. The support of secret societies was sought by a number of political forces. We must outline the fundamental duality of the true essence of the secret societies. They were likely to be satisfied very quickly with a little success. Indeed, they had no ultimate interest in the certain class struggle. So they were not able to bring up a successful revolution in society.

The connection between an educational history of clandestine communities and the consolidation of the Republican administration laid in originating father Sun Yat Sen’s political actions before the organization of the Republic of China in 1912. Nowadays, Sun Yat-Sen is recognized in the entire world as the modern founder of his country, China. Exiled from China, Sun traveled around the world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, attending societies of ethnic Chinese and asking for their assistance in collapsing the Manchu government and starting a modern republic. Regularly, he found that courting – and even linking – local secret communities was significant to mobilizing the reserves of the societies. These resources might assortment from monetary payments to concrete support in planning revolutions in China suitable if local Chinese communities had preserved active connections with communities on the mainland.

To stimulate such monetary and arranging assistance, Sun eulogized the separatist, anti-Manchu derivations of secret communities, aiming to assembly the latent nationalism of North American and Southeast Asian communities, which had traditionally been quicker to communal promote communities than cabals of rebels-in-waiting. In his communications with mainland secret societies, Sun again stated it helpful to stress the societies’ early anti-Manchu account; by so doing, he aimed to redirect the actions of the frequently xenophobic communities away from outsiders and toward the Manchu rulers. As part of this communal recruitment, “scholar-revolutionaries” like Tao Chengzhang and Hirayama Shu put together popular, journalistic histories of secret societies revealing Sun’s political aims around the time of the 1911 rebellion, but it fell to the post-revolution scientists to comb the chronological record for authentic confirmation to authenticate Sun’s asserts ( Murray 1993, ch.4). Sun was supplied with weapons by the Russians to create a new government in 1923. But, unfortunately, he died in 1925. Following this Kuomintang Party was defeated by Mao Mao Zedong’s Communist party, so it fled to Taiwan and established there a government in exile.

Following these facts, I would like to mention Chiang Kai-shek who is considered as one of the key political leaders of the Chinese history of the 20th century. He established cordial and warm relations with the “Green Gang,” a well-known secret society that was a great power in Shanghai. Chiang Kai-shek fought for Sun Yat Sen’s Kuomintang party against the imperial dynasty. By the end of the 1920s, this political party separated from the Communists which were led by well-known Mao Zedong. Chiang Kai-shek became the governor of the Kuomintang force after Sun Yat Sen’s death. Chiang established his government – in – exile After World War II in Taiwan (1949). He did not care about common people’s interests and welfare. He was pleased with his profitable position of the Generalissimos because that is how he was able to gain a huge amount of money sponsored by the United States and by the United Kingdom which was opposed to the Communists ideology. Until his death in 1975, Chiang Kai-shek ruled Taiwan under his martial law. He failed after the United Nations recognize the Communists as the only official government of China in 1971.

We also need to mention the person, who is closely connected to Chiang Kai-shek. Du Yuesheng, also known as “Big-Eared Du” was a gangster from Shanghai. His gang was involved in the conflict that arose between the Communists and Nationalists. As well as Chiang Kai-shek, Du joined the Green Gang, and eventually became its leader known as the “Boss of the Underworld.”

Under the cover of helping Chine’s people, Du controlled such profitable spheres as gambling dens, protection rackets, prostitution, leading opium trading group. He gained more wealth than the famous American gangster Capone. Later Chiang Kai-shek hired Du Yuesheng and the whole Green Gang to kill all pro-communists who existed in Shanghai (the 1927 Shanghai Purge). As a reward for this, he got the Board of Opium Suppression Bureau.

When the Japanese war of 1937was declared by Nationalists, Du, “a strong patriot”, smuggled supplies for Chiang Kai-shek from Chinese territory, which was occupied.

But then Du’s relatives began to bother Chiang. After Chiang Kai-shek’s anti-corruption operation in Shanghai in the late 1940s, Du’s relatives were jailed. But Du had managed to release them by threatening to uncover Chiang’s relatives’ crimes which were even more serious.

Then Du joined the Communists when Chiang’s government escaped to Taiwan in 1949, explaining this as a “help for Chine’s people”. After Communists held all of the Chine territories in their, Du was considered it safe to return to China. But he became ill and died in 1951.

As for Mao Zedong, he was the world’s known Chinese communist leader during the 20th century. His army overthrew Chiang Kai-Shek in 1949. Mao turned China into a great world military force. He made a cult of his personality by forcing the distribution of his image as well as his famous “Little Red Book” (a collection of certain political maxims) upon his nation. His campaign of communism export threatened the Western ideology and led to conflicts in Korea and Southeast Asia. Some experts think that r Mao’s rule led China to economic disasters and certain political terrorism. Nowadays the leader of the country is Deng Xiaoping. He steered his country away from the concept of pure communism. The Cult of Mao Zedong disappears.

The Development of the Chinese Secret Societies can be observed in historical and modern researches. When the Manchus assaulted China in 1644 the Ming army turned to be a dissident community that claimed to defeat the Qing (Manchu) and reinstate the Ming. They maintained the Boxer Rebellion but were jab by imperialist authorities. Shortly, with the assistance of foreign Chinese and the Japanese regal family, the community coped to defeat the last Emperor and inaugurate Sun Yat-Sen in his position. They last emerge in history as the Green Gang and the Red Gang that ferociously fought with the Communists in Shanghai in the 1940s. They were conquered by Mao’s Communists in 1949 and once again became a subversive association.

Works Cited

Antony, Robert J., et al. Secret Societies Reconsidered: Perspectives on the Social History of Modern South China and Southeast Asia. Ed. David Ownby and Mary Somers Heidhues. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1993.

Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.

The Green Gang and the Guomindang State: Du Yuesheng and the Politics of Shanghai, 1927-37. The Journal of Asian Studies 54.1 (1995): 64-92.

Chesneaux, Jean, and Lucien Bianco. Popular Movements and Secret Societies in China, 1840-1950. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1972.

The Green Gang and the Guomindang State: Du Yuesheng and the Politics of Shanghai, 1927-37 The Journal of Asian Studies 54.1 (1995): 64-92.

Rowe, William T. The Qingbang and Collaboration Under the Japanese, 1939-1945: Materials in the Wuhan Municipal Archives Modern China 8.4 (1982): 491-9.

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