Xinhai Revolution (China): The Wuchang Uprising in China’s Battle for Freedom led by Huang Xing

The Chinese Revolution of 1911, also called Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命) after the year of the Chinese calendar in which it occurred, was an uprising that led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and to the foundation of the Republic of China (中華民國, ROC). The revolt began on October 9th when the accidental explosion of a bomb drew the attention of the local police to a house in Wuchang’s Russian Settlement. The house was searched and a list of names of revolutionaries was found. Since the incident had exposed their plans and identities, the insurgents decided to strike at once.

On October 10th, the revolutionaries attacked and overwhelmed imperial forces in the city of Wuchang. The uprising spread to other cities and provinces, causing panic among Qing officials. The imperial house hoped to save itself by seeking the help of Western powers, but they chose to remain neutral. The dynasty that had ruled China for 267 years fell with astonishing rapidity, and the insurgents became masters of China. October 10th was later declared the National Day of the Republic of China (國慶日 / 国庆日; pinyin: Guóqìng Rì), also known as Double Ten Day (雙十節 / 双十节; pinyin: Shuāngshíjié).

The military uprising at Wuchang took place led by Huang Xing. At the time, Sun Tat-sen had no direct involvement as he was still in exile. Huang was in charge of the revolution that ended over 2000 years of imperial rule in China. When Sun learned of the successful rebellion against the Qing emperor from press reports, he immediately returned to China from the United States accompanied by his American military advisor, “General” Homer Lea, on 21 December 1911. The uprising expanded to the Xinhai Revolution also known as the “Chinese Revolution” to overthrow the last Emperor Puyi. After this event, 10 October became known as the commemoration of Double Ten Day.

Just before the revolution  Sun Yat-Sen spent two weeks in Vancouver, as a guest of the Freemasons and stayed at Woods Hotel, now the Pennsylvania Hotel.  He channeled the Jewish funds for the revolution.  This hotel celebrated the 100th anniversary of this hotel stay where so many Jewish bankers and Jewish VIPs came in to the hotel , two years ago..

Jew Morris Abraham  Cohen (1887–1970)  became aide-de-camp to Sun Yat-sen and a major-general in the Chinese National Revolutionary Army.

The Chinese everywhere call the Jews “Tiao Kiu Kiaou”.  Chinese Jew Charles Jones Soong  (February 1863 – May 3, 1918) was a hatchet man of Rotshchild. He was the father in law of  Sun Yat-Sen’s wife  Song Ching Ling and a key player in the events that led to the Xinhai Revolution in 1911.  At the tender age of 15, Charles Jones Soong  sailed to Boston on one of Rothschild’s  tea clippers.

From Wikipedia:

The Xinhai Revolution (Chinese: 辛亥革命; pinyin: Xīnhài gémìng), also known as the Chinese Revolution or the Revolution of 1911 (though this term may also refer to a number of other events), was a revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty (the Qing dynasty), and established the Republic of China (ROC). The revolution was named Xinhai (Hsin-hai) because it occurred in 1911, the year of the Xinhai (辛亥, metal pig) stem-branch in the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese calendar.

The revolution consisted of many revolts and uprisings. The turning point was the Wuchang Uprising on October 10, 1911, which was the result of the mishandling of the Railway Protection Movement. The revolution ended with the abdication of the six-year-old “Last Emperor”, Puyi, on February 12, 1912, that marked the end of 2,000 years of imperial rule and the beginning of China’s early republican era (1912–16).

The revolution arose mainly in response to the decline of the Qing state, which had proven ineffective in its efforts to modernize China and confront foreign aggression. Many underground anti-Qing groups, with the support of Chinese revolutionaries in exile, tried to overthrow the Qing. The brief civil war that ensued was ended through a political compromise between Yuan Shikai, the late Qing military strongman, and Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Tongmenghui (United League). After the Qing court transferred power to the newly founded republic, a provisional coalition government was created along with the National Assembly. However, political power of the new national government in Beijing was soon thereafter monopolized by Yuan and led to decades of political division and warlordism, including several attempts at imperial restoration.

The Republic of China in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China on the mainland consider themselves the legitimate successors to the Xinhai Revolution and honor the ideals of the revolution including nationalism, republicanism, modernization of China and national unity. October 10 is commemorated in Taiwan as Double Ten Day, the National Day of the ROC. In mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, the day is celebrated as the Anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution

Secret Societies and the 1911 Revolution

by Jiang SUN

On January 14, 1919, Sun Yat-sen wrote in a letter to Cai Yuanpei and Zhang Xiangchen, who were involved in the editing of The Revolutionary History before the Republic of China, “[Secret societies are] autocratic organizations with a rigorous hierarchy and know nothing about the principles of republicanism or democracy. I suggest you compile a separate book, The History of Secret Societies, based on the relationship between secret societies and the republic revolution. This should be separate from the history of the Republic of China.”1 Sun Yat-sen believed that the organizational nature of secret societies conflicted with the ideas of the revolution, which aimed for democracy, republicanism, and civil rights, and should not be granted status as a participant in the history of the Republic of China. One year earlier, in 1918, Sun Yat-sen wrote about secret societies before the 1911 Revolution in The Fundamentals of National Reconstruction2 that

One should know the difficulty of spreading to the country. Huidang (secret societies) were the only ones who did not show a suspicion upon hearing that the revolution is about expelling Manchuria. Furthermore, they have a low degree of intelligence, and lack of cohesiveness, which makes them unreliable. They could sympathize with the revolution but did not become a driving force of the revolution.

Sun Yat-sen is arguing that secret societies could not be expected to become a driving force of the Revolution as they lacked a unifying force due to insufficient education among their members.

However, these quotes by Sun Yat-sen do not necessarily reflect the relationship between secret societies and himself. In 1895 Sun Yat-sen defected abroad after the failed Guangzhou Uprising and joined Zhigongtang (usually Hongmen), a secret society of overseas Chinese. He also had a close relationship with secret societies in China and instigated anti-Qing armed uprisings with them. In 1905 he defined the Chinese secret societies, including those abroad such as Zhigongtang, as democratic organizations that proclaim “patriotism, preservation of seeds, restoration of Han, and revenge.”3 The same year he had talks with Chinese students in Belgium, stating that “Huidang’s main goal is to overthrow Qing and restore Ming, but this goal does not exist anymore. We need to clarify the purpose of Huidang and restore its essence. You students should participate in this to improve the rules and structures of Huidang.4

Underlying contradictions in his discourse about secret societies presents a fundamental challenge in historical studies regarding the relation between historical narratives and historical fact in discussions on the relationship between secret societies and the 1911 Revolution. It is necessary to unravel issues, such as whether secret societies actually participated in the 1911 Revolution, and if so, what was the degree of involvement, as historical fact. These questions lead to another question of how people at the time and later generations represented the relationship between secret societies and the 1911 Revolution. In the following sections, I consider the role of secret societies in the 1911 Revolution by offering specific examples, and share my views on several issues regarding the methodology on the study of secret societies based on my previous research.5

Secret Societies as Representation

Within two months after the armed uprising in Wuchang on October 10, 1911, fourteen provinces had declared independence. Among these, provinces where secret societies were actually involved in the 1911 Revolution were Hunan, Shaanxi, Guizhou, and Sichuan. How much of a role did secret societies play in promoting armed uprisings in each of these four provinces?

(1) Hunan Province

In Hunan Province, a sense of restlessness had built up in the New Army after hearing about the armed uprising in Wuchang, the capital of neighboring Hubei Province. In October 22, Jiao Dafeng and Chen Zuoxin lead some soldiers from the New Army to attack Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. Following this, Yu Chengge, Governor of Hunan Province, made his escape and Jiao Dafeng’s army occupied Changsha by force and declared its independence from the Qing Dynasty. Jiao and Chen assumed the posts of Commander in Chief and Vice Commander in Chief of Hunan Province, respectively, and Tan Yankai, the former Head of the Consultative Bureau, became Head of the Provincial Civil Affairs Department. Ten days later, Mei Xin, a subordinate of Jiao and Chen, staged a coup d’état and slew them. There are several views on Jiao’s regime, which lasted only ten days. One view is that Jiao was actually Jiang Shoudan (leader of the Ping Liu Li Uprising in 1906), the deceased leader of a secret society called Hongjianghui, and his seal of Sizheng was actually the seal of Tiangang from Liangshanpo.6 Another view is that many Gelaohui members visited Jiao Dafeng to ask for positions after he assumed the office of Commander in Chief, and many of Gelaohui members around Changsha eventually became soldiers of the newly organized New Army.7 Furthermore, it is stated that Gelaohui members in the area below Hengyang said, “We Hongjiang are in power now as Big Brother Jiao became Commander in Chief.”8 It is true that Jiao Dafeng was once a “dragonhead” of a Gelaohui organization, but Gelaohui had no connection to the independence of Hunan Province or the Hunan Provincial Regime lead by Jiao. Therefore, it is highly likely that the idea of the Hongjiang being in power was a false rumor purposely spread by political adversaries of Jiao in an attempt to incriminate him.

(2) Shaanxi Province

In Shaanxi Province, the Wuchang uprising took place on the same day as in Hunan Province, and its independence from the Qing Dynasty was declared. Gelaohui leaders in the New Army of Shaanxi Province played a certain role. In the Shaanxi New Army Hunchengxie (3000 soldiers) organized in 1910, most junior officers were graduates from military school.9 Over ten officers of the Army, including Zhu Xuwu, Qian Ding, Zhan Fang from Tongmenghui,10 and Zhang Fengxiang, a member of a secret society (and a graduate from the Military Academy of Japan), were all members of the Revolutionary Party. The New Army of Shaanxi Province could be considered a faction of Gelaohui. Many soldiers were members of secret societies, and Zhang Yunshan and Wan Bingnan held the most powerful positions. After Shaanxi Province gained independence from the Qing Dynasty, each leader of the Gelaohui factions lead soldiers and followed the directions of the leader of the Gelaohui faction they belonged to.11 Zhang Fang reflected on that time as follows: “Some Hongmen leaders were not discerning. Although they participated in the revolution, they could not understand the real meaning of the revolution. They often fought each other for power and position, kidnapped men and women, and robbed money and property under the name of the revolution.”12 Guo Xiren, a member of Tongmenghui, who became General

Secretary of the Shaanxi Province Military Government, lamented that Shaanxi had turned into “a world of secret societies.”13 Jing Wumu, another member of Tongmenghui, who contributed to mobilizing Gelaohui even before the 1911 Revolution, also commented that “the revolution was a failure.”14 Zhang Fengxiang severely clamped down on Gelaohui leaders from the spring to the summer of 1912. As a result, “the world of secret societies” had disappeared.15

(3) Guizhou Province

After the Wuchang uprising, the New Army and military elementary school in Guizhou initiated an armed uprising. Zizhixueshe and Xianzhengyubeihui, two factions of the Guizhou Provincial Assembly, joined the Army in goading Chen Yuqing, Governor of the Province, to relinquish power.16 As a result, Guizhou Province gained its independence from the Qing Dynasty on November 4.

Around 1902, Huang Shicheng, who claimed to be dispatched by the Sun Yatsen-lead Xingzhonghui, went to Guizhou to form a society called Tongjigong and started the political activities of Fan Qing Fu Ming. Huang traveled with a document about secret societies called Haidi. Tongjigong plotted an anti-Qing armed uprising following the Hekou Uprising in Yunnan Province but did not succeed. Tongjigong later joined Zizhixueshe, a constitutional organization started by Zhang Bailin.17 At that time, there was a rumor about constitutional organizations in Guizhou Province stating that “many of those involved in Xianzheng were rich gentlemen and many of those involved in Zizhi were poor.”18 Zizhixueshe mainly consisted of people from society’s low class, and its branches included a large number of Gelaohui members. At least 19 branches had members from Gelaohui, who included not only vagrants but also scholars, students, and provincial assembly members.19 It should be noted that the fact that Gelaohui’s members joined Zizhixueshe suggests that Gelaohui was not a dissident social group contrary to the general perception.

Regarding the New Army in Guizhou, “More than 90 percent … were Paoge (Gelaohui members).”20 Yan Chongjie, Liu Geyuan, and Xi Zhengming, who were students of the military elementary school, formed a history study group and discussed and spread information about the history and theory of the anti-Manchu revolution. At that time, the New Army and the military elementary school in Guizhou came to be at odds with each other and were in a fierce conflict. Yan, Liu, and Xi formed a secret society of blood-brothers called Huanghangong in 1908 to mend the relationship between the military elementary school and the New Army, and propagandize the idea of the anti-Manchu revolution. The following year Huanghangong was renamed Huiyinggong and gained a certain amount of power in the military school, the New Army, and society in general.21

(4) Sichuan Province

As is generally known, the direct trigger of the Wuchang Uprising was the Railway Protection Movement in Sichuan. In May 1911, the Qing Government implemented the nationalization of railways, which ignited the Railway Protection Movement in southern provinces. In mid-June, Pu Dianjun and Luo Lun, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Sichuan Provincial Assembly, started Railway Preservation Tongzhihui (Comrades). Tongzhihui included many Gelaohui members.22 Local publications in Sichuan also wrote that “Tongzhihui was equal to Gelaohui. Gelaohui was called Tongzhihui because Gelaohui acted in concert with the Railway Preservation Tongzhihui.”23

It should be pointed out that the Tongzhi Army’s armed uprising prompted the independence of Sichuan Province from the Qing Dynasty, but this does not necessarily mean that the Tongzhi Army maintained the political consciousness of the anti-Manchu revolution. Its purpose was to protect the railways and to oust Zhao Erfeng, Sichuan Governor General, but there was no consensus within the group on expelling government clerks of the Qing Dynasty.24

To summarize the above activities of secret societies during the 1911 Revolution, in Hunan Province secret societies played almost no role in the province’s independence. In the case of Shaanxi Province, although the support of Gelaohui leaders accelerated the armed uprising by the Shaanxi New Army, Gelaohui was more influential after the revolution than before. In the case of Guizhou Province, Zizhixueshe, whose goal was to create a constitutional government, extended power through the network of Gelaohui, but Gelaohui itself did not have a direct relationship with the independence of Guizhou since its network was also widely present in the military. Lastly, in the case of Sichuan Province, it can be said that Gelaohui played a significant role in the province’s independence because the Sichuan Railway Preservation Tongzhi Army utilized the personal relationships of Gelaohui organizations.

Revolution of Secret Societies as a Symbol

From the above discussion on the situations in four different provinces it can be understood that secret societies did not join the Revolution as an organization. However, it cannot be denied that secret societies were meaningful to the 1911 Revolution because revolutionaries widely used Fan Qing Fu Ming and the ceremony of blood-brothers as a means to promote the anti-Manchu Revolution. Tao Chengzhang, a revolutionary from Zhejiang Province who was at odds with Sun Yat-sen regarding the direction of the anti-Manchu Revolution, gave a positive evaluation of secret societies in the famous Jiaohuiyuanliukao by stating, “[After the fall of the Ming], people with ambitions could not bear to see the country suffering the direst distress. They created secret organizations, sought the restoration of the country, and therefore formed Hongmen.”25 Tao’s words concisely represent the political strategy of revolutionaries during the late Qing period who tried to transform the secret society discourse of Fan Qing Fu Ming into the political discourse of the anti-Manchu Revolution.

In 1902, Ou qujia (1870-1911) a revolutionary from Guangdong Province, wrote a book about his vision of the revolution called Xin Guangdong, in which he insisted the goal of the revolution was to unite secret societies in Guangdong, gain the independence of Guangdong Province as the first step, then create some “independent countries,” or “federation” of provinces and establish a new regime of Han people by replacing the Qing Government throughout China.26 The following year, Yang Shouren, a student from Hunan Province studying in Tokyo, published Xin Hunan in which presented very similar argument to Xin Guangdong, incorporating the independence of Hunan Province from the Qing Dynasty. Yang reconstructed secret societies based on the thought of Xia (chivalry), regarded it as a foundation for the “independence” of Hunan Province, and foresaw that “if each member comprises a part of a secret society, the secret society will be independent. If each secret society comprises a part of Hunan, Hunan will be independent.”27

Meanwhile, Tao Chengzhang who “inconsistently aimed to deliver the central revolution,” worked toward the alliance between revolutionaries in Zhejiang Province and other provinces by presenting the goal of establishing a regime of Han people against the backdrop of the conflict between the Manchuria and Han.28 Duara compared Tao Chengzhang’s Longhuahui Zhangcheng and Jiaohuiyuanliukao in an article about the relationship between secret societies and the 1911 Revolution, indicating that the former contained elements of traditional Confucian philosophy while the latter had elements of evolutionary theory from the West.29 Tao Chengzhang established the Geming Xiehui (Revolution Association) around 1908 and started a secret society called Yitong Longhuashan (also known as Hanzu Tongdeng Pudutang.30 Article One of Longhuahui Zhangcheng, Rules of Yitong Longhuashan, speaks about expelling the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, who was Manzhou Dazi Huangjia (the imperial family of the Manchurian) and retaking the land of the Great Ming. Article Two prohibits the monopolization of land by the rich and defines all land as public in order to establish a society in which no disparity between rich and poor is ever created again among 400 million compatriots.31 With this, Tao Chengzhang connected the anti-Manchu Revolution with a public benefit.

Use of the custom of brotherhood of secret societies by revolutionaries better represents the relationship between secret societies and the revolution than the discourse of Fan Qing Fu Ming. Secret societies’ initiation ceremonies, organizational structures, and means of communication among members had a lot of influence on revolutionary organizations, including Xingzhonghui. These are not mentioned in the quotes about secret societies by Sun Yat-sen at the beginning of this article. As is generally known, Sun Yat-sen founded Xingzhonghui in Honolulu, Hawaii in November, 1894. Xingzhonghui was a political group with elements of Hongmen organizations, stipulating that new members needed to be referred by current members upon entry and needed to take an oath in front of members, and that members were to communicate with each other by using the codes and gestures of Hongmen and were to use a Hongmen-specific era name called Tianyun.32 Literature published after the 1911 Revolution had almost no mention of these elements of the Xingzhonghui possibly because of the impression that imitating the structure of secret societies was “out dated.” However, these elements can be inferred from memoirs of people involved in the revolution, despite a limited number of materials. In 1899, Sun Yat-sen gathered secret societies, including Sanhehui and Gelaohui, and started Xinghanhui in Hong Kong with a ceremony where participants took an oath by drinking blood. Miyazaki Toten emotionally described this scene as follows: “It was an unprecedented and thrilling event. I wish I could tell the details of it.”33

In another case, a ceremony of eleven revolutionaries including Feng Ziyou, Qiu Jin, Liu Daoyi, Gong Baoquan and Wang Shize, was held in the fall of 1904 in a store of Guangdong merchants in Yokohama. Wang Shize described the scene paraphrased here.34 First, Feng Ziyou explained the wordings used in the oath and told participants to follow them. After the explanation, Liang Muguang lead a ceremony of the oath. He held his steel sword to the neck of people making the oath, and they made the oath in turn. The first person who made the oath was Liu Daoyi. When it came to Wang Shize’s turn, Liang asked, “What did you come for?” Wang answered, “I became a soldier to eat,” as instructed by Feng Ziyou. Liang asked, “Are you loyal?” Wang answered, “Yes, I am.” Liang asked, “What would happen if you were not loyal?” Wang replied, “I would be bitten by a tiger if I climb a mountain and I would be robbed if I go somewhere else.” After everyone made the oath, Liang and Feng spread a white cloth about two meters long. The cloth had four Chinese characters for “Fan Qing Fu Ming.” Every person bent his body and ducked under the cloth to show loyalty to the revolution. They also jumped over the fire made in the room to show the determination of braving fire and water. After that, they pricked their fingers to bleed, killed a big rooster, and drank alcohol mixed with the blood of the rooster. Then Feng and Liang declared that this group is “Sanhehui” (the unity of heaven, earth, and people) and explained some rules to the new members including signals for when they meet, how to answer questions, stepping forward with the right foot upon entering into a compound, and tightly holding the others’ annular finger upon shaking hands. After that, he handed over a book to Liu Daoyi, and asked everyone to transcribe it. The book contained the society’s rules as well as the design of the society’s flag. Lastly, everyone paid a ten-yen initiation fee, upon which the ceremony finished.

The initiation ceremony of this revolutionary organization was obviously the same as that of Tiandihui. The only difference is that only men could join Tiandihui, while the participants of Sanhehui’s ceremony included a female revolutionary named Qiu Jin, who was given the title Baishan (staff officer). It was an “innovation” to the tradition of Tiandihui to allow the initiation of female members. Such innovation of tradition is often used when revolutionaries founded new revolutionary organizations in alliance with secret societies.

Revolutionaries often used the means of the bond of blood-brothers of secret societies even after revolutionary organizations had been founded. Guangfuhui, which Qiu Jin belonged to, started the aforementioned Longhuahui (Yitonglonghuishan). Another thing to be noted regarding the initiation ceremony of Longhuahui is that it made use of not only traditional ceremonies of secret societies but also a historical figure named Yue Fei. In the ceremony of Longhuahui, Yue Fei is ranked highest among anti-Manchurian heroes, above various gods, and “Fan Qing Fu Ming heroes in Tiandihui legends. Participants in the ceremony cut their arms in front of a tablet with Yue Fei’s name, put the blood into the cups, drank the blood mixed with alcohol, read prayers aloud in front of the tablet, praised Yue Fei’s anti-Manchurian accomplishments, and swore they would join the society in all sincerity, keep the secret of the society, and “unite their hearts like brothers.”35

Ter Haar, a Dutch researcher, compared the blood oath ceremonies of China with those of Europe and indicated that the former were “empty ritual forms” that put emphasis on the power of language and letters in the oath taking, while the purpose of the latter were to create a blood relationship like brothers through ceremonies.36 It is true that blood did not play a substantive role in the ceremony of blood brothers in the ceremonies in China, but people became “Jiegu,” meaning brothers with different last names, through these ceremonies.

Many organizations were created in the fashion of secret societies at the end of the Qing Dynasty. One of them was Gongjinghui, a revolutionary organization founded in Tokyo in 1907. Zhang Boxiang and Deng Wenhui the first two presidents, respectively, were both leaders of Gelaohui. Before Gongjinghui was formed, they held a blood oath ceremony and started factions called Zhonghuashan, Guangfutang, Xinghanshui, and Baoguoxiang based on the rules of Hongmen.37 From this point of view, it can be said that Gongjinghui was a duplication of secret societies although it was a revolutionary organization with the goal of anti-Manchu.

As was described above, the discourse of Fan Qing Fu Ming and the means to join secret societies and their networks, whose goal was anti-Manchu revolution, were widely used among revolutionaries at the end of the Qing Dynasty. For this reason, the 1911 Revolution was called the Huidang Geming (Revolution of Secret Societies).

Conclusion: Secret Societies as Difference

It is obvious that secret societies did not play a substantive role in the 1911 Revolution. It can be seen that Sun Yat-sen’s statement quoted at the beginning of this article is supported by factual evidence; the history of secret societies should not be included in the history of the Republic of China, and the History of Secret Societies should be compiled as a separate volume. Nevertheless, it was Sun Yatsen who gave the objective of the anti-Manchu Revolution to secret societies the first time and exploited them as political resources. Also, it should be noted that Sun Yat-sen purposefully gave a low evaluation of the significance of secret societies’ custom of blood brothers as a symbolic use.

Even today, many scholars of the 1911 Revolution argue that secret societies had a close relationship with the anti-Manchu Revolution and position secret societies as dissident and anti-social organizations. In my view, so-called secret societies are merely the representation of societies that actually existed throughout history but do not reflect the “true nature” of these societies.38 Huidang and Jieshe, expressions that have long been used in China and translated as societies, are actually more closely translated into English as associations. Tocqueville, in his book Democracy in America, categorized associations into those that are political/economical and those that are intellectual/ethical ones. He found that various societies established the foundation of democracy in the United States.39 This observation has since formed the mainstream understanding of Western societies. According to Hoffmann, societies in Britain and America had long seen as ideal and were understood in the context of relationships between the middle class, liberalism, and civil society. Through this understanding, the idea and practice of civil society became positioned as something specifically involved in the interests of the middle class. However, in reality, many voluntarily founded societies existed in France, Germany, and a large area from Central Europe to Eastern Europe. Throughout the world beyond Britain and America between the Age of Enlightenment and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, there was no major difference between the societies and kinds of associations mentioned by Tocqueville.40

My perspectives on secret societies partially overlap with Hoffmann’s discussion. In my book, The Revolution and Secret Societies in Modern China, I criticized the trend of viewing civil societies in China as “secret” and “political,” neutralized the concept of secret societies based on characteristics and forms, defined secret societies as “connecting points of human networks commonly presented in Chinese society,” and observed the processes by which they were politicized and became revolutionary societies or anti-revolutionary societies by discussing individual cases. At the risk of oversimplifying the comparison between Chinese secret societies and Western civil societies, the characteristics of Chinese gang societies (including the Green Gang and the Red Gang) which are bonded by blood brothers and intended for mutual assistance, are similar to those of Freemasonry. Meanwhile, Chinese religious societies (including Zailiism), characterized by benevolence and ascetic training, resemble Western clubs and associations whose purpose is to develop morals if the religious elements are excluded. Unfortunately, many of the studies that discuss whether civil societies existed in China only pay attention to political groups like commercial society, which represented the interest of the middle class and their commercial associations from the end of nineteenth century to the early twentieth century and hardly pay enough attention to other civil societies. Even in studies about civil societies, these societies are usually given a bad reputation as anti-establishment and anti-social “secret societies.” For sure, anti-establishment societies have existed throughout history, but it should not be overlooked that the anti-establishment characteristic of these societies is not inherent and there are not societies that have been consistently anti-establishment from beginning to end. In many cases, the anti-establishment element of societies was purposefully created under specific political and social environments.

Bibliography (go to original article HERE)

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