Chinese Masonry of the Philippines
By courtesy of Bro Antefixus
By: Bro. Florencio Y. Sy (Condensed from local and internet sources)
Reprinted from The Cable Tow
The Official Publication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines: Vol. 79, No. 4, Feb Apr 2003
Understanding the phenomenon we Freemasons call as Chinese Masonry requires revisiting the events in China and the Philippines during the turn of the 1900s.
The introduction chapter of the book of WM William C. Councell already mentioned the very enlightening revelations on the common symbols and practices by proto-Freemasons from Asia Minor and their links with the ancient monasteries of China. What we will embark upon is a synopsis of developments after the fall of the Ming Dynasty of the Han people, the advent of the Ming Dynasty of the Han people, the advent of the Triads and how they found their way to Manila to assume a unique existence.
Before their criminal enterprising, the Triads actually began as a resistance movement to the Manchu Emperors. The Manchu were from a country north of China (Manchuria) and were seen as foreign rulers, who took Chinas northern capital (Peking) by force, and established their dynasty in 1974.
In the thirteenth year of rule of the second Manchu emperor (Kiang His), a monastery of fighting monks SIU LAM were recruited by the emperor to defeat a rebellion in Fukien. These monasteries received by the emperor to defeat a rebellion in Fukien. These monasteries received some imperial power as a reward. Due to court jealousies, these Fukien Buddhist monks were then themselves seen as a threat, and an army was sent to suppress them. Eighteen monks escaped, but only five survived further. In legend, these survivors founded 5 monasteries that spawned five secret societies, dedicated to overthrowing the Manchu (also known as the Ching) dynasty, and restoring the previous Chinese Ming dynasty, which was seen as a golden age for China. Their motto became Crush the Ching, establish the Ming.
The family name of the Ming emperors was Hung, and their color was red, so both Hung and red are associated with Chinese secret societies. The societies called themselves the Hung Mun. Secret codes were developed, to frustrate the emperors spies. This secrecy, and the martial arts training, much later led to the associations being used for criminal purposes, instead of political ones. However, during their early years many Hung Mun were seen as protectors of the people against a repressive and sometimes vicious regime of the emperor.
These secret societies played roles in several rebellions against the Manchus, notably the White Lotus Society rebellion in Szechuan, Hupeh and Shansi in the mid-1970s; the Cudgels uprising in Kwangsi province, 1847 to 1950; and Hung Hsiu Chuans Kwangsi-based rebellion 1951-1865. (Hung called himself Christs brother), and the rebellion (called Tai Ping) was crushed with the aid of the Western powers. The Boxer Rebellion in Peking in 1896-1900, involved the White Lotus Society, as well as other triads called the Big Swords and the Red Fists.
The use in English of the word Triad (a group of three) denotes the sacred symbol of these secret societies a triangle enclosing a modification of the Chinese character known a hung. The use of hung derived from Hung Wu, the royal title of the patriot who founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368 A.D.. Hung Wus reign heralded a golden age of prosperity in China, ended by the Manchu conquest in 1644. Hung, by itself, had no meaning, but its enclosure within the three-sided geometric figure symbolized the union of Heaven, Earth and Man. When Triads the offspring of ancient societies formed after 1644 to fight for independence from Manchu rule, they devised the triangle-protected hung as a holy symbol of their purpose, which was to drive out the conqueror and again achieve for China that perfect union of Heaven, Earth and Man.
Triads were variously known, from the 17th century to the present day, as Hung Mun (Hung Association), Tin Tei Wui (Heaven and Earth Association), Saam Hip Wui (Three United Association) and more recently, as Hak She Wui (Black Society Association), a name befitting their descent from patriotic glory into criminal infamy.
Membership in a Triad society traditionally began with apprenticeship leading to full initiation involving three days of ritual called Hung Mun. On the walls of the chosen place, designated a lodge, were hung Triad insignia including representations of the mythical Triad capital city, Muk Yeung. A Heung Chu, Incense Master, presided over the rites. Blood was drawn from one of each recruits fingers by the Heung Chu, tasted first by the recruit himself, then added to a communal bowl from which everyone drank to signify blood-brotherhood. Adherents subscribed to 36 oaths, 21 codes, 10 prohibitions, 10 penalties and 10 mottos.
In 1956, most ritual initiations were suspended for security reasons, but at least one oath of allegiance continued to be sworn. Of the old 36, most telling was the 13th: If I should change my mind and deny my membership of the Hung family, I will be killed by a myriad of swords. Spoken or not, that oath never lay far from implementation if forsworn.
It was believed that ritual entry into the sacred bond of Taoist-oriented Triad confraternity signified rebirth. Recruits took part in the ceremony of Kwa Lam Tang Lung. Hanging the Blue Lantern. In China, a blue lantern placed outside a house paralleled in Occidental culture by the black wreath hung on front doors announced a recent death. One had to die before resurrection into new life as a Triad brother.
The Triads became a wide ranging revolutionary movement and eventually became the dominant force behind the resistance not only to Manchu rule but to the stay off the Western powers and Japan who virtually raped China, enforcing opium drug sales by war, stealing gold and heritage antiques, and demanding huge re-compensation for any affront. Sun Yat Sen, the soul of the resistance movement was allied with the Hsing Chung Triad society.
Financial and political issues were intimately linked in Sun Yat-sens early career because raising funds to carry out revolutionary activities was one of his principal occupations from 1894 to 1911. His persuasive rhetoric, dedication, and integrity appealed to a broad range of people who contributed to his causes. In his fundraising he drew from family, supporters, and the overseas Chinese communities in Hawaii, North America, Southeast Asia, and Japan. Moreover, he recognized the mutual benefit of establishing relations with other nationalist movements, such as that in the Philippines against American imperialism.
After the establishment in Tokyo of the Tung-ment-hui (United League), successor to his first revolutionary party, the Hsing-Chung-Hui, Sun successfully raised funds by issuing different types of bonds, redeemable at a premium after the creation of a Chinese republic. He also joined and used his ties with Hung-Mun secret societies to gain their financial help.
Motivated by the lofty principles of freedom and equality, Sun naturally enough was willing to help people other than Chinese who were in a similar predicament. It did not go unnoticed, of course, that these arrangements promised potential financial and strategic gains for Suns own movement. For example, it was difficult in 1899 to ignore the imperialist actions of the United States in the Philippines, and Sun vigorously condemned those actions. He warmly received Mariano Ponce, a representative of the Philippine national movement, and the two became friends. Together they organized a system that enabled Sun and his forces to aid the Aguinaldo government in its struggle against the United States. In late 1899, Hung Mun from the US, mostly originating from Guandong province came to the Philippines and organized the Hong Shun Thong.
It is at this point that we need to emphasize that the Hung Mun came to the Philippines and proceeded to call themselves Chinese Masons. There are Hung Mun chapters worldwide but it is only in the Philippines that they call themselves Masons. There is where we speculate on the reasons.
Sun Yat-Sen was baptized a Christian during his student days in Hawaii, became a life long practicing Christian and was even buried in Christian rites. There were rumors that he became a Freemason but these have not been confirmed. Sun was however an avid student of history and Chinese culture and he would not have been ignorant of the findings of MW Councell about the similarity of Triad practices and symbols with those of Freemasonry. Mariano Ponce was a Mason as was Aguinaldo and both belonged to the Magdalo faction of the revolution which was dominated by Masons. The Bonifacio brothers (of Magdiwang facation) who founded the Katipunan were Masons who brought the Masonic symbols and rituals to the core of the Katipunan secret revolutionary society. Both the Hung Mun and the countless Filipino Masons in the revolutionary movement were fighting off foreign domination and they shared a similar fraternal lineage. As it was inevitable for the Katipunan to emulate the Craft, we speculate that the Hung Mun proceeded to be called Masons (probably as suggested by Ponce and Aguinaldo) themselves in order that their assimilation into their host countrys struggles are facilitated more expeditiously. In other countries where there were no such revolutionary struggles, they remained their trued selves, an expatriate nationalist secret society.
At first, Sun acted as a middleman in the supply of arms to the Philippines. Soon, a sense of Asian community developed, and Sun and Ponce agreed that they would fight for each others movements. First, Suns forces would join the struggle for Philippine independence, and if that succeeded, the Philippines would aid in the overthrow of the Ching dynasty.
This was a bold and well conceived plan, but neither man was adequately equipped to play power politics. The first shipload of arms to the Philippines was mysteriously swallowed by the sea off Shanghai. Sun tried to organize another shipment, but the United States forced Japan to halt the movement of all military supplies to the Philippines. Unable to equip the Filipinos with they necessary weapons, Sun was preparing a group of Hsing-Chung-Hui members for combat in the Philippines were news arrived of the United States victory there.
In proposing to cross swords with the US, Sun took a great risk, but he was blinded by the bright prospects of the Philippines as a strategic base for fighting the Manchus. Had Aguinaldos army posted a victory, Sun would have reaped enormous financial support, and the Chinese revolution might have progressed with more rapidity. As it was, Sun was given $100,000. by the defeated Aguinaldo government, and he learned much in his attempt to finance his own activities by associating with foreign governments. It is a wonder that the victorious American forces tolerated their continued say in the Philippines despite their siding with Aguinaldos anti-American forces.
In 1900, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen changed directions for the Hung Mun, after all he was preparing for the final rebellion of 1906 that eventually caused the downfall of the Manchu Ching in 1911. He sent over Mr. Pi Yeong Lian to cause the change of the Hung Shun Tong to Chee Kung Tong, officially launching the first legal Hung Mun organization in the Philippines that to this day is even recognized by the Peoples Republic of China. Today, the Chee has four branches.
In 1909, Ghi Hock Tong was organized. After a series of transformations in 1912, 1913 and finally in 1962, it was officially named as Progressive Chinese Masons of the Philippines. It is also the biggest with 14 branches throughout the country today.
The third Hung Mun is the Tiock Lim organized in 1928 and is now known as the Tiock Lim Chinese Masons of the Philippines with five branches.
The fourth Hung Mun is the Hiap Ho Kieng Giap organized also in 1928. The Hiap Masons have two branches.
The fifth and the last Hung Mun is the Peng Kong Chinese Masons of the Philippines. Although they are the youngest in the country being established only in 1931 and is found only in Binondo, it is the most popular among the Chinese baby boomers of the post WWII era who find them cool. When Freemasons talk of the so-called Chinese Masons, it is always the name of the Peng Kong that is first mentioned.
By 1931, all five Hung Mun branches founded by the five legendary Siu Lam monks who survived the Fukien rebellion were firmly emplaced in the Philippines. The local Hung Mun are an aberration in Triad history in that they have not been known to be involved in organized crime.
When WWII broke out, the anti-Japanese resistance in China spilled over to the Philippines. Amid the world famous resistance waged by Filipino guerillas was a little known small but dirty war waged by local urban guerillas of the Hung Mun secret societies who lost many gallant members in their fight against the Japanese Kemptetai (secret police) in the Chinatowns all over the country.
After the Pacific War, the surviving Hung Mun moved to strengthen their organization which was now pursuing a different undertaking, that of preserving the legacy of the China of their forefathers in the midst of the Communist takeover of their homeland. The five Hung Mun societies in the Philippines agreed to organize a national organization named as the Hong Men Overall Office. The Hong Men consists of members from each of the five societies and exercises control over the subsidiary organizations, a Grand Orient, if you wish. The present main activities of the Hong Men are maintaining their ancient teachings and rituals and making their existence relevant to the community through charitable, civic and cultural activities.
After fighting two wars for their adoptive country in the company of Freemasons, the Hong Men have chosen to remember the unique circumstances of their journey to these islands by remaining to be called Chinese Masons of the Philippines.