Freemasonry in China I
Freemasonry in China: Freemasonry first reached China on the Prince Carl, a ship of the Swedish East India Company.
The freemasons on board had a document giving them permission to hold meetings whenever they entered a port and they did so in Canton (Guangzhou) in late 1759. The records of the Grand Lodge of England show that in 1768; Lodge Amity No. 407 was meeting in Canton; however, it had ceased working by the end of the century.
Two lodges were established in Hong Kong soon after the British acquired the Territory. The older one, Royal Sussex Lodge No. 501 EC (named after the Duke of Sussex, who was then the Grand Master of the English Freemasons) was warranted on 18 September 1844. It later moved to Guangzhou; then on to Shanghai and only returned to Hong Kong in 1952.
The second lodge; Zetland Lodge No. 526 EC was warranted on 21 March 1846.
It was named after the Marquis of Zetland; the next Grand Master. Zetland Lodge claims seniority over Royal Sussex Lodge as it has remained in Hong Kong since its formation. Other Lodges were established over the following years.
In 1853 Zetland Lodge built a hall for its meetings on the upper part of Zetland Street where New World Tower now stands. This was the first Zetland Hall and in time it became the meeting place of all the Hong Kong lodges. In China, lodges were formed in Shanghai, then in Ningbo and Tianjin.
Lodges were formed eventually in most of the ports of China that were open to foreigners, and in the inland cities of Nanjing, Beijing, Harbin and Chengdu. These operated under charters granted by the supreme Masonic authorities in many countries, with those with most lodges being from England, Scotland; Massachusetts and later, the Philippines.
Because of restrictions imposed by the Imperial Government; it was almost impossible for a Chinese to become a freemason during the Qing Dynasty, although in 1873 the leader of a Chinese educational mission in Massachusetts did so.
The first known Chinese to become a mason in China was Bro. Shan Hing Yung, a lieutenant in the Imperial Navy, who was initiated into Lodge Star of Southern China No. 2013 EC in Guangzhou in 1889. Early Chinese freemasons in Hong Kong included Sir Kai Ho Kai and the Honourable Wei Yuk.
By the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War; many lodges in China had a majority of Chinese members, especially those meeting under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. During the war, the Japanese persecuted Freemasons in the occupied areas of China. Lodges however continued to meet. Several of the Hong Kong lodges met informally and under very dangerous conditions in the internment camps and Perseverance Lodge No. 1165 EC, meeting in Stanley prison, even kept a minute book.
Freemasonry in China: With the end of the war, the lodges in China and Hong Kong revived, although some Lodges moved from the provinces into Shanghai, Tianjin and Hong Kong. Enthusiasm was so great that the six Philippine lodges meeting in China, which had an almost entirely Chinese membership, formed the Grand Lodge of China in 1949.
With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, all the lodges continued to meet, but those that met in the American Masonic Temple in Shanghai – including the Grand Lodge of China – closed down in 1952. The English District Grand Master of Northern China offered to close if the Central Peoples’ Government requested it, affirming that regular Freemasons always give obedience to the lawful government of whichever country they are in.
No request was made and the British lodges meeting in the Masonic Hall in Beijing Road West in Shanghai continued to meet without difficulty. Cosmopolitan Lodge No. 428 SC met there until 1962, when it transferred to Hong Kong.
This was because its largely foreign membership had by then left China and not because of any conflict with the authorities. The British Masonic Hall then became the Shanghai headquarters of the Five Chinese Medical Associations.
Zetland Hall on Zetland Street in Hong Kong Island had been damaged by Allied bombing at the end of the war and the present Zetland Hall at No. 1 Kennedy Road, was constructed in 1950. This enabled lodges from Xiamen, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Shantou and Shanghai to be revived, and also permitted expansion of the Craft to take place.
There are now twenty-seven lodges, with over 1,500 members, meeting at Zetland Hall, together with a considerable number of higher Masonic orders. All lodges and orders still meet under the three Grand Lodges of the British Isles, but enjoy considerable local independence.
Freemasonry in China II
Free Masonry first saw Light in China in the province of Guangzhou during the late 1700’s with the establishment of Amity Lodge No. 407, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England, in 1767; and met regularly for 46 years until going into darkness in 1813; when for some unknown reason it’s charter was not renewed when the two Grand English Lodges united in London.
Upon the departure of Bro. R.F. Gould from China, In 1886, he says that there were in existence at Victoria (Hong Kong), and in the Chinese treaty ports: 13 English Lodges, 4 Scottish Lodges, 1 American Lodge and 1 Irish Lodge.
It should be mentioned that membership of Foregoing Lodges in China, had been mainly confined to specific Foreign Nationals by the Manchu Government and succeeding Governments, and it was not until 1930, when a group of American and Chinese Master Masons, all of whom had been raised abroad, decided to form a Lodge in Shanghai, for the purpose to bring Free Masonry to Chinese aspirants.
Freemasonry in China: Charter Members of the first Chinese Lodge included Brothers George A. Fitch (later G.M. of the G.L.O.C, in Taiwan), Judge N.F. Allman, Alfred T.C. Kao, Mei Hua-Chuan. I.J. Rawlinson and James L.E. Chow, all of whom had been members of Lodges in the U.S.A. with the exception of Bro. Chow who was raised in an English Lodge in Jamaica.
The group first petitioned the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for a Dispensation, but this was denied. They then successfully applied to the Grand Lodge of the Philippines who looked upon their request favourably and granted a Dispensation.
The new Lodge 106 was chartered on 27th January 1931, at Peking and by coincidence also named Amity Lodge, as had been the first Masonic Lodge in China, nearly 200 years earlier.
The creation of Amity Lodge No. 106 was followed by the creation of Nanking Lodge No.108 (Nanking), Pearl River Lodge No. 109 (Canton), Szechwan Lodge No. 112 (Cheng-tu), West Lake Lodge No. 113 (Hanzou) and Sun Lodge No. 114 (Shanghai).
During the Japanese invasion of China and for the duration of the Second World War, a small but courageous group of Master Masons of many nationalities gathered together in the unconquered Free Chinese town of Chungking, in the province of Szechwan, and initially formed a Square and Compasses Club.
By early 1943, the Square and Compasses Club, had despite the many hardships of a town under constant aerial bombardment, developed a nucleus of Brothers who felt the need to establish a recognised Lodge.
A Dispensation to forma Lodge was submitted to the Grand Lodge of California, who in due course granted this, and fortitude Lodge U.D. was established during 1943. Fortitude Lodge was indeed an appropriate name, as the Lodge met regularly despite the inclement weather, unceasing air raids and almost every conceivable difficulty.
In 1945, whit the cessation of the hostilities, the personnel were dispersed, and inevitably this led to the closure of the Lodge, therefore, it’s dispensation was returned to the Grand Lodge of California. It is interesting to note that Fortitude Lodge in it’s somewhat brief existence was to provide in the future four Grand Master for the Grand Lodge Of China: M. W. Brothers William H. T. Wei, Ting Chien, Theodore L. Way and George W. Chen.
Freemasonry in China: With the return of the Brethren to their respective abodes, Masonic activity was resumed throughout China.
The six Lodges which were Chartered under the Grand Lodge Of Philippine, held discussions concerning the future of free Masonry in China, and it was proposed that a grand Lodge Of China, should be established. These labours came to fruition on 18th March 1949, when the Grand Lodge Of China was consecrated at the Masonic Hall in Shanghai. The six Lodges were transferred and re-chartered with their original names, but were re-numbered as follows:
Freemasonry in China:
- Amity Lodge No. 1
- Nanking Lodge No, 2
- Pearl River Lodge No. 3
- Szechwan Lodge No. 4
- West Lake Lodge No. 5
- Sun Lodge No. 6
Unfortunately, within a short time great problems were to beset the newly established Grand Lodge, when the communist Government came to power, and by 1951 the Grand Lodge of China had ceased to function in Shanghai, and the second Grand Master M.W. Bro. T.F. Wei decided to declare darkness had fallen upon the Grand Lodge Of china.
The Grand Lodge was then temporally moved to Hong Kong, with little more than a few files and, through the effort of the first Grand Master M. W. bro. David K Au, the grand Lodge regalia.
Following the fall of the Mainland China to communism, a number of the Chinese and other Nationalities followed the Government of the Republic of China, to Taiwan. Early in 1951 those Brethren discussed the formation of a Square and Compasses Club. Brother Olivier Todd, Past Senior Warden of the International Lodge in Peking was elected as President.
Freemasonry in China: Such was the success of the first Club in Taipei, that later Square and Compasses were formed in Tainan in 1956, and Taichung in 1965.
Back in 1951, a petition was submitted to the Grand Lodge of China, in Hong Kong, for the creation of a new Lodge, appropriately named Liberty Lodge. In August 1952, M. W. Bro. T. F. Wei travelled from Hong Kong with an escort of several Brethren, and duly consecrated the Liberty Lodge No. 7. In 1953, after several difficulties to obtain permission to conduct Masonic Business, from the Authorities, Bro. T. T. Tuan has the honour, of being the first Mason, ever to be raised in Taiwan.
The Grand Lodge of China was reactivated on Taiwan in 1955, as was Amity Lodge No. 1 in the same year, followed by Pearl River Lodge No. 3 at Tainan in 1956, Sun Lodge No. 6 at Taipei in 1956 too, and Szechwan Lodge No. 4 in Taichung in 1957.
In 1961, the Deputy Grand Master George W. Chen, accepted the position of Chairman of a Committee, to translate the Masonic Ritual and Monitor into the Chinese Language. Without further delay and not knowing that it would be a decade of hard labours before the task was completed. The Brethren of Han Lodge, applied for a dispensation in 1971 and Han Lodge No. 8 was granted it’s Charter on 28th October 1972 and has the distinction of being the first Lodge to conduct it’s entire business in the Chinese language.
In the eve of Christmas 1985, Tang Lodge No. 9 was chartered.
In 1997, Harmony Lodge No. 10 was chartered in Taipei and was followed 3 years later by High Sun Lodge No. 11, chartered in Taipei County. Lodges in China (under the Grand jurisdiction of Philippine Grand Lodge)
- 1931 Amity Lodge No.106 (Philippine Grand Lodge) in Shanghai
- 1933-39 Nanking Lodge No.108 in Nanking
- 1931 Pearl River Lodge No.109 in Guangzhou
- 1936 Szechwan Lodge No.112 in Cheng-Tu
- West Lake Lodge No.113 in Hanzou
- 1937 Sun Lodge No.114 in Shanghai
- 1943 Fortitude Lodge (California Grand Lodge)
History of Grand Lodge of China
- 1949 Grand Lodge of China in Shanghai
- Amity Lodge No.1
- Nanking Lodge No.2
- 1949 Pearl River Lodge No.3 (re-chartered under the Grand Lodge of China)
- 1949 Szechwan Lodge No.4 (re-chartered under the Grand Lodge of China)
- West Lake Lodge No.5
- 1949 Sun Lodge No.6 (re-chartered under the Grand Lodge of China)
- 1953 Liberty Lodge No.7
- Grand Lodge of China http://www.grandlodge-china.org/eng/index.asp?CType=8
- Pietre-Stones article http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/freemasons_china.html
Source: Freemasonry in China (freimauer wiki)