The Chinese Triads find their origin centuries ago. At least since the Tang dynasty (617-907) China has had secret societies. Several Triads identify themselves with the White Lotus Society. The White Lotus Society expelled the Mongolian occupation force from China and installed Buddhist monk Hung Wu as the first Ming emperor in 1368. Another incident several Triads identify themselves with, takes place in the 17th century. It tells the story of 128 monks of the Shao Lin convent who offer their services to the second emperor of the Qing dynasty, and defend China from invading forces. The emperor was frightened by their power and burned down their convent. 110 monks died in the fire, 18 escaped the flames, of which only 5 managed to get to a safe haven. These five monks became known as the First Five Ancestors. These five men founded a secret society to avenge their dead brothers.


The Triads operate throughout the world, but their main base of operations is Hong Kong. Other important bases are: Shanghai, Macau, Taiwan, and Singapore. Triads are involved in gambling, loansharking, extortion, drugs- arms- and people smuggling.

The three main Triad groups are:
- 14K Triad, which consists of twenty subgroups.
- The Wo group, consists of twelve factions, including Wo Shing Wo, and Wo On Lok.
- The Teochiu Societies, consists of six subdivisions, of which San Yee On is the biggest and best known.


In a Triad society each rank has its own specific number. 489 indicates the leader, or Shan Chu. He is followed by the 438, the incense master, or Heung Chu, who is responsible for the ceremonial duties. Then there are the adviser, under 415, the Red Pole, under 426, who is a master in kung fu and is part of the military wing, the messenger, under 432, who meets with members of other Triads, and the 49, who holds the lowest rank.


The White Wolf and China - Profile of Taiwan Triad boss Chang An Lo
The Mother Snake: Profile of female Shanghai crime boss She Aizhen
Famous movie star and respected gangster - Profile of 14K Triad boss Michael Chan
Boston Chinatown hitman Hung Tien Pham
The Chinese Godfather - Profile of Chinese-Italian crime boss Zhang “Il Uomo Nero” Naizhong
Asia’s Most Wanted Drug Lord - Profile of Triad boss Tse Chi Lop, nicknamed “Brother Number Three”
Hong Kong Wo Shing Wo Triad boss Kwok Wing-hung (prison)
The Rat who became King: Triad boss Raymond Chow (prison)
Macau Triad Boss: Tong Sang Lai (living in freedom)
Wei Seng Phua (living in freedom)
San Francisco Triad Boss: Peter Chong (living in freedom)
Macau Triad Boss: Wan Kuok-koi (living in freedom)
Dutch Triad Boss: Chung Mon (killed)
Shanghai Triad boss Du Yueh-sheng (dead, natural causes)


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