Secret political Societies have existed in many countries: but in no other part of the world did they flourish and exert so much influence for ill, as in China. What appear to be societies of the kind are referred to, far back in the aunals of the country.
At the close of the Former and begining of the After Han dynasties, about the commencement of the Christian era, there existed a rebellious, and apparently secret, Society, whose members before going to battle, in order to make themselves more terrible in appearance, painted their eyebrows with vermilion, and were therefore called the Chih Met or Camatian Eyebrow Rebels. Their leader, Fan Ts'ung, after having taken a prominent part in overthrowing the usurper Wang Mang, set up a claim to the sovereignty of the country. In the contest for supremacy between himself and Liu Sin, the founder of the After Han dynasty, he was finally defeated by Feng I, a commander in the Han canse, who drew him into an ambush of soldiers dressed and painted like the Chih Meis. By this stratagem the real Chih Meis were unable to distinguish friend from foe and in the confusion which ensued they were completely routed. At this period there were other Societies, similar to the Chih Mei, such as the Tung Ma or Copper Horses, the T-ieh Ching or Iron Shins and others, all of which took part in the anarchy that prevailed.
About A.D. 170, a stndent of Taoism, named Chang Kioh, by pretending to supernatural powers in magic, and curing diseases, gained a large number of followers, in the north-east of China, who regared him as a God. The number of his adherents continued to increase rapidly, and in 184 they raised the standard of rebellion. An immense army of them wearing yellow turbans and divided under thirty-six generals, marched and acted so rapidly, that in a month they had subdued the whole north of China. These were the famous Yellow Turban Rebels who played such an important part in bringing about the downfall of the after Han dynasty and ushering in the turbulent times of the three kingdoms. And it was in the strnggle against these rebels that Kwan Yii, since deified as Kwan Ti, the God of War, Liu Pei and Chang Fei, leaders in the wars of the Three Kingdoms, took the solemn oath in the peach garden, to fight and live and die together. This oath was often referred to by the Triad Society, and its members were exhorted to emulate the faithfuluess to each other and loyalty to their cause, of the heroes who took it.
In the reign of Hwei Tsung, of the Sung dynasty, AD 1102-1110, a band of rebels, of whom Sung Chiang and Ln Chiin-i were the chiefs, were bound together by an oath somewhat similar to that taken by the Triads. According to the historical romance entitled Shui Hn Oh nan, the oath taken by the one hundred and eight lenders ran thus: 'We are one hundred and eight persons assembled in this hall who regard the Stars as our brothers, and Heaven and Earth as our father and mother, and though unlike in features we are alike in stateliness. We possess one hundred and eight hearts, and every heart is spotless. We bind ourselves to share each other's happiness and bear each other's sorrow. We arrange our names before Heaven and must not become a laughing-stock for men. The information of one day being found reliable must be acted upon with life-long courage. Should any of us harbor unkinduess in our hearts and sever ourselves from our great cause, or say one thing at home and another abroad : or hcgin without continuing to the end, may Heaven above look down on us and devils by our sides watch us : may knives and swords cnt our bodies and thunder-bolts blot out every trace of us : may we everlastingly sink in hell and not be reborn as human beings for a myraid ages. May such be the retribution of those of us who break our oath. Let Heaven and all the gods look down on us while we swear." The oath being delivered they swore to it, and said they would meet in every life, and never, in any age, separate. They then drank each other's blood in wine.
Two centuries later the notorious White Lotus Society was established.
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