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194 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 Dian H. Murray, in collaboration with Qin Baoqi. The Origins ofthe Tiandihui: The Chinese Triads in Legend and History. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994. xii, 350 pp. Hardcover $45.00. Who were the Triads? When and where did they originate? Who was the founder? For what purpose did tiiey organize? These questions have vexed historians, Sinologists , politicians, and bureaucrats both inside and outside China for over the past century. Answers have ranged gready in their extremes. Writers have variously argued diat the Triads were founded in die late Ming or early or middle Qing, that they originated in Taiwan, Fujian, Guangdong, or even Sichuan, and tiiat die progenitor was Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga), one ofhis chieflieutenants, a scion of the last Ming emperor, or an impoverished monk. Those scholars who have argued that the Triads were founded in die early Qing by Zheng Chenggong, his followers , or descendants ofthe Ming emperor generally hold to die view diat the Triads were formed as anti-Manchu nationalist secret societies bent on overthrowing the Qing and restoring the Ming. More recently, other scholars, arguing that the Triads were founded in the mid-Qing period, see them as basically apolitical social organizations formed for mutual aid and self-protection. The Origins ofthe Tiandihui is an important book, but not because it offers any new interpretations or profound insights. Much ofwhat Murray has to say here has been said before in various, though often obscure, Chinese publications by such scholars as Zhuang Jifa, Cai Shaoqing, and her collaborator Qin Baoqi,' and in die unpublished dissertations by David Ownby and myself.2 Murray has done die profession a great service, however, by bringing all these disparate materials together and making them comprehensible and available to a larger audience. She has astutely sifted through a huge body ofprimary and secondary sources in both Chinese and English to present an excellent historiographical study of die origins of the Heaven and Earth Society (Tiandihui), known more commonly as the Triads . The main body of the book can be divided into three distinct discussions: the early history and spread ofdie Tiandihui diroughout south China prior to the Opium War (chapters 1 and 2), die Western and Chinese historiography on the Tiandihui (chapters 3 and 4), and die myths and legends about die Tiandihui (chapter 5). The author also includes useful appendixes of translations and an extensive Tiandihui bibliography. In die first two chapters, Murray presents archival evidence3 that die Heaven© 1995 by University anj garm Societywas founded in Zhangpu county (in die areawhich is now Yunxiao county) in southern Fujian Province in 1761 or 1762. The founder was a monk known variously as Ti Xi, Monk Wan, Monk Hong Er, and Tu Xi; his real name, however, was Zheng Kai. Over the next century the society spread to TaiofHawai 'i Press Reviews 195 wan, Guangdong, Jiangxi, and the rest of southern China as what the author calls "a kind ofpoor man's huiguan, or native-place association" (p. 33). Formed as fraternal associations among China's lower orders, Triads engaged in an assortment ofillegal activities, including banditry, piracy, feuding, smuggling, gambling, prostitution , racketeering, and armed rebellion. Indeed, Murray forcefully demonstrates that the Tiandihui was not originally organized as an anti-Manchu, Ming-restorationist society; in fact, the famous slogan fan Qingfu Ming (overturn the Qing and restore the Ming) did not appear until the early nineteenth century, several decades after the society was supposedly founded. Regarding the founding date, place, and progenitor of the Tiandihui, die archival evidence, at least on diese issues, is inconclusive, somewhat circumstantial, and at times contradictory. Although I, too, agree that the archival documents are generally the most reliable sources, it is still impossible to make any absolute pronouncement regarding the origins of the Triads based solely on these materials. Qing officials gathered a massive amount of testimony, under intense pressure from the throne, in the wake of the Lin Shuangwen Rebellion on Taiwan (17871788 ). Among these sources Murray and Qin Baoqi rely heavily on the 1789 memorial ofWula'na, governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang, which claimed tìiat the Tiandihui was founded by Ti...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 194-197
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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