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Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee.
The purpose of this page is to provide space for longer, text-heavy articles and sets of references.  To return to the page you were on previously, just click on the blue link that follows the article.

1. Chronology of the Chee Kung Tong from primary sources [09/22/2010, revised 12/27/2013]
2. Ambassador Yang Yu's letter about the Chee Kung Tong and Sun Yat-Sen  [09/26/2010]
3. Ambassador Chang Yen Hoon informs the U. S. State Department about the Snake River
(Deep Creek) Massacre  [10/04/2010]
4  The (true?) tale of the beautiful Que Qui  [11/18/2010]
5. A Chinese diplomat reports on Goon Dip in Seattle [04/06/2011]
6. The Bing Kung Tong replaces the Chee Kung Tong in the American (but not Canadian) Northwest  [08/19/2012,
                              revised 12/13/2013]
7. "Nellie Towers Yip," by Larry Wong, Vancouver  [02/04/2012]
8. The beginnings of the chief secret societies of California and the Pacific Northwest  [12/12/2013, revised 12/27/2013]
9. Texts relating to ancient Chinese contacts with Fusang, believed by some to be in Northwest America  [08/28/2014]
Chronology of the Chee Kung Tong from Primary Sources

The following references were found through use of the searchable on-line historical newspapers, magazines, and contemporary books available from ProQuest (i.e., Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Portland Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, and Seattle Times; from NewspaperArchive.com; from the Library of Congress's Chronicling America; from the University of Michigan's and Cornell University's American Memory; from the California Digital Newspaper Collection 1849-1911 (especially the San Francisco CallAlta California, and Sacramento Record-Union); from the University of Victoria's digitized British Colonist; and, of course, from Google Books.  Readers should note that earlier dates for the CKT appear in various secondary sources; the editors have not been able to verify those.

1854.  First mention of Hong Society, in San Francisco (Alta California 1854-01-05).  It is said to be a branch of the Triad Society, "the chief object of which is the destruction of the Tartar [Manchu or Qing--eds.] dynasty." (Alta California 1854-01-16)

1855.  First mention of a Chinese "secret society" outside San Francisco.  In Sacramento (Sacramento Daily Union 1855-

(1863).  Several websites cite 1863 as the founding date of Barkerville's Hong Shun Tong.  We cannot find where this comes from.  Is it from later Chee Kung Tong documents?  Does a contemporary 1860s source exist?

1866.  Gustave Schlegel's book Thien Ti Hwui, the Hung League or Heaven-Earth League appears and is widely read.  Following Milne's 1826 article in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Schlegel speculates on the similarities and possible connections between the Hong Society and European Masons.

1862, 1864.  Published dates, probably fictional, the founding of the Chee Kung Tong and Hong Shun Tong in Barkerville, CA.  See box "On Barkerville CKT Dates" on the Secret Societies page of this website.

1871.  First mention of "Chinese Masons" in Canada, in Victoria  (British Colonist 1871-05-02)

1874.  First mentions of "Chinese Masons" in the U.S.  In Portland, Oregon and Lewiston, Idaho, but not yet in San Francisco.  (Oregonian 1874-03-02; Lewiston town plat 1874: NW corner of 4th and C Streets)

1878.  First mention of "Chinese Masons" in California, with reference to an unnamed Chinese secret society in Sacramento 
(Sacramento Daily Union 1878-04-06)

1880.  A "Gee Kung Tong" listing appears in a San Francisco directory dated 1881 but compiled in 1880. (Langley's San Francisco Directory for Year Commencing 1881, p 1004).  

1881,  "Chee Kung Tong" for San Francisco and "Chee Kon Tong"  for Portland appear (in both English and Chinese) in the Wells Fargo Express Directory of Chinese Business Houses for 1882 (compiled in 1881), pp 5 & 194.

1882.  First newspaper mentions of the Chee Kung Tong, in San Francisco.  Reported by the Los Angeles Times (see Omaha Daily Bee 1882-03-24).  In the same year, two San Francisco newspapers, the Call (see Idaho Statesman 1882-09-26) and the Alta California (1882-09-19), ran articles on the funeral of Leong Low, the Grand Master of the Chinese Freemasons, also called "Chee Tong" (Alta) or Chee Kung Tong (Call)

1882.  Photocopied Chinese-language text from Quesnelle Forks (BC), currently displayed in the Barkerville (BC) Museum  listing the rules of the Hong Shun Society, uses the term Chee Kung Tong twice.  It bears a cyclical date equivalent to 1882.

1882.  A Chinese "Masonic lodge" is said to have existed in New York for "less than two years."  It was founded by Deputy Sheriff Tom Lee and a Chinese interpreter, Jean Baptista (Chicago Tribune 1882-06-10).  In 1901, Tom Lee was the head of New York's Chee Kung Tong, presumably the same organization (see below, 1901)
1882-83  Meetings of Chinese "Masons" are mentioned in Chicago and Boston (Chicago Tribune 1882-06-10; New York Times 1883-08-27).  The Chicago and New York newspapers do not use "Chee Kung Tong" yet.

1884-1886.  The Chee Kung Tong's headquarters on Spofford Alley in San Francisco appears in several newspaper and magazine articles.  The organization is identified with Chinese Freemasons and--perhaps unfairly--with secret society gangsters or "highbinders" (Alta California 1884-09-18, 1885-10-05, 1886-06-06; San Francisco Chronicle 1886-01-26).

1886.  Harper's Magazine (1886-02-13, p 103) publishes an influential article that (1) equates the Chee Kung Tong with Freemasons and highbinders; (2) says that it has branches in 390 towns in  the U.S., Spanish America and Cuba; and (3) calls it the "mother society" of all "lesser" societies of highbinders, or which there are many.

1888.  The Chee Kung Tong is mentioned for the first time in the English-language press in Canada (in Victoria's Daily Colonist 1888-01-18)

1888.  Chinese Freemasons meet in Chicago and Philadelphia (New York Times 1888-08-30, 1888-06-110; Chicago Tribune 1889-04-28, 29).  Those in the latter city are identified with the "Hong Shun Tong"-- i.e, the Hong Men (American Settler 1888-10-20).  Neither group of Freemasons is called the Chee Kung Tong.

1889.  Meeting of the "League of Heaven and Earth" is called in San Francisco (Galveston [TX] Daily News 1889-10-09.  This marks one of the few times that the translated name of the Tiandi Hui is used by an American Chinese organization.  Presumably that organization usually called itself either the Hong Men or the Chee Kung Tong. 

1890.  The Chee Kung Tong and the Ping Ting Tong in San Francisco, both said to belong to "the Masonic Order," celebrate at the same time, on September 5, the Five Founders' birthday (Alta California 1890-09-04).  On September 8, however, the two organizations are at war with each other, using knives, pistols, and clubs (Chillicothe [OH] Constitution 1890-09-08.  The Ping Ting Tong may be identical with the Bing Kung Tong.

1890.  An elder of the Chinese Masonic lodge in San Francisco, one "Chee Kung Tong," attends a meeting of Chinese Masons in Indianapolis (Waterloo [IA] Daily Courier 1890-12-24)

1890.  Although the name "Chi Kung Tong" is now used throughout California, the main secret society in the eastern U.S, is still called either "I Hing" (= Yee Hing) or "Hung Shun T'ong" in Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Boston.  In New York, the same organization calls itself "Lun I T'ong."  About two-thirds of all Chinese in America are members (Stewart Culin, "Chinese Secret Societies," Journal of American Folk-lore, 1890; "The I Hing" or Patriotic Rising," Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, 1887).

1891.  On February 2, an unprecedented police raid on San Francisco secret societies, including the Chee Kung Tong, with the approval of the Chinese consulate-general and of Chinatown merchants.  Police Sergeant Price captures a Chee Kung Tong initiation manual in the CKT headquarters.  It is the first example in North America to be seen by persons who are not secret society members. (San Francisco Chronicle 1891-02-03)

1891.  Frederick Masters, an Oakland-based missionary who is fluent in Cantonese and literate in Chinese as well, translates the Chee Kung Tong manual.  The widely publicized results appear in Alta California (1891-03-17) and The Californian (1891-10).  Masters states that the Chee Kung Tong (= Yee Hing Hui = Triad Society), though it uses the "Chinese Masons" name as a cover,  is really a criminal "high binder" organization with connections to prostitution, gambling, and extortion.  Many of the smaller highbinder societies in San Francisco are allied with it.  He explicitly compares the Chee Kung Tong to the Mafia and the Clan na Gael.  Masters' article is well received by China specialists as far away as Beijing (North China Herald 1892-01-19).

1892..  "War" between the Chee Kung Tong and the Bing Kung Tong in Sacramento (San Francisco Chronicle 1892-06-13; San Francisco Call 1892-07-06)

1893.  The "Gee Hong Tong Lodge of Chinese Masons" holds a funeral in Chicago (Chicago Tribune 1893-01-23)--the first time that the name has been used in this city.

1893.  The Chinese consul-general, the Six Companies, and the city police support the Chinatown merchant's new vigilante organization, the Wai Leong Kung Sur, in its attempt to suppress the highbinder secret societies (San Francisco Call 1893-04-05, 04-11; San Francisco Chronicle 1894-02-27).

1894.  The San Francisco police capture more secret society documents issued by the Yee Hing Tong, "which shields its identity behind the Chee Kung Tong.  The consul-general and the Six Companies aid the police (Chicago Tribune 1894-11-25)

1894.  A lodge of the "Ghee Kong Tong" is formed in Seattle, said to be "the first since the [1886] riot," implying that one had exited in that city before 1886 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 1894-11-21)

1895.  The Chinese Masons are now called the Chee Kung Tong in Pittsburgh (New York Times 1895-07-22)

1895.  The San Francisco Chronicle (1898-10-21) notes that, contrary to what most Americans believe, the Six Companies "have little or no authority" compared to the Chee Kung Tong.

1896.  The Chinese consul-general in San Francisco declares war on the highbinders of Chinatown, ostensibly to bring the quarreling Sam Yups and See Yups to heel.  He hires one Ferdinand Caleendan and a "corps of men," at least some of whom presumably were white like Caleendan, to smash up the interiors of various highbinder buildings as well as the headquarters of the See Yups and "a Chinese Free Mason society known as the Ping Kong Tong."   The article does not mention the Chee Kung Tong. (New York Times 1896-10-16)   

1897.  A leaked Chinese memo reveals that the ambassador in Washington, Yang Yu, knows that the Chee Kung Tong is working with Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary China Reform Association and that his government plans to wipe out both of them.  He states that he has read through "the Chee Kung Tong's villainous and heretical books and the China Reform Association's villainously seditious rules." (San Francisco Chronicle 1897-03-05)

1901.  The Chinese Free Masons in New York are called the Chee Kung Tong for the first time.  Interestingly, the leader of the local Masons, Tom Lee, is also the president of the local branch of the On Leong Tong, which San Franciscans consider to be a criminal highbinder association (New York Times 1901-09-04; New York World 1902-02-18) 

1903.  The San Francisco headquarters of the Chee Kung Tong issues a proclamation calling on the highbinder societies, now referred to as "fighting tongs," not to molest its members (San Francisco Call 1903-02-12)

1904.  In New York, the Chee Kung Tong is said to issue the rules of gambling houses and the On Leong Tong oversees (but apparently does not own) those houses.  The Chee Kung Tong collects a weekly tribute of $15 from each fan-tan table and $5 from each lottery shop; of these sums. fifty cents goes to the Chung Wah Kong Saw (i.e., the Six Companies), fifty cents to the On Leong Tong. fifty cents to the Merchants' Association, and seventy-fine cents to the Chinese hospital (New York Globe article, reprinted by Oshkosh Daily Northwestern 1904-06-11).

1905.  War breaks out in New York between the On Leong and Hip Sing tongs (New York Times 1905-09-04; 1906-08-06, etc.).  Few if any of the numerous articles on this particular tong struggle mention the Chee Kung Tong

1906.  The Chee Kung Tong moves temporarily to Oakland after the San Francisco earthquake; the Chee Kung Tong is now publishing a newspaper there (New York Times1906-09-18)

1909.  Tong King Chong, Secretary of the Chee Kong Tong in San Francisco "is said to be a revolutionist in Chinese politics and the right-hand man of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Chinese revolutionary leader." (New York Times 1909-11-25)

1909.  In San Francisco, the Chee Kung Tong joins the Chinese Minister in Washington and the Kong Chow Association, one of the Six Companies, in making peace between two warring Chinatown tongs (San Francisco Call 1909-12-20)

1910-11.   According to the Chicago Tribune (1924-10-22), New York's Chee Kung Tong is absorbed by the On Leong Tong and ceases to exist "soon after 1909."  

1912.  The Six Companies is asked to arbitrate a quarrel between the Bing Kung Tong and the Chee Kung Tong in Sacramento (San Francisco Call 1912-01-22)

1913-1920. Chee Kung Tong branches seem to disappear from smaller cities in California, Washington, and Oregon, to be replaced by branches of the Bing Kung Tong.  In Vancouver and Victoria (BC), the Chee Kung Tong is partly replaced by the Dart Coon Club, which takes over its regalia and shrines.

1915.  The Chee Kung Tong in San Francisco spearheads efforts by American Chinese to prevent Yuan Shih Kai from highjacking the 1911 Chinese Revolution and declaring himself emperor (Washington Post 1915-12-07.  It petitions President Woodrow Wilson to withhold recognition from Yuan Shih Kai's government (Cedar Rapids Republican 1915-12-15; New York Times 1915-12-15)

1924.  In describing a shooting in a restaurant in San Francisco, the Oakland Tribune (1925-10-27) notes that "the restaurant building was owned by the Chee Kung Tong, a peaceful organization."

After this, branches of the Chee Kung Tong almost disappear from news media in the United States, although they continue to play a role in Chinese communities in Canada, the Caribbean, the Philippines, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.  Branches in Australia and New Zealand seem to have regarded San Francisco, not China, as the site of the Chee Kung Tong's World Headquarters 

Philippines: "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 People’s Republic of China. Today, the Chee has four branches."    (Bro. Florencio Y. Sy, "Chinese Masonry of the Philippines" -- http://freimaurer-wiki.de/index.php/Chinesische_Freimaurerei_auf_den_Philippinen)

South Africa: Not much evidence of existence before 1918 but probably associated with the Sun Zhongshan [Sun Yat-sen]-affiliated Revive China Association (Melanie Yap & Dianne Leong Man, Colour, Confusion and Concessions: the History of the Chinese in South Africa, 1996, Hong Kong University Press, p 92)

Australia:  "The headquarters of the Chinese Masonic Society in the Australasian region continued to be Sydney. However, in 1919, the headquarters of the World Chinese Masonic Society in San Francisco changed its Chinese name to the ‘Chee Kung Tong’ and advised all Chinese Masonic Societies to adopt this new title. In the same year it was adopted by all the Chinese Masonic Societies in Australasia and remained so for at least 30 years."  (R. W. Bro. Graham Stead,  "The Hung Society and Freemasonry the Chinese Way," 2002 -- http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/chinese-masonic-society.html)

New Zealand: "The Wellington Yee Hing formed an alliance with the Australian Yee Hing Secret Societies, with Sydney being declared the headquarters. The Society’s move towards openness and the eventual adoption of the English title ‘Chinese Masonic Society’, and later the Chinese title Chee Kung Tong, as directed by the World Headquarters in San Francisco, mirrored the other Yee Hing groups. On 10 October 1925 the Wellington Chinese Masonic Society, or Chee Kung Tong, celebrated the opening of their New Zealand headquarters at Frederick Street, Wellington, with a gala banquet...  The Chee Kung Tong in New Zealand continued with the support of its older members until 1975, when it was formally disbanded" (R. W. Bro. Graham Stead,  "The Hung Society and Freemasonry the Chinese Way," 2002 -- http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/chinese-masonic-society.html) (See also Manying Ip, "Auckland: Chinese footprints," New Zealand Herald 2010-08-26)
Ambassador Yang Yu's letter about the Chee Kung Tong and Sun Yat-Sen
1896-1897年驻美公使杨儒. 致公堂. 孫文.
San Francisco Chronicle"See Yups Seek Uncle Sam's Aid" (1897-03-05, p 16):

"These documents were received on the steamer China some weeks ago.  Certified copies of both have been made and will be presented to the [U. S.] State Department...  

"The report of Minister Yang [note 1] is a curiously worded document, couched in quaint terms ... The translation was made and certified to by the Rev. Frederick J. Masters [note 2], and is as follows:

" '... I, the Embassador (sic), again examined into this matter.  At this time a year and more had passed.  The mocking and ridicule had not subsided.  There had been more shooting, and many lives had been taken.  The <???> was poisoning these simple-minded sojourners and it was not right to show any more forbearance while great calamities were brewing.  I have investigated the matter from beginning to end.  Verily, all this is traced to the villainous ringleaders of these merchants, who take advantage of these things to net gain.

" 'California was formerly the refuge of the remnant of Shek Tat Hoy's [石达开 note 3] long-haired rebels, who clandestinely established the Chee Kung Tong and distributed heretical books, their idea being to plan revenge.  Recently there also came the rebel Sun Man from Canton to America, and illicitly established the China Reform Association [note 4], printing rules calling people to join and take shares for the purpose of getting ready munitions of war to send to Canton and again raise the standard of revolt.  Chan Man Wai, Lee Hon You, that kind of people have been for a long time residing beyond the seas with no law before their eyes.  Whatever rebellious footprints of the Chee Kung Tong were exposed they have constantly followed and practiced.  When once Sun Man [note 5] appeared they took rank as leaders.  Sun Man has now gone to England, and this band of seditious conspirators cannot legally be extradited from any country where there is an extradition treaty.  Moreover, to scatter their followers, the wings of the tongs must first be clipped.  I, the Embassador, have taken the Chee Kung Tong's villainous and heretical books and the China Reform Association's rules, made an official examination and prepared this letter.

" 'I have made a list of the seventeen persons associated with Lee Man Hoy, their names, lineage, titles, property, residence, family connections, and business status, clearly written on official paper,  Another paper contains an exact copy of the See Yap placards.  Another paper sent is an abstract of the Chee Kung Tong's heretical books.  Another paper sent is an exact copy of the Heng Chung-China Reform Association's seditious rules...  With regard to Chan Man Wai and Lee Man You, they really are the leaders of the China Reform banditti.  Naturally they should be punished with the utmost rigor of the law... '

"The two selected for "extraordinary punishment," which means torture and death, are Lai Mon Hoy, formerly president of the Ning Yung Company [note 6], and Lee Cheuk Yon, brother of Lee Fook of 422 Front Street.  According to reports received in this city these men are taken out in the street twice a day and flogged and bastinadoed, while the property of all of them had been confiscated by the Chinese Government.

"An interesting side light is thrown by Yang Yu's report upon the case of one man who was arrested in London and imprisoned in the Chinese Legation, and whose release the English Government demanded and secured.  In  the Minister's report this man's name appears as the 'rebel Sun Man,'  but he was known in London as Dr. Sun Yet Sin (sic).  He was the leader of the reform movement in China."

Note 1  With years of experience as a missionary in China, the Oakland-based Masters was an able translator.  Click here for excerts from his translation of a Hong Men-Chee Kung Tong initiation manual.

Note 2  Yang was the Chinese Minister Plenipotentiary or Ambassador to the United States, 1893-1897

Note 3  Cantonese reading of the name of Shi Dakai 石达开, the last leader of the Taiping Rebellion, defeated by a government army in 1871 

Note 4  As shown by Yang's identification of this society as the "Heng Chung-China Reform Association," this is the  Society for Regenerating China or Xingzhonghui 興中會, founded by Sun Yat-Sen in 1894, not the Chinese Empire Reform Association or Baohuanghui 保皇會, founded in 1899 by Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei.

Note 5  Sun Man is the Cantonese version of Sun Wen 孫文, Sun Yat-sen's birth name

Note 6  One of the "Six Companies," composed of men from Ning Yung, now Taishan, county in the Si Yup area, Guangdong province
Ambassador Chang Yen Hoon's Letter to the U. S. Secretary of State about the Snake River Massacre

The following diplomatric note was sent by Chang Yang Hoon, the Chinese Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States, to Thomas F. Bayard, U. S.  Secretary of State (1885-1889), to protest the 1887 killings of Chinese miners on the Snake River, Oregon.  It is digitized here from Papers relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States ... December 3, 1888, pp 383-4 (Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C.)

Mr Chang Yen Hoon to Mr Bayard [at U. S. State Department]
CHINESE LEGATION, Washington, February 16 1888 


It is with great regret that I have to bring to your attention another case of outrage inflicted upon my countrymen which resulted in the murder of ten Chinese laborers in the most horrible manner. 

The consul general [Liang Ting Tsan--eds.] at the port of Sau Francisco has reported to me that he received a joint petition dated the 18th of July 1887 from Chea-Tsze-ke, Chea Fook Kong shu, and Kong Chun, natives of the district of Punyu, Chinese subjects, who represent that at the beginning of the ninth month the Chinese twelfth year of Kwong Su (October 1886) their clansmen named Chea-po, Chea Suu, Chea Yow, Chea Shun, Chea Cheong, Chea Ling, Chea Chow, Chea Liu, Chung Kong, Mun Kow, and Kong Ngan, respectively, went to Log Cabin Bar, Snake River, State of Oregon, in a boat loaded with provisions accompanied by another bout manned by Lee She and others, for the purpose of seeking for gold;  that they had been pursuing their avocation peaceably until the beginning of the intercalary fourth month (the latter part of May and the greater part of June, 1887), when they were suddenly murdered by some unknown persons; that when Lee She and his party came out of the bar in their boat they found three bodies of Chea-po's party floating down the river and some provisions and bedding lying profusely at the entrance of the bar, and upon a search being made further found Chea-po's boat stranded on some rocks in the bar, with holes in the bottom, bearing indications of having been chopped with an axe, and its tie rope cut and drifting in the water;  that Mr.  J. Vincent, commissioner of Nez Percés County, Idaho, visited the scene of the murder, and on examining the three bodies found a number of wounds inflicted by an ax and bullets;  that the bodies of the others that had been murdered have not yet been found;  that in the fourth month, last year (the latter part of April and the greater part of May, 1887) a person named Jackson told a Chinese named Hung Ah Yee that he had witnessed some cowboys, eight in number, ,forcibly driving Kong Shu and his party out of the bar in their boat and throwing their provisions and bedding overboard;  that Kong Shu and his party fled from them, being afraid to offer any resistance;  and that since he had learned of the murder of Chea-po and nine others he came to the conclusion that the cowboys had committed the crime; that they, the petitioners, reported the case with all its circumstances to the authorities in Lewiston, Idaho, and a copy of which report and of the statement of the examination made of the bodies they have submitted to the consul general for his perusal. praying that he may communicate with the local authorities on the subject, so that due justice may be obtained by having the murderers pursued, arrested, and punished.

The consul-general states that Log Cabin Bar is in the Snake River;  that, after he had learned of the murder through the press dispatches, he immediately asked the Sam Yup Company to depute a Chinese interpreter, by name Lee Loi, who lived near the bar, to attend to the case, and on the 14th of July, 1887, wrote a letter to Mr. J. K. Vincent, commissioner of the county, requesting him to investigate the matter; that Mr Vincent in his reply informed him that white men were the murderers as some of the provision flour left at the bar he had traced directly to them and that a white man had told a Chinese at his camp some very curious stories, and that some circumstances looked very suspicious.  Hе (the consul general)  is therefore fully convinced that the murderers must be white men (Americans),  and further says that the commissioner promised to write again to him if he should thereafter have secured more definite information regarding the stolen property;  but several months have elapsed and he lias not heard from him again, though he (the consul general) has repeatedly written to him.  He (the consul general) has ofl ered a reward for the apprehension of the murderers, and has ordered Chea Tsze Ke and Lee Loi to make inquiries, but they have not yet discovered the names of the murderers

The consul general finds that there are very few Chinese in the neighborhood of the bar, which is far from San Francisco, and that it would not be easy for the police of that place to make their investigation; and that, as the commissioner has assured him that the murderers were white men, he has sent me copies of the correspondence and all documents connected with the matter, begging me to communicate with you thereon, to the end that the local authorities may be communicated with, so that justice may be secured by having the murderers arrested and punished, and that the Chinese during their sojourn here may be protected 

As the character of this case, wherein ten lives were murdered and their bodies mutilated in a most shocking manner and thrown away, as will be seen by Commissioner Vincent's report, diflers greatly from a common case of homicide, it is feared other wicked persons may, from their hatred of the Chinese, follow the examples of the murderers it they are not arrested and punished, which will affect the interest and safety of the Chinese resident there and elsewhere in the United States; I have, therefore, sent you the inclosed copies of the correspondence and documents connected in the case, hoping that you will kindly communicate with the local authorities, and urge that the murderers may be speedily apprehended and punished, to serve as a warning to others. 

Accept, etc. 

The (True?) Tale of the Beautiful Que Qui


By Sarah Comstock (San Francisco Call, Volume 87, Number 57, 26 January 1902 — Page 3)

The Queen of Chinatown, after a career that reads like the life of a Parisian favorite, has bolted.  Nor has she bolted alone.  Along with her have gone a lover and three thousand sweetly jingling dollars.  Jim Wong misses the familiar jingle of some of these dollars, and Quong Hing misses that of others, and there are scattered sums that might be accounted for if certain fond merchants chose to tell the tale of how they loved not wisely but too well. There is trouble aplenty In Chinatown and a woman is at the bottom of it... 

Jim Wong and Quong Hing and the other gallants of Chinatown's smart set are wrathy enough over the loss of their dollars.  But they would rather any day give up their whole fortunes than lose Que Qui.  She had their hearts in the palm of her tiny taper-fingered hand and they knew it. She played with those hearts and they knew that, too.  And they let her play and they let her make fools of them, and in the end they let her escape with their money.  Now they are making a tremendous roar and calling for the police to avenge them.  Chinamen are men.

Que Qui has toddled on her little feet through the streets of Chinatown ever since 1894, making conquests wherever she chose to toddle.  In 1894 her uncle brought her to this country direct from her home in Hongkong; she was 17 years o!d then, and a nine thousand dollar beauty.

Nine thousand dollars is a neat price for a woman. And even so it was a bargain that old Loo Soo, the uncle, made.  There are merchants on Dupont street, merchants who have fleeced wealthy tourists for years past, who would give the fortunes hardly earned in that fleecing for that bit of a yellow beauty.  They would call nine thousand dollars a bargain counter price to pay for the daily warmth of her smiles. 

And she has given away her smiles, after all.  Chin Wing, the lover who has won her after her eight years of heartbreaking, is a good for nothing gambler. Without a cent in the world, except the money that she has brought him. She laughed at the wealth that the merchants laid at her feet. She did what hundreds of beautiful and romantic girls have done the world over since time began. She made fools of the wise and avenged them in the end by making a fool of herself. 

Que Qui was the greatest beauty ever brought from China.  She was perfectly formed and her features were as regular as those of the ladies on the painted peacock fans.  Her skin was smooth and delicately yellow, like old ivory; her eyes were Oriental, sparkling one moment and sleeping the next; her mouth was little and red and her nose was as coquettishly tilted as a French poster nose. 

As old Loo Soo looked at her and -watched other people look at her he patted himself for his shrewdness.  He had made a bargain that would be the delight of any man on Dupont street.  He had got her for the dirt-cheap price of 9000. 

She walked forth on the street and men saw her and coveted.  

She soon came to be known by every one who knew Chinatown. The pipemender on the corner and the fish dealer and even the low-caste undertaker had to gaze at her as she passed, out of sheer admiration, although it was as a cat looks at a king. Dealers of moderate means eyed her at first with a gleam of hope, but they soon learned that it was no use. For the merchants, the swells, the elite, were quarreling for her favor, quarreling even to the point of bloodshed.

She laughed at them.

Not openly. She held the trump card of beauty and she played that card for all It was worth.  She did not laugh In a man's face when he loved her and had money to love her with.  She coaxed him and wheedled him and teased him and petted him and then chilled him just enough to lead him on farther.  She proved to him beyond a doubt one minute that he was the only man who interested her and the next she had him tweaking his queue in a rage of jealousy. She had every wile that woman ever practiced at her finger tips, and all she wanted was the gifts that her followers brought her.

Their purse strings, tight enough at other times, opened wide when she appeared. They loaned her money whenever she asked for it, and they bought her jewelry such as a queen or an actress might covet.  In a short time she had collected enough money to pay off her mortgage and make her a free woman. Old Loo Soo sold her to herself and thereafter she was at liberty to do as she pleased, go where she pleased, marry whom she pleased. 

What she pleased to do was to flirt with all masculine Chinatown for more than half a dozen years, then elope with a poverty-stricken gambler.

There isn't one Chinese woman in a hundred who has any romance in her soul.  They are the pieces of household furniture that their country's customs have made them.  That is why Que Qui, with the temperament of a senorita, stands out In Chinatown's history, never to be forgotten, where she never may be replaced. 

When she became a free woman she took full advantage of her privilege. She went forth in the streets every day, parading in such garments as the Orient alone conceives.  It is said that she never appeared in less than $5000 worth of dress.  Her blouse was always made of the rarest embroidered silks, and the jewelry that she wore was valued at hundreds of dollars. Her bracelets were of precious jade and gold— all Chinese jewelry is of twenty-four karat gold — and she had a way. of throwing out her graceful little arms to show them. Her plastered hair was fastened in the back of her neck with wonderful ornaments. There was a marvelous fish, cunningly wrought of different precious metals so that it glinted in the sun like the scales' of a real fish. This was only one of the gifts of Jew Nun, who was on her list of adorers.

The queen had still. another accomplishment In addition to her coquetry and her prettiness.  She could sing.  Twanging her butterfly piano she would chant the gayest and the saddest little Chinese songs in a way that made men, even the sphinxes that Chinese men are, laugh one minute and sniff the next.

The proprietor of the Chinese Theater heard her and saw her one night at a banquet, and the next day he came to old Loo Soo with an offer.  He said he would pay him one hundred dollars a week for the girl's services as a performer on his stage.  He prophesied standing room only. 

"Your dollars are refused," replied old Loo Soo, who, although he loved the joy of turning an honest penny, nevertheless loved his aristocracy better.  "There is no class so low as, that of the actor, save only the barber and the undertaker.  My niece shall never disgrace her ancestors by appearing on the stage."

Therefore her voice was always kept for more exclusive use — for private banquets, and for noted celebrations such as the opening of a new Joss house or restaurant.  No one 'thought of giving a really swell affair without her as the guest of honor. She was dined and wined, in no wise differently from whiter belles. Feasts were held at the restaurants— feasts where she might have been the only woman present, for the attention shown her.  Others with even smaller feet— for hers had been bandaged only in her babyhood — sat in corners and puffed their cigarettes for company.  Curtain lectures filled the hours after the banqueters went home, and the gallant gentlemen of Dupont street were squaring themselves with their wives for days following.

It was the same way whenever a Joss house or restaurant was opened. Elaborate entertainments are always given on such. occasions, and Que Qui was present, the center of attraction.   When the last joss house was opened. she was engaged to sing nine weeks ahead, for entertainers stood in line for her like ticket-buyers for grand opera
Her health was drunk in Chinese brandy and. in champagne as well, and she encouraged good, fellowship with an eagle eye to financial gains, but she was shrewd herself, and her drinking never passed the fine point beyond which she would cease to be absolutely mistress of herself. She was too clever a beauty for any folly of that kind.

There is no doubt that blood has been shed plenty of times on her account. The real inside of Chinatown is dark to us, and we can only surmise, for proofs do not exist.  Que Qui's beauty, we may be sure, was at the bottom of many a feud, although the white man can never ascertain data that' the Chinese hold within their close walls.

But inasmuch as petty quarrels leaked out, it is deemed that where there was smoke there must have been fire.  Chin Gok's bride was taken to Chin's home on her wedding day to come face to face with a picture of Que Qui hung conspicuously on the wall.  She went into a rage over it and Chin, who is more conscientious than diplomatic, told her that he really loved Que Qui all the time and would have married her if he could.  The bride wet the cake of ink that lay on the table and daubed the face of the queen, but Chin washed the ink off and guarded the picture sacredly after that. 

One thing all Chinatown says of her: she was the most charitable woman within its limits.  The filthy poor in Spofford alley and in Fish alley and in Bartlett alley all miss her.  She fleeced the rich without a scruple, borrowed from them thousands of dollars that she never dreamed of repaying, but she opened her purse to any one in need.  She visited the sick herself and carried them what they wanted.  She sold her jewelry once when cash happened to be a little difficult, just to keep a family of hungry babies from starvation — they were dirty and worthless babies, but she did not care for that. 

"We all alike wish to eat," she said.

She made friends wherever she went.  She had a jolly word for Chinese and white people alike. She spoke English easily and she won friends with it. 

Her money and valuables came from many sources.  Jew Nun says that he bought her $410 worth of jewelry on the day she disappeared — it was all in bracelets, that she might make more flash and jingle when she tossed her pretty arms before him.  Buck Eye has spent as much as $5000 on her in his time, but the most persistent of her suitors were Jim Wong and Quong Hing. 

They are wealthy men, powerful men, desperate men.  It took all the woman's wits to keep them dangling and yet avoid the danger point.  They would be ready to kill her, kill each other, kill anybody, in a rage of jealousy when she would intervene with her merry, caressing ways and they would be happily reassured.  They never knew that Chin Wing exited, much less that he was all the time her chosen lover, and that she was laying plots along with him— plots so deep that they have succeeded in the face of Chinatown's wrath and the white man's shrewd law-preservers. 

Jim Wong always called her his mascot.  On the day that she left she gave him advice in his lottery buying and he won $2000 that same night, although she had decamped with $250 that she owed him.  Jim Wong cannot complain, for he found his financial matters very much to the good, although he would rather lose his money and have Que Qui. 

Quong Hing is the little man who owns eight stores and turns over fortunes every year in his importing trade.  He is an eighty-pound man, whose small body Is so valuable to a hostile tong that he goes about with it encased in a steel coat of mail that must weigh as much as he does.  He looked carefully to the weak points in this armor when he began to court Que Qui. 

Quong Hing is known as the masher of Chinatown.  He wooed Que Qui and lost.  He gave her a banquet where 130 guests ate all the delicacies that the market afforded and drank champagne and listened to a band and admired the queen.  She had eyes for Quong alone.  She was a flawless diplomat and her host always reaped his reward by receiving all her attention.  

Skillfully she kept up the hopes of these two and all the time plotted with her lover.

While they were plotting she was supporting him. A big part of the money that she borrowed from Jim and Quong and the rest she used to keep him dressed in the height of Chinese fashion. He was a devilish handsome fellow, any way dressed.  In the clothes she bought him he looked like a prince.  But the merchants never knew that he and their favorite had so much as a speaking acquaintance, so carefully did the two guard their secret.

Chin worked in a saloon at times — he never succeeded, in holding a position very long. He gambled away a good deal of the money that she gave him and he always gambled badly. He was not a clever sport.

Que Qui worked matters up to the point where she wanted them and made her leap at the psychological moment.  Her credit had grown rather bad. but she worked it up again by borrowing small amounts from different men and repaying them with conscientious promptitude. Their confidence in her was restored and on the day that she had appointed to flee she emptied their pockets to the sum of $3150.

She has gone to join her, lover.  He sailed for China on the last voyage of the Coptic and he was in port about the time that she started.  She probably made a roundabout journey by way of Portland.  It is said that she was on the duck ranch In South San Francisco, the one that lies over by the rope walk, during the three days that she was In hiding.  The duck man comes to Chinatown to sell his goods and she had made him a friend and a firm one, while she bought ducks.

At the end of the three days she fled.  The various owners of the $3130 rose in their wrath and reported her to the police.  Enemies before, they are joined now in a common cause of Jilt.  And handsome good-for-nothing Chin Wing is waiting comfortably in Hongkong for the arrival of the steamer that will bring his beauty and the neat little sum on which they are to begin life together.

So far as San Francisco's Chinatown goes the Queen is dead.  But who shall say, "Long live the Queen"?  There is none to replace Que Qui. 

This page was last updated: August 30, 2018
A Chinese Diplomat Reports on Goon Dip in Seattle, 1914

In 1914 a junior Chinese diplomat, one Wu Chang ___, toured major American Chinatowns at the instructions of his boss, Xia Jiefu ___, who was the Chinese ambassador in Washington, DC.  His almost-daily reports to the ambassador are preserved in the archives of the Academia Sinica in Taipei.  Only a small portion of those reports is available on line but, fortunately for us, one of them concerns the Pacific Northwest.

Wu's main mission was tricky and likely to be unpopular: to explain to Chinese American leaders why the government in Beijing, presumably under pressure from the would-be emperor Yuan Shikai, had dissolved the democratic parliament set up by Chinese revolutionaries in 1912.   His secondary task was to check on social conditions in the various Chinese communities he visited.  

In the fall of 1914, Wu visited Portland and then Seattle.  In the relevant report, he wrote:
“.... On November 1st, I was accompanied by Honorary Consul Moy [Back Hin, of Portland] to Seattle where we arrived the same night.  We were met promptly by Honorary Consul Goon [Dip] ___.  After consultation, we decided to schedule the second day at the Chinese Benevolent Association 中华会馆 for making the announcement [about the Chinese parliament?].  On the third day we attended welcoming receptions given by various merchants.  

"As noted, this city has about 1000 Chinese, with roughly 50 stores.  Chinese here mostly work for canneries, others for laundries or vegetable farms.  This city sees many members of the Tongmenghui 同盟会 [the revolutionary association founded by Sun Yat-Sen 孙中山].  As I listened, they expressed opinions that were mostly about the dissolving of the [Chinese] parliament.   Seeing that they failed to understand, I explained to them the reasons for dissolving and preparations for reorganizing [the parliament].   This clarified the matter for them.  Moreover, as merchants they also understand the consequences, being well aware that those who talk about revolutions are asking for trouble themselves.   Until now, [Tongmenghui] leaders have not come here to give speeches.  Presumably [the people here] will no longer be confused [by those leaders].  

"As far as the issue of the [Chinese] being poorly treated, this city does not seem to see many such instances.  This is because Honorary Consul Goon has been good at protecting [them].”

Ref.  Academia Sinica Archives, 03-12-003-05-013, Taipei.   Translation by Chuimei Ho

The Bing Kung Tong Replaces the Chee Kung Tong in the American (but not Canadian) Northwest 

No source explicitly states that the BKT replaced the CKT in Oregon, Washingtion, Idaho, and Montana. However, that such a replacement did happen can be inferred by considering these newspaper citations for the CKT, the BKT, and the Bow Leong Tong.  An idea of how the story of these three fits into the history of other West Coast secret societies can be gained by looking at another article on this page, Chronology of  Secret Societies in California and the Northwest.  A fuller history of the CKT in and outside the Northwest also appears on this page as Chronology of the Chee Kung Tong from Primary Sources
Chee Kung Tong  (致公堂; pinyin: Zhigong Tang)

1881-2.  "Chee Kung Tong," in both Chinese and English, appears in Portland  and San Francisco sections of
 the 1882 Wells Fargo directory, compiled in 1881 (note 1)
1882.  Name used in Quesnelle Forks (near Barkerville), B. C.(note 2)
1888.  Name used in Victoria (note 3) 
1890.  Presence in San Francisco noted by Portland newspaper (note 4)
1890.  In San Francisco, the Bing Kung Tong and Chee Kung Tong both are calling themselves Masons. (see
  above, 1890)  The headquarters of both organizations in modern San Francisco still display the masonic
          square-and-compass emblem.
<1891.In Portland (note 5)
1891.  In Seattle, also called “Chinese Masons; newspaper implies that they predate the “Riots” of 1886 (note 6)
1903.  In Vancouver (note 7)  
1905.  In Seattle, perhaps last mention there (note 8)  
1907.  in Portland, identified as “Chinese Free-Masons” (note 9) 
1910.  in Portland, the organization, also called Free-Masons, arbitrates in tong dispute involving several tongs,
  including the Bow Leung Tong (note 10).  In the same year, the Chee Kung Tong, “the governing body in
  the Chinese colony,” attempts to ban all gambling among Portland Chinese *(note 11)
1912.  The “Gee Gung Tong” or Chinese Freemason Society is among the Portland organizations celebrating
  the founding of the Chinese Republic.  The organization is mentioned in the news again several days
  later (note 12).  After that it seems to disappear.

Bow Leong Tong 

1888  The "Boo Leong Hong" is named by the Astorian as one of the five highbinder (criminal) tongs in Astoria.
         The others are the Hip Sing, Sue Sing, Hung Sing, and Hop Sing (note 15a)
1903. Presence in Portland of Bow Leong Tong (as “Po Lin Tong”) noted by Seattle newspaper (note 16)
1906. The Bow Leong Tong in Portland is noted by Portland newspaper (note 17)
1912. The “Bow Ling Tong,” by now more respectable than in its highbinder days, is called the “Chinese
         Masons” by a Portland Newspaper (note 18)
1913. The “Bow Leung” Tong (in Portland and Seattle) is said to be allied with the “Bing Kong” Tong (in San
 Francisco) (note 19) 
1914-6  The Bow Leong Tong and Bing Kung Tong in Portland become closely associated (see below).  After
         1916 the Bow Leong in the Pacific Northwest no longer exists as a separate organization (note 19a).

Bing Kung Tong (秉公堂; pinyin: Binggong Tang)

1874 or 1884-5.  Founded in San Francisco “by secession from the Chee Kung Tong” (conflicting sources for
 date--note 13)
1890. Presence in San Francisco (as “Ping King Tong”) noted by Portland newspaper (note 14) and in 1892
 by Seattle newspaper (as “Bang Kung Tong”) (note 15)
1890. In San Francisco, the Bing Kung Tong and Chee Kung Tong call themselves "Masons;" from then on,
 both organizations use the Masonic name and square-and-compass logo (see Chee Kung Tong article
 above, entry for 1890)
1914. The Bing Kung Tong appears in the Pacific Northwest for the first time when the Bow Leong Tong is
 officially incorporated at the County Clerk’s Office of Multnomah County (Portland) as the “Bow Leong,
 Bing Kong Society” (note 20)
1916. The Bing Kung Tong is active in Portland, and a Seattle Chinese is said to be a member of both the “Bo
 Leong Hong Tong” and the “Bing Gong Tong” (note 21).  
1917. The “Bing Kung Bow Leung” dedicates a new shrine at the (newly built?) Bing Kung building on King
 Street in Seattle; the BKT is called the “branch of Freemasonry that bowled over the Manchu dynasty
 and changed China overnight from an empire to a democracy.”  The dedication is attended by BKT
 BKT representatives from Portland, Ashland, Astoria and Medford (all Oregon), as well as Walla Walla
 and Seattle. We do not know if the organization has branches in all those places at this time, or whether
 any of those branches formerly belonged to the Chee Kung Tong. (note 22)
1930s By this time, the BKT has become the dominant group of "Chinese Masons" in California as well as
 the Pacific Northwest.  Wikipedia lists branches in Bakersfield, Fresno. Isleton, Los Angeles, Oakland,
 Oxnard, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Stockton, and Walnut Grove as well as
 Portland, Seattle, and Salt Lake City (note 23).  The official history of the BKT mentions several others, 
 in Chowchilla, Courtland, San Bernardino, San Diego, Watsonville (all California), Billings (Montana) and
 Astoria (Oregon). (note 24)
[edit] References

  note 1 Wells Fargo Express Diectory of Chinese Business Houses for 1882, p 5 (San Francisco) & p 194 (Portland).
  note 2 For Quesnelle Forks, a Chinese-language text on display in the Barkerville Museum uses the term Chee Kung Tong twice, with
               a cyclical date equivalent to 1882.  For San Francisco in the same year, several newspapers mention the CKT for the first time
    (see above, first article,“1882;”)
   note 3  British Colonist 1888-01-19, pp 1 & 4
   note 4  Oregonian 1890-09-08, p 2
   note 5  Post-Intelligencer 1891-11-24, p 10
   note 6  Post-Intelligencer 1891-11-24, p 10 (“first lodge since the Chinese Riots” [of 1886])
   note 7  Seattle Times 1903-11-27, p 4
   note 8  Seattle Times 1905-04-13, p 2
   note 9  Oregonian 1907-09-02, p 4
   note 10. Oregonian 1910-05-06, p 9
   note 11. Oregonian 1910-10-10, p 7
   note 12. Oregonian 1912-01-09, p 12; 1912-01-19, p 12
   note 13. "June 15, 1874"--Anon, Bing Kong Tong of America, San Francisco, 2012, p 7; "1883-4"--San Francisco Chronicle 1892-06-13
   note 14  Oregonian 1890-09-08, p 2
   note 15  Seattle Post Intelligencer 1892-06-05, p 2
   note 15a Astorian 1888-12-05 p 2
   note 16  Seattle Times 1901-03-24, p 10
   note 17  Oregonian 1906-01-07, p 9
   note 18. Seattle Times 1912-01-25, p 2
   note 19. Medford (OR) Mail Tribune 1912-02-24, p 6; Ontario (OR) Argus 1913-03-20, p 3; Tacoma Times 1913-03-22, p 1
   note 19a The Portland and Seatle branches stlll bear the formal name "Bing Kong Bo Leung Tong," according to the BKT's official
      History, Bing Kung Tong of America, 2012, p 15 
   note 20. Oregonian 1914-03-07, p 5
   note 21. Tacoma Times 1916-02-22, p 3; Seattle Times: 1916-02-19, p 2; 1916-02-22, p 8. 
   note 22. Seattle Times 1917-02-26, p 10; Oregonian 1917-02-26, p 8)
   note 23. Wikipedia, "Bing Kong Tong" article
   note 24. Bing Kung Tong of America, 2012, p 18 

Author: Larry Wong, Vancouver, 2013

Nellie Towers was born March 12, 1882 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Her father was Charles Towers, born in Scotland.  She received a private education in the United States and became a Bostonian English teacher who taught in New York City.  There she met and fell in love with Charles Yip Quong, a jeweller from Vancouver.  He was the nephew to the Vancouver business man, Yip Sang.

Nellie and Charles married in 1900 and immediately she was set apart from her family.  Her Roman Catholic Church severed all ties with her. In the United States Interracial marriages were rare and frowned upon.  Their marriage was deemed as a scandalous union if not uncomfortable to family and friends.

The Yips moved to Vancouver in 1904 and stayed at 51 East Pender Street with the rest of Yip Sang families who had four wives and 23 children.  Nellie and Charles lived there for more than thirty years.  Yip Sang had a tutor for his children and Nellie was able to learn four regional dialects and some Mandarin.  In the thirty years, Nellie provided her adopted community with health and social services that were not available in a society openly hostile toward the Chinese.  Her language skills enabled her to communicate with the diverse Chinese population.  

Nellie became a good friend of Sister Frances Redmond who was trained as a nurse and midwife at Laval University.  It was from Sister Frances that Nellie learned midwifery.  She also gained the trust of Chinatown so that in total she was a midwife to some 500 Chinese Canadian women.  To many, she was known Granny Yip.

She was also involved with Chinatown politics.  Her brother-in-law Yip Sang was one of founders of the Chinese Empire Reform Association.  The executives of the Vancouver chapter were Yip Sang, Chang Toy, Lum Duck Shew, and Won Alexander Cumyow.  Nellie was the English secretary.

In the years to follow, she gained the affection and trust of the community.  For the community to see a tireless non-Chinese working for them, it was remarkable in the era of the Canadian Chinese Exclusion Act which ran from 1923 to 1947.

Nellie and Charles Yip had a child; a boy named Yip Yok Fong.  I found his signature on the death certificate of his father in 1948 and of his mother in 1949.    In searching through the Vital Statistics records of the Province of British Columbia I could not find the birth or death certificate of Yip Yok Fong.

It was known that Nellie was a very bold and outspoken advocate for those she cared for.  She worked effectively through both Chinese and non-Chinese organizations such as the Anglican Good Shepherd Mission, the Chinese United Church and the Chinese Benevolent Association.   Always ready to challenge racism, she once demanded the owner of the White Lunch restaurant remove a sign that said, NO INDIANS, CHINESE OR DOGS ALLOWED.  He did.

It was the Chinese Benevolent Association that hired her as the first public health nurse for the care of the elderly, to broker adoptions and to serve as a foster mother for many children.  Unable to have children, Nellie and her husband adopted a daughter, Eleanor.

Her knowledge, skills, and ready wit made an impact on many Chinese families who were in touch with her at a very difficult time in Chinese Canadian history.  Sadly in her last years, she suffered dementia and became a patient at the Provincial Esssondale Mental Hospital.  She died at the age of 67, April 18, 1949.

In 2008, she was designated as a National Historic Person by the federal government.

www.pc.gc.ca  Asian Heritage Portal
www.bcarchivesbc.ca   British Columbia Archives
Saltwater City By Paul Yee, Douglas and McIntyre, 1988

The Beginnings of the Chief Secret Societies of California and the Northwest 

The following list shows the earliest mentions of the principal secret societies, in all of western North America and particularly in the Pacific Northwest.  It is based solely on primary sources.  Secondary sources, including recent publications of the secret societies themselves, sometimes give dates that are substantially earlier.  Although a few such dates are quoted in the preceding article on the replacement of the Chee Kung Tong by the Bing Kung Tong (click here), we have excluded all secondary sources in compiling this article.

It will be seen that the main Hong Men/Hong Shun Tong/Triad/Yee Hing → Chinese Masons → Chee Kung Tong lineage is older than that of the spin-off societies, but not by much, and that the earliest North American appearance of some societies is not, surprisingly, in San Francisco.  Did the Hop Sing Tong, for instance, really originate in Virginia City?  We do not know, but the sources seem to point in that direction.

Triad Society
1854   San FranciscoAlta 1854-01-16, -3-10, -8-22; Union 1854-10-07
1891   San FranciscoAlta 1891-03-17: Chee Kung Tong = Yee Hing Hui = Triad Society

Hong Shun Tong/ Hong Society/ Hong Men Society  洪 顺堂 / 洪 門
1854   San FranciscoAlta 1854-01-05: “a branch of the Triad Society”
“1864”  “Barkerville”   According to an unsubstantiated legend first published in 1967, Huang Shen-gui from
     California founded a Hong Men chapter in Barkerville, the first in Canada [Note 1]. 
1874    Weaverville, CA     Dated inscription at door of Won Lin Temple
1876    Barkerville     2 account books showing the income of an unnamed secret society, in the Barkerville
archives.  The society is probably the Hong Men/Hong Shun Tong.
1880    Barkerville     Account book in the Barkerville Archives listing donations to the Hong Shun Society, also
called the Yi Hing Society. 
1888   Philadelphia           New York Times 1888-08-30, American Settler 1888-10-20
1890   East Coast Cities   Stewart Culin, "Chinese Secret Societies," Journal of American Folk-lore, 1890

Yi Hing/ Yee Hing/ Yi Xing Society  义兴公司
1880   Barkerville      Account book in the Barkerville Archives listing donations to  the Yi Hing Society, also
called the Hong Shun Society.
1887   Philadelphia           Name widely used in eastern U.S. Culin "Chinese Secret Societies" 1890
1891   San FranciscoAlta 1891-03-17: Chee Kung Tong and Triad Socidety = Yee Hing Hui

Chinese Masons/ Chinese Masonic Lodges 
1864   Weaverville, CA      Trinity Journal 1864-12-17
1871   Victoria   Colonist 1871-05-02
1874   Portland  Oregonian 1874-03-02
1874   Lewiston, ID    Lewiston town plat 1874: NW corner of 4th and C Streets
1878   Sacramento    Union 1878-04-06
1882   San FranciscoCall (see Statesman 1882-09-26); Alta 1882-09-19.
1882   New York       Chicago Tribune 1882-06-10
1883   Boston    New York Times 1883-08-27
1886   US & S. America   See below, Chee Kung Tong 

Chee Kung Tong 致 公 堂
1880   San Francisco        Langley’s San Francisco Directory for 1881
1881   Portland (& SF)      Wells Fargo Express Directory of Chinese Business Houses for 1882
1882   Quesnelle Forks     Chinese-language text of society rules, currently displayed in the Barkerville (BC) Museum
1888   Victoria  Colonist 1888-1-18
1886   US & S. America    Harper's Weekly 1886-02-13, p 103: Chee Kung Tong = Chinese Masons, with 390 branches
1891   Seattle    Post-Intelligencer 1891-11-24: “first lodge since the Chinese Riots” [of 1886]
1903   Vancouver      Seattle Times 1903-11-27  

Bing Kung/ Bing Kong/ Ping Kung Tong  秉公堂
1889   Los Angeles   Herald 1889-11-08 (plus many 1890 Herald articles)
1890   San Francisco        Colonist 1890-09-09
1892   Sacramento    Chronicle 1892-06-13; Union 1892-06-09
1914   Portland  Oregonian 1914-03-07

Bow On/Bo On Tong  保安堂
1896   San Francisco        Herald 1896-10-30; Call 1896-8-5; Chronicle 1896-10-17
1903   Portland         Oregonian 1903-03-24
1904   Astoria    Oregonian 1904-04-02

Bow Leong/ Po Lin Tong  保良堂
1896   San Francisco        Chronicle 1896-10-17)
1888   Portland         Union 1888-12-03)
1903   Astoria           Oregonian 1903-03-24

Hip Sing (& Yip Sing?) Tong  协胜堂
1884   Victoria          Union 1884-11-29, Alta 1884-12-1
1885   San FranciscoAlta 1885-10-05 [“Yip Sing Tong” vs. Chee Kung Tong]
1887   Portland         Oregonian 1887-07-02
1889   SF & NYC      Chronicle 1889-07-22
1891   San JoseChronicle 1891-06-29
1915   Boise     Statesman 1915-02-24

Hop Sing Tong  合胜堂
1874   Virginia City, NV     Union 1874-08-14  [“Hop Sing Company”]
1876   Virginia City, NV     Union 1876-02-08, Chronicle 1877-01-9
1881   San FranciscoChronicle 1881-08-01
1888   Portland         Union 1888-12-03  [“Hop Tong”]
1892   Portland         Oregonian 1892-03-06

Suey Sing/ Sue Sing Tong .  萃胜堂  
1881   San Francisco        Chronicle 1881-8-1, Union 1881-08-12
1887   Portland         Oregonian 1877-07-23

The above data come from on-line text searches of all nineteenth century West Coast newspapers that are currently available in digitized form.  The most important of these are: in San Francisco – Alta CaliforniaChronicle, and Call; in Los Angeles – Herald; in Sacramento – Daily Union; in Oregon – Oregonian and Astorian; in British Columbia – British Colonist and Cariboo Sentinel; in Idaho: Idaho Statesman; in Washington – miscellaneous.  Neither of Washington’s most important early newspapers, the Seattle Times and Post Intelligencer, have been digitized for most of the relevant time span.  A digitized version of the Seattle Times after 1900 has recently appeared.  The historical New York Times and Chicago Tribune, both available in digitized form, took some interest in West Coast  Otherwise for Seattle one has to depend on an annotated index to the PI covering the period 1876-1899 [Note 2].

True, English-language newspapers are less than fully satisfactory as sources of information on North American Chinese institutions.  And yet the newspapers are almost all there is in terms of primary, contemporary data.  Before 1900, only a few pages of Chinese-language newspapers survive.  Most Chinese secret societies in the U.S. and Canada disposed of their internal records long ago, partly from fear that those records could be seized and used against the societies by law enforcement and immigration authorities.  Although several such societies still have early inscriptions on wooden and metal objects, only a few have kept any paper-based archival material that is earlier than the mid-20th century.  The only material of this kind that the editors have seen is a set of account books of Barkerville's Chee Kung Tong, now in the Barkerville Museum [Note 3].   

The remaining primary sources are local police and court records, which contain some information but are difficult to access and use,  and the writings of a handful of nineteenth century European Americans, notably Frederick Masters and Stewart Culin.  Both Masters and Culin had good secret society connections and are credible with regard to the role of those societies within the larger Chinese North American community [Note 4].  But that is about all.  We have consulted most of these and believe that the chronology outlined above is reasonably complete in terms of primary information.

Popular secondary works, mostly of the twentieth century and produced by variably informed Chinese and white authors, with titles like Terror of the Tongs, are abundant.  The chronology may help the reader to judge which of these are factual and which are fanciful, often racist, fiction.  

The principal academic secondary source is the work of Stanford Lyman, especially his co-authored 1964 article in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies and his1974 article in the Pacific Historical Review [Note 5].  Lyman was not too interested in chronology and lacked access to primary sources.  That may be why he accepted as factual the origin legends for secret societies given by such sensational writers as St. Clair McKelway, in True Tales from the Annals of Crime and Rascality (1951), and Eng Ying Gong and Bruce Grant, in Tong War! (1930), not to mention the impossibly early date for Barkerville’s CKT as mentioned above.

Note 1.  David T. H. Lee, Overseas Chinese History in Canada, Vancouver, 1967, p 233.   Lee seems to accept the legend.  Ying-Ying Chen (In the Colonies of Tang: Historical Archaeology of Chinese Communities in the North Cariboo District, Ph. D. Dissertation, Simon Fraser University, 2001, p 185) is skeptical.  So are we.  See the box "On Barkerville CKT Dates" on the Secret Societies page 

Note 2.  By historian John Litz of Seattle: a pdf version is at https://www.google.com/#q =litz+post-intelligencer).

Note 3.  A good description of the archive with useful details is given by Ying-ying Chen, 2001, pp 51-70; it contains no fewer than 230 account books of the Hong Shun Tong and CKT.. 

Note 4.  Stewart Culin, “The I Hing or ‘Patriotic Rising, A Secret Society among the Chinese in America,” Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, 1887, 7 pp.,  included with "Chinese Secret Societies," Journal of American Folk-lore, 1890, 5 pp, at www.jstor.org/stable/ 533026;  F. W. Masters, “Among the Highbinders,” The Californian, Vol. 1, 1891-92, pp 62-74.  Both are available on line.

Note 5.  Stanford M. Lyman, W. E. Willmott, and Berching Ho, Rules of a Chinese Secret Society in British Columbia,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1964, vol 27: 530-539; Stanford M. Lyman, “Conflict and the Web of Group Affiliation in San Francisco's Chinatown,1850-1910,” Pacific Historical Review, vol. 43, 1974, pp. 473-499.  
The China History Forum's translation (http://www.chinahistoryforum.com/topic/9554-huishens-land-of-fusang/) follows Huishen's original text (for the Chinese version, see below) more closely than does Dr. Chow's translation:  

In 499, a Buddhist monk named Huishen 慧深 is supposed to have appeared at Jingzhou 荆州 in Southern Qi 南齐 (one of the Southern Dynasties), claiming to be from a land called Fusang. Fusang, according to him, was over 20,000 li east of the Dahan Country 大汉国, which was known to be over 5,000 li east of the Wenshen (Tattoo) Country 文身国, which was 7,000 li north of the Wo 倭 country, i.e. Japan (Wenshen = possibly Hokkaido, Sakhalin or Kuril Islands?). His account:

Fusang is east of China, and there are many Fusang trees growing on its soil, hence its name. The Fusang tree is like the tong 桐 (paulownia) tree, but when it first sprouts it is like a bamboo shoot, and the people there eat it. Its fruit is like a pear and is red, and its skin can be peeled and used as cloth for clothing or as brocade. The people make houses out of wooden planks, but have no cities. They have a form of writing and use Fusang leaves as paper. They have no weapons and armour and do not fight wars. The law of the country is that there are a north mountain and a south mountain. Those who commit small crimes are exiled into the south mountain, and those who commit serious crimes are exiled into the north mountain. If there is a general amnesty, it applies only to the exiles in the south mountain and not the north mountain. The male and female exiles in the north mountain marry among themselves, and their sons become slaves at the age of 7 and their daughters become slaves at the age of 8. Until death, they will not be freed from their status as criminals.

If an aristocrat commits a crime, the country holds a big meeting. The criminal sits in a ditch, and the others eat and drink in front of him, treating him like he is already dead. After that they draw a ring or rings of ash around him, and if there is only one ring he is the only one to become an outcast; if two rings then his sons and grandsons will also be outcasts; if three rings then seven generations will be outcasts.

The King is called a Yiqi 乙祁, a first-class aristocrat is a Great Duilu 大对卢, a second-class aristocrat is a Small Duilu 小对卢, and a third-class aristocrat is a Naduosha 纳咄沙. When the King travels around, he has an entourage of drummers and trumpeters. The people's colour of clothing changes every two years in a ten-year cycle with five colours: blue, red, yellow, white, and black. There are cows there with very long horns, and the horns can be used to hold objects to a capacity of over 20 hu 斛. There are carriages drawn by horses, cows, and deer. The people rear deer like China rears cattle, and they use the milk to make yoghurt. There are Fusang pears that do not spoil even after a year. There are also many grapes (putao 蒲桃). The land has no iron but has bronze, and the people do not value gold and silver. The markets there do not have prices (i.e. they use barter).

Their marriage practice is that the male suitor builds a house outside the girl's front door and sweeps the doorway in the morning and at night. After a year, if the girl does not like him, she chases him away, and if she likes him they get married. The wedding ceremony is roughly like China's. When a parent dies, the children fast for seven days; when a grandparent dies, the grandchildren fast for 5 days; when a sibling, uncle, or aunt dies, the fasting is 3 days. A shrine is built in the form of an idol, and is worshipped in the morning and at night, but no mourning apparel is worn. When a new king comes to the throne, he does not personally govern for the first three years. The country originally did not know Buddhism, but in 458, 5 monks from the kingdom of Gandhara/Kabul (Jibin 罽宾) travelled there and brought the Buddhist law, sutras and icons, teaching people to enter the monkhood. The customs of the country thus changed.


Original Chinese version from Liang Shu, in Wikisource

卷五十四 列傳第四十八 諸夷
唐 姚思廉 等









Texts relating to Fusang (AD 499), said by some to be in Northwest America