Vancouver, Canada: Zhi Gong Tang
One of the overseas Chinese organizations that financially supported Sun Yat-Sen’s revolutionary struggle in China was called the Zhi Gong Tang.
The Zhi Gong Tang (also known as Hongmen or Chinese Freemasons) was a Chinese clandestine brotherhood established during the height of the Canadian Gold Rush in 1862. The organization had its origins in the Triad Society in China, a secret society that is often referred to as the Chinese mafia. The Triad Society had been established some 150 years earlier in China with the aim of overthrowing the foreign Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty and restoring the ‘proper’ Han Chinese rule of the Ming Dynasty.
While the term mafia carries a criminal connotation, the Zhi Gong Tang was mostly made up of small businessmen, workers and gold miners, and its operations consisted mainly of addressing the needs of the local immigrant community. Zhi Gong Tang provided aid and social welfare services to Chinese immigrants in Canada: it ran hostels for Chinese who were in need of a place to stay, schools for Chinese students that were discriminated against in the public school system, and it mediated disputes within the Chinese community.
Chinese nationalist agendas
In addition to its main focus on daily issues in Canada, the organization remained involved in the nationalist movement at home. Using its network in Canada, Zhi Gong Tang distributed anti-Qing propaganda and raised money for the Chinese nationalists. After the founding of the Republic of China in 1911, the rivalry between nationalists supporting and opposing Sun Yat-Sen in China found its way to Canada and resulted in armed fighting among factions within the Chinese community there, with political assassinations and legendary battles between local Chinese newspapers.
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