Origins of the Tian-di-hui


chapter 4

Tian-di-hui in Chinese Historiography

pp. 116 to 150

chapter 5

Tian-di-hui in Myth and Legend

pp. 151 to 175

appendix B

Versions of the Xi Lu Legend

pp. 197 to 228

appendix E

Tian-di-hui Oaths

pp. 239 to 246


chapter 4

Tian-di-hui in Chinese Historiography

pp. 116 to 150

p. 117 percentages of the populace who were membres of the Tian-Di Hui

"In the Straits [of Melaka] Settlements alone, it was estimated that no fewer then nine-tenths of the colony's ... Chinese were Triad members.

Likewise, between 80 and 90 percent of the Chinese in the United States ... belonged to the chapter or lodge known as the Zhigongtang."

p. 127 Tian-di-hui copybooks which were discovered in China during the 1930s

"two ... documents were unearthed in China. These were published in 1943 in Luo Ergang's book Tiandihui wenxianlu (Bibliographical studies of sources in the Tiandihui).

The first ... was discovered at Qintang in Gui county, Guangxi ... . On ... occasion, Gui county had come under the control of Tiandihui rebels, and the copybook, found in an earthen jar buried near a river, has been associated by one Chen Kai, who ruled the area under the dynastic title "Da chengguo" in 1855.

The second discovery ... was unearthed in Guangzhou in the Shouxian pavilion of the Hakka family of Luo Han (also known as Luo Xianglin). It was published in 1937 in the first volume of the Guangzhou xuebao (Canton Journal)."

p. 132 names employed in Jian-su, in a multi-surname fraternity, during the Wan-li reign of the Min dynasty

"The five members of the northen faction adopted the names Ren (Benevolence), Yi (Loyalty), Li (Courtesy), Zhi (Wisdom), and Xin (Faith) as their hao (pseudonyms).

The five members of the southern faction took the names Jin (Gold), Mu (Wood), Shui (Water), Huo (Fire), and Tu (Earth)."


chapter 5

Tian-di-hui in Myth and Legend

pp. 151 to 175

pp. 152-3 the Manuscripts

p. 152

"The earliest known version of the Xi Lu Legend is contained in the society register (huibu) ... of Donglan department, Guangxi, which was forwarded ... in 1811 and then deposited in the Qing dynasty archives ... .

A slightly later version appears in a register belonging to ... Tianlin county, Guangxi".

"the Gui County Manuscript, was discovered in Qintang, Gui County, Guangxi ... . ...

The other copybook ... is the Shouxian Manuscript, ... discovered in the Shouxian pavilion ... in Guangzhou."

"The two versions discovered ... in the British Museum, the Narration (Xi Lu Xu Shi) and the Preface (Xi Lu Xu)" :

p. 153

"The Narration bears considerable resemblance but is not identical to Schlegel's account in Thien Ti Hwui : The Hung League or Heaven and Earth Society (1866). The Preface resembles the version in J. S. M. Ward and W. G. Stirling, The Hung Society or the Society of Heaven and Earth."

"The most recent account was obtained by the Japanese revolutionary Hirayama Shu in the course of his field investigation in China and was published in Japan in 1911".


p. 156 Ma Yi-fu

According to the Hirayama account, "what got Ma Yifu expelled from Shaolin was his seduction of the wife and sister of Zheng Junda, a figure who ... is the general who led the Shaolin priests in their expedition against the Xi Lu "barbarians.""

p. 157 bridge built by immortals

"In the Gui County Manuscript, ... the monks continue to the Yueshen temple. There, thanks to ... the mountain immortals, who engineer an iron bridge for them, they escape to the Great Sun temple of the Hongzhusi (Vast Pearl monastery) of Huizhou prefecture, Guangdong."

"In the Shouxian Manuscript, ... the monks and the Five Tiger Generals proceed to the Yueshen temple ... . ... the temple's immortals (high mountain deities), Zhu Guang and Zhu Kai, come ... constructing an iron bridge that enables them to reach the Jade Pearl monastery (Yuzhusi)."

"In the Narration, ... At Black Dragon Mound, intercession by the immortals, who ... create a floating bridge, then allows them to proceed to the Gaoxi temple in ... Huizhou prefecture, Guangdong."

p. 158 how the bridge was miraculously built by immortals

"In the Gui County Manuscript, ... after the monks reach the Yueshen temple, the mountain gods, Zhu Guang and Zhu Kai, come to their aid by changing into an iron bridge."

"In the Shouxian Manuscript, ... the "Emperor of Heaven" ... send two old immortals, Zhu Kai and Zhu Guang, to turn some yellow air into a cloud bridge."

"In the [Narration], Zhu Jiang and Zhu Kai lay a knife in the river and [thus] create a bridge; in the [Praeface] Zhu Jiang joins Zhu Kai in building a floating bridge and a yellow-and-black road for the monks."

p. 158 the divine sponsor of the efforts

"is ascribed to the "Daluo shenxian" (a holy spirit ...) in the Preface, and

to the Dazun deity in the Hirayama version.

In the Narration ... : the Damo ... . He changes into a yellow-and-black floating cloud".

p. 166 magic sword

"According to the Preface, ... Zheng Junda commits suicide out of loyalty to the emperor and is buried at Xiagangwei. Later, his widow and family members ... at Xiagangwei ..., through the use of a magic peachwood sword, save ... from destruction ... ."

"In the Hirayama account, ... Zheng Junda ... was forced to hang himself ... . Later, ... a magic ... sword emerges from his grave. Grasping it, Zheng's wife, Guo Xiuying, succeeds in saving ..., then ... she bequeaths the sword to her sons and, along with her sisters-in-law, jumps into the Sanhe River and drowns."

{Peachwood is primarily used (both in China and in Japan) in exorcisms, for expelling evil ghosts.}

p. 169 expelling ghosts

"Archival documents ... make brief references to a developmental stage of the Tiandihui in Sichuan, where ... Ma Jiulong, gathered

forty-eight monks to practice expelling ghosts ... .

{cf. the 48 koan-s of C^>an/Zen, a sect originally devoted to practicing exorcisms}

... only thirteen remained to transmit the teaching in all directions."

{The C^>an/Zen koan-s are all concerned with exorcism. E.g., the "sound of one hand clapping" is an allusion to the rite of clapping in order to expell evil ghosts -- a form of exorcism widely practiced in Tibet.}


p. 173 "Luminous King"

"Barend J. ter Haar believes that aspects of the Xi Lu Legend may have their source in the "Luminous King" traditions that dated back to the sixth century."

p. 173 an historic S^ao-lin episode occurring during the Tan dynasty

When "the Qin leader, Wang Shicong, set up a kingdom called Yuanzhou", "several monks from the real Shaolin temple (located in the Song mountains) ... moved in to protect the capital and defend Tang rule. During this ..., thirteen monks in particular stood out ... . The emperor wanted to reward them with official positions, but only one accepted".

"Qin Baoqi suggests ... that this episode inspired the Xi Lu Legend."


appendix B

Versions of the Xi Lu Legend

pp. 197 to 228

1. pp. 197-8 the Yao Da-gao version

p. 197

"On the sixth day of the sixth month ..., there was a flood in Kaifeng prefecture, and from the water emerged the tombstone of Liu Bowen. ...

p. 198

Later ... Eighteen ...

{Meso-Americans generally used a division of the year into 18 parts.}

finally reached a remote place believed to be the end of the world. [fn. + : "a famous rock ... on Hainan Island, a place ... considered at the end of the world."] On the sea there floated to the surface a white stone incense burner weighing fifty-two catties."

{Among the Azteca, it was expected that the world would end at the completion of a 52-year cycle.}

2. p. 199 the Yan family version

"brothers ... numbered 107. Wan Yunlong selected the twenty-fifth day of the seventh month of the jiayin year as the date on which

Heaven would open the yellow road and

the Earth would open the golden lotus (as a symbol for good luck).

{Golden waterlily of goddess Kamala.}

The brothers then formed the Honglian shenghui (Vast Lotus Victory Society)."

3. pp. 201-3 the Gui County version

p. 201

"the two men ... committed suicide and died. They left behind a sword with a peachwood handle,

which cut [the pursuer of them] into many pieces. ...

{Self-acting implements are typically Bon.}

p. 202

Suddenly there floated to the surface of the sea three pieces of old riverstone. On the top of one stone was a white ingot-shaped incense burner, with three feet or legs and two ears, with weighed fifty-two catties, thirteen ounces. ...

p. 203

The tombstone ... was inscribed with sixteen words that all together contained forty-eight dots because each word began with the water radical."


4. pp. 205-7 the "Xi Lu Xu" or S^ou-xian version

p. 205

"After their prayer had ended, a road suddenly appeared through the fire ... . ...

{Much as in the escape of the Pan.d.ava-s from the fire (as recounted in the Maha-bharata).}

p. 206

On the surface of the water was floating a white incense burner made of greenstone {sic : how could it be white if made of greenstone? This must be a composite account.}, which had two ears and three feet and weighed fifty-two catties, thirteen ounces ... . ...

p. 207

Ancient sages said : learn from the thirty-six heavenly and seventy-two earthly constellations."

{cf. the 36 Sumerian constellations, etc.}

5. pp. 209-11 the "Xi Lu Xu S^i" or Narration version

p. 209

"Unexpectedly, there floated to the water's surface an object. The five ... discovered that it was a white ingot-shaped incense burner. ... that night the white ingot-shaped incense burner glimmered in brightness ... . ...

They looked up and saw two branches of

a withered tree,

{cf. Bon sanctification of snags, dead trees}

which they retrieved to use as candles.

They took two bowls with flowers painted on them to use as ... divining blocks. ...

p. 210

They then set out for the Yuenshen temple of the White Crane Forest [Bai-he-lin] of Taipingzhai, Shicheng county, Huizhou prefecture, Guangdong province ... . ...

p. 211

The body was positioned southeast facing northwest ...; his tombstone was a triangle. It was nine chi high {tall}, and one chi, six cun, wide. The stone was called the "long life stone," and on it were inscribed sixteen words, each of which began with the "water" or "three dot" radical, so that all together there were forty-eight dots of water."

6. pp. 214-9 the "Xi Lu Xu" or Praeface version

p. 214

"Ninger said, "... I used to be a water carrier ..., but ... I ... broke the incense burner ... . ... ."... .

{"At this time, among the Mexica in the Valley of Mexico, all fires were extinguished {by water from a water-carrier?}, ... and all pottery was broken in preparation for the end of the world." (AM&ThP, pp. 103-4 -- "MC")}

p. 215

... five ran to the riverbank and ... stayed on the boat, where they were not pursued.

p. 216

"they came to Xiagangwei and saw that there was a white ingot incense burner on

the water's edge.

[p. 169 "Water Margin" (the name of a Chinese novel)]

The five ... saw that it was made of a kind of greenstone and that it had two ears and three feet. ... They then took a bowl with flowers as a cup ... . ...

From the top of the tomb there unexpectedly emerged a magic sword with a peachwood handle. On the top of the blade were two dragons fighting for a pearl ... . The women and children saw the ... troops pursuing the five. They then used the magic sword and forced the ... troops to retreat. ...

p. 217

At that time, there were five others ..., horse-sellers in Zhejiang and Shandong provinces, who also reached the Lingwang temple ... . ... There was also a Daoist "master" [xian-s^en] Chen Jinnan at the White Crane Cave [Bai-he-don]. ... Fortunately, in the mountain forests, they were rescued by the five Tiger Generals of Dragon Tiger Mountain ... . ... It happened that "master" Jinnan ... replied, "I ... formerly worked at the Hanlin Academy and ... I left my post and went to the White Crane Cave ... . ..." ...

p. 218

They ... recruited 107 men. ... Unexpectedly, the eastern Heaven turned red, so they took Hong ['red'] as their surname ... . ...

p. 219

"Elder brother" Wan died on the ninth day of the ninth month. ...

At the place where he was buried, the earth was in the contour of an octagon.

{Octagonal tombs are typical of Iran and of Afghanistan.}

In front was a nine-tiered pagoda and behind was Twelve Summit [S^i-er-fen] Mountain. On the tombstone were sixteen words, each character of which had the water radical, which read : "... The tomb of ... Da Zong Gong."

The "master" said, "Why don't we scatter to the various provinces, change our names ...? ... [Let us] set up under Heaven and on Earth

a five-color banner ... . ...""

{This is alike to the 5-color banner of the Republic of China during 1912-1929 Chr.E., and revived for Manchuria 1937-1945 ("ChRNF"}

AM&ThP = Muriel Porter Weaver : The Aztecs, Maya, and their Predecessors. Seminar Press, 1972.

"MC" = "Mayan Calendar"

"ChRNF" = "China Republic national flag, 1912-1929"

p. 220 [cf. also App. E, Doc. 2 on p. 242] divine objects which are "acknowledged"


the __

as __









Elder Brother




7. pp. 222-7 the Hirayama version

p. 222

"Suddenly a thick fog appeared, causing those in pursuit to lose their way ... . ...

p. 223

The five ... next concealed themselves under a bridge where there was a boat at anchor. The boatmen ... willingly helped them and welcomed them on board to stay. ... When they reached ... in Huizhou prefecture ... a large river, the spirit Dazun ... sent ... two angels to help them. One carried an iron plank, and one a brass plank, from which they made a bridge ... . They came to a Hell King temple, where the guard ... and his wife ... took them in. ... they next arrived at Ding Mountain ... . There, they unexpectedly encountered Guo Xiuying, the wife of their former friend, Zheng Junda, along with her sister Zheng Yulan ... . Thereupon they ... went to the tomb of Zheng Junda. ... They proceeded to the tomb ... when a troop of soldiers suddenly arrived. At the critical moment .... a sword emerged from Zheng Jun-

p. 224

da's grave. ... Guo Xiuying took the sword and brandished it wildly, ... thus saving the band. ... Guo Xiuying gave the sword to her two sons, ordered them to flee with it, and then drowned herself in the Sanhe River with Zheng Yulan. ... The five... then returned to the Gaoxi temple and afterward to Baozhuyuan ... . At this point they met Chen Jinnan, ... a former Hanlin scholar. ... His home was Huguang. ... Later, ... he became an itinerant diviner and could thus meet with the five ... . ... That is why today when the society's members meet and are asked from where they came, they must answer : "from the White Crane Cave." Later Chen Jinnan ... said ... that not far away was

Xiapu convent, which had a big hall known as the Red Flower

{the "java" (hibiscus) sacred to certain Tantrik goddesses}

p. 225

pavilion (Honghuating). [fn * : "Compare the Preface version's "Vast Flower pagoda.""] He said they could use this, ... and so they all moved there. One day ... by the riverside ... they saw something floating on the water. Surprised, they ... discovered that it was a large stone incense burner. ... The incense burner had originally been lost from Hangzhou. ... Suddenly the grass and sticks self-combusted, ... as Heaven's answer to their prayer. ... Chen then ...

p. 226

selected the twenty-fifth day of the seventh month of the jiayin year as the date ... . ... That night both the north and the south sky were unusually bright and there was a falling star ... . ...

A red light also shown {read : "shone"} in the eastern sky.

{This would be the source of Mao-tse-tung's dictum : "The East is red".}

Because ... of hong ... "red" ..., ... decided to change their surnames to Hong, which would be referred to by the code "three, eight, twenty-one." [fn. * : "The characters for these words form the component parts of the character for Hong."] ...

p. 227

Then, they ... the body of Wan Yunlong, wrapped ... in red silk, and buried ... under Ding Mountain. In front of the tomb there was a meandering river; behind was a mountain of thirteen peaks; on the right were five trees; and on the left was one tree. ... Chen Jinnan deified Wan Yunlong as "Da Zong Shen" and built a three-cornered pagoda to his memory called Wannianta, which was the so-called Nine Tongues pagoda [Jiu-hua-ta] that is often drawn in secret pictures. ... Chen also said that now they had to part and scatter ... . ... After they scattered, various individuals traveled to various provinces and spread the teaching".


appendix E

Tian-di-hui Oaths

pp. 239 to 246

pp. 239-41 & 243-6 oaths sworn [by male Hui-membres ("brethren")]

Doc. 1 : Newbold & Wilson 1841, pp. 137-42

Doc. 3 : Williams/Hoffman 1849


not ill-treat a brother


not injure a brother


not sell girdle


not sell girdle nor coats of Hun


not doubt a brother


not spy on a brother


no adultery with a brother's wife


not debauch a brother's wife


respect a brother's word


not vilify the Association


not mention these oaths


not disclose laws of Brotherhood

Newbold & Wilson 1841 = T. J. Newbold & F. W. Wilson : "The Chinese Secret Triad Society of the Tien-Ti-Huih". J OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOC 6:120-58.

Williams/Hoffman 1849 = Hoffman (transl. by S. Wells Williams) : "Oath Taken by Members of the Triad Society". CHINA REPOSITORY 18:281-95.


Dian H. Murray (in collaboration with Qin Baoqi) : The Origins of the Tiandihui : the Chinese Triads in legend and history. Stanford U Pr, 1994.

{Quite evidently (though this is omitted from all versions of the official story), the monks of S^ao-lin must have been regarded (whether during the T>an dynasty or during the C^>in dynasty) as having by pious arguments persuaded any rebels/invaders to desist. Then (during the C^>in dynasty) the government may have afterwards conjectured that if the monks were to endeavour to do so, they might persuade the entire populace to secede from upholding the saecular government and to install a religious government instead. This could have been enough motivation for the government to burn their monastery.

This fabulous tale of the origin of the Tian-Di Hui would evidently be intended to suggest saecular political governments in general are by their very nature corrupt and undesirable -- yet, not having recognized this fact, its successor the Republic of China was even more saecular and less religious than was the C^>in dynasty (with the eventual result of producing the arising of a thoroughly atheistic and utterly vicious government misnamed "People' Republic").}