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Du Yuesheng

Page history last edited by Tom 13 years, 5 months ago


Du Yuesheng 






Du Yuesheng was born in 1888 in the village of Gaoqiao in the Pudong district to a poor family. By eighteen, he had acquired enough of a following amongst the local petty criminals that his employers at the Dah Yeu Fruit Hong in Nantao were unwilling to sack him when he repeatedly went off to gamble rather than show up for work. But five years later he was caught stealing and enough was enough. Du didn’t bother looking for another job, preferring life as a petty crook in Nantao, where he acquired the nickname “Fruit Yuesheng”. It was then that a friend offered him membership in the Green Gang.


Having joined up, Du moved into the Tian Song Lodging House on the Nantao section of the Bund. It was a bit of a disappointment. Membership got him only the occasional job. Anything he did make he gambled away in short order. Four years later, under the advice of a fortune teller, Du moved in with his friend Don Asan. Asan introduced him to Huang Jinrong (a.k.a. Pockmarked Huang). Huang was the head of the Green Gang as well as being the head of the Chinese detectives in the French Concession Sûreté.


Huang made Du responsible for transporting opium to and from the warehouse, or hong, in Hongkew. Du’s influence with his former partners in petty crime in the area ensured his success. After a year, Huang gave Du his own hong to run on the Rue du Consulat in the French Concession. Du then put into action a plan to form a cartel of the city’s most powerful opium gangs. The plan succeeded and made Du the most powerful gangster in the city. Yet he always remained loyal to Huang, and between the two of them, they now run Shanghai’s underworld.


Du Yuesheng is short and slender, with long arms, a shaven head, large yellow teeth and large ears that stick out. He is always accompanied by armed bodyguards, and his home is a fortified drug depot, well stocked with guns and ammunition. Upon entering, the visitor finds the entrance hall lined on both sides with stacks of rifles and sub-machine guns. The house has three floors - on each floor he keeps one of his three wives. He speaks no foreign languages, yet is always keen to meet people of all nationalities, for he gleefully collects gossip and information, no matter how seemingly trivial.


Du employs four bodyguards: an ill-tempered blacksmith called Fiery Old Crow, a gardener, a former waiter from the Shanghai Club who speaks English and a former chauffeur from the American consulate called Stars & Stripes. Du never goes anywhere without being accompanied by two carloads of armed men. If going out on the town to teahouses and nightclubs, one car always goes ahead to check the place out first. Du follows in his bullet proof car with a second car full of his enforcers. Only when his men have surrounded the car door does he get out. Once inside the club, his guards all sit around him with their guns in plain sight to everyone.




How Du Yuesheng made his mark.






Du Yuesheng’s unrivalled sway over the drug trade in Shanghai is essentially an agreement between himself, Zhang Xiaolin and Huang Jinrong to share the spoils equally, rather than fighting for exclusive control. But before that agreement could be reached, Du Yuesheng needed to be able to deal with Huang Jinrong as an equal. In 1923, he was just a “wise guy” leading his own hijacking raids and banking Huang’s daily takings. What changed things was an unexpected incident that led to the temporary downfall of “Pock-marked” Huang and the rather more permanent rise of Du Yuesheng, who came out of things as Huang's saviour.


One night, Lu Xiaojia, the son of Lu Yongxiang the Zhejiang warlord, came to hear the female singer Lu Lanchun perform the lead in an opera. Huang Jinrong was also at this performance. In fact, he doted on the singer and had built the theatre specially for her. Halfway through, for some reason the performance displeased Lu Xiaojia, and he booed. Infuriated by this, Huang called out to show his own displeasure, at which point a crowd of Huang’s followers assaulted Lu Xiaojia there and then. The attack was so ferocious Lu’s bodyguards were afraid to intervene, and it was not until Lu had been beaten to the ground and kicked repeatedly that they were able to get him out of the theatre and on to his carriage.


Two nights later, at another performance by Lu Lanchun, a group of Garrison Command detectives forced their way into the theatre and put a gun to Huang Jinrong’s head. These plainclothes military policemen had been sent by the Shanghai defence commissioner in response to the anger of Lu Xiaojia’s father. They bundled Huang into a car and drove him to the Longhua garrison, where he was taken inside, beaten severely and thrown into the lockup.


Huang’s disapperance caused widespread panic amongst his followers. They rushed about, trying to find where he had been taken. Green Gang elder Zhang Xiaolin set off for Hangzhou to try to ameliorate Lu Yongxiang’s temper, while Du Yuesheng tried to appease the defence commissioner. Huang’s humiliation showed how vulnerable the gangsters were in the face of brute military force and cost Huang some of his reputation within the Green Gang.

Du Yuesheng arranged for his elder’s release, but did so by undercutting Huang’s hegemony over the protection racket in order to establish a much more ambitious set-up of his own. Supposedly assembling the means to ransom his boss, Du Yuesheng brought together Shanghai’s ten major opium wholesalers and persuaded them to invest millions of dollars more in a common fund in order to bribe Defence Commissoner He Fenglin into helping them set up an opium monopoly over the entire city.


The Big Company was founded later that year. Anyone who now wants to muscle in on their territory has to face both the Green Gang and the military police of Garrison Command. Also, an alliance forged with the French Concession leadership includes the chief of police. This arrangement is especially lucrative for Du Yuesheng, leading to the creation of the Opium Pipe Company and netting police protection.



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