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Green Gang

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 3 months ago


The Green Gang


Estimates of the population of Shanghai’s underworld suggest that there are over 100,000 people in the city who live off the money they make as hoodlums. This criminal population lives in part off the proceeds from trafficking in opium, which has soared in value after being banned in 1917. Almost all of these underworld characters belong to small bands of gangsters called bang 帮 or hui 会. These groups are, in turn, ruled over by a massive criminal confederation and secret society originally formed by river boatmen, called the Green Gang (qingbang 青帮).



Shanghai had two main gangs, known as the Green and the Red. In the lower levels of criminal activity, they were once roughly equal, but the Green Gang has spread into higher levels of corruption and society and is now by far the dominant gang in Shanghai. The gang or secret society is a long-standing Chinese tradition, and depending on circumstances serves as a mutual help organisation or a revolutionary group. Secret societies contributed to the downfall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in the fourteenth century, and served as the only means of opposition in Imperial China, when dissenters were harshly dealt with. Today the secret societies attract the marginalized and the destitute, dispossessed peasants, coolies, bandits, wanderers, boatmen and smugglers. They offer an alternative to the rigid traditional Chinese social order and stand for individualism and choice. After a fashion, anyway.


The Green Gang’s own account of its origins claims that it was founded in the 1450s by a Ming dynasty official in charge of grain transport on the rivers. The internal structure of the organisation, supposedly created by the “three patriarchs” during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, follows the model of the imperial grain tribute system. The 72 lodges correspond to the 72 piers on the Yangzi River. Members are grouped into 148 “fleets” (bang 帮), which in turn form “six greater fleets” (liu da bang 六大帮). Because Green Gang members served in the imperial grain transport system, anti-Qing movements like the Triads were reluctant to accept them into their own organisations.


Like the Triads, the Shanghai Green Gang is a confederation of individual gangs, who competed constantly in the early 20th Century over Shanghai’s spoils. Before and during the Revolution of 1911, their rivalry with the Red Gang (hongbang 红帮)was temporarily suspended as both groups joined forces with Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionaries. However, the joint organisation – the China Mutual Progress Association – was short-lived.


Very little that is illegal goes on in Shanghai without the Green Gang’s permission. Criminals who try top ignore it or who flout its rules end up with the Chinese equivalent of “knee-capping”: they have every visible tendon severed with a fruit knife before being left to die in a busy street. Businessmen who try to operate without paying their protection money risk being kidnapped or shot, or having their houses bombed or burned. Partly due to pay-offs, but also because it keeps the criminal world in a certain stability, the gang is more or less tolerated by the city’s police forces.



In Shanghai, membership is organised on a hierarchical basis. Peasants driven off their land and into the city can find aid in the form of the banghui mutual help groups, which are linked to the secret societies. Middle-rank members consists of those whose jobs and corruptibility may them invaluable to running a criminal organisation. They include detectives and policemen of the French Concession, the International Settlement and the Chinese jurisdiction, as well as officers in the local military garrisons, minor politicians, factory foremen, labour contractors and merchants. The top ranks are the purview of bankers, rich businessmen and important politicians. Both Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek were Green Gang members.



In the initiation ceremony, the new recruit swears an oath of secrecy, mingles his blood with that of other members and learns the secret signals for recognition in public places.

Thanks to the friends and influence throughout the city wielded by Du Yuesheng, the Green Gang can count on men in the French consulate, the judiciary and the French police. This affiliation with the police is helped by the French Concession and International Settlement authorities’ long-standing policy of deliberately recruiting gangsters into their Chinese detective squads. The chief of the Shanghai Municipal Police detective squad, Shen Qingshan, is a Green Gang boss who until 1923 was the head of the “Big Eight Mob”, which dominated Shanghai opium smuggling at that time. He maintains a close relationship with the River Police’s Anti-Smuggling Squad and Red and Green Gang members in the Chinese and French police forces.



The Green Gang runs an organisation of systematic extortion under the name of the “Black Stuff Company”. Every opium hong in the French Concession pays the Green Gang from $3,000 to $10,000 a month, of which total $180,000 goes to key individuals in the French authority. They also organise the “Opium Pipe Company”, which covers all opium dens in the French Concession south of Avenue Edward VII and west of Mohawk Road. They are each taxed thirty cents a day per pipe. Green Gang enforcers collect the money every afternoon and affix a seal to the den’s account books. They fine the den owner $50 for every pipe he fails to declare. If a den tries to hide its existence from the Green Gang, they arrange for the French police to raid the place and deal with it according to the law. The police never punish owners whose account books display the seal of the Opium Pipe Company. The company makes a profit of around $100,000 a month.

The Green Gang’s influence extends into every aspect of the city’s life. The post office union allow Du Yuesheng to read the mail, while many foreign homeowners owe Du large amounts of money on their mortgages. Du also has a sideline in kidnapping. He organises the abductions, then offers his services as a mediator, taking half of the ransom as his fee.






Important Individuals



Du Yuesheng

Huang Jinrong





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