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Thread: Shaolin and Secret Societies

  1. #1
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    Shaolin and Secret Societies

    We've danced around this topic a lot here, especially with discussion of the Southern Shaolin styles. This news item inspired me to dedicate a thread to this.

    Ngee Heng Kongsi's story
    By Peggy Loh | johor@nstp.com.my

    INSIGHT: Find out about the secret society-turned community benefactor in the Johor Baru Chinese Heritage Museum exhibition

    JOHOR BAHRU: THERE was a time when Ngee Heng Kongsi was mentioned in whispers because this Teochew brotherhood was once a powerful secret society here.

    Clouded by clandestine activities, the workings of this kongsi (society) remained largely misunderstood until recently.

    After comprehensive research on more than 70 years of the Ngee Heng Kongsi's history, the Johor Baru Chinese Heritage Museum is presenting its findings for the first time in a special exhibition until Sept 10.

    It took the research team over a year to collect information about the society's activities, including those in mainland China, Singapore, Penang and Riau island in Indonesia.

    From documents and ancient artifacts, researchers were able to piece together a picture of how secret societies operated in the 1800s.

    Even though the society started as a revolutionary quasi-military brotherhood that was opposed to China's Ching dynasty, its activities in Johor Baru gradually evolved into valuable social, political and administrative work which contributed to Johor's early economic growth.

    In 1844, when Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, the father of Sultan Abu Bakar, invited the Chinese from Singapore and Riau to open up land in Johor for pepper and gambier cultivation, the society's leader, Tan Kee Soon, led his followers to settle in Tanjung Puteri (now Johor Baru).

    The Teochew clan was the dominant Chinese group who made Johor their new home. They cultivated pepper and gambier plantations according to the kangchu system.

    When Sultan Abu Bakar recognised the strength and solidarity of a brotherhood like the Ngee Heng society, he legalised it as an association in 1873 with membership opened to all Chinese clans so that it can take charge of Chinese community affairs.

    Visitors to the exhibition showcased on the top floor of the museum, will have to walk up the stairway with steps that have been covered with red cloth as a replica of the entrance to the society's headquarters.

    Inspiring couplets painted on the cloths hint of the obscure origins of the Ngee Heng society that can be traced back to Shaolin monks who were loyal to the Ming emperor.

    After invading Ching armies forced them out from their monastery, the monks reverted to civilian life and vowed to defend their patriotic cause.

    As revolutionaries, their activities were largely underground with a tradition of covert activities that used secret codes and languages.

    When you step into the exhibition hall, you will see a towering pair of giant mythical birds that the Ngee Heng society adopted as its symbol.

    These are believed to be the da peng niao -- mythical giant creatures that are likened to the Javanese garuda.

    It is interesting to note that as far back as 1400, the Chinese emperor of the Ming Dynasty was the first to use the word peng as an adjective to describe his army.

    On a mock altar, there is a host of paraphernalia used for the rituals to swear in members into the brotherhood.

    You can have a better insight into blood oaths taken in front of an altar by viewing movie snippets in a documentary screened in a section of the exhibition.

    "The sworn brothers take this oath very seriously," said Eric Ku, the deputy general manager of the JB Tiong Hua Association, referring to the list of 36 oaths of the Ngee Heng Kongsi displayed on the wall.

    A chart outlined the hierarchy in the brotherhood, listing da ke (big brother) overseeing members several ranks below him with ma zai (little horse) at the bottom of the rung.

    "Members of the brotherhood are so close that each member considers another member's problem as his own," he added.

    When Johor became part of the non-federated Malay States under British colonial authority in 1914, the kangchu system was abolished, and the Ngee Heng Kongsi disbanded. The society's assets were distributed to charities, with a sum set aside to build a tomb for the burial of all their ritual and sacred objects as well as ancestral tablets.

    As a mark of respect, JB's Chinese community leaders perform ancestor worship rituals twice a year at this tomb, which is close to Jalan Abdul Rahman Andak.

    It is simply adorned by two Chinese characters: ming mu (Ming Tomb).

    The legacy of Ngee Heng Kongsi and its renowned leaders live on in JB with it honoured in street, school and neighbourhood names (Jalan Ngee Heng, Kampong Ngee Heng, Ngee Heng Primary School, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and Jalan Ah Siang).

    After being united with other Chinese clans as a legal society in JB, it built the Johor Ancient Chinese Temple, established a common cemetery it called Kongsi San, and started the Foon Yew School.

    The unity among the five Chinese clans in the city marked the birth of an organisation that eventually developed into the Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association of today.

    The Johor Baru Chinese Heritage Museumis at 42, Jalan Ibrahim, Johor Baru.

    It is open daily from 9am to 5pm and closed on Mondays. Entrance fees are RM5 for adults and RM2 for students, children and senior citizens.

    For details, call 07-224 9633, fax 07-224 9635 or email heritage_museumjb@jb-tionghua.org.my.


    Johor Baruís Chinese community leaders paying their respects at the Ming Tomb. Pix by Peggy Loh
    5 more pix if you follow the link.
    Gene Ching
    Associate Publisher
    Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine & www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips

  2. #2
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    People love this stuff.
    Secret societies are always fascinating and perhaps even more so now that out lives tend to be so public.
    Of course the reality is not as "glamorous" pr "movie worthy".
    Psalms 144:1
    Praise be my Lord my Rock,
    He trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle !

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by sanjuro_ronin View Post
    People love this stuff.
    Secret societies are always fascinating and perhaps even more so now that out lives tend to be so public.
    Of course the reality is not as "glamorous" pr "movie worthy".
    I'm not going to lie...I wish I were in one.....

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellen Bassette View Post
    I'm not going to lie...I wish I were in one.....
    How do we know that you're not really in one, and are just lying about it to throw us off?



    BTW I enjoy reading this type of stuff
    "God gave you a brain, and it annoys Him greatly when you choose not to use it."

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin73 View Post
    How do we know that you're not really in one, and are just lying about it to throw us off?



    BTW I enjoy reading this type of stuff
    Now you must join or die.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellen Bassette View Post
    I'm not going to lie...I wish I were in one.....
    You can join the Big White Booty Lovers Society. Currently, HSK and I are the only members.
    He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher. -- Walt Whitman

    Quote Originally Posted by David Jamieson View Post
    As a mod, I don't have to explain myself to you.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by MasterKiller View Post
    You can join the Big White Booty Lovers Society. Currently, HSK and I are the only members.
    It's tempting, but knowing you, I'm afraid at the inner circle levels the big booty girls may become men in spandex with their junk on display.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    It is interesting to note that as far back as 1400, the Chinese emperor of the Ming Dynasty was the first to use the word peng as an adjective to describe his army.
    Can anyone provide a reference to this from a Ming era document?

  9. #9
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    About the Peng

    The Peng is mentioned in a document with ties to Shaolin. From a document dating to sometime in the Qing Dynasty, but with roots the go to the Ming, we find the mention of this bird "peng" within this posture.

    The great roc opens its wings and quickly crosses 1000 miles.
    Gather the fists about the cauldron and hastily raise the qi.
    Clench the jaws squeeze the teeth paste them to the cheeks.
    Pushing mountains uses up a tree uprooting strength.
    Qi like finely pulled silk stabilizes respiration.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  10. #10
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    Sorry, can't help you on that, Tainan Mantis

    Most of the Peng research that I have come across was through Xingyi as it is often one of the twelve animals there, but I figure you know that already.

    The leading scholarly book on secret societies is The Origins of the Tiandihui: The Chinese Triads in Legend and History. It's a must read for anyone interested in this topic.

    The Origins of the Tiandihui
    The Chinese Triads in Legend and History

    Dian H. Murray In Collaboration with Qin Baoqi
    1994

    364 pp.
    ISBN: 9780804723244
    Cloth $65.00

    The Tiandihui, also known as the Heaven and Earth Association or the Triads, was one of the earliest, largest, and most enduring of the Chinese secret societies that have played crucial roles at decisive junctures in modern Chinese history. These organizations were characterized by ceremonial rituals, often in the form of blood oaths, that brought people together for a common goal.

    Some were organized for clandestine, criminal, or even seditious purposes by people alienated from or at the margins of society. Others were organized for mutual protection or the administration of local activities by law-abiding members of a given community.

    The common perception in the twentieth century, both in China and in the West, was that the Tiandihui was founded by Chinese patriots in the seventeenth century for the purpose of overthrowing the Qing (Manchu) dynasty and restoring the Ming (Chinese). This view was put forward by Sun Yat-sen and other revolutionaries who claimed that, like the anti-Manchu founders of the Tiandihui, their goal was to strip the Manchus of their throne.

    The Chinese Nationalists (Guomindang) today claim the Tiandihui as part of their heritage.

    This book relates a very different history of the origins of the Tiandihui. Using Qing dynasty archives that were made available in both Beijing and Taipei during the last decades, the author shows that the Tiandihui was founded not as a political movement but as a mutual aid brotherhood in 1761, a century after the date given by traditional historiography.
    She contends that histories depicting Ming loyalism as the raison d'etre of the Tiandihui are based on internally generated sources and, in part, on the "Xi Lu Legend," a creation myth that tells of monks from the Shaolin Monastery aiding the emperor in fighting the Xi Lu barbarians.
    Because of its importance to the theories of Ming loyalist scholars and its impact on Tiandihui historiography as a whole, the author thoroughly investigates the legend, revealing it to be the product of later - not founding - generations of Tiandihui members and a tale with an evolution of its own. The seven extant versions of the legend itself appear in English translation as an appendix.
    This book thus accomplishes three things: it reviews and analyzes the extensive Tiandihui literature; it makes available to Western scholars information from archival materials heretofore seen only by a few Chinese specialists; and it firmly establishes an authoritative chronology of the Tiandihui's early history.
    Gene Ching
    Associate Publisher
    Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine & www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellen Bassette View Post
    It's tempting, but knowing you, I'm afraid at the inner circle levels the big booty girls may become men in spandex with their junk on display.
    Whatever. I would never post anything like this.
    He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher. -- Walt Whitman

    Quote Originally Posted by David Jamieson View Post
    As a mod, I don't have to explain myself to you.

  12. #12
    And I am eternally thankful you would never do that.

  13. #13
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    Most people don't realize how deep southern gung fu and the secret societies really goes. gene knows this is my subject
    I'm pretty sure the only thing tongs do nowadays is make sure Chinese restaurants don't pay out tips to their waiters. - Pazman[/B]

    https://scontent-b-pao.xx.fbcdn.net/...8a&oe=52848D36

  14. #14
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    MK - seek professional help

    The tricky thing about secret societies, as HSK well knows, is that they are secretive. There's a certain ethical issue with divulging their secrets. What I'm most interested in here with this thread is the Shaolin connection, which is really pervasive.

    This sort of spirals out of our discussion of Butt Knives...I mean Butterfly Swords.
    Gene Ching
    Associate Publisher
    Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine & www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips

  15. #15
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    Ooooooohhhh. Secret Societies.

    I'm in a society that has secrets.
    But like Sanjuro says, the reality of it is not glam at all. lol

    People cloister themselves away from what they perceive as chaos.
    我不知道。我不能读中国。

    - Don't bother demanding respect. You'll get less. Earn respect through what you do, you get more.

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