Thought Catalog

14 Things You Didn’t Know About The Triads

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1. Triad is a transnational criminal organization that is based in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore among many other countries. There are currently four major Triads in existence: Wo Hop To, Wo Shing Wo, Sun Yee On, 14K (Sap Sie Kie) and Luen. Wo Hop To is a Hong Kong-based organization and their influence have been documented in San Francisco. Wo Shing Wo is also a Hong Kong-based organization (originally from Toronto’s Chinatown), but with the longest tradition — it was established in 1930. They have a very powerful influence Hong Kong, controlling extortion, drug trafficking, gambling, and prostitution. Sun Yee On supposedly has the most members, with their membership cited at 55,000 around the world — they are based mostly in China and Hong Kong, but also in western countries like France and Belgium. The Luen Triad made up of several subgroups. The 14K Triad is based in Hong Kong and they are the third largest Triads organization, with 25,000 members split into roughly 30 subgroups. They are the main rivals of Sun Yee On and both have been subject to violent clashes throughout their history.

2. The Triad structure is loose and not at all like the Italian mafia or the Yakuza.

Triads on the other hand, are loose affiliations in the extreme. Although there is an hierarchy to Triad leadership, those lower on the ladder have much more freedom of lateral movement. In fact, rarely are the movements and activities of smaller gangs directed by the leaders of a Triad. Triad members do not typically have to secure permission from the head of a Triad in order to engage in a criminal activity, even if the activity involves partnering with people who are not members of the Triad or are even in fact members of a different Triad. – Peter Nepstad

The Triads’ group is granted full autonomy, making a profit belong to the individual gangs unlike the mafia where the profit goes to the organization. The Triads as well as other gangs that follow this structure, such as the various Triad affiliated gangs (14K being most prominent in Chicago), settle disputes through negotiations and is made up similar to a fraternity, but dealing with criminal activities. – Hannah Kim

3. The US government estimates that approximately 100,000 people are smuggled into the United States annually by the Triads. The undocumented workers then work for the Triads to work off the debt.

YouTube / ChinesePunk888
YouTube / ChinesePunk888

4. Mouse Shing, reported to be a high ranking officer in Wo Shing Wo, was hacked to death by a hitman using a meat cleaver in front of a hospital.

5. Some members of the Triads tried to extort director Michael Bays for $13,000.

6. In 2013, 63 people — including 16 schoolchildren, the youngest being 13-years-old — were arrested in an undercover Triads bust.

7. The Triad organization structure looks roughly like this.

Traditional triad organizational structure. image - Voidvector
Traditional Triad organizational structure.
image – Voidvector

The number 4 is used often to signify the member’s position in the organization. The 4 stands for the four oceans that surround China and ultimately, the universe.

8. North Korean counterfeit $100 US bills were circulated with the help of the triads. This led to the US government supposedly redesigning the $100 bill.

9. Lee Tai Lung, of the Sun Yee On triad, was assassinated in 2009 outside the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel. He was first hit by a car and surrounded by men armed with knives. Tai Lung was slashed at multiple times and the suspects fled. Their escape vehicles were found, but torched.

10. Peng Miaoji, the leader of a gang in Henan, cut the throats of 40 victims. He was caught in 1999 and executed along with 7 of his men.

11. The Golden Dragon Massacre put the triads on the map (at least, in the mainstream consciousness) in the United States. In 1977, a Chinese-youth gang, the Joe Boys, made an offensive against the Wah Ching and the Hop Sing gangs. This attack resulted in 5 deaths and 11 wounded. Of the five dead, two were tourists, and none of the 11 injured were gang members. This event led to the creation of the San Francisco Asian Gangs division.

12. It is reported that Sun Yee On has heavily invested in the Hong Kong movie industry, which is why gangsters are romanticized so often.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 2.56.31 PM
YouTube / ChinesePunk888

13. In accordance with its secret nature, there is a Triad initiation ceremony.

The rites would take place at an altar with incense smoke and the sacrifice to the gods of a domestic animal, such as a chicken or a goat. After drinking a potion composed of wine and the blood of the animal or of the candidate, he would pass beneath an arch of swords while reciting the following oath: “If a member of this society finds himself in difficulty, all will rush to his aid. If I, as a future member of this association, break this oath, the swords will descend and kill me.” The oath-inscribed paper would be burned in the incense, on the altar, to confirm the candidate’s duties to the gods. Signifying the name of the association, three fingers of the left hand would be raised to the heavens as a secret and binding gesture. – Mike La Sorte

14. There is a police task force dedicated to investigating triads in Hong Kong — they are the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau. TC mark

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