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Blackburn, Fei-ling (1968) The role and organisation of Chinese secret societies in the late Ch'ing : A reconsideration of some of the literature. MPhil thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis is concerned with the examination of southern Chinese secret society organization and role in the late Ch'ing (1870-1912), during which the Hung League or Triad group of societies predominated. The first chapter will deal with the orthodox and heterodox streams of Chinese thought and their relation to one another and to traditional society. This is followed in the next chapter by a discussion of the institutional frame-work in which Chinese secret societies operated, ending with a summary of the social conditions in the second half of the nineteenth century. Chapter III will enlarge on the method of research (alluded to in the Introduction) to be employed in this thesis, and the myth (with an interpretation) and the actual formation of a secret society (with an example from Tientsin.) Chapter IV will deal with the functions of the association for its members, and their activities in the larger society. Chapter V will discuss the social composition of the Hung League, showing the predominance of "outcasts" and slum proletariat in the leadership and the rank-and-file membership, despite the avowed "classlessness" of the recruitment principles. This picture will be shown to be true only of the period under discussion. Chapter VI will present first the Triads' principles of organization (their hierarchical structure) and an interpretation of their organization according to the method outlined in the third chapter. Chapter VII will summarize the initiation ritual in numbered note-form, and will attempt to interpret its meaning for the members in psychological and organizational terms. Chapter VIII will discuss briefly the relation of secret society "statutes" to state law; and also the extent to which the concerns of solidarity influenced the degree of severity and the type of penalties set out in the regulations. The concluding chapter will recapitulate briefly the historical connection of peasant rebellions with secret society activity and ideology from the earliest times. This will be followed by a characterization of the role of secret societies in the first stages of structural change in early Republican China. The thesis will end on a short discussion of the relevance of Chinese secret societies to understanding the phenomenon of their counterparts in other countries.

Item Type: Theses (MPhil)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:06

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