In the 1760s, the Heaven and Earth Society (?), a fraternal organization was founded, and as the society's influence spread throughout China, it branched into several smaller groups with different names, one of which was the Three Harmonies Society (?). These societies adopted the triangle as their emblem, usually accompanied by decorative images of swords or portraits of Guan Yu. The Tiandihui (Heaven and Earth Society) (Chinese: ?; pinyin: Tian Di Hui) or Hongmen , is a fraternal organization that originated in China. As the Tiandihui spread through different counties and provinces, it branched off into many groups and became known by many names, including the Sanhehui. The Hongmen grouping is today more or less synonymous with the whole Tiandihui concept, although the title "Hongmen" is also claimed by some criminal groups. When the British ruled Hong Kong, all Chinese secret societies were seen as criminal threats and together defined as Triads, although the Hongmen might be said to have differed in its nature from others. The name of the "Three Harmonies Society" (the "Sanhehui" grouping of the Tiandihui) is in fact the source of the term "Triad" that has become synonymous with Chinese organized crime. Because of that heritage, the Tiandihui is sometimes controversial and is illegal in Hong Kong. History According to Kelvin Bechkam Chow, a member of the organization, the Tiandihui was founded during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1654—1722). However, independent research concludes that the Tiandihui was founded in the 1760s. The founders of the Tiandihui—Ti Xi, Li Amin, Zhu Dingyuan, and Tao Yuan—were all from Zhangpu, Zhangzhou, Fujian, on the border with Guangdong. They left Zhangpu for Sichuan, where they joined a cult, which did not go well. Ti Xi soon left for Guangdong, where he organized a group of followers in Huizhou. In 1761, he returned to Fujian and
rganized his followers to form the Tiandihui. A century earlier, the Qing Dynasty made membership in such societies illegal, driving them into the arms of the anti-Qing resistance, for whom they now served as an organizational model. The 18th century saw a proliferation of such societies, some of which were devoted to overthrowing the Qing, such as the Tiandihui, which had established itself in the Zhangpu and Pinghe counties of Zhangzhou by 1766. By 1767, Lu Mao had organized within the Tiandihui a campaign of robberies to fund their revolutionary activities. The Tiandihui began to claim that their society was born of an alliance between Ming Dynasty loyalists and five survivors of the destruction of Shaolin Monastery—Choi Dak Jung (?), Fong Daai Hung (?), Ma Chiu Hing (?), Wu Dak Tai (?), and Lei Sik Hoi (?)—by the Qing forged at the Honghua Ting (Hung Fa Ting, Vast or Red Flower Pavilion), where they swore to devote themselves to the mission of "fanqing fuming" (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; literally "Overthrow Qing and restore Ming"). The merchant Koh Lay Huan (died 1826), who had been involved in these subversive activities, had to flee China, arriving in Siam and the Malay States, to eventually settle in Penang as its first Kapitan China. During the late 19th century, branches of the Hongmen were formed by Chinese communities overseas, notably the United States, Canada, and Australia. Following the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty of China in 1911, the Hongmen suddenly found themselves without purpose. They had managed to miss out on the actual uprising. From then on the Hongmen diverged into various groups. While some other groups based within China, could no longer rely on donations from sympathetic locals; being unable to resume normal civilian lives after years of hiding, they turned to illegal activities - thus giving birth to the modern Triads.