Historical Research About Black Flag Lodge
Manuscripts Exhibit A
The following is taken from the preface of a work entitled, Thian Ti Hwui: the Hung-League, or Heaven-Earth-League, by the late Gustave Schlegel1:
In the spring of the year 1863, a lot of books were, very accidentally, found by the police in the house of a Chinaman suspected of theft at Padang (Sumatra), which proved the existence of a secret society at that place, numbering about 200 members. These books, containing the laws, statues, oath, mysteries of initiation, catechism, description of flags, symbols and secret signs ect., etc., were placed officially into my hands for translation. Most of these books were, at the time, quite unintelligible to me and, as the case pressed, I had no leisure to study them more thoroughly. I requested, however, the Government to return these books to me after the decision of the case, and to place all Chinese and foreign documents relating to Chinese secret societies in the N. I. Archipelago at my disposal, as I hoped to be enabled, in that way, to find out the secrets of those societies. Government acceded liberally to this request, and ordered all such books, if found, to be delivered to me. In this way we got, besides the books found in Padang, a Chinese book full of drawings, found in 1851 at Japara (Java), with the statues of the Shautung-branch; a memorial concerning seven friendly societies found in Palembang (Sumatra) and a copy of Dr. Milne’s account of the Triad-society.
The most valuable contributions, however, were two Chinese manuscripts prescuted to the Batavin Society of Arts and Sciences by Mr. Teysman, of Buitenzorg, containing the whole Catechism, History, description of the rites, lodges, flags, secret signs and implements, enriched with a series of drawings; both which books were kindly place at my disposal by the above named society.
Schlegel’s work has been expanded upon in various academic circles and published material exist today that cite Schlegel to support their arguments. However, Schlegel’s interpretation of the manuscripts, although interesting, are not of practical importance; rather my arguments will be based off of the pure evidence from which he draws his conclusions.
Hong Men [Hung Moon], the society from which Schlegel’s manuscripts originate. HKB legend states that our system originated from the Southern Shaolin temple; similarly, questions 33-36 of the societies’ Catechism2 is recorded as follows:
Q. 33. How did you obtain your knowledge of military art?
A. I learned it at the convent Shao-lin
Q. 34. What did you learn firstly?
A. I firstly learned the art of boxing of the Hung-brethern.
Q. 35. How can you prove that?
A. I can prove it by a verse
Q. 36. How does this verse run?
A. The fist of the brave and valiant Hungs are known through all the world;
Since the Shao-lin-convent it has been transmitted.
Under the whole expanse of heaven we all are called Hung;
Afterwards we will assist the prince of the house of Ming.3
After the Shaolin temple’s destruction at the hands of the Qing [Tsing] dynasty forces, this manuscript goes on to declare that there were five survivors who splintered off and created five separate lodges, each designated by a different colored flag, to combat the Qing. Schlegel relates that after their escape, “The confederates now dispersed themselves over all the provinces of China in order to gather troops and money.” Schlegel continues:
The five monks of the Shao-lin-convent were made heads of the five principal lodges […] Thsai-the-chung went to the province of Fuh-kien where he erected the first lodge, which he named: “The blue-lotus Hall.” […]
Fang-ta-hung went to the province of Canton where he erected the second lodge, which he named the “Hall of obedience to Hung.” […]
Ma-chao-hing went to the province of Yun-nan where he erected the third lodge, which he named “The Hall of our queen” […]
Hu-the-ti went to the province of Hu-nan where he erected the fourth lodge, which he named the “Blended-with-Heaven Hall.” […]
Li-sih-khai went to the province of Cheh-kiang where he erected the fifth lodge, which he named the “Extensive-conversion Hall.”
Furthermore, Volume I of Triad Societies: Western Accounts of the History, Sociology, and Linguistics of Chinese Secret Societies describes the actual ceremonial flags used in the societies’ rituals:
The Flags of the “Five Ancestors,” which are triangular; each containing the surname of one of the five priest, […] and the name of the province, - Fuh-kien, Kwangtung, Yunnan, Hu-Kwang, or Chekiang, in which each priest founded a Lodge
On these Flags, are inscribed in abbreviated characters, the mottoes, “Obey Heaven, Walk righteously,” and “Exterminate the Chheng,” or, “Overturn the Chheng, restore the Beng.4”
The flags are, Black, Red, Yellow or Carnation colour, White, and Green, (or Azure blue); all have a pennon with suitable inscription, and before inserting each in the Tau, the Sien Seng recites an appropriate verse. – e. g.
The first, or Black Flag of Hok-Kien.
“The black flag of Hok-Kien has the precedence.”
“In Kam-Siok (Kan-Suh) they also associated together, and laid a foundation.”
“The “Beng” conferred on the Lodge, the title of “Blue Lotus Hall.”
“So the whole 13 provinces shall guard the Imperial domains.”5
All of this evidence correlates with HKB history of Tjia Fun Tjiao's Black Flag Background, but I realize, however, that the correlation may be perceived as sprung from mere coincidence – “there is, it seems, an association between HKB's Tjia Fun Tjiao black flag background and the legends presented in these manuscripts, but is a relation between these legends and the system of HKB itself extant?”, you may ask – and thusly I am obliged to answer.
Firstly, it must be understood, during the time of its conception, the Wing Chun [Eng Chun] system was without a name; it would not adorn its title till much later, when adherents of the societies would refer to it by alluding to its original birth place – the Eng Chun Dim, or Eternal Springtime Hall place of revolution gathering.
Sang Liong Jo Cu, or Two dragons fighting over a pearl, and Bhiat Ceng Hok Beng, or Overthrow Ceng (Qing), restore Beng (Ming). These two saying became the mottos of the secret societies, and they are represented physically in the opening of HKBECP’s principal form, Sam Chian Po for each step, and the formerly mentioned term is actually represented in the principal movement of said form. The HKB legend is precious, but it is hard to believe a sword sudden sprung forth from the earth, it is most likely of symbolic importance; however, the sword does exist, and it is mentioned in Volume IV of Triad Societies: Western Accounts of the History, Sociology, and Linguistics of Chinese Secret Societies; in relating the intricacies of the initiation to the Hung Society, the volume records the catechism between master and vanguard thusly:
Master – Have you anything else?
Vanguard – I have a sword.
Master – What is on that sword?
Vanguard – Certain characters.
Master – What are they?
Vanguard – On one side are two dragons disputing over a pearl, and on the other “Overthrow Ts’ing and restore Ming.”6
Bolton, Kingsley, and Christopher Hutton, . Triad Societies. Western Accounts of the History, Sociology and Linguistics of Chinese Secret Societies. Vol. I. VI vols. London: Routledge, 2000.
Schlegel, Gustave. Thian Ti Hwui: The Hung-League, or Heaven-Earth-League, a Secret Society with the Chinese in China and India. . Batavia: Lange, 1866.
Ward, J. S. M., and W. G. Stirling. Triad Societies. Western Accounts of the History, Sociology and Linguistics of Chinese Secret Societies. Edited by Kingsley Bolton and Christopher Hutton. Vol. IV. VI vols. London: Routledge, 2000.
1 While writing this volume, Gustave Schlegel was working as “the interpreter for the Chinese language tothe government of the Netherlands-India, and a member of both the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences, and of the Royal Institute for the Philology, Geography, and Ethnology of Netherlands-India.” (see Schlegel’s title page)
2 A question and answer method of expressing the beliefs and regulations of the society. In this case, it appears in the ritual initiation of new members.
3 Schlegel, Pg. 65
4 Chheng and Beng, here, are different ways in Fujian Dialect of spelling Qing and Ming respectively.
5 Pg. 7
6 Pg. 59