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Tongs (red - known, pink - possible)

The Tongs are mutual-aid associations established by Chinese emigres in various Chinatowns in the "West" (e.g. Great Britain and the United States).

While most Tongs are benevolent groups, basically a Chinese version of the Chamber of Commerce and the Elk Lodge, some of them became involved in criminal activities. Some of the Tongs copy the structure and/or traditions of the Triads.[1] The Tongs in the Chinese diaspora in the Anglo-speaking nations of the West served as the unofficial government of the Chinatown. The residents of the Chinatown turn to the Tongs for help, and law enforcement often treats them as the defacto regime in their Chinatown.

History of the Tongs[]

Fifth World[]

The Chinese Tongs were actually the earliest organized crime syndicates in the United States. They ran protection rackets, gambling, prostitution, and opium dens in the Chinatowns of the West during the mid to late 1800s. They also brought into the United States both opium and Chinese migrants, had a white slavery network across most of the western United States, and waged "Tong Wars" for control of those rackets.[2][3]

Due to anti-Chinese racism (fears of the Yellow Peril) that led to murderous anti-Chinese pogroms in several towns, anti-Chinese regulations in most cities and towns, and finally the anti-Chinese immigration laws the Tongs went into decline and most of them died out.[4][5][6][7] Therefore it fell to the Italian and Jewish gangs of the 1920s to establish the "National Syndicate" and for the Italians their nationwide organization (La Cosa Nostra) which came to dominate the National Syndicate and eventually take it over. In the late 20th century, there were criminally-inclined Tongs that were based in New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.[8] [9]

During the early to mid 20th century the most powerful Tong in the West Coast were the Bing Kung Tong which was based in San Francisco. It played a role in the Tong Wars of that time, warring with the Hop Sing Tong and its allies. They had branches as far south as San Diego and as far north as Seattle. [10][11][12][13] The most powerful Tong in the late 20th century was the On Leong Tong with 5-6,000 members and operations from coast to coast. Which provided assistance to the elderly and newcomers to China, and scholarships for Chinese students. The tong was based in New York City and had branches in 15 cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Boston, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh. The main gang affiliated with the tong was the Ghost Shadows. It's main rival was the Hip Sing Tong of New York City and it's affiliated gang, the Flying Dragons.[14][15][16]

Other major Tongs were the Suey Sing Tong and Ying On Tong on the West Coast and the Tung On Association (with the Tung On gang) and the Fukien American Association (with the Fuk Ching gang) in New York City. The most powerful Chinese ethnic mob / gang were the Wah Ching of San Francisco and Los Angeles who were affiliated with the Hop Sing Tong. At least one of the Tongs was controlled by a Triad, the Tung On by Hong Kong's Sun Yee On. The Wah Ching had connections to two Hong Kong Triads, the Sun Yee On and the 14K Association (who were actually rivals).[17] In Seattle, the Hop Sing, Hip Sing, Bing Kung, and Suey Sing all had branches in the early to mid 20th century.[18]

Sixth World[]

In the Sixth World, there are criminally-inclined Tongs in both Great Britain (London, Manchester, & Nottingham) and in what used to be the United States in California (Los Angeles and San Francisco) and Seattle. The most powerful Tongs are in Great Britain, where they dominate organized crime. The ones in Seattle were absorbed by the Yakuza in the early part of the 21st century, and the remnants established a new anti-Japanese political Tong (a policlub).[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Organizational Structure[]


The hierarchy of a Tong consists of the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer with various elders and public relations administrators. Tongs have initiation ceremonies similar to that of the Triads and pay respect to the same gods as the Triads. In the criminally-influenced Tongs, the leader was known by the Chinese gangs in Chinatown as the "Ah Kung" (grandfather) or the "Shak Foo" (uncle).


The gangs which answered to the Tong had a familial structure influenced by Confucianism mixed with elements borrowed from the Triads.[19]

  • The Dai Dai Lo (big big brother) leads the gang. He is the one who communicates with the Tong leader (the Ah Kung).
  • The Dai Lo (big brother) are the executive officers of the gang. They serve the Dai Dai Lo as his lieutenants.
  • The Yee Lo or Saam Lo are the lowest officers in the gang, the street-level Dai Lo. They lead the cliques in the gang, crews which average between 10-20 men each.
  • The Mai Jai (little horse) are the rank and file soldiers of the gang. They make up the members of the various cliques.
  • The Lian Jai are the little kids, who aren't actually members of the gang. These kids aspire to join the gang and are in the service of the gang.

How the Tong Underworld Operates[]


In Chinese gangs, the soldiers (Mai Jai) have no idea who the executive officers are nor the gang leader. The soldiers take orders directly from the clique leader and are taught never to ask questions about the gang's leadership structure. The clique leaders (Yee Lo or Saam Lo) are familiar only with the next level of leaders (Dai Lo) and rarely talk to the gang boss (Dai Dai Lo) or the Tong leader (Ah Kung). New members rarely see them, usually only once at the initiation ceremony.[20]


Rules and norms existed that governed the gangs. The consequences for violating the rules was being punished, sometimes in a severe manner as in a physical assault or death.[[21]] Which included;

  • Respecting the ah kung or shuk foo.
  • Not using drugs.
  • Beating up members of other gangs who were on your turf.
  • Following the orders of the dai lo.
  • Not betraying your gang.

Criminal Operations[]

Fifth World[]

The criminally-inclined Tongs were all involved in illegal gambling (clubs and lotteries). Depending on the Tong they might also have operated brothels, trafficked in heroin, smuggled illegal aliens (Chinese), and/or were involved in loansharking. The Chinese gangs who worked for the Tongs mainly ran protection rackets, acted as muscle for the Tong, corned the illegal fireworks business, and provided security for Tong gambling clubs and brothels. If the Tong was involved in heroin trafficking or people smuggling, then they worked as in those operations. Dispute over territory and criminal rackets between the Chinatown gangs was normally resolved via the "kong so" (process of negotiations).

Sixth World[]

When it comes to cyberware, the Tongs like the Mafia usually relies on second-hand cyberware unlike the Triads or Yakuza which usually have access to brand new cyberware straight from their connections in the corporations.[7] The rackets that the Tongs are usually involved in are drug dealing, gambling, BTL chips, guns, prostitution, and extortion.[8] Tong soldiers are often expert martial artists, many of them are physical adepts. Businesses which defy the Tongs are attacked by Tong soldiers with hacking weapons or they are firebombed. In the underworld they are notorious for their cruelty and use of torture.[9]

Major Tongs[]


If there are any criminally-inclined Tongs left which have not been absorbed by the Triads it is most likely to be in the same cities where they have existed since the late 1800s. San Francisco and Los Angeles have been noted in lore as having tongs during at least the first half of the 21st century and into the 2050s. When it comes to the other cities, New York City is the most likely to have tongs followed by Boston, and further down it would be Phoenix, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston. It's noted that Seattle had Tongs but they were absorbed by the Yakuza, and the remnants formed a new Tong that acts as a pro-Chinese policlub.


  1. o30783549Shadows of Europe p.196
  2. o66933837London Sourcebook p.49
  3. o66933837London Sourcebook p.117-118
  4. o20709502California Free State p.62-63
  5. o20709502California Free State p.104-106
  6. o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.30
  7. o35506625Chrome Flesh p.38
  8. o40000561Prime Runners p.68
  9. o66933837London Sourcebook p.49


Tongs (Research)[]

Tongs in the Media[]