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Red Dragon Triad, Officer

Triads from Shadowrun Sourcebook, Stolen Souls

Triads of Manhattan

Triads from Shadowrun Sourcebook, Vice

Triads (Matrix)

Yellow Lotus (Runner's Toolkit, On the Run)

Yellow Lotus Triad

Red Dragons (Shadowrun Sourcebook, Dragons of the Sixth World)

Red Dragon Triad (members)

Triads 2 from Shadowrun Sourcebook, Underworld

Triad Soldier

Triads (Shadowrun Sourcebook, Mob War)

Triad Soldiers (Mob War)

The Triads are one of many criminal organizations commonly found in Chinese communities. It is the world's largest and oldest criminal society, twice as old as the Yakuza and four times as old as the Mafia, dating back over 800 years to the White Lotus Society of the 13th century. The name "triad" comes from the interpretation by the British of the symbols of the Hung Sun, a secret society opposed to the Manchu rulers during the 17th century China. The triangle symbol represents the relationship between Heaven, Earth, and Man.

In the Sixth World, it is the Yakuza and Mafia which get most of the press in the Western world, yet it is the Triads which are the biggest players in organized crime. The largest criminal underworld is that of the Triads with millions of members, several times more than all the other major ethnic mafias combined. It has branches (lodges) in more countries than any of its main rival ethnic syndicates and its worldwide smuggling network reaches more countries and handles more volume than those of its competitors, all the while transporting an incredibly wide variety of goods and often undercutting its competitors on price.

They have a near absolute monopoly on the underworld of China, both the black markets and the vice rackets. In Southeast Asia, they are generally speaking on top of the criminal pyramid, with primacy in smuggling and in the drug trade. Throughout the world, in most Chinatown, the Triads are there running the rackets in those Chinese communities. In most cities of the world, it is the Triads that dominate the smuggling racket. It is the Triads (along with the Ghost Cartels) who are the kingpins of the global drug trade, as they produce, transport, and distribute the lion's share of the illicit drugs (organic, Awakened, and BADs). The Triads are the biggest manufacturers and distributors of brand counterfeit goods and of illegal BTL chips, as well as the leading talisleggers and people smugglers.

While the Triads are secret societies involved in organized crime, for the Awakened they are also magical initiation groups.[1] Among the world's organized crime groups, the Triads are one of the most enlightened and progressive when it comes to women, ethnicity, and metahumans. At least in comparison to the Mafia, the Vory, and the Yakuza, though being a Chinese organization there is still a hierarchy favoring the Chinese.[1][2][3][4] They are also the criminal organization which is most likely to fight against oppression and help the freedom fighters.[4] Being one of the most tech-savvy criminal organizations, they recently proved once again that they are quicker to adapt than their more conservative rivals (e.g. the Mafia) when the emergence of Technomancers came to light.[5]

It is an underworld which has the two oldest crime syndicates, the White Lotus Society which is over 800 years old and the Hai San which is 300 years old, the former nearly x4 as old as the oldest Yakuza clans or Mafia societies. Within its ranks is the largest global crime syndicate, the Red Dragons which is controlled by the Great Eastern Dragon Lung and is decades older than the Sicilian Mafia. Spread across the Triads is a secret society within the Triads, the Sai Fan whose agenda is unknown. Rumored to be secretly controlling all the Triads is the aforementioned Great Eastern Dragon and/ or a secretive council of crime lords, the Ring of the Burning Phoenix .

The Triads are a criminal society which has many trailblazing syndicates within its ranks. An underworld, that includes a global crime syndicate, the Ten Thousand Lions which is the only worldwide syndicate that is metahuman-heavy and it's even run by a trog (an ork). That has another crime syndicate, the Four Winds that is the only crime syndicate run by sapient critters (nagas). Not to mention the world's only crime syndicate, the Phoenix Lodge whose leadership is dominated by women. As well as a syndicate, the 289's which has a bonafide Technomancers guild.

Number of Triads: 100+[6]

International Triads: 20+[6]

Membership (Worldwide): Millions[7]

Membership (Hong Kong): 1,000,000+[8]

Membership (average Triad):' 1000s[9]

Annual Revenue: many Billions (nuyen)[10]


The Ancient Chinese Underworld[]

The Triads are the heirs of an underworld that spans thousands of years in Chinese history. It was in the ancient and mighty civilization of China, where the greatest bandit confederations and pirate armadas where born as well as smuggling syndicates. In the Chinese empire that lasted for over 2,000 years there was periods of great wealth, power, and technological and artistic achievement, as well as periods of banditry, piracy, warlords, and depravity. In the Han dynasty that rivaled the Roman Empire in wealth and power, there were smuggling organizations that trafficked in salt.[1] During its final decades in the late 2nd to early 3rd centuries there were the Black Mountain bandits (Heishan) a confederation that numbered in the 100s of thousands.[2] Hundreds of years later, the Tang dynasty which rivaled the Islamic Arab Caliphate in wealth and power, too had to deal with smuggling groups especially those that trafficked in salt.[3]

In its decline the Tang would likewise face the problem of bandit groups the size of small armies that were involved in smuggling, ran protection rackets, and were into robbery, kidnapping, and blackmail. One of those bandit smugglers (Huang Chao) became so powerful he threatened the empire with an army of 100s of thousands in the late 9th century.[4] At sea, centuries later the Ming dynasty which rivaled the Ottoman Empire in wealth and power, had to deal with the smuggling syndicates based on it's coastal provinces that would later relocate overseas due to imperial pressure and turn to piracy. Crimelords who commanded dozens or hundreds of ships, the most famous being Wang Zhi in the 16th century who had 100s of ships and over 2,000 workers.[5] It's successor dynasty and the last rulers of Imperial China, the Manchu Qing also had the problem of pirate confederations in the South China Sea that also did smuggling, which consisted of 100s of ships the mightiest of which was led by a pirate queen Ching Shih who commanded up to 40,000 pirates in 300 ships in the early 19th century.[6]

The Origins of the Triad[]

The birth of the modern syndicates began with the Triads. Which can be traced back to the 13th century with the White Lotus Society, a secret society that emerged to liberate China from it's Mongol conquerors.[7] They were successful a century later and reestablished Han Chinese rule over China by establishing the Ming dynasty.[8][9] Over four hundred years later, they would lead the banner of rebellion against a new foreign occupier of China the Manchus in the White Lotus Rebellion which was unsuccessful.[10][11] As time went on they evolved into an organized crime syndicate. During the first century of Manchu rule in the 17th century, another secret society arose in China with the goal of liberating their land from the barbarians, the Heaven and Earth Society which would give the world the word "Triads". Despite their subterfuge and rebellions they were unsuccessful and they evolved into organized crime groups.

It is the latter 400 years of Triad history that is well known. Which starts with the legendary origins of the "Heaven and Earth Society" from which the word "Triad" originated. Whose story begins with a monastery of Shaolin monks who did a favor for the 2nd Manchu emperor (Kangxi) of the Qing dynasty in 1674. The emperor or his advisers (depending on the source) repaid them by ordering the extermination of the Shaolin monks. The Manchu soldiers destroyed the temple and massacred the monks, except for five who survived. After escaping, the five Shaolin survivors devoted themselves to overthrowing the Qing dynasty and established five anti-Qing groups which evolved into the Triads.[11]

The Evolution of the Triads[]

Unfortunately for their cause, the Triads were unsuccessful in overthrowing the Manchus and the Qing dynasty ruled till 1912. By then the Triads had become an inseparable part of Chinese culture. Rebellions need to be morally flexible, get covert funding, and maintain secrecy to survive. Which incidentally are the same qualities a successful criminal organization needs. Since the rebels had lived as outlaws so long it was easy to make the transition into becoming full fledged criminals during the Qing dynasty.[12] The Republic of China which succeeded Imperial China, encountered challenges that made it difficult to establish itself successfully, among them warlords. In these chaotic times, the Triads were able to take advantage of such opportunities and their membership exploded while profits skyrocketed.[12]

In China, the Triads took advantage of the warlord era and became a virtual parallel government in the early decades of the century. Some established urban syndicates that raked in millions from heroin, gambling, prostitution, and other activities, including the infamous Green Gang of Shanghai which ruled the underworld in the city. They established their dominance in the lower Yangtze region and formed a heroin drug cartel. It's leader Du Yuesheng was a multi-millionaire, the Al Capone of the Far East.[12][13][14] One of it's members became the president and dictator of China, the Nationalist generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.[15] The Green Gang was known for doing political assassinations for Chiang Kai-shek.[16]Another Triad, the Elder Brother Society was both a revolutionary anti-Manchu group that had ties to the new communist party and a crime syndicate. It ran protection rackets and established an opium drug cartel in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou. Rivals of the Green Gang they eventually established a business relationship, supplying them with opium.[17][18]

In the 1920s-30s, the Green Gang had 10s of thousands of members which made it the largest crime syndicate in the world.[19] By the late controlled they controlled Three Prosperities Company a front through which it controlled the drug trade, earning annually up to $56 million. They also were involved in protection rackets, labor contracting, prostitution, and gambling. From illegal gambling they earned another $52 million a year. The Green Gang was earning $108 million a year from drugs and gambling alone (which adjusted for inflation was $1.4 billion in 2018 dollars), making it one the wealthiest criminal organizations in the world.[20][21] By the mid 1930s, every year the Green Gang received 10,000 tons of opium from Yunnan and 18,000 tons of opium from Sichuan, which had become Asia's largest heroin cartel. The Republic of China itself had become the world's largest producer of opium and its main producer of heroin. The Green Gang controlled the Special Tax Bureau, the government agency which taxed opium and collected $20 million in annual opium transit fees.[22]

The Global Chinese Mafia[]

Then disaster struck in 1949, as the Communist Party seized power and cracked down on the Triads. Many of the Triads relocated to Hong Kong, and those who stayed in the People's Republic of China were forced to keep an extremely low-profile which caused membership to plunge and profits to crash for the mainland Triads. Meanwhile the Triads in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Macao thrived as they virtually established monopolies over different legal and illegal business sectors and industries. The Communist government would crush many of the smaller groups, but they were never able to eliminate the Triads as a whole.[12]

The Chinese Triads by the 1980s were earning $200 billion a year from heroin alone.[23] They were bringing untold billions more from the various smuggling, vice, and commercial rackets in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Making the Chinese mafia the wealthiest criminal underworld in the world. The Chinese mafia (Triads, drug cartels, Tongs, Chinese-American mobs, etc) were still the top dogs of the underworld earning at least $200 billion from narcotics alone a decade later in 1996, with at least 180,000 members in the Triads.[24] Counterfeit goods earned them another $10 billion a year by 1999.[25] In the 1990s, the Triads built a global soccer match-fixing network, to which fix professional soccer games (Europe, Africa, and the Far East) and those in the World Cup, and manipulate bookies across the world.[26][27] Tens of billions more were earned every year from illegal gambling, people smuggling, construction rackets, smuggling of commodities, prostitution, smuggling of stolen cars, weapons trafficking, and so on (e.g. betting on horse-racing was $80 billion a year and hardcore pornography was $6 billion a year).[28]

During the 1980s-90s, Triads and mainland China syndicates controlled organized piracy in the South China Sea, earning billions every year. These syndicates were based in Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, and mainland China (with smaller branches in Taiwan and Malaysia), and were suspected of being backed by the Chinese government. Piracy committed by heavily armed pirates who used paramilitary tactics. They mostly targeted slow moving cargo ships, temporarily holding the crews hostage while they stole the cargo or stealing the entire ship for use in trade as a "phantom ship" (killing or stranding the crew). In the 1990s there were nearly 200 pirate attacks a year on large ships, of which 3/4 were in Southeast Asia.[29][30]

In Hong Kong itself, the Triads in the 1980s-90s established monopolies over waste disposal, parts of the film industry, home decoration companies, and non-franchised public transportation routes. They had protection rackets and ran price-fixing schemes over construction sites, wholesale and retail markets, entertainment establishments (e.g. bars, nightclubs, billiard halls), unofficial taxi stands, and small businesses (e.g. restaurants, local shops). It was the Triads that decided who got hired at the construction sites. In the Hong Kong stock exchange the Triads controlled many of the companies that were listed and were involved in the manipulation of shares. They owned companies in both the high-profile property industry and the financial industry. [31][32][33]

Hong Kong's Triads in the 1990s with the invitation of Beijing made significant investments in China, in which they helped contribute to the economic development of China and also expanded their rackets into mainland China (especially in the province of Guangdong across from Hong Kong).[34][35][36] By the turn of the century in the year 2000, the People's Republic of China had a million of its citizens who were members of criminal gangs that were involved in various types of organized crime activity as mainland China experienced an explosive resurgence in organized crime.[37] Within mainland China in the late 1990s, drugs was a $12.5 billion a year racket, the sex industry was worth $6.25 billion annually, smuggling cost Beijing an estimated $3.75 billion a year in lost customs revenue, and criminal groups were laundering $25 billion out of the country every year.[38]

Prior to the Awakening, the largest, wealthiest, best organized, and most powerful of all the Triads was the Hong Kong-based Sun Yee On which had up to 60,000 members. It was a Triad which was led by a ruling council of sorts and had been dominated by the Heung family since it's founding in 1919 by Heung Chin. When he was deported to Taiwan, his son Heung Wah-yim took over and his two younger sons were claimed to be high-ranking members (though never proven). They were suspected of having an alliance with the People's Liberation Army, recruited from among the policemen and ex-military within China, was suspected of having infiltrated the Chinese bureaucracy, was rumored to have the protection of the communist government, and had a stranglehold on the province of Guangdong (which in the 1990s was one of the fastest growing economies). It had branches in Southeast Asia, Russia, Japan, Europe, and North America They were involved in many rackets, but their biggest rackets were the drug trade and counterfeit goods.[39][40][41][42][43][44]

It's main rivals in Hong Kong, were the 14K Association with 20,000 members and the Wo Group also with 20,000 members, which were involved in a wide variety of rackets, and were international in scope. Both of the Triads had branches in Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America.[45][46][47][48] Taiwan's largest, richest, and most powerful Triad was the United Bamboo with 20,000 members. Had extensive ties to the ruling Kuomintang party of Taiwan and in the 1990s like the Sun Yee On, they too established an alliance with the People's Liberation Army. It had branches in North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Japan.[49][50][51][52] Like the other major Triads it used to be anti-communist and during the 1970s-80s the United Bamboo did assassinations for the KMT dictatorship in Taiwan, most infamously murdering the journalist Henry Liu in the United States.[53] Other major Triads included the Four Seas of Taiwan with 5,000 members (with branches in North America), the Luen Group of Hong Kong with 5,000 members (with branches in North America), and the Red Sun which was formed in Europe and had a presence throughout western Europe and in Russia.[54] Once the major Triads became pro-Beijing, they began to do favors for the Chinese Communist Party, such as attacking pro-democracy journalists in Hong Kong (stabbing or hacking the targets).[55][56][57] These were Triads which controlled multi-billion dollar criminal empires. Whose members were more disciplined than those of the American Mafia, who not only swore the usual oaths of fealty and secrecy but put the Triad above their families and even their own lives.[58]

The most violent, flexible, and dynamic Chinese syndicate at that time was the Big Circle Boys (Dai Huen Jai, aka., Big Circle Gang) which consisted of 5,000 members. It was founded by former Red Guards, a paramilitary force established by the Mao Zedong the communist ruler of China. Whom received military training and ideological indoctrination, and were responsible for much of the violence in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. They were later purged by the military and sent to camps for reeducation. Many fled China and ended up in Hong Kong, later joined by their comrades when they were released from prison. Due to their ultra violence and refusal to compromise or negotiate, the Hong Kong Triads avoided confrontation with the Big Circle Boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[59][60][61]

Big Circle Boys were structured like the Triads but didn't follow any of the Triad rules. Members in Hong Kong waged war with AK type assault rifles, hand grenades, and .45 caliber pistols. They eventually established national and international networks, and were involved in the production and distribution of counterfeit goods, people smuggling, drug trafficking, vehicle theft and smuggling, prostitution, gambling, and firearms trafficking. Members joined Triads and by the late 1990s nearly all of Hong Kong's Triads had members from the BCB. It was a loosely affiliated group of gangs which operated in autonomous mini-pyramids. The BCB's small cells operated independently and only co-operated when it was necessary. They established cells in Southeast Asia, Europe, Russia, North America, and Australia.[62][63][64]

Within China itself in 2008 there were at least 4,200 criminal groups with an estimated 30 million members. [65] It was an underworld that consisted of a wide variety of organizations including Triad-like groups and criminal networks. A few years earlier it was estimated that these organized crime groups owned and operated 70% of the entertainment businesses with an annual revenue of $12.5 billion. In the province of Guangdong, next door to Hong Kong more than 95% of the 123,000+ saunas, nightclubs, bars, and karaoke were under the control of criminal organizations. They controlled about 90% of the coal mines with an annual output of 200,000 metric tons or more and 60+% of the small coal mines. Over 60% of the construction projects in the small and medium-sized cities were controlled by organized crime. Approximately 30% of the highways in villages, towns, and countries were under the control of criminal groups. In one single year, Beijing shut down 1920 companies, 377 farmers markets, 250 coalmines, 2180 casinos, and 117 construction projects that were owned by organized crime.[66] They also controlled dozens of illegal open pit rare earth mines in southern China, exporting half of the rare earth minerals produced by China (which was responsible for 90% of the world's rare earth production).[67][68][69] Local governments (e.g. municipal) hired the local criminal outfits to forcibly evict residents from their homes to make way for new property development. They were also used to deal with protesters and other malcontents.[70][71][72]

The Triads in the Sixth World[]

After the collapse of the Chinese government and the fragmentation of China, the Triads made a lot of money selling food, weapons, tech, and whatever else was needed to the warlords and the desperate people who lived under their rule. The profits were used to build up their criminal empires and for some of them, to expand outside of China. Under the direction of the dragon Lung, the Red Dragons became the most ambitious and expanded throughout the Pacific Rim.[13] They have been steadily expanding across the world, like an unstoppable flood. While they have had occasional setbacks (losing market share or territory), generally speaking they have been expanding and getting stronger for over five decades (since the early 2020s).

Wherever the Triads have been expanding into, the established crime syndicates like the Yakuza, Vory, and Mafia have fought them for every square foot of territory metaphorically speaking. Despite that they have failed to stop the Triads from progressively encroaching into their territories. First the Triads seized control of China's underworld, they then reestablished their primacy in Southeast Asia by dethroning the upstart Yakuza, and afterwards they rebuilt their Pacific Rim empire. Now they've expanded across Russia and Japan, and continue to make inroads in Australia, Europe, and North America.[6][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]


Triad Society[]

The level of organization among the Triads varies greatly, from loosely organized associations (e.g. the 289's) to highly structured groups (e.g the Red Dragon Association). Members are given numerical codes based on Chinese numerology to identify their rank.[25] Hong Kong lodges usually leave the other lodges alone, unless the local San Chu keeps messing up. Then the lodgemaster has to answer to someone back in Hong Kong or Singapore. Heads will then roll, at times literally.[6]

Triads recruit through both relatives and active street gangs. Among the Chinese diaspora they also recruit from the Tongs.[8] Modern Triads are created by absorbing smaller Chinese gangs. All members of a Triad use centuries-old Triad hand signals, take the loyalty oaths, and speak in the numbered code. When it comes to the Triad leaders (Dragonheads), most of the Shan Chu lead public lives as businessmen.[26]

The Triads unlike the Yakuza prefer secrecy and keeping a low profile when possible. Therefore unlike a Yakuza oyabun, the Shan Chu embraces a cover of humility. Where a Yakuza boss will sit on the board of an international corporation, the most powerful Triad dragonheads publicly run a restaurant or small business by day. Which leads them to be underestimated by those unfamiliar with the Triads.[26] The relationship among individual triad members are based on ties between "Dai-Lo's" (big brothers) and "Sai-Lo's" (little brothers), where the Sai-Lo's give loyalty, support and sometimes money to their Dai-Lo, in exchange for protection and advice.[73]

Lodge Hierarchy[]

  • The Shan Chu (Lodge Master - 489, aka the Dragonhead) is the head of the Triad. Who has little to no interaction with the rank-and-file. Most of them live a relatively unexciting life as the owner of a small business. It's a title which is reserved for someone who has a lot of experience, many years worth. His connections to the Triad are equivalent to that of the head of a policlub. He is normally insulated from the violence within the underworld, keeping his hands clean. What the Shan Chu does is provide the Triad with direction, in other words he provides it with guidance and a vision.[26][27]
  • The Fu Shan Chu (Deputy Lodge Master - highest ranking 483) is in charge of handling most of the Triad's day-to-day logistics. It's his job to make the Shan Chu's desires reality and takes his or her orders to the gangs at the street-level.[26][27]
  • The Heung Chu (Incense Master - mid-tier 438) is usually an initiated mage that follows a magical path similar to that of Wuxing. It's his responsibility to make sure that the traditions of the Triad are followed. He is also in charge of making sure that the ritual induction of new recruits is done appropriately per the ceremonies. The Guardian is his equal in the hierarchy.[26][27]
  • The Sin Fung (Guardian or Vanguard - mid-tier 438) assists the Incense Master. He also is in charge of recruitment, specifically the identification of gangs which may provide the Triad with future recruits. It's his job to make sure that those gangs come under the influence of the Triad. In the Triad hierarchy, the Incense Master is his equal.[26][27]
  • The Sheung Fa (Double Flower - lowest 438) are members whom have demonstrated exceptional skills or promise, or have proven themselves over the years. In the larger Triads (e.g. Hong Kong), they are the bosses of the largest gangs which have been recruited by the Triad. Double Flowers are also sent to new markets to establish new branches of the Triad. Individuals may have the rank of a Sheung Fa in an older Triad and have a higher rank in a newer Triad.[26][27]
  • The Hung Kwan (Red Pole - 426) is the Military Commander. It's his job to order the gangs when they have to fight to defend or expand a territory. He coordinates the various gangs under the Triad's control when needed. Which is usually to take advantage of a big opportunity which has presented itself or to deal with an external threat to the Triad.[28][27]
  • The Pak Tsz Sin (White Paper Fan - 415) is the Accounts/Matrix Commander. Who launders the Triad's money from illegal enterprises. He is in charge of making the books look clean. The White Paper Fan is also in charge of Matrix activities. Depending as to whether his Triad is a player in the Matrix, determines the importance of the position.[28][27]
  • The Cho Hai (Grass Sandal - 432) is the Pay-Off Commander. He is the Triad's public face, the one that many independent businesses and most gang members are familiar with. It's his duty to collect and pay nearly all of the bribes and grafts that smooth things for the Triad's operations. He also acts as the liaison between the various street gangs and the different levels within the gang.[28][27]
  • The Sze Kau (49) are the rest of the Triad's members. They are the soldiers and street toughs of the Triad, enforcers whose loyalty is ensured by mystical oaths. Whom vary from veterans who hope to rise up the ranks, those who were recently recruited from the street gangs, and others who have very little involvement in the Triad (appearing to be innocent Triad supporters).[28][27]
Triads from Shadowrun Sourcebook, Underworld



When it comes to other ethnic groups, the Triads are progressive criminals in comparison to the bigoted chauvinistic Vory or the even more racist xenophobic Yakuza.[29][30] Though membership in the Triads is usually mostly Chinese, they don't discriminate against non-Chinese. Triads will recruit non-Chinese Asians into the lodge and in North America they have been recruiting non-Asians. Therefore you will find among their numbers; Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysians, Filipinos, and other Asians. Within the Triads, you sometimes find Anglos and/or Latinos.

While non-Chinese usually will to some extent have to work longer to prove themselves, it isn't that much of a minus. Though they are very proactive and enthusiastic at recruiting non-Chinese, there is an ethnic and cultural hierarchy in the Triads, more so in the Far East than elsewhere. In which the Han Chinese dominate the Triads, both in numbers and in leadership positions. They also outnumber and usually outrank other ethnic Chinese, who normally outrank the other Asians, who mostly outrank Westerners.[4][31][32][2]

Globally, the Triads have become a cultural phenomena as there are now Triads that have not a single ethnically Chinese member in their ranks.[8] A small number of non-Chinese have reached the inner circles of a few major Triads (e.g. the Red Dragons and the Large Circle League), including a Latino, a Japanese man, and one Azanian (black) woman.[32][33] In nearly every single major Triad, the dragonhead is Han Chinese. Only three major Triads are the exception; the Ten Thousand Lions led by a half-Chinese and half-Filipino male ork, the Clan of the 51 Gorgons led by a Vietnamese man, and the Four Winds led by Nagas.[34][35][36] In addition in the German city of Brandenberg to the east of Berlin, a Korean man is the head of the Triads.[37]


As far as metahumans are concerned, the Triads are positively enlightened compared to the conservative prejudiced Mafia or the militantly racist Yakuza.[3][31][38][39][29][40] The Triads don't discriminate against metahumans, with ethnicity seen as being more important than the metatype. Within their ranks they have metahumans of every race, as they could care less what type you are as long as you are Chinese. They make it their policy to approach those metahumans who are disaffected because they can't join the Yakuza or Mafia and recruit them. In fact metahumans have the advantage that the Triads perceive them as being unlikely to be spies for the Yakuza, for obvious reasons (especially trogs).[31][4][2]

Which gives them a lot of pull in the neighborhoods that are mostly metahuman and dominated by the Yakuza or Mafia, helping the Triads push out the established gangs which have been running criminal enterprises in those neighborhoods.[31] In Triads all around the world, Metahumans have been promoted into the upper tiers, holding positions of power.[4] From the evidence out there, it appears that most if not all of the metahumans who have reached the top tiers (dragonhead or the inner circle) of the major triads (e.g. the Red Dragons, the Smoke Circle Society, the Ten Thousand Lions, the Golden Dragons, the Red Lotus, or the Golden Triangle) are magicians, technomancers, or founded their own triad.[41][34][33][42][34][43]


In the criminal underworld, the Triads are practically liberals when it comes to women joining their syndicates compared to the chauvinistic Mafia or the even worse misogynistic Yakuza.[31][3][44][29] Which does not mean that women are treated as equals in the Triads, men are usually still valued more than the women. Though women are less likely to advance up the ranks there are women who have climbed the ladder. When it comes to the women that have become officers within the lodge, they have the same amount of power as the men.[45][4][2]

Some of the women have managed to make it to the top becoming the Shan Chu (dragonhead or lodgemaster) of their Triad.[45][4] Which is quite the comparison to the Yakuza, which has only a single female Oyabun (Megumi Aoi) or the Mafia which has female Doña whom though formidable have all inherited their positions from their fathers or husbands (e.g. Rowena O'Malley, Allegra Fuselli, Miriam Kozlowski, Michaela Semeszato, and Paula Kozlowski).[46][47]

A good number of magicians in the Triads are women, and since the Triads favor the Awakened it improves their odds of advancing up the ranks.[45][4] Among the Triads who have women in the inner circle or as dragonheads are the Red Dragons, the Large Circle League, the Phoenix Lodge, the White Lotus Society, and the Yellow Lotus.[33][32][48][49][50] Three major triads are led by women; the Phoenix Lodge, the White Crane Triad, and the 289's.[48][45][51]


In the Triads, the Awakened members are almost always favored over the non-Awakened. Shan Chu (Dragonheads or Lodgemasters) are often either an adept or a magician, and in the larger Triads it's almost certain to be the case.[4] When it comes to mages, the Triads attract magic practitioners at a higher rate than other crime syndicates.[52] The Awakened usually advance up the ranks faster than mundanes and are usually members of secretive elite initiatory groups within the largest Triad syndicates, especially in China and Hong Kong (though rarely in North America)[28][45] The upper ranks of most Triads are full of physical adepts. Men and women who can kick a heavy security door off its hinges, snap a steel rod or sword, or kill you with a touch among other things.[45][53]


In the aftermath of the revelation about technomancers, the Triads once again got the leg up on their more conservative competition (e.g. the Mafia). It was basically deja vu, a repeat of when magic first appeared. Rather than see them as a threat to their criminal operations, the Triads (and the Vory) saw technomancers as valuable resources. They rushed to press gang technomancers into service, recruiting them into their syndicates.[5] One Triad (the 289's) has gone as far as to establish a technomancers guild within the syndicate.[54]

Some of the Triads see technomancers the same way that they see the Awakened. There are resonance signatures that recruit technomancers to immediately take office-level positions in the Triads.[27] So far though technomancers have reached the upper tiers of the major triads (e.g., the Red Dragons and the Eighty-Eights), none have yet become a dragonhead in one of the major Triads.[33][55]



The Triads use magical oath rituals in their initiations which make the infiltration of Triads by law enforcement and interrogation of Triad suspects incredibly difficult. If a Triad member breaks the loyalty oath, violent physical reactions occur immediately often leading to death (e.g. bleeding from the eyes, pores, mouth, etc).[56] Members value secrecy and being subtle. Many members keep their membership secret. It's thought that they use a secret language based on facial and hand gestures.[27]


The Triads believe that man must be in harmony with both heaven and earth. Despite being a criminal organization they therefore also see themselves as a philanthropic organization. If there is a war, the Triads will enter the war zone and supply the refugees with the supplies they need though they will make sure they profit when doing so. When operating in a totalitarian state, the Triads will organize rebellions against the regime and make sure that they will be among those that benefit afterwards. They have many law-abiding SINers among their members. Triads see all their members are part of their family.[4]

Religious Beliefs[]

If they have any religious beliefs they correspond to traditional Chinese religion (aka, Folk Religion), Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Homes will have shrines to Chinese gods and/or goddesses, Buddha or one of the Bodhisattva, or to ancestors. Funerals will often be presided by a Buddhist monk. The Triads are not known for having being a stronghold of Christians or Muslims, very few members practicing monotheistic faiths and those are usually non-Chinese.

It's Your Family[]

Triads are full-service crime syndicates when it comes to its members and their families. Each syndicate takes care of it's social events, accounting, financing, and so on. They provide martial arts and weapons training, medical coverage for its members, and benefits to the widows and wives of dead or jailed members.[57] When it comes to members of their "family", the Triads stand by their own. Unlike some of the Sixth World's crime syndicates whom have no qualms about disposing of spent "assets".[58]


Within the Triads, usage of tattoos is common but not required unlike in the Yakuza and the practice of tattooing varies among the Triads with some going for elaborate multi-colored tattoos and others with simple single-colored ones. These tattoos can be extensive covering the arms and shoulders or part or most of the chest and/or back (e.g. the Black Chrysanthemum and Red Dragons). On the other hand, the Triad member may have only a small tattoo on the back of the the wrist, the shoulder, the ankle, or the bottom of the foot (e.g. the White Lotus Society and the Golden Triangle Society).[59][60][61] The tattoos can take the form of pictures or Chinese pictograms (characters), all of which have some meaning based on either Chinese mythology or culture. Images of creatures are also popular including tigers and dragons. Sometimes they may have a tattoo depicting a historical or mythological figure, such as a goddess.

In the Sixth World, neon tattoos are now found among the Triads (e.g. the Red Dragons, the Black Chrysanthemum, and the 289's). If the neon tattoos are those of pictures (e.g. dragons, fish, tigers, scorpions, etc), they are tattoos that are moving (e.g. swimming, flying, hissing, roaring, etc).[62][63] Some of the Triads, may use scarring in lieu of tattoos in which they brand themselves with an image (e.g. the Golden Triangle Society).[64]

  • Dragon = Represents "Yang" (dark energy). In Chinese culture the dragon (Long) is a benevolent creature that protects you from evil spirits. It symbolizes good luck, fertility, happiness, and immortality.
  • Tiger = In Chinese culture represent power and ferocity. Other characteristics of the tiger are courage and self-reliance.
  • Phoenix = Represents "Yin" (light energy). In Chinese culture the phoenix (Fenghuang) symbolizes grace and virtue.
  • Snake = In Chinese culture they are associated with wisdom. Other characteristics of that the snake is known for is being sly and ruthless.
  • Yin-Yang = Symbol of Daoism. Yin is the black part, which is passive, female, water, earth, and night. Yang is the white part, which is active, male, fire, air, and day.
  • Kuan Yin = Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. She gives good luck, success, and fortune. Bestows good health on you. Protects from all types of threats and attacks.

How Triads Operate[]


Joining a Triad consists of an initiation which is a 3-day long ritual involving signs, flags, special foods, utensils, origami, and incense which takes place in a Triad lodge. Everything in the ritual has some kind of mystical significance based on Daoism, Buddhism, and Chinese numerology. Triads that don't do the 3-day long ritual still require candidates to come back 3 days later for follow-up rituals.

The candidate swears to 36 oaths, all of which involve some type of punishment for transgressions. Many of which involve dying the death of a thousand sword cuts or being flayed alive. The head of a chicken is cut off which drips into a wine mixture of sugar-cinnabar, and then the candidate's finger is pricked and the bleeding finger is dipped into the same mixture, after which the candidate sucks his bleeding finger.[65][8]

These oaths given during the initiation ritual have real power. Shadowrunners and others have witnessed what happens when a Triad member betrays his or her comrades. As in a Triad about to stab a comrade in the back who suddenly fell through a wooden floor and into an open crate of bayonets, being stabbed by 20 blades from various angles (death by a hundred swords). Then there is the Triad soldier who cut a deal with the police was found the next morning in the cell, a charred corpse with no evidence of any type of foul play.[66] Other examples are the informant who bled out (death by a thousand cuts) or the oath-breaker who died by electrocution along with someone standing by him (death by five lighting bolts).[1][8]


When entering a new territory, the Triads will often take action to overturn the status quo in the most blatant manner possible. They will disrupt the local syndicate's operations by kidnapping and beating up their "entertainers", roughing up their customers, and so on. The idea being to create a hostile environment for the workers and customers, thereby forcing their rivals out of the racket. Which naturally results in mob wars as the local syndicates fight back.

Since the Triads are the new guys on the block and have the advantage of numbers, the Triads figure that they have almost nothing to lose in such a conflict. The ones who get hurt the most are the local crime syndicates as they lose money and people. Sometimes the other syndicate will give up part of the rackets just to avoid a destructive war that may result in the rackets being shut down.[31] When Triads enter a new territory, they desire absolute control. As in becoming the police, judge, jury, and executioner.[2]

Throughout the West, in the Asian "enclaves" that the Triads control it "appears" as if every resident is either a member of the Triad or an informant.[67] Due to the Triads not having much corporate backing in the West, the Triads are more protective of what territory they have and are continuously looking at ways to expand their moneymaking enterprises.[67]



Triads were the first major crime syndicate to understand the changes happening to the world with the return of magic in 2011 AD. Because of their centuries-long mystical rituals and traditions, the Triads were able to adjust faster than rival groups and therefore became the first to use magic in their operations. Which gave them a stranglehold on the underworld in China and the Golden Triangle, which they continue to maintain till today.[68]

Apart from the fact that they greatly outnumber rival syndicates when it comes to manpower, it is magic which is the biggest edge that the Triads have over rival syndicates.[68] This also applies to magical artifacts, ingredients, and so on. The Triads dominate the talislegging market which naturally gives their members access to the necessary items and ingredients of higher quality and in greater quantities compared to their rivals like the Mafia.[69]

The Triads wrap their operations in mysticism and mystery. It is always the most magic heavy crime syndicate in the criminal underworld and their presence gives all shadowrunners a shiver due to them having to deal with the unknown. The Triads use magic which many Westerners and likely most Asians are unfamiliar with. Usually Triad magic is neither showy or flashy, particularly in the West. Normally it is pervasive and subtle, manifesting as many coincidences and unexplained occurrences.[67] As in orchestrating suicides, causing someone to "fall off the roof" or "step in front of the bus".[70]

Compared to rival syndicates, the Triads have more physical magicians. In confrontations with shadowrunners, the Triads always deploy physical adepts backed by mages or shamans.[67] The magic used by the Triads is so secretive and powerful that even other magical orders fear Triad magic.[2] Triad mages have been shown to possess a varied arsenal of spells including; Lightning Bolt, Flamethrower, Sonic Blast, Magic Manabolt, Stunbolt, Ball Lightning, Manaball, Powerball, Acid Stream, Demolish, Shatter, Armor, Physical Barrier, Improved Invisibility, Phantasms, Levitate, Chaotic World, Increase Reflexes, Combat Sense, Detect Enemies, Confusion, Detect Magic, Heal, Analyze Truth, Detect Life, Silence, and so on.[71][72][73][43][74]

Chinese magic is based on ch'i (life force) and wuxing (five elements - earth, water, fire, metal, and wood). The elements' interrelation results in the dynamics of yang and yin (the negative and positive). Chinese magical tradition has both hermetic and shamanic parts. There are no totems in Chinese magic, but they do summon the forces of nature. Which manifests in the following spell categories: fire (combat), water (illusion), earth (health), wood (detection), and metal (manipulation).[75]

Triad mages also summon the spirits of nature which will usually manifest as creatures of the sea, land, and air (usually as dragonlike spirits), or as demons (kuei) and ancestral ghosts. Chinese magicians are known for heavy use of the "dragon lines" (feng-lung) which are natural power sites and manalines. They usually possess detailed maps of the local dragon lines and know what are the best times and sites to tap the magical power within those lines.[75] In addition the magicians also understand how to use tattoo magic and alchemy as weapons.[76]


Like the Yakuza, when it comes to cyberware the Triads get their high quality cyberware brand new though perhaps not as highly rated as that used by the Yakuza who are generally the best equipped when it comes to cyber.[77][67] Either they collect it from their connections in the corporations or they steal it when they have the chance. Giving them an advantage over the Mafia which relies on secondhand cyberware.[77]

When it comes to augmentation it depends on the Triad. In the case of the cybered Triad soldiers (aka, Sze Kau), they often have truckloads of cyber and many kind of implants. Most of the low-level cybered guys have as much cyberware as any Mafia soldato or Yakuza kobun.[45][71][78][79][80] The difference between the Triads and the Mafia or Yakzua, is that mundane Triad soldiers usually prefer bioware to cyberware, and those that do have cyberware get extensive dermal sheating to cover it up.[2]

While many Triads ban cyberware, there are many other Triads which accept and promote those with cyberware. Due to the former many have foolishly assumed that Triads are against the use of cyberware until its too late.[45][4][54] Rule of thumb in most Triads is if you want to advance far and fast in the Triad it's best if you are either all natural with no cyberware or you have very few implants which are very well-concealed.[45] Among the Triads which use cyberware are the Red Dragons, Black Chrysanthemum, Smoke Circle Society, Yellow Lotus, Large Circle League, 289's, and Eighty-Eights.

Despite the favoritism toward the Awakened, members who are augmented have advanced to the upper tiers of the major Triads.[81] Within the Triads, so far the most influential Shan Chu (Dragonheads or Lodgemasters) have no cyberware whatsoever or the little cyberware they do have is extremely well concealed.[45] Prior to the use of magical rituals to ensure loyalty, the Triads were known for using cranial bombs to ensure that couriers who were implanted with data systems could not be subjected to torture.[82]


When it comes to firepower, the Triads have it in spades. As they are among the biggest arms traffickers in the world and have ties to the warlords of China, the military dictatorship of Sichuan, and the armed forces of the Canton Confederation, the arsenal at their disposal is superior to that of the Mafia. It is a criminal network which outfits whole armies in China with the best weaponry and equipment that the Triads can buy, smuggle, or steal.[83][84][85][74] The most powerful of the Triads, which is the Red Dragons, even has its own military unit and when necessary hires whole mercenary units.[86][87][88]

Triad Soldiers[]

Sze Kau (49ers) are well-trained in the martial arts and in the use of firearms.[57][89] Which makes them stand out from the thugs who make up the rank-n-file of many other criminal outfits. Triad operatives rely on stealth and on being inconspicuous, but if the situation calls for it the operatives will strike hard and fast.[89] As for Triad hitmen, they (like the Seoulpa hitmen) show more intelligence and imagination than their counterpart hitmen in the Yakuza or Mafia, and have an unfailing aversion to informing on their benefactor.[90]

Compared to the soldiers of the Yakuza (kumi-in) or the Mafia (soldati) who is generally loyal to his outfit because it's the smart move, Triad soldiers (Sze Kau) are fanatically devoted to their Triad. When it comes to the Yakuza or Mafia soldiers, most of them have a breaking point. In turn a Triad soldier will kill or die without question when commanded by their Dragonhead or one of his officers, fearing the retribution of the Triad more than death.[57] Triad operatives are basically the shadowrunners of organized crime. As in they will do everything and anything to succeed, whatever is necessary to benefit the Triad.[2] Being major believers in numerology, Triad crews or posses consist of groups of 2, 3, 8, or 9. In a similar vein they will avoid forming gorups of 4 or 5, which are unlucky in Triad numerology.[91]

Sze Kau (49ers) are usually equipped with ballistic armor (e.g. armor vest or armored jacket) and most of the times armed with automatic firearms (machine pistols, sub-machine guns, and assault rifles). In some cases they are equipped with urban camouflage suits (with vital protectors) or armed with heavy pistols, grenades, high-powered sniper rifles, grenade launchers, shotguns, improvised explosive devices, and military-grade explosives. For melee combat they are usually equipped with shock staffs or stun batons, or will be armed with swords (e.g. jian sword, katana, or vibro-sword) and in addition usually carry knives, daggers, or shuriken.[71][92][93][94][95][80][96][97][98]

Augmented Triad soldiers and specialists (e.g. riggers, deckers, & smugglers) have received such enhancements as cybereyes, wired reflexes, cyberears, dermal armor, cyberarms, bone lacing, cyberguns, muscle augmentation, reaction enhancers, muscle toner, enhanced articulation, reflex recorders, commlinks, datajacks, cerebral booster, synaptic booster, control rigs, and smuggling compartments. Members may also sport LED tattoos on their back and/or on the chest.[71][99][100][101][102][80][103][104][105] The cyberware ranges from basic to alphaware and betaware.[104][106][107][108]


When it comes to Shadowrunners, the Triads are neutral about them as they neither like or dislike shadowrunners. To them shadowrunners are simply mercenaries to be used to the benefit of the organization. It's the experience of shadowrunners that Triad "Johnsons" are often older, superstitious, and talk in metaphors. The Triad will often team the shadowrunners with Triad muscle, whom either help by creating a diversion or acting as backup. If the shadowrunners betray the Triad, retaliation will come through the use of magic. It's recommended you find yourself a nicely warded place and plan to stay there for the remaining years of your life.[109]

Compared to the Yakuza, the Triads are a pleasure doing business with. Generally speaking they are courteous, dignified, and respect whatever bargains are made. Some runners find them to be the least intimidating of all the organized crime organizations. Triads, unlike some of their rivals, will not dispose of "assets" who have served them well simply because said asset is a spent force.[110]

Shadowrunners usually are hired by the Triads to serve as front-line soldiers (often without realizing they work for a Triad). Often the Triads use them to hit their enemies. The Triads are more secretive than either the Mafia or Yakuza, so even if the Shadowrunners know they are working for a Triad or have a longstanding relationship with the Triad, there will be a lot that they are unaware of and will be kept in the dark and be manipulated.[111]

Unlike the Yakuza or Mafia, the Triads won't spend too much time and resources hunting you down if you cost them money, business, or hurt their reputation. They simply will keep raising the stakes. First they send a lower tier street gang to pay you a visit, after which comes a higher tier street gang. Followed by a team of shadowrunners or a perhaps a physical adept, and so on. When sending a message the response depends on how much business, money, or reputation you cost the Triad. So the response may vary from property damage to physical harm, ranging from minor to major.[111]

Criminal Enterprises[]


Back home in China and Hong Kong, the Triads own the illegal gambling market. In greater China, the Triads control underground gambling venues, sports betting, online gambling, and so on.[31][51][112] In North America, they are attempting to take market share from the established Yakuza and Mafia gambling operations.[31] In Asian communities throughout North America (the Chinatowns), the Triads run small-time gambling parlors for lotteries, mahjong, fan-tan, and dice games. Which run corrupt games but the customers don't complain and keep coming back.[113] They also run exclusive, discreet, and very high-stakes gambling clubs and casinos which have extensive Matrix and magical security. On top of that these establishments are usually inconspicuous, despite being in high-traffic areas.[114]

For the bloodthirsty, the Triads stage bloodsports. The Triads run underground fights in cities throughout the world, in which humans and metahumans are locked in full contact hand-to-hand combat.[113][115] They have many of the best fighters fitted with recording gear prior to the fights. Giving BTL viewers a no-holds-barred up front view of the world of bare-knuckled brawling in the underground.[116] For the truly jaded degenerate gambler, the Triads offer the ultimate in gambling, where the players risk their own lives. Lethal games as in virtual combat using black IC with neural feedback, the classic Russian roulette, or where the contestants eat poisonous animals or fungi.[117]


In their home turf back in China and Hong Kong, the Triads own the prostitution market. All types of prostitution in greater China are controlled by the Triads. Everything from dirty, cheap love hotels to high society courtesan brothels, and from streetwalkers to high-class escorts.[31][51][118] Within their home turf, the Triads will give their high-end working girls 1000s in nuyen in cosmetic work.[119] They also import into China "professionals" from throughout the world to work in the pleasure industry.[120]

In North America, they are attempting to take market share from the established Mafia and Yakuza prostitution operations.[31][121] Unlike the Mafia which recruits street kids and runaways into prostitution, most of the Triads (like the Yakuza) bring in "talent" from other countries to work as prostitutes, using false datawork, often as "entertainers", "dancers", and so on.[122] Triad brothels in North America are like any other brothel, the only difference being that most of the employees were brought in illegally and they may be paying off their debt to the smuggling syndicate. The clientele normally come from the working-class. They usually don't perform bio-sculpts on the "workers" or install cyberware on them, as it's not worth the cost due to the clientele. Because of their worldwide people trafficking network, these low-end brothels are pretty common around the world.[114]

That being said, the Triads do operate their own bunraku-type brothels. In which the women have been sculpted and brainwashed (via magic, technology, or other means), becoming a blank programmable meat puppet.[123][124] Among the Triads the one with the largest sex trade network is the Smoke Circle Society, which unlike the other Triads is infamous for buying young girls from poor families and addicting them to drugs turning them into prostitutes.[125][126][127][128]

Brand Counterfeiting[]

The Triads run a lucrative counterfeiting racket, especially when it comes to weapons, electronics, media, and the latest fashions. Often the Triads have a plan for a desktop forgery within hours after a new product is announced, before it hits the market. They are often able to sell their duplicates around the world before the corporation that designed it does. It's a similar situation when it comes to their pirating of new media releases.[114] Due to the Triads not doing the corporate "planned obsolescence" these knockoffs can turn out to be more reliable than the real goods.[129]

Working in these counterfeit manufacturing facilities are often illegal immigrants and/or refugees (including women and children), who are paying off the debt owed to the Triads for smuggling them into the country. The biggest manufacturer and smuggler of counterfeit goods are the Red Dragons.[97]

Matrix Crime[]

When it comes to computer crime their main activity is identity theft and creating false identities, which assists their people trafficking operations. The Triads also have Matrix-accessible gambling houses, but those are not as common. Though they can be lucrative, there is too much competition online so the Triads don't invest too much in that market.[114] Some of the other types of Matrix crime the Triads are into include such things as running Matrix porn sites and performing all-out Matrix invasions.[54][5]

The Triads have become a major power in the Matrix. The Red Dragons has turned the city of Montreal into the Matrix crime capital of North America.[130] A Triad consortium runs an illegal node called the "Flesh Trade" which markets itself as a sex experience which is out of this world. It's part sex party and part brothel, in which a variety of BTL feeds are offered. If you are willing to pay a premium, you can buy customized experiences, living any deviant fantasy you desire. The node's true business is secretly running psychotropic subroutines on the clients.[131]

Protection Rackets[]

Unlike many other crime syndicates, the Triads (like the Yakuza) will actually provide protection to the those that make protection payments (e.g. local businesses). They will work at reducing street crime on that street, block, community, or district.[83][132][133] If a street gang, another syndicate, or a corporation attempts to intimidate that business, there will be a response from the Triad. Which will involve overwhelming force or the use of their magic assets.[114]

Outside of the Far East, within the Chinatowns and Chinese enclaves of the metroplexes, the locals never betray the Triad to outsiders, even if they are running a protection racket. Those in Western nations who talk to outside authorities are called "hon chew" (bananas - yellow on the outside, white on the inside).[31] Triads promote their organization as the Chinatowns' protector, defending the traditional values of the Chinese people against their enemies in the government and corporations. Though Chinatown residents know that the Triads run the protection rackets, they usually see the city authorities and police as the real threat and therefore refuse to cooperate with law-enforcement when it comes to the Triads.[134]

International Smuggling[]

The Triads have the world's most extensive and diversified smuggling network. In most cities where the Triads (or Tongs) have a presence, they normally control smuggling.[135] In fact it's their biggest criminal enterprise.[136] A lot of the merchandise gets sent to China by the Triads, supplying the regional black market. They smuggle weapons, medical supplies, food, art, electronics, pornography, clothing, and other types of contraband throughout the world. It's rumored that they even smuggled blankets and food into the Chicago Containment Zone.[83] Their partners at the other end of the smuggling pipeline are usually other Triads, but if there is no Triad in that location they will contact a local criminal outfit ahead of time and make arrangements. In addition to goods, the Triads also smuggle people, refugees fleeing conflict zones and immigrants looking for a better life.[137]

When it comes to smuggling into war zones, the Triads are experts. They will bring in survival gear into the war zone and bring out; telesma, refugees, and valuable rarities. Often they will supply the combatants on both sides, with both vice-sources and combat equipment. There are incidents where both sides will implement a temporary cease-fire to permit the Triads to make a delivery in a hot zone.[138] During the wars that ravaged China after the fall of the communist regime and its fragmentation, it was the Triads who armed the warlords and kept the conflict going, making a vast fortune arming the combatants and getting rich of the desperate people.[139]

Drug Trafficking[]

In the drug trade, it is the Triads (along with the Ghost Cartels) who are the kingpins when it comes to large-scale growing operations, with organizations such as the Kabul Maffiya being 2nd tier syndicates. They run massive operations that use peasant slave-labor and swarms of drones working the fields, teams of scientists that dream up new drug cocktails, entire communities of indentured workers who process and package the product, armies of mercs and thugs protecting it all, dedicated smuggling crews, and enough lawyers and payed for politicians to make even a dragon wary about getting involved.[140]

In China, the Triads have opium plantations in isolated areas throughout the country. They chemically tinker with the finished produce in laboratories which are more secure than the most important office in the Renraku Arcology. Which results in opium that is far more potent than before. Some of the warlords are "subsidizing" the opium farming in exchange for a slice of the profits, resulting in many of those opium fields being protected by the local military who are equipped with the best weapons and gear that the Triads can smuggle, buy, or steal.[83]

When it comes to the Golden Triangle, they control the trade in both opiates and Awakened drugs grown in that region. From hundreds of thousands of acres, every year the Triads buy the crops. Which are processed into a few drugs (e.g. bliss) and distributed worldwide, usually to Triads in foreign markets. They are also involved in the distribution of Bioengineered Awakened Drugs.[141] The Golden Triangle drug trade alone is a multi-billion nuyen business for the Triads.[10] Controlling the lion's share of the Golden Triangle's drug business is the Smoke Circle Society.[142][143]

Better Than Life Chips[]

Most of the production and distribution of BTL programs is controlled by the Triads.[144] Originally BTL chips were produced mostly in the cities of Singapore and Hong Kong. While some were sold to users in Hong Kong, most of the BTL chips ended up in the European and North American markets.[83] Now the production can be done anywhere but most of the distribution is done via the Matrix, often using the same sites that are used to distribute pirated media. One method of getting new customers is by "accidentally" sending a BTL to someone who is looking for cheap entertainment.[144]

When it comes to BTL sales, the Triads dominate the market with BTLs whose product is underground fights, pornography, and surprisingly romance. The majority of their scripted BTLs are of the pornographic and romantic variety. Cheaper to make than action flicks and more profitable, not to mention they have their "talented" staffs at their numerous brothels available to recreate any sexual or romantic encounters desired.[116] In the criminal underworld, the Red Dragons is the largest manufacturer of illegal BTL chips.[145] The biggest trafficker of BTLs though are the Ten Thousand Lions (along with the David Cartel) due to their sources (Wuxing, Inc. and Aztechnology).[146][147][148][55]

People Smuggling[]

Since within China there is always political instability somewhere, it means that there are refugees whom are desperate to escape and have a better life somewhere else. The Triads are involved in the smuggling of those refugees to other nations, in exchange for an outrageous upfront fee or laboring as indentured workers until their debt is paid off.[114] The Triads smuggle illegal workers into Japan from Korea and the Philippines (in addition to those from mainland China).[149][150]

Commercial Rackets[]

Due to the infiltration of corporations by Triad members and their use of bribery and intimidation on corporate staff they have gained much influence over the local branches of various corporations including in the cities of Hong Kong, Neo-Tokyo, Beijing, and New York City. The Triads have also in several cases co-opted the worldwide operations of several corporations, including at least one A-rated megacorporation.[48][151][97]

Historically, the Triads have been involved in the construction industry because its very easy to launder money through building projects.[152] Throughout the Pacific Rim, the Triads have established rackets in the construction industries of many cities. In which they extort corporations involved in the construction industry by threatening damage to construction projects and/or violence to their employees. They also make loads of money from pressuring government officials, fleecing the construction workers, harassing the contractors, and helping in the expediting of permits.[153][154][155]

Retail Drug Sales[]

Historically, the Triads unlike the other major syndicates (e.g. Mafia and Yakuza) will at the organizational-level do the dirty work on the streets, the lowest criminal activities therefore potentially earning revenue at every stage. Case in point, selling controlled substances to the the addicts themselves. Which due to the Triads having so many members is not an issue, as they didn't have to outsource the drug dealing to street gangs or independent dealers. In Hong Kong, they would sell the heroin in "packages" made by cutting up plastic straws. Each "package" had the two ends sealed by heat. Dealers kept the heroin straw package between the thumb and index finger, ready to be flicked away if the police approached.

The Triads used teenagers, primarily school children to carry the drugs. Who usually lived in that area and were therefore are familiar with it. Teenagers and women were used as lookouts on rooftops, at intersections, within buildings, or inside nightclubs or bars. Those on the rooftops or intersections were equipped with wireless communication devices (a system which the Triads also used for the unlicensed street vendors they controlled). Each dealer could have as many as 6-7 lookouts watching for law enforcement or rival gangs. At their drug houses where they stashed and/or sold the drugs, they also used surveillance technology (e.g. digital cameras).[75][76][77][78][79] [80]

The World of the Triads[]

Heaven and Earth Society[]

The Heaven and Earth Society is the world's most flexible criminal society. It is this flexibility which has given them their longevity. As the world changes, the Triads have kept up with the times. By creating a culture of influence peddling and corruption, they became an integral part of Chinese culture and therefore the Triads as a whole cannot be eliminated.[12]

The Triads have a viral method of propagation, making it easy for the Triads to spread rapidly to new territories.[156] While the Mafia may have hundreds or a thousands in a city, the Triads are likely to have far more. Historically in Hong Kong, one out of six is a Triad member. Within the city of Hong Kong there are over a million Triad members, though not all are criminals.[8] The average Triad has 1000s of members and worldwide the Triads have millions of members.[157][158]

Of all the world's criminal syndicates and cartels, the Triads are possibly the most ruthless of them all. The influence of the Triads is widely felt, they have a long established tradition, and their crimes can be particularly savage.[159] Most Triad leaders are into symbolism in a big way. Few things are endowed with more symbolism than leaving on your enemy's doorstep the mutilated tortured body of their assassin.[160] When a Triad a discovers a spy or undercover agent within its ranks, they will usually send the infiltrator back to it's employer, in pieces as a warning.[83] Triads are heavily reliant on magic, standing out from other crime syndicates in their use of mystical forces.

Since they lack a central leadership, conflict resolution within the Triads are often bloody and brutal. Yet, they are capable of considerable finesse and restraint if the situation calls for it. That same lack of central control, makes the Triads more flexible in adapting to-and taking over-new territories. The specialty of the Triads is Awakened drugs, as they are very efficient at finding, testing, and preparing the drugs with the best street value.[161]

Global Conspiracy[]

It is rumored that the supreme leader of the Triads is the great eastern dragon Lung himself. The dragon is the true power behind the most powerful Triad (the Red Dragons) and through them controls many more.[162][163][139][164][165][166][167][168][169] It is also rumored that the great dragon Lung maintains a small magical school whose function is to spread the magical training which is needed to keep the Triads active. A number of Incense Masters proudly make the claim of having studied under the great dragon himself.[170]

There is another rumor that the Triads around the world are actually controlled by the "Ring of the Burning Phoenix". Which consists of seven members, whom are rumored to be the secret leaders of the Triads.[119] Evidence exists that within some of the Triad syndicates there are secret societies whose membership consist only of Han Chinese. Known as the Sai Fan, it has a global membership and includes members from many Triads.[4][171]

Empires of Crime[]

The Triad networks extends throughout mainland China, Australia, Southeast Asia, North America, and South America.[56] They also have an extensive people smuggling network throughout Southeast Asia and China that smuggles refugees and illegal immigrants to Australia, Japan, and the UCAS.[172][115][173] In North America, the Triads have turned the city of Montreal into the North American capital of Matrix crime.[130] For the right price, they will even do "murder-for-hire".[173]

Triads have a death grip on criminal activities inside China,[68] and dominate the underworld in Vietnam, Thailand,[54] Malaysia,[159] Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, and the United Kingdom. In Australia, the Triads are the oldest criminal syndicates.[174] The Triads are the dominant criminal power in the region of Southeast Asia, with the Red Dragon Triad, the Smoke Circle Triad, the Black Chrysanthemum Triad, and Hai San extending their control over all of Southeast Asia.[175][176][177] In Russia the Triads have been expanding from their beachhead in Vladivostok to other cities across Russia.[178] Likewise in Japan, they have spread throughout Japan and entrenched themselves.[166][179] They have also have a strong presence in Canada and the United States, though the Mafia and Yakuza continue to be dominant. While they do have lodges in both mainland Europe and South America, they are nowhere near as strong as the Ghost Cartels in South America or either the Vory or Mafia in Europe.

Triads in the Corporate World[]

The Triads hire their services out to various Chinese corporations, especially in both China and Hong Kong. One of the services they provide to those corporations is collecting the rent for them in the slums (e.g Kowloon Walled City).[180][181] They also have established partnerships in which they provide illegal services to the megacorps, such as distributing their BTL chips, providing them with cheap illegal workers, or smuggling illegal components for them.[34][150][182]

They have gained control of whole swaths of the cities within China. Where they may operate with a facade of legitimacy via corporate security contracts and business fronts.[183] There are Triads who appear to work as the private armies or "security arms" of Chinese corporations. Some of the Triads have gone legit or partly legit by investing some of their wealth into start-up companies or corporations.[31] They have also bought out whole firms, such as studios producing CalHots.[184] Like other crime syndicates elsewhere (Yakuza, Ghost Cartels, Mafia, etc), they would naturally invest their wealth in various assets from land to banks, small business to multinational corporations, and so on.

Triads as Freedom Fighters[]

Among all the criminal organizations of murderers, smugglers, drug dealers, thieves, racketeers, and flesh traders, it's the Triads which are the ones who are most likely to stand against oppressive regimes. Partly it's because of their philosophy and how they see themselves, partly it's because of who is being oppressed, and partly it's because of criminal self-interest.

In the totalitarian state of Henan, Triads provide religious and dissident groups with shelter and support. They undermine the government and it's yearly economic plans by flooding the market with cheap copies of consumer products that have been sanctioned by the government. Though the Jo-poks and Yakuza are also participating, it's the Triads which pose the threat to the communists.[185] Further south in totalitarian Vietnam, the Triads are supporting the separatist aspirations of the southern Vietnamese as well as those of the tribals of the Dega Alliance. The Cholon Triad sponsors operations supporting the agenda of the separatists.[186][187]

Over in CalFree the Triads (and Tongs) were among the few who fought on the metahumans' side against the racist Japanese in the Bay Area and their anti-metahuman collaborators. The Triads played a major role in setting up the resistance and continued to maintain the resistance afterwards.[188] They were the standard bearers, leading the fight against the Japanese. Providing the anti-occupation protesters and guerrillas with safehouses, and letting shadowrunners use those safehouses in their runs against the corporations. They were known to let operations hurt their business as long as it hurt the Japanese occupation.[189]

For years the Triads supplied the resistance in the Bay Area with firearms and other supplies, which accelerated during the occupation.[190] Though the Japanese succeeded in nearly wiping out the Worczek Family and the Seoulpa Rings struggled against the Japanese, the Triads waged a spectacular fight against the Japanese.[191]

Triads at War[]

When it comes to waging war against their rivals, the Triads have no equal. Triad wars are usually short yet brutal, in which the the Triads use bloodthirsty tactics and wage all-out warfare. It is a mob war which seems like one massive rumble with all-out gun and magic-fests which continue until peace is made, one side is destroyed, or both sides are exhausted.[2][97]

The only mob war in which a great dragon actively participated was the Triad war between the Red Dragons and their rivals the Majestic Peacock Association, with the great eastern dragon Lung personally getting his hands dirty.[192] Among all the mob wars of the Sixth Age so far, the gang war with the greatest scope was the one between the Red Dragons and their rivals the Yellow Lotus which was worldwide, ending in the near annihilation of the latter.[193][55] So far the bloodiest mob war occurred in Hong Kong between the Smoke Circle Society and the Black Chrysanthemum, which resulted in the deaths of 10s of thousands.[97]

The longest and most complex gang war has been the one between the Triads of the great dragon Lung and the Yakuza under the great dragon Ryumyo which has been going on for over five decades.[139][194][195][196][197] The Red Dragons are the only crime syndicate to have its own military force, which has been used in a corporate war recently on the side of their corporate allies, Wuxing Inc.[198][199][200] On top of that, it is possible that the Triads alone among the organized crime groups have access to nuclear technology and material (specifically the Red Dragons).[81]

External Alliances & Partnerships[]

Wuxing, Inc[]

The Triads have a long relationship with Wuxing, Inc., the AAA-rated megacorporation. First the Yellow Lotus Triad was its ally, distributing BTL chips around the world. After the near annihilation of the Triad, it was the Ten Thousand Lions which took its place.[201] Recently the Red Dragons have formed an alliance with the megacorporation.[202][203][204]

Miscellaneous Corporations[]

The White Lotus Society is intertwined with the A-rated megacorporation, Tan Tien. At least three other major corporations have formed a partnership or alliance with Triads, in this all three with the Red Dragons or its vassals which are the Shiawase Corporation, the Eastern Tiger Corporation, Spinrad Industries, and the Yokogawa Corporation.[205][150][206][182]

Chinese Successor States[]

The Red Dragons have an extensive relationship with the military junta of Sichuan as part of the Great Eastern Dragon Lung's assets.[164] They also have extensive ties to the armed forces of the Canton Confederation The White Lotus Society in turn has an extensive relationship with the provincial governments within the Canton Confederation.[207] The Nine Tigers Organization are intertwined throughout the government and armed forces of Thailand.[54] In the city-state of Hong Kong, the Triads have widespread and deep ties to the ruling Executive Council, especially the Red Dragons.[208][209]

Foreign Criminal Groups[]

Due to the Triads worldwide smuggling networks and the fact that they are major producers (drugs, BTLs, & counterfeit goods) and traffickers (weapons, contraband, BTLs, drugs, & counterfeit goods) of various illicit goods, the Triads have established smuggling and distribution partnerships with various non-Chinese criminal organizations around the world.[97]

They have also established long standing relationships with the various drug lords (Chinese and ethnic minority) of the Golden Triangle.[210][211][212][159] Triads have been one of the Filipino Huk's main customers and they have often been the financiers, suppliers, and customers of other Asian pirates.[213][214]

Among the foreign crime syndicates which the Triads are known to have business relationships or alliances with are the Ghost Cartels, the Vory, and the Milieu Marseillas.[51][215][216][217][218] In the West, due to their smaller numbers, they often use "freelance operatives" (street gangs) more than other syndicates as foot soldiers. Usually their opponents will meet the Triad-affiliated gangs first.[67] Gangs in cities such as Seattle (the Tigers) and Hamburg (the Speed Dolls) have been brought under the Triads' umbrella to serve as their agents on the streets.[219][220]

Triads (customized map from Shadowhelix), version 2

Triads (branches and operations)

Nations with Triads[]


Southeast Asia[]

North America[]

South America[]


The Rest of the World[]

Major Triads[]

Global Triads[]

Pacific Rim Triads[]

Eurasian Triads[]

Far Eastern Triads[]

Minor International Triads[]

Minor Hong Kong Triads[]

Mainland China Triads[]

Indochina Triads[]

Australian Triads[]

North American Triads[]

European Triads[]

Inconsistencies in Sources[]

5th Edition[]

Due to a number of inconsistencies in the published material, together with an assumption made by some gamers (based on what the published material says about the Triads favoring the Awakened and being the most magic heavy), some gamers think that except for the Eighty-Eights none of the other Triads use cyber or those Triads that do are few, and that they have only Chinese members. The sources that present that scenario are few and are all 5th Edition (e.g. Shadowrun Fifth Edition and Anarchy). Which also make it look as if the syndicates discriminate against women and metahumans. Which makes them seem as racist and sexist as the Yakuza and worse than the Mafia. In which these Triads are unable to get a bigger chunk of their rackets because of their insularity and racism. Not to mention making it appear as if the Triads are weak on the Matrix.

2nd to 4th Editions[]

In reality it's the opposite based on the vast majority of the published material. In most of the Shadowrun sourcebooks which mention the Triads in detail (2nd, 3rd, and 4th Editions); Underworld, Mob War!, New Seattle, Shadows of Asia, Runner Havens, Ghost Cartels, Vice, and Shadowrun Fourth Edition, it is stated that the Triads are more willing to recruit women and metahumans into their ranks than either the Yakuza or the Mafia (and far more willing to recruit those of other ethnic groups than the Yakuza). It's mentioned that they recruit extensively from among foreigners (especially non-Chinese Asians) and metahumans (especially trogs). It is also mentioned that the use of cyberware varies greatly among the numerous Triads, and that Triad soldiers are just as likely to be augmented as the soldiers of the Mafia or Yakuza.

Likewise most of the Shadowrun Adventure and Mission books, and as well as the few novels that show the Triads mention the same. These sources depict the most important or famous Triad groups (the Red Dragons, the Smoke Circle Society, the Black Chrysanthemum, the Ten Thousand Lions, the 289's, the Yellow Lotus, and the Large Circle League) as being multi-ethnic (Han Chinese and non-Chinese) and except for the Large Circle League they are all multi-racial (human and metahumans). They have the Red Dragons, Smoke Circles, Black Chrysanthemums, Yellow Lotus, and Large Circle using cyberware. In fact they show the most powerful of the Triads (the Red Dragons) having most of its soldiers being either adepts or having cyber. The Black Chrysanthemums are shown to have at least 10-20% with cyber. Sources also state that the Triads are tech-savvy and several of the Triads are powers on the Matrix. Not to mention they also show women in their ranks, including in positions of power (e.g. Red Dragons).

Chinese Mafia in the Real 21st Century[]

The Chinese Mafia is a vast criminal underworld whose total membership outnumbers the next 10 criminal underworlds combined. Which is also the wealthiest underworld, earning hundreds of billions more than the 2nd wealthiest. It is one that ranks among the best connected and protected, politically. The Chinese mafia is the most influential underworld in Southeast Asia and perhaps the world. It consists of criminal outfits that range in size from dozens of members to tens of thousands of members. Organizations that may have a presence only in a single neighborhood to those with branches in a dozen countries or more. Syndicates that are focused in only one racket to those that are diversified and have operations in almost any type of criminal activity that exists.

Organized Crime[]

In the Chinese underworld, the Triads are only one type of organized crime among the Chinese. Other forms of organized crime groups are the "Black Societies" (mainland China)[82], the "Jhao Po" (Thailand),[83][84] and the Tongs. Chinese crime syndicates vary from corporate-like syndicates (China) to quasi-street gangs (e.g. Wah Ching). Many in the media and the public in general use the word "Triads" to describe all Chinese organized crime, just like the word "Mafia" is often used to describe non-Italian organized crime.

Within the People's Republic of China, in 2008 there were at least 4,200 of criminal groups (and likely 1000s more) with up to 30 million members.[85] In the city of Hong Kong, in 2017 it was estimated that the Triads had a 100,000 members within the city.[86] Based in Hong Kong is what is likely the wealthiest, largest, best organized, and most powerful of all the Chinese Triads and criminal organizations, the Sun Yee On with 50-60,000 members. Which is associated with the People's Liberation Army and has the protection of the communist party in Beijing.[87][88][89][90][91][92] In Taiwan, the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful Triad is the United Bamboo with 10,000 members. Which has recently become a pro-Beijing Triad.[93][94]

All of the other major Triads of Hong Kong and Taiwan are now to varying degrees now aligned with the government in Beijing, including the 14K Association, the Wo Group, and the Four Seas.[95][96][97] The Big Circle Boys are still active, continue to use cell-structured groups, and operate worldwide.[98][99] Using the Triads to intimidate dissidents and protesters, and as intelligence assets around the world since the late 1990s are China's Ministry of State Security, the People's Liberation Army, and the Public Security Bureau. Pro-democracy journalists in Hong Kong have been hacked and mutilated with meat cleavers in Triad-style attacks and pro-democracy protesters assaulted by Triad thugs.[100][101][102][103][104][105][106] Within China itself, the local governments at the municipal level and below, have been hiring local criminal groups as muscle. Who are used to deal with protesters and petitioners, forcibly evict homeowners, collect prohibitive exactions, and enforce the one-child policy.[107][108][109]

Trillion Dollar Empire[]

These are criminal organizations that make $100s of billions annually and perhaps even over a $1 trillion annually, dominating two global rackets that are each worth hundreds of billions and having a virtual monopoly on the 2nd largest underground economy in the world, that within the People's Republic of China.

Organized crime earns $260 billion a year within China.[110][111] In China the underworld is dominated by ethnic Chinese organized crime (though there are criminal groups consisting of ethnic minorities, they are in the minority in numbers, wealth and power). Not a single foreign non-Chinese crime syndicate has a stronghold in China, only those that are Chinese (e.g. Hong Kong Triads) have strongholds in mainland China. In 2005, organized crime in China was estimated to own and operate 70% of entertainment businesses with an annual revenue of $12.5 billion. In the province of Guangdong, next door to Hong Kong more than 95% of the 123,000+ saunas, nightclubs, bars, and karaoke were under the control of criminal organizations.[112]

Within China, they controlled in 2005 approximately 90% of the coal mines with annual output of 200,000 metric tons or more and 60+% of the small coal mines. Over 60% of construction projects in small and medium-sized cities were controlled by organized crime. Approximately 30% of the highways in villages, towns, and countries were under the control of criminal groups. In that year alone, the the government shut down 1920 companies, 377 farmers markets, 250 coalmines, 2180 casinos, and 117 construction projects that were owned by organized crime.[113] As of 2015, the drug trade inside China was worth $82 billion a year, mostly heroin and to a far lesser degree ketamine and methamphetamines.[114][115] It's illegal gambling industry may be worth as much as $600 billion a year, with most of the betting done online and many of those betting syndicates are offshore (Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan).[116][117][118]

The Chinese mafia controls perhaps the largest racket in the world, that of counterfeit goods, estimated to be worth $460 billion a year, and Chinese organized crime runs most of that business. Triads control most of the production and distribution of counterfeit goods.[119][120][121][122] Within China are crime syndicates, Triads, and counterfeiting rings that own legitimate factories that either produce counterfeits in a separate part of the factory or does so after hours, or they run underground factories which may be in abandoned buildings, in rural areas, in caves, and even underground.[123][124][125] Hong Kong and Taiwan based Triads have also been investing in China's legitimate economy since the 1990s as noted previously, no one knows how much they invested in the legitimate sector and it's likely they are continuing to do so.

Chinese syndicates also dominate the global illegal sports gambling industry (especially the global betting on soccer), which could be as high as $1.9+ trillion a year (conservatively $500 billion), approximately 65% of it being bet on soccer.[126][127] Triads via their global soccer match-fixing network, have been fixing games in the World Cup and manipulating bookies throughout the world for decades. [128][129] It's the Chinese syndicates which are responsible for the resurgence of organized piracy in the South China Sea. Currently there are four syndicates that dominate piracy, earning billions. The one based in Singapore controls the Malacca Straits and the southern waters of the SCS, Bangkok controls the waters of the Andaman Sea, Hong Kong controls the northern waters of the SCS, and Jakarta controls the Java Sea and parts of the SCS near Borneo. In mainland China, the Philippines, Burma, Sumatra, Cambodia, and Malaysia are branches of these pirate networks.[130] In addition there is the tens of billions the Chinese mafia earns in other illicit markets throughout Southeast Asia and elsewhere around the world, including; drugs, prostitution, environmental crime (ivory, fishing, lumber, etc), arms trafficking, credit card fraud, etc.[131][132][133][134][135][136]

Billionaire Crimelords[]

It is an underworld which has given rise to more confirmed and suspected billionaires than any other underworld except for the cocaine trafficking world of Latin America. From the Golden Triangle, there have been at least three Chinese drug lords who have been suspected of being worth billions - Khun Sa (dominant 1976-1996),[137] Lo Hsing Ha (1970s-1990s),[138] and Wei Hsueh-kang (1990s-present).[139] Several Chinese billionaires in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong who became captains of industry built their original fortunes in smuggling and were either Triad members or rumored to be affiliated with the Triads (and were rumored to still be connected to them after going legit), including Liem Sioe Liong of Indonesia, Tiong Hiew King of Malaysia, Stanley Ho of Macao, and Henry Fok of Hong Kong.[140][141] In the People's Republic of China, since it's economic liberalization, it has already produced at least two billionaire crime lords, Lai Changxing of the Yuanhua syndicate [142] and Wen Qiang of the Chongqing Mafia.[143]

Non-Chinese and Women in the Chinese Mafia[]

Chinese organized crime in the late 20th century and early 21st century has varied when it comes to those it recruits. In mainland China it's usually all Chinese. When it comes to the overseas Chinese syndicates, most of them are divided by regional dialect (Cantonese, Fujianese, Chaozhou, Hokkien, etc). In Thailand, their syndicates consist of both ethnic Thai Chinese and native Thais, with most of the "Chao Pho" (godfathers) being ethnic Chinese.[144] In the Chinese underworld, Triads and syndicates have in the last few decades been recruiting non-Chinese, but the reins of power has remained in the hands of the Chinese.

By the start of the 21st century, the most powerful Triad group, the Sun Yee On (the New Righteousness and Peace Commercial and Industrial Guild) which used to be a Chaozhou Triad were not only accepting Chinese of all regions but also non-Chinese. In the city of Hong Kong, the Triads have been recruiting Hong Kong-born Indians and Pakistanis, and also females (though in the case of the latter the numbers have been small)[145][146][147] Further south in Malaysia, the Triads have recruited so many Indians that most of the Triads of Malaysia are now majority-Indian with their Chinese members in the upper tiers as the Triads' financial backers known as "gold masters".[148][149][150] In Malaysia there are also female Triad leaders and all-female Triads.[151] Next door in Singapore, the Triads have Malays in their ranks.[152] Down in Australia, in Sydney the Sing Wa recruits non-Asians from elite schools.[153]

Across the ocean in the United States, Tong-controlled gangs in New York City have established Korean branches (e.g. Korean Flying Dragons and Korean Fuk Ching).[154][155][156][157] In San Francisco, an ethnic Chinese mob, the Jackson Street Boys has a good number of Vietnamese.[158][159][160] Further south in greater Los Angeles, an ethnic Chinese mob, the Wah Ching (the Youth of China) likewise includes Vietnamese.[161][162][163] On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the United Kingdom, the Triads have been recruiting Caucasians, blacks, Vietnamese, and Malaysians.[164][165]

Recently in China, one major crimelord was a woman, Xie Caiping of the Chongping Mafia (with dozens of male lovers/concubines) who was arrested in 2009 during a crackdown on organized crime and was the co-leader of the Chongping Mafia, a multi-millionaire who may have been a billionaire. In the Golden Triangle, during the 1950s-60s one of the major drug lords was a bisexual woman, Olive Yang who dominated the opium trade among the Kokang (ethnic Chinese) and controlled its militia. During the 1990s the biggest Snakehead was Cheng Chui Ping (aka Sister Ping) whose organization smuggled Chinese immigrants to the United States from the 1984 to 2000, and employed an ethnic Chinese mob, the Fuk Ching (Fujianese Youth) as its enforcers.[166][167][168]

Technology of the Chinese Mafia[]

Chinese organized crime has gone high-tech, with street soldiers and new recruits keeping in touch using chat applications. Face to face meetings are rare now in Hong Kong.[169] Chinese criminal groups are major players in cyber crime, from hacking to identity theft to bitcoin.[170][171] Surveillance technology (e.g. CCTV cameras and digital cameras) is used to provide their establishments with additional security (e.g. brothels).[172][173][174] Lookouts use radios (walkie-talkies) and cellular phones to warn their street-level drug dealers and unlicensed street vendors when police are approaching or a rival gang is coming.[175][176][177] Computers are used to run online betting syndicates, especially for illegal betting on soccer matches.[178][179][180] Triad pirate syndicates use vessels that are equipped with radar, satellite dishes, and computers.[181][182][183] Communication is increasingly through encrypted means from the encrypted technology used in the Dark Web to encrypted phones (either bought in the open market or custom phones supplied by corrupt manufacturers or vendors).[184][185][186][187]

Weaponry of the Chinese Mafia[]

The Chinese Mafia has possessed a wide variety of weapons depending on the time and place. During the early 20th century, in one of the warlord periods of Chinese history, some of the Triad leaders became generals or warlords. Leading armies of conscripts or bandits equipped with artillery and armored vehicles, and sometimes even gunboats or propeller fighter-bombers. The Nationalist Revolutionary Army (NRA) of the ruling Triad-heavy Kuomintang (KMT) government of the Republic of China in the 1920s-40s, which included a number of generals and colonels who were members of Triads, including Chiang Kai-shek the president of China. Whom controlled an army of over a million men with artillery and a supporting air arm.[188]

On the other side of the spectrum, Triads in today's Hong Kong have stuck to using handguns (pistols and revolvers), blades (machetes, axes, meat cleavers, & large butcher knives), and blunt melee weapons (retractable batons, iron bars, & baseball bats) with the occasional AK-47, petrol bomb, and grenade. Rarely as in once or twice a decade a car bomb is used in Hong Kong.[189][190][191][192][193][194][195][196][197][198][199][200][201][202][203][204][205] Over in Macao during the 1990s they were using car bombs, petrol bombs, professional hitmen on motorcycles, and meat cleavers. In one firebombing operation they destroyed 14 cars, 8 motorcycles, and two shops in one day.[206][207][208][209][210]

Tong-affiliated gangs and ethnic Chinese mobs in Western cities like New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have been armed with shotguns, machine pistols (e.g. Mac-10), sub-machine guns (e.g. Uzi), revolvers, and pistols.[211][212][213][214][215] Over in the United Kingdom, Chinese gangs traditionally used blades (machetes, swords, & butcher knives) and blunt weapons (e.g. iron bars), but are increasingly using firearms (handguns and automatics).[216][217] Triad-controlled pirate syndicates have pirate crews that are outfitted with AK-47s, machine guns, and sometimes RPG-7s.[218][219][220] In Thailand, due to its fervent gun culture resulting in numerous legal sources for guns and being nearby to the Golden Triangle, syndicates and gangs are heavily armed with assault rifles, grenades, and sometimes machine guns.[221] [222] [223] [224] Down in Malaysia, they mostly stick to handguns and knives.[225][226]

Today in mainland China, despite the strict laws making it illegal for most to own firearms or explosives, the criminal syndicates and gangs are better armed than the average neighborhood beat cop or patrol officer of the Ministry of Public Security. They are supplied by thousands of illegal workshops that manufacture firearms and explosives, and international arms trafficking networks that smuggle firearms into China. In 2001, the Chinese authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on illegal weapons manufacturers and their customers, arresting tens of thousands and shut down 15,000 underground weapons workshops. Seizing 330,000 guns, 1000s of tons of explosives, 3.5 million detonators, 1.5 million bullets, and polearms (traditional chinese bladed weapons).[227] Fortunately for China, they are kept in check by the heavily armed paramilitary force of the 1.5 million People's Armed Police (which have a lot of ex-military equipment).[228] In 2014, Beijing executed an operation against a multi-province arms trafficking network and they confiscated 10,000 guns (pistols, AK-type assault rifles, and sniper rifles), over 120,000 knives and swords (Chinese dao and jian swords, & Japanese katana swords), and even crossbows.[229] Grenades have also been found in the arsenal of criminal organizations.[230][231] Machetes are another tool that criminal organizations use within China.[232][233][234]

In the Golden Triangle, Chinese drug lords (who are Triad-affiliated) have controlled narco armies or are the co-leaders of those armies. Narco armies which have been the best armed in the world, more heavily armed and better trained than the private armies of the Colombian cartels or those of the Afghan opium warlords. The first Chinese drug lord of the Golden Triangle was the KMT general Li Mi who had taken his Nationalist army into Burma after losing the Chinese civil war and brought with him the mostly American-supplied artillery and military vehicles. He dominated the opium trade from the mid 1950s to mid 1970s.[235][236] It was under the Nationalist Chinese generals that the Golden Triangle became what it is today. Working with the Chaozhou triads in Southeast Asia, they supplied the American soldiers, Marines, sailors, and pilots deployed in southern Vietnam and Thailand with heroin during the Vietnam War. Eventually the trade would follow the addicted soldiers to the United States and Australia, and other networks were simultaneously developed to Europe.[237]

They were succeeded by the half-Chinese drug warlord Khun Sa and his Mong Tai Army (MTA) of 20,000 who became the dominant drug cartel from the mid 1970s to mid 1990s.[238][239][240] The Mong Tai Army were equipped with mostly American equipment (M-16s, .50 caliber heavy machine guns, 3.5 inch rockets, M79 grenade launchers, 60 mm mortars, 57 mm recoilless rifles, etc).[241][242][243][244][245] Another Chinese drug warlord was Lo Hsing Ha, an ethnic Kokang Chinese who controlled the Kokang militia, the Ka Kwe Ye (KKY) which was established in 1963, though the KKY would later become part of the Mong Tai Army after Lo Hsing Ha was captured in Thailand in 1973 and incarcerated. After the military coup of 1989, the army junta released him and he once again became a heroin drug lord based in the Kokang region of Burma but this time working with the Burmese government in the 1990s-2000s.[246][247]

They were succeeded by another Chinese drug warlord (from the Chinese province of Yunnan), Wei Hsueh-kang the co-leader of the 25,000 strong United Wa State Army (UWSA) which has remained the dominant drug cartel in the Golden Triangle since the mid 1990s, still involved in heroin but it's main product is now methamphetamines.[248][249] It has the strong backing of Beijing and is the most powerful militia or insurgency in Southeast Asia. Which is heavily armed with mostly Chinese weapons (e.g. HN-5 portable surface-to-air missiles, HJ-8 anti-tank missiles, PTL-02 wheeled tank destroyers, Mi-17 helicopters with air-to-air missiles, 122 mm howitzers, 81 and 120 mm mortars, RPG-7 anti-tank weapons, 12.7 and 14.5 mm heavy machine guns, M99 12.7 anti-material rifles, Type 56 assault rifles, claymore mines, etc) .[250][251][252][253][254][255][256]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.59
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.100
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 o90760406Shadowrun Fourth Edition p.49
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 o33031982Vice p.68
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 o33187922Emergence p.46
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.54
  7. Steel Rain
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 o33031982Vice p.66
  9. Striper Assassin
  10. 10.0 10.1 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.12
  11. o33031982Vice p.65
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 o33031982Vice p.65
  13. o16965029Mob War! p.62
  14. o94379615Target: Smuggler Havens p.52-54
  15. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.139
  16. o34954845Sixth World Almanac p.151
  17. o33031982Vice p.70
  18. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.148
  19. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.170
  20. o39478620Runner Havens p.45-47
  21. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.102-107
  22. o16965029Mob War! p.62
  23. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.82
  24. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.107-110
  25. o33031982Vice p.66-67
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 26.5 26.6 o39478620Runner Havens p.43
  27. 27.00 27.01 27.02 27.03 27.04 27.05 27.06 27.07 27.08 27.09 27.10 o33031982Vice p.69
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 o39478620Runner Havens p.44
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.46
  30. o33031982Vice p.78
  31. 31.00 31.01 31.02 31.03 31.04 31.05 31.06 31.07 31.08 31.09 31.10 31.11 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.57
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.14
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.45
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 o39478620Runner Havens p.46
  35. Geisterkartelle p.142 (German extended version of Ghost Cartels by Pegasus Games)
  36. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.152
  37. Gefangen im Paradies (Trapped in Paradise by FanPro)
  38. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.208
  39. o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.31
  40. o42265136Loose Alliances p.33
  41. o42265136Loose Alliances p.93
  42. Tails You Lose
  43. 43.0 43.1 o52781780Jet Set p.115
  44. o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.28
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 45.3 45.4 45.5 45.6 45.7 45.8 45.9 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.58
  46. o35238545Shadowrun Fifth Edition Core Rulebook p.33
  47. o94379615Target: Smuggler Havens p.16-17
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 48.3 48.4 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.27
  49. Shadowrun Missions: Take Out Service p.18
  50. Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 51.3 o39478620Runner Havens p.47
  52. o35238545Shadowrun Fifth Edition Core Rulebook p.34
  53. o03045067New Seattle p.102-103
  54. 54.0 54.1 54.2 54.3 54.4 54.5 54.6 o33031982Vice p.70
  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 o39478620Runner Havens p.86
  56. 56.0 56.1 56.2 o39478620Runner Havens p.45
  57. 57.0 57.1 57.2 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.55
  58. o57038227Target: Awakened Lands p.27
  59. Blutige Geschafte p.192 (German version of Bloody Business)
  60. World of Shadows
  61. o53846041Spy Games p.81
  62. Blutige Geschafte p.192 (German version of Bloody Business)
  63. World of Shadows
  64. o53846041Spy Games p.81
  65. o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.58-59
  66. o16965029Mob War! p.49
  67. 67.0 67.1 67.2 67.3 67.4 67.5 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.91
  68. 68.0 68.1 68.2 68.3 68.4 68.5 68.6 68.7 68.8 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.53
  69. o59345449Street Magic p.76
  70. o23140942Shadowrun 2050 p.85
  71. 71.0 71.1 71.2 71.3 o34644862Bad Moon Rising in the East p.20
  72. Blutige Geschafte, p.193 (German version of Bloody Business by Pegasus Games)
  73. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.47
  74. o52781780Jet Set p.163
  75. 75.0 75.1 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.97
  76. Datapuls: Hamburg p.132 (by Pegasus Games)
  77. 77.0 77.1 o35506625Chrome Flesh p.38
  78. o5185723499 Bottles p.14
  79. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.124-125
  80. 80.0 80.1 80.2 o88375209Artifacts Unbound p.144
  81. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.102
  82. Steel Rain
  83. 83.0 83.1 83.2 83.3 83.4 83.5 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.56
  84. o33031982Vice p.71-73
  85. o39478620Runner Havens p.23
  86. o9865633210 Mercs p.6-7
  87. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.2-4
  88. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.36-40
  89. 89.0 89.1 o65089325Corporate Punishment p.87
  90. o65320053Hard Targets p.60
  91. Plots and Paydata p.75
  92. Blutige Geschafte, p.192-194 (German version of Bloody Business by Pegasus Games)
  93. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.18
  94. Shadowrun Missions: Take Out Service p.19-20
  95. Shadowrun Missions: Showcase p.20
  96. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.124-125
  97. 97.0 97.1 97.2 97.3 97.4 97.5 o33031982Vice p.73
  98. Shadowrun Missions: Free Taiwan p.5
  99. Blutige Geschafte, p.192-194 (German version of Bloody Business by Pegasus Games)
  100. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.18
  101. Shadowrun Missions: Take Out Service p.19-20
  102. Shadowrun Missions: Showcase p.20
  103. Shadowrun Missions: By Any Means Necessary p.21
  104. 104.0 104.1 o52781780Jet Set p.24
  105. Shadowrun: Hong Kong p.35
  106. Shadowrun: Hong Kong p.35
  107. Plots and Paydata p.37
  108. World of Shadows
  109. o02196230Run Faster p.208
  110. o57038227Target: Awakened Lands p.27
  111. 111.0 111.1 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.92
  112. Ancient Files Mirror: Canton Confederation Draft (PDF)
  113. 113.0 113.1 o75212693State of the Art: 2064 p.142
  114. 114.0 114.1 114.2 114.3 114.4 114.5 o33031982Vice p.72
  115. 115.0 115.1 115.2 o07914318Corporate Enclaves p.103
  116. 116.0 116.1 o60859285Attitude p.83
  117. o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.16
  118. Ancient Files Mirror: Canton Confederation Draft (PDF)
  119. 119.0 119.1 o23140942Shadowrun 2050 p.98
  120. o34954845Sixth World Almanac p.117
  121. Ancient Files Mirror: Canton Confederation Draft (PDF)
  122. o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.19
  123. Datapuls: Hamburg p.70 (by Pegasus Games)
  124. Shadowrun Missions: By Any Means Necessary p.17
  125. o39478620Runner Havens p.27
  126. o39478620Runner Havens p.47-48
  127. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.30
  128. o34644862Bad Moon Rising in the East p.19
  129. ?The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia p.122
  130. 130.0 130.1 130.2 o54409473Montreal 2074 p.13
  131. o25199273Unwired p.172
  132. o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.20
  133. o33031982Vice p.21
  134. o21377451Target: UCAS p.42
  135. o13148767Lockdown p.48
  136. ?The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia p.122
  137. o33031982Vice p.71-73
  138. o33031982Vice p.71-73
  139. 139.0 139.1 139.2 139.3 139.4 139.5 139.6 o16965029Mob War! p.62
  140. o80643476Arsenal p.70
  141. o33031982Vice p.71-73
  142. o39478620Runner Havens p.47-48
  143. o34644862Bad Moon Rising in the East p.19
  144. 144.0 144.1 o33031982Vice p.71
  145. o88375209Artifacts Unbound p.94-95
  146. o39478620Runner Havens p.46-47
  147. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.103
  148. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.130
  149. 149.0 149.1 o61900501Ghost Cartels p.110
  150. 150.0 150.1 150.2 o07914318Corporate Enclaves p.71
  151. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.41
  152. o52781780Jet Set p.19
  153. o39478620Runner Havens p.36
  154. o07914318Corporate Enclaves p.14
  155. o07914318Corporate Enclaves p.69
  156. o33031982Vice p.65-66
  157. Striper Assassin
  158. Steel Rain
  159. 159.0 159.1 159.2 159.3 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.170
  160. Striper Assassin
  161. o35238545Shadowrun Fifth Edition Core Rulebook p.34
  162. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.3-4
  163. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.44-47
  164. 164.0 164.1 164.2 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.46
  165. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.48
  166. 166.0 166.1 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.82
  167. o45457298Dragons of the Sixth World p.112
  168. 168.0 168.1 o45457298Dragons of the Sixth World p.117
  169. o77009313Storm Front p.48
  170. o33031982Vice p.67
  171. o39478620Runner Havens p.86-87
  172. o57038227Target: Awakened Lands p.38
  173. 173.0 173.1 o87427754Seattle 2072 p.178
  174. 174.0 174.1 o57038227Target: Awakened Lands p.27
  175. 175.0 175.1 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.148
  176. o39478620Runner Havens p.45-47
  177. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.102-103
  178. o34954845Sixth World Almanac p.151
  179. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.107-110
  180. o29448791Corporate Intrigue p.51
  181. o39478620Runner Havens p.26
  182. 182.0 182.1 o44543375The Rotten Apple: Manhattan p.31
  183. o34954845Sixth World Almanac p.116
  184. o07914318Corporate Enclaves p.28
  185. 185.0 185.1 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.43
  186. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.51
  187. 187.0 187.1 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.157
  188. o20709502California Free State p.57
  189. o20709502California Free State p.63
  190. o38715534Shadows of North America p.50
  191. o38715534Shadows of North America p.51
  192. o16965029Mob War! p.61
  193. o39478620Runner Havens p.6
  194. o30783549Shadows of Europe p.82
  195. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.107-110
  196. o77009313Storm Front p.48-49
  197. o77009313Storm Front p.60
  198. o9865633210 Mercs p.6-7
  199. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.2-4
  200. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.36-40
  201. o39478620Runner Havens p.46-47
  202. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.2-4
  203. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.36-40
  204. Blutige Geschafte p.190-192 (German version of Bloody Business by Pegasus Games)
  205. o39478620Runner Havens p.42
  206. Shadowrun Missions: Everyone's Your Friend p.14
  207. Ancient Files Mirror: Canton Confederation Draft (PDF)
  208. o39478620Runner Havens p.23
  209. o39478620Runner Havens p.36
  210. o39478620Runner Havens p.47-48
  211. o33031982Vice p.53
  212. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.148-49
  213. o98082743Cyberpirates! p.77
  214. o39478620Runner Havens p.49-50
  215. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.100-103
  216. Geisterkartelle p.136 (German extended version of Ghost Cartels by Pegasus Games)
  217. Geisterkartelle p.143 (German extended version of Ghost Cartels by Pegasus Games)
  218. Geisterkartelle p.146-150 (German extended version of Ghost Cartels by Pegasus Games)
  219. o16965029Mob War! p.50
  220. Datapuls: Hamburg p.136 (by Pegasus Games)
  221. 221.0 221.1 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.161
  222. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.39
  223. 223.0 223.1 223.2 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.154
  224. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.153
  225. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.151
  226. o38715534Shadows of North America p.51
  227. o35702881Shadowrun Third Edition p.317
  228. o38715534Shadows of North America p.122-123
  229. o65320053Hard Targets p.124-125
  230. o38715534Shadows of North America p.35
  231. o45457298Dragons of the Sixth World p.116
  232. o30783549Shadows of Europe p.196
  233. o30783549Shadows of Europe p.47
  234. o30783549Shadows of Europe p.89
  235. Datapuls: Hamburg p.132 (by Pegasus Games)
  236. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.130
  237. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.205
  238. o49943949Cutting Aces p.52



Triads in the Real 21st Century (Research)[]

Triads in the Media[]