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The 36 Oaths of the Hong Society
1996-2795
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The oaths of this document were read out to new members of the Ghee Hin Kongsi during the initiation ceremony. With the establishment of Singapore as a British trading post in the early 19th century, multitudes of Chinese immigrants came for work and commerce. The immigrants formed their own mutual aid organizations. The Ghee Hin Kongsi began in 1820 as a mutual aid organization aimed at assisting Chinese immigrants. By 1830, it was the strongest secret society in Singapore, controlling the lucrative revenue farming and vice industries, with an estimated membership of 2,500 to 3,000. Chinese secret societies such as the Ghee Hin had significant influence on the economic and social lives of the Chinese community in Singapore. Besides providing assistance and protection to their members, they also collected fees from smaller scale businesses which were located in areas that were territorially claimed by secret societies. Businesses which did not pay up faced threats of violence. Like its membership, most of the activities, including the initiation ceremony, were kept secret. Much of what is known about secret societies comes from police records. This document is one such item seized during the policing of secret societies. It provides insight into the fictive brotherhood of the secret society and the oaths which new initiates took.

History of the Object
This document is part of an extensive collection of Chinese triad materials amassed by William George Stirling, the Assistant Protector of Chinese in Singapore from 1921 to 1931. The collection surfaced in Amsterdam around 1988 in the hands of an antique book dealer who had bought it in Ireland. A student of the occult and astrology purchased it and brought it to Germany and eventually sold it to a Dutch dealer who offered the collection to the National Archives of Singapore through which the National Museum of Singapore made the purchase.

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Type
Documents 
Materials
Ink on paper 
Measurements
Width 26.0 cm. Length 98.9 cm.  
Creator name
Ghee Hin Kongsi 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Singapore 
Geography
Singapore 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century; late 1800s 
Function
These oaths form the constitution of the Hong society. It was read out to new initiates during the initiation ceremony. 
Acquisition
Acquired by the museum in 1996 from a Dutch dealer who offered the collection to the National Archives of Singapore through which the National Museum of Singapore made the purchase. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
National Museum of Singapore 
Museum
National Museum of Singapore 
Credit line
National Museum of Singapore collection 

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