by Winston Szeto, CBC, March 25, 2023
The Chinese Freemasons, also known as Hongmen, have established their first Canadian chapter in Barkerville, British Columbia, during the gold rush in 1863. Today, the organization has 19 branches across Canada with up to 600 members who are due to gather at their national headquarters in Vancouver.
The group started as a secret society in southern China in the mid-17th century with the goal of overthrowing the Manchu-led Qing imperial dynasty and restoring the Han-controlled Ming dynasty. They migrated to California for the gold rush in 1849 and established the first North American chapter of their organization in San Francisco before moving to the Cariboo region in British Columbia.
The Chinese Freemasons have played a critical role in supporting Chinese communities by providing settlement services for immigrants and promoting and preserving Chinese culture.
However, the organization’s stated goal of promoting Chinese unity, despite its revolutionary roots, remains controversial. They have also played a key role in Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s successful revolution against the imperial regime to build a Chinese democracy in 1912.