The triads are criminal organizations that operate in China and some other parts of the world as well. The Triads are considered a full fledge organization and not just a regular Asian Gang.

Triads operate in all kinds of criminal ventures which include, the drug trade, gambling, weapons, and other very profitable criminal activities.

The Chinese Triads are considered to run the majority of the criminal activity across China. They are big time players and operate in large numbers.


An origin that sounds like it comes right out of a Chinese movie, one of the origin stories of the Triads is that they were formed by 5 monks a Shaolin monastery in China.

The story goes that these 5 monks were the lone survivors from when their temple burned to the ground during the T’sing Emperor Kanxi (Hong Hei).

Emperor Kanxi was paranoid that this temple, with their skill in combat, would start a rebellion against the T’sing, so in his paranoid state he decides to burn their temple to the ground as a precautionary move.

The legend says that these 5 monks start their own temples around China, in attempts to overthrow the T’sing and get revenge for what they did to their temple. One of these temples located in Guangdong, which was named the Sam Hop Wooi, translated it means United Three Society, became super wealthy and powerful, and this temples influence spread across the world, which is now the modern day Triads.

That is one of the more legendary origin stories, another possible origin story states that the Triads first originated in the 17th century, by Ming Dynasty loyalists, which included members from the imperial army. These loyalists joined together to resist the T’sing.

During the conquest of the T’sing, it drove all of the Ming loyalists underground and into hiding.

These tough times made the loyalists rely on each other more, so they needed to tighten up their ranks and security, which involved creating a more secret society that only key members were privy too. These events in time are what is said to have shaped what we know as the Triads. Secret Societies dedicated to the restoration or retention of Chinese rule over China.

The rebellion eventually was able to drive the Manchurians out, which resulted in the Triads being a strong political force in proclaiming the republic. Leading the Triads to hold very high power in China.

With the rebellion assisting the Republican Party, they were now recognized by the new government in China, which gave them lots of power and influence, in public and private sectors.

With all this power, and finally removing the T’sing the resistance had nothing else to fight for, so they turned to gaining more power, and wealth, doing criminal activities. This change, changed them from a political group, to a group of hired guns.


Triads as an organization have very large numbers, to become powerful in these dark societies, you must have power in numbers. Here is a list of some of the largest and most powerful Chinese Triads.

Sun Yee On

The Sun Yea On Triads is the largest Triad group in the world. Sun Yee On translates to New Righteousness and Peace Commercial and Industrial Guild. They have an estimated 25,000 members worldwide and can be found in the US, UK, and parts of Europe.


The 14K Triads are the second largest Triad group in the world, with an estimated 20,000 members worldwide. The 14K was formed in 1945 as an anti-Communist group. It is thought that the name originates from the triad having originally 14 members when the group first started. Another belief is that the 14 stands for the road number and the K stands for Kowloon.

Big Circle Boys

The Big Circle Boys are a Triad organization the deals big in narcotics across the world. This triad was formed during the 1960s from military based soldiers known as Red Guards. Red Guards were used as a military groups to uphold the communist regime. Once they didn’t need Red Guards, they sent these men to Guangzhou to get “re-educated”. Once released these members turned to a life a crime, and formed the criminal organization now called Tai Huen Chai, or the Big Circle Boys.

Wo Shing Wo

One of the oldest Triad groups, the Wo Shing Wo involve themselves in extortion, drug trafficking, gambling and prostitution. This group is very active around the world and have been involved in crimes in several different countries on a large scale.


Tattoos in China and Hong Kong, are typically associated with Triads. Although it is form of art there is still a taboo behind it. In the triad world, you were only allowed to get a tattoo if you were a boss. Now a days triads do not seem to be getting tattoo’d anymore.

Each Triad group has distinctive designs but the some of the most common Triad Tattoos include: a Dragon on the arm, or back or chest. Dragons are a favourite amongst Triad gang members as it signifies power and status.


Triads have grown in such large numbers that you can find Triad gangs in most China Towns across the United States. The Triads in the US operate under the same rules as the ones in Hong Kong and China.


Triads have a heavy hold in the Western part of Canada, in British Columbia, they are linked to a lot of drug dealing that happens Vancouver, Canada, which has a high population of Chinese residents.


Triads started popping up around the UK after the World War era, the 14K Triad group was one of the gangs that found its home in London, Manchester and other big cities across the UK.


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