Hong Kong (Shadowrun, Hong Kong)

Hong Kong, capital of the Triads

Triads from Shadowrun Sourcebook, Stolen Souls

Triads of Manhattan

The Triads are one of many criminal organizations commonly found in Chinese communities. 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.

It is a criminal organization that dwarfs other criminal groups with a geographical reach that surpasses that of any other criminal network. Whose power and wealth rivals that of the other major crime groups. Within China there are 2 Big Triads (Red Dragons and White Lotus). Across Southeast Asia there are 4 Big Triads (Red Dragons, Smoke Circle, Black Chrysanthemum, and Hai San). Globally, there is only one, the Red Dragons.


Origins of the TriadEdit

The Triads (Heaven and Earth Society) is the world's oldest criminal organization, almost 400 years old. During those centuries, numerous Triads were exterminated and numerous other Triads were created.[1] Some of the Triads are centuries old (e.g. Red Dragon Association and the White Lotus Society).[2]

It's origins start 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.

Evolution of the TriadEdit

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.

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. 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.[1]

Heaven and Earth SocietyEdit

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.[1]

The Triads have a viral method of propagation, making it easy for the Triads to spread rapidly to new territories.[3] While the Mafia may have hundreds or a thousands in a city, the Triads are likely to have far more.

Major Triads: 38

Members: 1,000,000 [4]

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.[5] Triads are heavily reliant on magic, standing out from other crime syndicates in their use of mystical forces. It is rumored that the supreme leader of the Triads is the great eastern dragon Lung himself.

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. Triads attract mages at a higher rate than other crime syndicates. 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.[6]



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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[8]

  • The leader of the Triad is the Shan Chu (Lodge Master - 489) who is a quasi-legitimate businessman whom has very little to no contact with the rank and file members.[9]
  • Below are the "483" ranked members. The Fu Shan Chu (Deputy Lodge Master, the top ranked 483) who handles the day-to-day management of the Triad. Next are two of equal rank; the Heung Chu (Incense Master) who is a mage and enforces tradition, and the Sin Fung (Guardian) who does the recruiting. Last are the Sheung Fa (Double Flower), whom the Triads send out to establish new branches of the Triad.[9]
  • At the next level are the officers of the Triad, starting with the Hung Kwan (Red Pole, 426) who is the military commander whose job is to coordinate the underling gangs. The Pak Tsz Sin (White Paper Fan, 415) is an accountant who is also in charge of Matrix activities. The Cho Hai (Grass Sandal, 425) is the public face of the Triad when it comes to gangs and businesses, who pays and collects the graft and bribes.[9]
  • Rank-n-file members are the Sze Kau (49), the enforcers of the Triad. Said enforcers may officially act as muscle or security. They may be in charge of running a business or safehouse. Perhaps they are hitmen who few know about.[9]
Triads from Shadowrun Sourcebook, Underworld


Triads recruit through both relatives and active street gangs. Among the Chinese diaspora they also recruit from the Tongs.[10] Not only do they recruit Chinese but also other Asians and non-Asians, both human and metahuman, and even women. Han Chinese dominate the Triads, both in numbers and in leadership positions. They outnumber and usually outrank other ethnic Chinese who in turn outrank other Asians. Westerners are below the Chinese. Metahumans and occasionally women have held leadership or positions of power.[11] It's estimated that in the Hong Kong sprawl, the Triads have up to a million members.[4]



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).[12] 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.[9]


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.[11]



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. 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.[13]


Use of cyber modifications vary depending on the Triad. Some of the Triads use both magic and cyberware, such as the Red Dragon Triad and the Smoke Circle Society.[14][15][16] There are Triads that focus on mysticism, like the Four Winds of Cambodia and the Yellow Lotus of Seattle.[17][18] Just as there are Triads who focus on cyberware (and the Matrix) such as the 289's and in the case of one Triad (the Eighty-Eights Triad), they do not have any mages or physical adepts within the Triad.[19][20]


The Triads 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 cross the Triad, magic is always used to retaliate on the shadowrunners.[21]

Empire of CrimeEdit

Criminal EnterprisesEdit

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.[22]

Today, the Triads are involved in a wide variety of criminal activities, as well as legitimate business activities. When it comes to the Golden Triangle, they control the trade in both opiates and Awakened drugs grown in that region. The Triads likewise control most of the BTL trade. Vice is an old standby, both gambling and prostitution. Manufacturing counterfeit goods, human trafficking, and the smuggling of both legal and illegal goods are all activities that the Triads are deeply involved in doing.[23]

Regional OperationsEdit

In most cities where the Triads (or Tongs) have a presence, they normally control smuggling.[24] 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.[25][26][27] In North America, the Triads have turned the city of Montreal into the North American capital of Matrix crime.[28] For the right price, they will even do "murder-for-hire".[27]

Triads have a death grip on criminal activities inside China,[13] and dominate the underworld in Vietnam, Thailand,[29] Malaysia,[30] Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, and the United Kingdom. In Australia, the Triads are the oldest criminal syndicates.[31] The Triads are the dominant criminal power in the region of Southeast Asia, with the Red Dragon Triad, the Smoke Circle Triad, and the Black Chrysanthemum Triad extending their control over all of Southeast Asia.[32] They have a strong presence in Japan, Canada, and the United States. They have lodges in both mainland Europe and South America, but are minor players in those two regions.

Triads at WarEdit

When it comes to waging war against their rivals, the Triads have no equal. 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.[33] 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. 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.

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. 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.[34][35][36] 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).[1]

Triads, Updated Map II (modified a map from Shadowhelix)

Worldwide UnderworldEdit

Nations with TriadsEdit


Southeast Asia:

North America:


The Rest of the World:

List of TriadsEdit

Four Winds


Asia, Cambodia
Phoenix Lodge


Asia, Canton Confederation
White Lotus Society


Asia, Canton Confederation
Black Chrysanthemum


Asia, Canton Confederation, Macao


Asia, Hong Kong
Red Dragon Association


Asia, Hong Kong
Smoke Circle Society


Asia, Hong Kong
Ten Thousand Lions


Asia, Hong Kong
Bronze Jian Triad


Asia, Hong Kong
Majestic Peacock Association


Asia, Hong Kong
Onyx Turtle Lodge


Asia, Henan
Hai San


Asia, Singapore
Nine Tigers Organization


Asia, Thailand, Bangkok
Cholon Triad


Asia, Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City
Golden Triangle Society


Grass Sandals


Green Gang


Wading Bird Triad


Golden Dragon


North America, California Free State, San Francisco
Sapphire Crane Society


North America, Pueblo Corporate Council, Los Angeles
Twenty-Eight Hands


North America, Pueblo Corporate Council, Los Angeles
Big Circle Society


North America, UCAS, New York City
Large Circle League


North America, UCAS, New York City
Yellow Lotus


North America, UCAS, Seattle
Eighty-Eights Triad


North America, UCAS, Seattle
Octagon Triad


North America, UCAS, Seattle
Mutual Prosperity League


North America, UCAS, Boston
Black Orchid Triad


North America, UCAS, Boston
Red Lotus Triad


North America, Salish-Shidhe Council, Vancouver
Twenty-Eight Cranes


South America, Chile, Santiago
Dragon under the Sea Triad


South America, Caribbean League, Mariel
Snake Head Triad


Asia, Japan, Yokohama
Red Lantern Triad


Asia, Turkestan, Tashkent


  • In the real world, the Triads are only one type of organized crime among the Chinese. Other forms of organized crime groups are the "Black Societies" (mainland China)[2], the "Jhao Po" (Thailand),[3] and the Tongs. Chinese crime syndicates vary from corporate-like syndicates (China) to quasi-street gangs (e.g. Wah Ching). They number in the 1000s of criminal groups with up to 30 million members in criminal societies in China alone.[4] 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.[5][6][7][8][9][10] 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.
  • In reality, Chinese organized crime makes $100s of billions annually and perhaps even over a $1 trillion annually. For example the manufacturing and trade in counterfeit goods is worth hundreds of billions a year, and Chinese organized crime dominates that business.[11] They also dominate the illegal sports gambling industry, likewise worth hundreds of billions. [12] Not to mention tens of billions in other illicit markets in China and Southeast Asia, including; drugs, prostitution, environmental crime (ivory, timber, animal parts, coal, etc), arms trafficking, credit card fraud, etc.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 o33031982Vice p.65
  2. o53846041Spy Games p.80
  3. o33031982Vice p.65-66
  4. 4.0 4.1 o33031982Vice p.66
  5. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.170
  6. o35238545Shadowrun Fifth Edition Core Rulebook p.34
  7. o33031982Vice p.66-67
  8. 8.0 8.1 o39478620Runner Havens p.43
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 o33031982Vice p.69
  10. o33031982Vice p.66
  11. 11.0 11.1 o33031982Vice p.68
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 o39478620Runner Havens p.45
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 o05084094Underworld Sourcebook p.53
  14. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.2-4
  15. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.44-47
  16. o61900501Ghost Cartels p.102
  17. o33031982Vice p.70
  18. o03045067New Seattle p.102-103
  19. o33031982Vice p.70
  20. o03045067New Seattle p.103
  21. o02196230Run Faster p.208
  22. o16965029Mob War! p.62
  23. o33031982Vice p.71-73
  24. o13148767Lockdown p.48
  25. o57038227Target: Awakened Lands p38
  26. 26.0 26.1 o07914318Corporate Enclaves p.103
  27. 27.0 27.1 o87427754Seattle 2072 p.178
  28. o54409473Montreal 2074 p.13
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  30. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.170
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 o57038227Target: Awakened Lands p.27
  32. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.148
  33. o16965029Mob War! p.61
  34. o9865633210 Mercs p.6-7
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  38. 38.0 38.1 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.43
  39. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.46
  40. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.161
  41. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.39
  42. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.170
  43. 43.0 43.1 o70096438Shadows of Asia p.157
  44. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.161
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  48. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.151
  49. 49.0 49.1 o38715534Shadows of North America p.51
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 50.3 o35702881Shadowrun Third Edition p.317
  51. o38715534Shadows of North America pp.122-123
  52. o54409473Montreal 2074 p.13
  53. o65320053Hard Targets p.124-125
  54. o45457298Dragons of the Sixth World p.116
  55. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named soe196
  56. o30783549Shadows of Europe p.47
  57. o30783549Shadows of Europe p.89
  58. o07914318Corporate Enclaves p.103
  59. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.130
  60. 60.0 60.1 o45457298Dragons of the Sixth World p.117
  61. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.205
  62. o49943949Cutting Aces p.52
  63. 63.0 63.1 63.2 o16965029Mob War! p.62
  64. o39478620Runner Havens p.46
  65. o39478620Runner Havens p.47
  66. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.32
  67. o39478620Runner Havens p.47-48
  68. o39478620Runner Havens p.46-47
  69. o23140942Shadowrun 2050 p.98
  70. o34954845Sixth World Almanac p.30
  71. o33031982Vice pg.34
  72. o33031982Vice p.74
  73. o38715534Shadows of North America p.98
  74. o01399750Battle of Manhattan p.13-14
  75. o33031982Vice p.73-74
  76. o21377451Target: UCAS p.42
  77. o13148767Lockdown p.48
  78. o38715534Shadows of North America pp.122-123
  79. o65320053Hard Targets p.124-125
  80. o70096438Shadows of Asia p.205


See alsoEdit

External linksEdit