from what little I have read, it seems that mafias, brotherhoods for the cause of righteousness and restore-the-Ming organizations are uniquely associated with South China. Or maybe with some particular area of South China in the particular last couple of centuries period of time.
Is that accurate or is that a baseless stereotype? If accurate, what is it about the Yangtze valley that is so conducive to secret societies? Or is this related not so much to the breadbasket areas as to the hill country of SW China? Or what’s the SD here?
The Ming Dynasty was overthrown by the Ch’ing Dynasty. The Ch’ing were ethnic Manchus from northern China. So, any “restore the Ming” movement would be more popular in the south than in the north.
The Manchus became “more Chinese than the Chinese” pretty quickly. Still, they tended to favor their relatives. So, Manchus formed the upper class, and other ethnic groups were lower on the hierarchy. And as with any underclass, gangs formed.
Manchus are not from “northern China”, they are from Manchuria. They were just as alien to South China as they were to North China, central China or any other Han region.
South China is also hard to classify as “underclass” because it was actually the economic center of gravity of the country and the main breadbasket.
If we are looking for simplistic Marxist explanations, maybe a comparison of wages or per capita incomes would be appropriate. But probably such a comparison would find a lot more per-province difference than per-region one. After all, per capita incomes depend a lot on the population density, not just on the GDP.
True, people being tossed off their lands tend to make an outlaw society, the incoming Manchu being the equivalent to the Normans, the Han being the Anglo Saxon, or British vs Irish peasantry. Perhaps I should compare it instead to Sicily, with the change from feudalism and strong control of banditry to being annexed by mainland Italy when it was changing into a republic, and a less effective police. The mob is the old ‘dregs of society’ criminal element getting out of proportionally strong in the presence of a less effective government.
I think it is fairly interesting to note that the Triads and the Mafia/Cosa Nostra started roughly at about the same time, beginning of the 18th century [the yakuza IIRC were started about 100 years of so previous to that in the Edo period.] The late 1700s/early 1800s seems to have been a very unstable time culturally, being the time frame for the change to a less hereditary governmental form in many areas of the world.
I dunno about restore-the-Ming organisations, but I was under the impression that secret societies and whatnot are pretty common anywhere you have a reasonable density of people. Wherever you have secret societies, some of them will have strong opinions on things like which bunch of people are going to Run The World.
Secret societies in South china probably had far stronger opinions on the Ming than say Freemasons or the Igbo secrect societies did, but I doubt that made them unique - just normally parochial.
While true, the effort the Manchus put into the overthrow had a strong undercurrent of secretiveness. How did they decide who was to rule what posts and ministries? Just consider how far-reaching, enigmatic and convoluted the selection process was. Of course there were lots of secret organizations pushing this or that Candidate.
Now, how about a nice game of solitaire?