History of the Chinese Masonic Society
Chinese Masonic Society Australia (CMS) to this day has over 165 years of history. From the days of establishment, our goal towards the country is ‘to serve the public wholeheartedly’. To love the country, to love the nation, to protect against external aggression; to promote ‘harmony’ to love brothers, to love the same ethnicity, to be able to help and support each other.
The history, development and purpose of CMS can be divided into three periods.
First Period 1851-1875. During this period there were around 55,000 Chinese workers in Australia, CMS’s daily role included helping people get jobs, solve arguments, help the ageing and those enduring hardship; during times of Chinese riots, Chinese leaders petitioned and sought for social sympathy, to seek legal protection, for the maintenance of the right to life and the common interests of the Chinese people.
Second Period 1875-1900. During this period, arrivals of Chinese were around 8000; many of the leaders of CMS consisted of older members and industrial personnel, including Li Yuansan from Melbourne, Mei Dongsing and Huang Zhuwen from NSW. When Chinese workers began moving to the city from rural areas, in search of new living space and in the struggle against oppression, the Australian Hung League/ Australian Chinese Freemasons demonstrated exceptional organisational leadership use, helping many to adapting to their surroundings, helping many overseas Chinese to adapt to their new surroundings.
Since then, Australia was filled with racism, exclusion of Chinese people and opposing people with different skin colour occurred constantly. CMS members began to realise that their destiny must be linked with the future of the motherland, and began to consciously participate in a range of social and political activities, for example: 1) opposing the ‘White Australia’ policy and called for the establishment of a Chinese Consulate in Australia 2) to advocate for Sun Yat-sen’s overthrow of the Qing dynasty and to establish a revolutionary programme for a Chinese Republic, by raising funds for the revolutionary cause. Under the leadership of CMS, a total of 38,658 pounds was raised for Sun Yat-sen. There was also active participation in the crusades against Yuan Shikai’s activities and supported the Guangdong Military Government’s Northern Expedition.
Third Period 1901-1921. CMS was beginning to reach its maturity period, the period of rising nationalism. After the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, the White Australia policy became systematic and legalised.
During the 165 years of history and development of CMS, there were many strong and unique quality characteristics. In the early period, CMS factions were rather peacefully co-existent, though later moved towards unification. To promote Chinese integration into the Western mainstream society, firstly to follow through the development of the situation, CMS reformed its organisational structure. Members were accepted from all sectors of the Chinese community, from wealthy businessmen to farmers, fine wood workers to hawkers, all could join membership. At this point CMS ended its history of been a secret underground organisation, and became socialised.
In 1937, the Japanese military invasion of China became a major problem in the mainland. As the Chinese nation faces hardship between life and death, the China Zhi Gong Party Central Committee mobilised and called upon members ‘members of the branches at home and abroad, participate in the work of anti-Japanese war to contribute money and effort, to fulfil one’s responsibility’. CMS of Australia, and Zhi Gong Party of America and South East Asia responded positively, majority of members and overseas Chinese had a slogan ‘the country everyone has a share of responsibility’. Those with money donated money, others helped out physically, people not only donated money but also goods, effectively supporting the anti-Japanese war.
In 1945, while racism in Australia persisted, then CMS Chairman Wu Genhang took out 26,000 pounds (back then you could buy a house with 300 pounds, hence with that money 87 houses could be purchased) to help the Chinese refugees, bailing 26 refugees who came by boat. Those that had been bailed out by CMS and received the support of CMS were numerous.
Under the direction of CMS, our predecessors fought unreservedly, and made great contributions to the economic development of Australia, at the same time bringing along Chinese cultures, contributing to the construction of a multicultural diverse Australia.
In the new Century, CMS carry the spirit of ‘communication, interaction, cooperation and development, encouraging members and overseas Chinese to integrate into mainstream Australian society, contributing towards Australia’s economic development and the progress of society, promoting Australia and China’s economy, cultural exchanges and cooperation, caring and supporting China’s modernisation. By furthering our connection with China Zhi Gong Party and other CMS around the world, we hope to be able to continue our role by bonding together overseas Chinese.