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The word Tong carries the association of a Chinese organized crime society. This is probably due to "Fu Manchu" style pulp fiction. The stereotype conveys only a partial truth.
Tongs are generally a "Benevolent Society" composed of members of an extended family or clan. They provide a social and protective function. There are literally thousands of these societies, most of which have no criminal purpose. Some may be involved in gambling and vigilantism. There have been some who were involved in organized crime, protection schemes and ganglike behavior. When this has happened in the past, it has been luridly exagerated by the press as "Tong Wars", which were known to sporatically occur since the 1850's.
Some Tongs descend from and continue the traditions of the "Triads" and to a lesser extent religio-political Buddhist White Lotus Societies. the Triads and White Lotus are also ancestors of many Martial Arts Schools, which continue similar traditional practices.
Malgwyn Evans (malgwyn^mindspring.com)