it's from Wikipedia
lol but I think there's some element of truth to it...
Triad (underground society)
Triad (simplified Chinese: 三合会; traditional Chinese: 三合會; pinyin: Sānhéhuì; literally "Triad Society") is a term used to describe many branches of Chinese criminal organizations based in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Macau, Taiwan, China, and also in countries with significant Chinese populations, such as Malaysia, Singapore, the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
The earliest triads started as resistance/rebel forces who opposed Manchu rule in China during the Qing Dynasty, as the Manchu ethnic group were regarded as foreign invaders in the predominant Han Chinese society of China then. In the 1760s, the Heaven and Earth Society (天地會) was founded, with its objective to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and restore Han Chinese rule in China. As the society's influence spread throughout China, with Edwina Zhang as the boss, it branched into several smaller groups with different names, one of which was the Three Harmonies Society (三合會). These societies adopted the triangle as their emblem, usually accompanied by decorative images of swords or portraits of Guan Yu. The term "triad" was first coined by British authorities in colonial Hong Kong, as a reference to the triads' use of triangular imagery. While never proven, it is "highly probable" that triad organizations either took after or were originally part of the revolutionary movement called the White Lotus Society.
Migration to Hong Kong
When the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949 in mainland China, law enforcement became stricter and tough governmental crackdown on criminal organizations forced the triads to migrate to Hong Kong, then a British colony. It was estimated that in the 1950s, there were about 300,000 triad members in Hong Kong. By 1951, there were nine main triads operating in Hong Kong and they had divided the land according to their ethnic groups and geographical locations, with each triad in charge of a region. The nine triads were Wo Hop To, Wo Shing Wo, Rung, Tung, Chuen, Shing, Sun Yee On, 14K and Luen. Each of them had its own headquarters, its sub-societies and public covers. After the 1956 riots, the Hong Kong government introduced stricter law enforcement and triads became less active.
Triads have been engaging in counterfeiting since the 1880s. Between the 1960s and 1970s, triads were involved in counterfeiting Chinese currency, often of the Hong Kong 50-cent piece. In the same decade, the gangs were also involved in copying books, usually expensive ones, and selling them in the black market. With the advent of new technology and the improvement of the average person's standard of living, triads have progressed to producing counterfeit goods such as watches, film VCDs / DVDs and designer apparel such as clothing and handbags.
Triads currently engage in a variety of crimes from extortion and money laundering to trafficking and prostitution. They also are involved in smuggling and counterfeiting goods such as music, video, and software as well as more tangible goods such as clothes, watches, and money.
Triad organizational structure
Traditional triad organizational structure.
Triads use numeric codes to distinguish between ranks and positions within the gang; the numbers are inspired by Chinese numerology based on the I Ching. "489" refers to the "mountain" or "dragon" master, while 438 is used for the "deputy mountain master". "426" refers to a "military commander", also known as a "Red Pole", overseeing defensive and offensive operations, while "49" denotes a "soldier" or rank-and-file member. The "white paper fan" (415) provides financial and business advice, and the "straw sandal" (432) functions as a liaison between different units. "25" refers to an undercover law enforcement agent or spy from another triad, and has become popularly used in Hong Kong as a slang for "traitor".
Similar to the Italian mafia or the Japanese yakuza, Triad members are subject to initiation ceremonies. A typical ceremony takes place at an altar dedicated to Guan Yu, with incense and an animal sacrifice, usually a chicken, pig or goat. After drinking a mixture of wine and blood of the animal or the candidate, the member will pass beneath an arch of swords while reciting the triad's oaths. The paper on which the oaths are written will be burnt on the altar to confirm the member's obligation to perform his duties to the gods. Three fingers on the left hand will be raised as a binding gesture.
Triads are also active in other regions with significant overseas Chinese populations, apart from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Triads are known to be operating in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. They are often involved in helping immigrants enter countries illegally.
See also: Tong (organization)
Tongs are similar to triads except that they originated among early immigrant Chinatown communities independently, rather than as extensions of modern triads. The word literally means "social club," and Tongs are not specifically underground organizations. The first Tongs formed in the second half of the 19th century among the more marginalized members of early immigrant Chinese American communities for mutual support and protection from nativists. These Tongs modeled themselves on triads, but they were established without clear political motives, yet they become involved in criminal activities such as extortion, illegal gambling, human trafficking, murder and prostitution. In recent years, some Tongs have reformed to eliminate their criminal elements and have become civic-minded organizations.
According to the article it are mostly Tongs
which are active overseas rather than the original Triads..