On Leong Merchants Association

The first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in DC in the 1850s and with many of the Chinese Immigrants came their mutual aid societies. Known as the Tongs or the Triads, they settled into the DC Chinatown community quickly. While many came, two large organizations came to prominence within DC. The first being the On Leong Tong and the other being the Hip Sing Tong. Lee On, an immigrant who arrived in DC by 1887, was the first Kindred of the On Leong.

Due to federal development, The On Leong, the Hip Sing, and all the Chinatown community moved northward into the present day location, which was originally settled by German immigrants. This period touched off a series of skirmishes between the On Leong, the Hip Sings, Fraternitas Europe (the house that Van Etten had belonged to), the Lees, the O’Carrolls, and the Assembly. Lee On was able to gather a large number of the Kindred with the help of the Cardinal and established peace and safety for Chinatown.

The two big Tongs then settled into the new Chinatown area and by the 1950s both organizations publicly dropped the Tong affiliation and became known as “Chinese merchant societies”. The vast majority of Chinese immigrants had done business legitimately, but a few among the On Leong and Hip Sing continued their criminal enterprises and would co-operate with their compatriots in Baltimore. The On Leong merchants association was able to band together to defeat their rivals with the last Kindred Hip Sing meeting final death just before the ’68 riot.

The mortal association of the On Leong moved out to Rockville, Maryland after the riot of ‘68. Lee On remained in DC and used mortal On Leong to help enforce his reign within the DC Chinatown but also went out to chinese immigrant communities. The Kindred On Leong Merchant Association still maintains a presence through a number of small Chinese owned businesses and the Chinese Community center on H St. Northwest. The On Leong are mainly comprised of members of the Mekhet and Nosferatu clans and they have traditionally maintained ties to other Chinese immigrant communities. When Van Etten came to power, the On Leong who traditionally had shared animosity with Van Etten’s Fraternitas Europe, finally approved his leadership as he made concessions to help preserve Chinese cultural institutions.

On Leong Merchants Association

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