Du Yuesheng

Du Yuesheng

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Du Yuesheng commonly known as "Big-Eared Du", (1888 8.22-1951 8.16) was a Chinese
Chinese people
The term Chinese people may refer to any of the following:*People with Han Chinese ethnicity ....

 gangster
Gangster
A gangster is a criminal who is a member of a gang. Some gangs are considered to be part of organized crime. Gangsters are also called mobsters, a term derived from mob and the suffix -ster....

 who spent much of his life in Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

. He was a key supporter of the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 (KMT; aka Nationalists) and Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 in their battle against the Communists
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 during the 1920s, and was a figure of some importance during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

. After the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 and the KMT's retreat to Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, Du went into exile
Exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

 in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and remained there until his death in 1951.

Early life


Born in Gaoqiao, a small town east of Shanghai, Du's family moved to Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 in 1889. By the time he was nine, Du was orphaned - his mother died in childbirth, his sister was sold into slavery, his father died, and his stepmother vanished - leaving him to return to Gaoqiao and be taken in by his grandmother. He returned to Shanghai in 1902, working at a fruit-stand in the French Concession before being fired for theft. After drifting, Du became a bodyguard for a brothel and there fell into favor with the Green Gang
Green Gang
The Green Gang was a Chinese criminal organization that operated in Shanghai in the early 20th century.-Origins:It was a secret society established originally by Fong Toh-tak of Shaolin Monastery to protect the Han Chinese who were oppressed by the Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty, and to restore...

, the most powerful secret society in Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

. He joined the group at the age of 16.

Rise to power


Du was soon introduced by a friend to "Pockmarked" Huang Jinrong, the highest-ranking Chinese detective on the French Concession Police (FCP) and one of Shanghai's most important gangsters. Huang's wife was a notable criminal in her own right, and took a shine to the young Du herself (some say their relationship was sexual). Even though Huang was not a Green Gang member, Du became Huang's gambling and opium enforcer. A stickler for fine clothing and many women, Du Yuesheng was now cemented; he wore only Chinese silks (a superstitious streak meant he also had three small monkey heads, especially imported from Hong Kong, sewn to his clothes at the small of his back), surrounded himself with White Russian
White Russian
White Russian may refer to:* White Russian , an alcoholic beverage* White movement members during the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1923* A White émigré from the Russian Civil War...

 bodyguards, and frequented the city's best nightclubs and sing-song houses.

Du's prestige led him to purchase a four-storey, Western-style mansion in the French Concession and entertain dozens of concubines, four legal wives and six sons, but his meteoric rise as Shanghai's most famous mobster only came after Huang Jinrong was arrested in 1924 by the Shanghai Garrison police. Huang had publicly beaten the son of Shanghai's current warlord, and his arrest required Du's diplomacy and finances to get him released. He stood down almost immediately after his release, turning his criminal empire over to Du, who became known as the "Jung-shi" (宗師) or "Boss of the Underworld." Du now controlled gambling dens, prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

 and protection racket
Protection racket
A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces a victim to pay money, supposedly for protection services against violence or property damage. Racketeers coerce reticent potential victims into buying "protection" by demonstrating what will happen if they...

s, as well as setting up a number of legitimate companies including Shanghai's largest shipping corporation and two banks. With the tacit support of the police and colonial government, he also now ran the French Concession's opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

 trade, and became heavily addicted to his own drug.

Alliance with the Kuomintang


In contrast to his views on legality, politically Du Yuesheng was a staunch Confucian conservative. He had close ties with Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

, who in turn had ties to both the Green Gang and other organised secret societies from his early years in Shanghai, and forged political alliances throughout the 1920s, going so far as to offer major support in the 1927 Shanghai Purge. The resulting massacre ended the First United Front, and as a reward for Du's service Chiang appointed him as president of the national Board of Opium Suppression Bureau. The end result was that Du came to officially control the entirety of China's opium trade.

Green Gang support for the Nationalist government included funding and equipment, even going so far as to purchase a German Junkers 87 emblazoned with the Board of Opium Suppression Bureau logo. In return, Du was given leeway to run labor unions and keep business flowing freely. In 1936, Du had the financial and political clout to open his own temple - one dedicated to his ancestors and family-members - and have a three day long party held in honor of its grand opening. It was one of Shanghai's most impressive celebrations, with hundreds of celebrities and government figures attending. Within months of its opening, however, the temple's private wings had been turned over to the manufacture of heroin, making it Shanghai's largest drug factory.

When the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 broke out in 1937, Du offered to fight the Japanese by scuttling
Scuttling
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...

 his fleet of ships at the mouth of Yangtze but eventually fled for the safety of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and then on to Chungking. Green Gang operatives cooperating with Major-General Dai Li
Dai Li
Major General Dai Li was born Dai Chunfeng with the courtesy name of Yunong in Baoan, Jiangshan, Zhejiang, China. He studied at the Whampoa Military Academy, where Chiang served as Chief Commandant, and later became head of Chiang's Military Intelligence Service.-Early life:At age four, his...

, Chiang's Intelligence Chief, continued to smuggle weapons and goods to the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 (KMT) throughout the war, and Du himself was a board member of the Chinese Red Cross. Following Japan's surrender in 1945, Du returned to Shanghai expecting a warm welcome but was shocked when not received as a returning hero. Many Shanghai residents felt that Du had abandoned the city, leaving its civilians to suffer under the atrocities of Japanese occupation.

The Chiang and Du relationship was further soured after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, when corruption and crime committed by top-ranking politicians and gangsters caused great problems within the KMT. Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo
Chiang Ching-kuo
Chiang Ching-kuo , Kuomintang politician and leader, was the son of President Chiang Kai-shek and held numerous posts in the government of the Republic of China...

, launched an anti-corruption campaign in Shanghai in the late 1940s, with Du's relatives among the first to be jailed. Although Du successfully managed their release by threatening to expose Chiang's own relatives' embezzlement, the jailing of Du's sons effectively ended Chiang and Du's honeymoon.

Exile


During the Nationalist flight to Taiwan in 1949, Du instead escaped to Hong Kong. Tales vary as to his finances and power during this period, with some arguing he lived in practical squalor, and others saying he had built up a sizable nest-egg. Slowly going blind, and perhaps going senile, Du decided it was safe to return to China in 1951. But he died of illness in Hong Kong, apparently brought about due to his addiction to opium, while planning to return to the mainland. He is buried in Taiwan, in the Taipei suburb of Xizhi.

Popular culture


For many years, Du Yuesheng and his exploits were officially banned in Communist China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 on the grounds that they encourage criminality. Chinese language biographies have been banned and writers and sellers of such books arrested. Recently, critical study of Du has become more open although the official ban has never been entirely lifted.
  • The 1992
    Hong Kong films of 1992
    A list of films produced in Hong Kong in 1992:.-1992:-External links:* * Hong Kong films of 1992 at...

     Hong Kong
    Cinema of Hong Kong
    The cinema of Hong Kong is one of the three major threads in the history of Chinese language cinema, alongside the cinema of China, and the cinema of Taiwan...

     film Lord Of The East China Sea was loosely based on Du's life story. Du was played by Ray Lui in the film.

  • The 2009 Chinese
    Cinema of China
    The Chinese-language cinema has three distinct historical threads: Cinema of Hong Kong, Cinema of China, and Cinema of Taiwan. Since 1949 the cinema of mainland China has operated under restrictions imposed by the Communist Party of China's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television and...

     film The Founding of a Republic
    The Founding of a Republic
    The Founding of a Republic is a 2009 Chinese historical film commissioned by China's film regulator and made by the state-owned China Film Group to mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China...

    also featured Du Yuesheng in a minor role. He was played by film director
    Film director
    A film director is a person who directs the actors and film crew in filmmaking. They control a film's artistic and dramatic nathan roach, while guiding the technical crew and actors.-Responsibilities:...

     Feng Xiaogang
    Feng Xiaogang
    Feng Xiaogang , in is a Chinese film director. He is famous in China as being perhaps the most successful "commercialized" filmmaker whose comedy films do consistently well in the box office, although Feng has attempted to break out from that mold by making drama or period drama films...

    .

  • The novel White Shanghai by Elvira Baryakina (Ripol Classic, 2010, ISBN 978-5-386-02069-9) mentions the story of Du Yuesheng's coming to power.