Red Swastika Society

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The Red Swastika Society (世界红卍字会simplified Chinese: 世界红卍字会; traditional Chinese: 世界紅卍字會; pinyin: shìjiè hóngwànzìhuì) is a voluntary association founded in China in 1922 by Qian Nengxun (錢能訓), Du Bingyin (杜秉寅) and Li Jiabai (李佳白). Together with the organization's president Li JianChiu (李建秋), they set up their establishment of the federation in Beijing. As the philanthropic branch of the Daodeshe (道德社) "Society of Dao and Virtue", a syncretist Daoist school, which changed at the same time its name to Daoyuan. The swastika (卍 wàn; "infinity", "all") in Chinese and other cultures is a symbol of the manifestation of God or its creation. It was one of a number of new transnational world redemptive societies founded at the time in China, drawing on Western examples such as the Red Cross to build charitable institutions grounded in religions such as Buddhism and Daoism. (The swastika originated as a Hindu/Buddhist religious symbol, and is still associated more strongly with that usage than with the hakenkreuz of Nazism in the Far East.) Reports of its strength during the 1920s and 1930s seem to vary widely, with citations of 30,000 "members" in 1927 to 7–10 million "followers" in 1937.[1]

A picture of a Red Swastika Society member circa 1937

Generally, its mission was a broad based effort of philanthropy and moral education. It ran poorhouses and soup kitchens, as well as modern hospitals and other relief works. It had an explicit internationalist focus, extending relief efforts to Tokyo after earthquakes and also in response to natural disasters in the Soviet Union. In addition, it had offices in Paris, London, and Tokyo and professors of Esperanto within its membership.[2]

Perhaps its most storied contact with history was its role in the Nanking Massacre. The rampage of the occupying Japanese forces through the city left thousands of bodies in the streets, and the Society stepped in to assist in burials. Records of these activities from the Society have provided important primary resources for research into the scale of the atrocity and the location of mass graves.

Although it seems to have been suppressed during the Maoist rule in mainland China, the Red Swastika Society appears to continue today as a religious organization focused on charity. It has branches in areas of the Chinese diaspora, with a headquarters in Taiwan. Besides charity work, the Red Swastika runs two schools in Hong Kong (Tuen Mun and Tai Po) and one in Singapore (Red Swastika School).

The Red Swastika was also suggested along with the Red Wheel, as an emblem of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies for India and Sri Lanka, but the idea was not put into practice.[3]


  1. ^ Duara, Prasenjit. "Of Authenticity and Woman: Personal Narratives of Middle-Class Women in Modern China". Becoming Chinese. Wen-Hsin Yeh, ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2000. p 348.
  2. ^ Duara, Prasenjit. "Transnationalism in the Era of Nation-States: China 1900-1945" Globalization and Identity. Birgit Meyer and Peter Geschiere, eds. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 2003. p 51.
  3. ^

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