Beggars’ Guild (丐帮; Gàibāng) was a fraternity organisation for beggars.
The Guild was the largest organisation in the lands with over ten million of members. Its membership extended across both banks of the Yangtze River, within and beyond the Shanhai Pass to the east and Jiayu Pass to the west. With its massive membership, it had a vast spy network.
Despite being made up of beggars, the organisation was not poor. The Guild invested in many projects and properties.
The Beggar’s Guild was founded in the Han Dynasty.
The guild master (帮主; bāngzhŭ) was the leader of the Beggars’ Guild. The guild master carried the Dog Beating Stick (打狗棒; dá gŏu bàng) as the symbol of leadership. The guild’s elders nominated candidates who qualified in terms of martial arts prowess, contributions, and standing within the guild and in the jianghu, and other factors.
The guild was organised into divisions (分舵; fēnduò). Each division operated within a certain area under the leadership of a division master (舵主; duòzhŭ).
Clothes and pouches
The guild had two factions – the dirty clothes faction and the clean clothes faction. The dirty clothes faction dressed in tattered clothes and begged for alms across the lands. They were the eyes and ears of the guild, and were the most visible members of the Beggars’ Guild.
The clean clothes faction consisted of guild members who were not beggars. Instead, they wore clean clothes and operated businesses and trade that provided income and resources for the guild. While some members of the clean clothes faction were publicly known as guild members, others preferred to remain low-key.
Guild members carried guild pouches that indicated their ranks. The more pouches they had, the higher their rank. A one-pouch member was the lowest ranking, while an elder was the highest rank with nine pouches.
There were Six Great Elders (六大长老; liù dà zhánglǎo) whose authority were next to the guild master’s.
Four Guardian Elders (护法长老; hùfǎ zhánglǎo) served as deputies to the guild master and had the authority to remove the guild master. The Enforcement Elder (执法长老 zhífǎ zhánglǎo) ensured law and order within the guild. The Instructor Elder (传功长老 chuángōng zhánglǎo) was the custodian of the guild’s manuals and was in charge of imparting martial arts.
The Beggars’ Guild was known for its Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms and the Dog Beating Staff Technique.
The guild employed the Dog Beating Formation when fighting in groups.
Northern Song Dynasty
- Eighth generation: Wang Jiantong 汪剑通
- Ninth generation: Ma Dayuan 马大元 (interim)
- Tenth generation: Qiao Feng 乔峰
- 11th generation: Zhuang Jixian 庄聚贤
Southern Song Dynasty
- 17th generation: Guild Master Qian 钱帮主
- 18th generation: Hong Qigong 洪七公
- 19th generation: Huang Rong 黄蓉
- 20th generation: Lu Youjiao 鲁有脚
- 21st generation: Yelü Qi 耶律齐
- 25th generation: Shi Hulling 史火龙
- 26th generation: Shi Hongshi 史红石
- 33rd generation: Jie Feng 解风
- 49th generation: Guild Master Fan 范帮主
- Ma Dayuan 马大元
- Zhang Jinao 张金鳌
- Lü Zhang 吕章
- Bai Shijing 白世镜
- Xi Shanhe 奚山河
- Elder Song 宋长老
- Chen Guyan 陈孤雁
- Wu Changfeng 吴长风
- Xu Chongxiao 徐冲霄
- Lu Youjiao 鲁有脚
- Elder Jian 简长老
- Elder Peng 彭长老
- Elder Liang 梁长老
- Fang Dongbai 方东白
- Elder Ji 元 季长老
- Elder Zheng 郑长老
- Elder Sun 孙长老
Behind the scenes
The Beggars’ Guild is a common wuxia faction that also appears in the works of Gu Long and Wolong Sheng.