Last night I picked up a copy of Nury Vittachi’s The Shanghai Union of Industrial Mystics. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s a good read so far. The series concerns the adventures of Singaporean Feng Shui master C. F. Wong, and takes a lighthearted look at Singapore’s more traditional side.
In this book, Wong is expanding his operations into Shanghai. His Australian assistant, Joyce, has become a vegetarian, and it’s mentioned several times that in Shanghai vegetarianism is associated with gangsters. I hadn’t heard this before, and I wonder if anyone out there can add some background?
Here’s the quote:
When she told her Shanghainese associates that she’d stopped eating meat, they replied suspiciously that vegetarianism was a cult traditionally associated with violence, gangsterism, and the underworld.
I could certainly make a guess at this connection, and I suspect that it’s because of the same forces that Scott Phillips (no relation) has been looking at with regard to martial cults in Taiwan, not to mention the Boxer Rebellion. In other words, a religious movement is suppressed (for whatever reason) and is faced with the choice of accepting defeat, or continuing in the underworld and surviving by any means possible – which can mean turning to crime. Something similar occurred in the British Isles, where the IRA – which was by its own reasoning a legitimate political force – was robbing banks, smuggling, etc in order to raise funds. The same would have happened in China, where pro-Ming forces gradually became gangs.
Anyhow, any pointers to more information gratefully received.
And yes, by the way, I am a vegetarian 😀