Kongsi

Hokkien term for “company”. In the 1800s, at the height of the Larut Wars, kongsi was associated with underground Chinese syndicates that arranged the migration of sinkhehs (indentured labourers from Southern China), legal or otherwise, as well as groups committed to banditry during those conflicts. The truth is far more complicated, as kongsi members then weren’t necessarily criminals but merely migrants who paid extortionate fees to work in Malaya. Today, the term is used to indicate an association that a Chinese clan belongs to. In the Malay language, it also means “to share”. The modern term kongsi gelap (dark kongsi) can refer to triads of Chinese, Malay or Indian ethnicity.


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