Triad is a term that is used to denote many branches of an underground societies and organizations based in China, Mexico and Hong Kong among others places. From local street gangs to large groups and sophisticated criminal gangs and mafia groups there is a range of organizations that come under this collective term.

Some of their nefarious activities include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, prostitution, theft and other racketeering. Today, a major chunk of triad income is sourced from counterfeiting intellectual property including computer software, music and movie CDs among others. The name Triad depicts the importance of the triangle, representing the harmony of Earth, Heaven, and Man, in the initiation ceremonies. Triad societies took shape to oppose the Qing suppression of Ming loyalists in the later 17th-century.

Triads are prominent in organized crime and drug cartels and these gangs use number codes to distinguish between the various levels and ranks within the gang. The numbers are influenced by Chinese numerology based on the I Ching. For example, the number "489" refers to the "mountain" or the master whole the military commander is denoted by 438, also known as a "Red Pole". "49" denotes a "soldier" and 415 is a strategical advisor who provides financial and business advice. The "straw sandal" denoted by the number 432 serves as a liaison between different units. The number "25" is used in reference to a spy from another triad and is even used in local parlance as a slang for a traitor in Hong Kong.

Triad members undergo initiation ceremonies with incense and an animal sacrifice at a special ceremony altar dedicated to Guan Yu. A concoction of wine and blood of the animal or the person who is undergoing the ceremony, the candidate takes the triad’s oath by passing beneath an arch of swords. The paper on which the oaths are written is burnt on the altar, and the candidate raises the three fingers on his right hand as a gesture to convey his obligation to do his duties to the gods.

There are about 57 triad groups in modern Hong Kong, most of them local street gangs with not much member strengths. The larger groups include some popular gangs like Sun Yee On and 14K, which are hard core criminals and dreaded mafia groups. Cambridge encyclopedia is a comprehensive source of information for those who are seeking information on the well-designed Triad organizational structure

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Triad organizational structure is a well-designed organizational hierarchy where each member will have his specific functions and responsibilities. Cambridge encyclopedia will be a great source to get started in on Triads.