[Written by Nikolas Zipra, Journalist]
A Traditional Form
The contemporary four-tier system reflects the flexibility of the Triad criminal enterprise, with a mixture of numeral designators and/or traditional honorifics assigned to given roles. At the very lowest level are the probationary members, often drawn from youth gangs. These so-called Blue Lanterns become a rank-and-file '49' after an initiation ceremony. Above them are key administrators and enforcers; the White Paper Fan ('415'), the Red Pole ('426'), and Straw Sandal ('432'). At command level comes the Vanguard, Deputy Mountain Master and Incense Master (each a '438'); and finally the Mountain Master, also known as the Dragon Head ('489').
The Backstreet War
To this day, details remain sketchy, but it appears that the untimely passing of a 'Mountain Master' of the Four Dragons ignited a storm of accusation among many key Triads; what began as dissent spilled onto the streets as gangs engaged in violent conflict. The 'war' escalated to such levels that military police were called in to curb the threat; and by the time the smoke cleared, a new hierarchy had ascended to take the place of the old, led by newly empowered groups like the Red Arrow Brotherhood, LMF, and the Luminous Path.