The religious and ritual features of groups such as the Tiandihui did not resist the competition of Christianity, Communism, and the new religions. In the end, only the criminal element remained.
Confusion and ambiguity in the use of “fandong huidaomen” (reactionary secret societies) and “xie jiao” (heterodox teachings) has persisted to this day.
Both Sun Yat-Sen and some Marxists interpreted at least certain societies as forms of political or social rebellion.
By the 19th century, the society operated a wide range of criminal enterprises in several continents. But esoteric rituals were never forgotten.
The most famous “secret society” was discovered in Taiwan in the 18th century. It was probably born as a group saving funds for weddings and funerals.
The old Western notion of “Chinese secret society” owes much to a French esoteric author who died in 1939, Albert de Pouvourville.