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The Ancient Landmark Lodge of Shanghai

The port town of Shanghai was one of the cities opened to foreign trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. One of the effects of the treaty was that it created relationships between Shanghai and other, Western port cities. Trade, like colonialism, has been one of the factors that has led to the GL2004_10854_Ancient_Landmark_Lodge_certificate_web_version spread of Freemasonry around the world.  Boston was one of the American ports that exchanged goods with Shanghai.  Because of this trading relationship, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, located in Boston, began to explore the possibility of establishing Masonic lodges in the Shanghai area.

In 1864, during the Civil War in the United States, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts chartered a lodge in Shanghai, called the Ancient Landmark Lodge. In Shanghai at this time there were also individual lodges chartered by England and Scotland.  China was in many ways an open field for Masonic jurisdictions based in the West wishing to establish Masonic lodges in Shanghai, one of the faraway port cities that they traded with.

In 1922, Arthur D. Prince, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, made an official visit to the Ancient Landmark Lodge and to other Chinese lodges in the area.  He installed the officers of Ancient Landmark Lodge and wrote up a long report upon his return. 

By the 1920s men from the local Chinese population were being admitted to American Masonic lodges in the Shanghai area.  Freemasonry grew out of a Western philosophical system and for Masons, like Prince, an American in China in the 1920s, trying to apply Western thought to Eastern ideas could often prove challenging and sometimes revealed a common bias of the time that considered Western systems preferable to those in the East.  One of Prince's comments in his report was that many Chinese, who were followers of Confucius, could satisfy the requirements for admission to Freemasonry. This was probably because the basic teachings of Confucianism stress the importance of education and moral development of the individual as does Freemasonry.

In 1923, William Van Buskirk (b.1864), an American who lived in Shanghai, was made a Mason in Ancient Landmark Lodge. He  worked in a governmental position of Deputy Marshal for the Department of State of the United States.  Later, in 1926, Van Buskirk was elected Master of this lodge and was issued a Masonic certificate for this office, as seen in the image above. The National Heritage Museum also holds Van Buskirk's Masonic apron on loan.

Worshipful Master Certificate of William Buskirk, 1926, Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.10854

Sources used in today's post:

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, A. F. & A. M., Boston: Caustic-Claflin Company,  v.1922, p. 451-487, v.1926, p.644.
Call numbers: 17.9763 .G751 1922, 17.9763 .G751 1926

Roy, Thomas Sherrard. Stalwart Builders:  The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, 1733-1978, Worcester, Mass.:  Davis Press, 1980.
Call number: 17.9763 .G751 R888 1971



catherine swanson

Hello David Walker,

Thank you for reading our blog and your interest in my post! I would recommend that you contact the Librarian at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in Boston. Since the certificate that I featured in my post was issued by the GLMA, they might have more information.

Best regards,
Catherine Swanson

David Walker

I am compiling a history of The Royal Sussex Lodge No.501. This Lodge was founded in Hong Kong in 1844, moved briefly to Canton and then was in Shanghai from 1863 to 1952, after which it re-located to HK after the communist take over.

I would be very interested to see any photographs or document scans that anyone may have relating to Freemasons in Shanghai.

A "J.C.Carter" was master of The Royal Sussex Lodge in 1909 and 1913. I wonder if this could be the same "Robert Claude Carter" mentioned by Chris Webster. I would welcome more information on this.

A brief history of Masonry in China can be seen here:


Chris Webster

Hello, my great-grandfather Robert Claude Carter was a Freemason in Shanghai in the 1920s, although I do not know which lodge I do have some photographs from inside the lodge (he was a British Freemason) and I'd be happy to share them?

Best wishes,

Chris Webster

catherine swanson

Hello Violet,
Thank you for reading and commenting on our blog.
I'm glad that you found the post on the Ancient Landmark Lodge of Shanghai interesting. It sounds as though you have papers from a lodge in Shanghai from the same time period--the 1920s. I will email you separately about your material as it is intriguing.
Catherine Swanson, Archivist

Violet Weinberg

I have a small suitcase holding an assortment of Shanghai Masonic Lodge materials that my husband's father brought from China "Northern Lodge of China" from 1926. My husband has just passed away and I have not read the papers as yet. His father was British and there are materials, as well, from England.

Catherine Swanson

Hello Jasbir S. Mann:
Thank you for reading our blog and posting a comment. Most of the Masonic lodges that I have found that are currently operating are in Taiwan, not mainland China. I have found no Masonic lodges in Shanghai that you could visit.
There is one lodge in Nanking, however it is temporarily in darkness. I wish my search had better results for you. Good luck on your trip to Shanghai!

Best regards,
Catherine Swanson, Archivist

Bro Jasbir Mann

Dear Bro, I would like to know if there is Lodge in Shanghai , I will be in Shanghai end of March
Please come back to me

Bro Jasbir S Mann

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