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This refuge, I believe, owed its origin, not to any feeling of benevolence of the toutai, or of the government which he represented, but to a well-grounded fear that burglaries and other serious offenses might become rife, unless the numerous wanderers traversing the streets of Shanghai were provided with a home.
In any case, one of the boarding houses was leveled by Japanese bombs during the Shanghai War of the early 1932, leaving only one institution operating, with a capacity of housing 500 male inmates aged from 12 to 60.
However, in intention at least, the Chinese authorities in Shanghai had tried to assume some responsibility for beggars.
Peters, a Shanghai policeman, wrote in 1936, "all that worries the authorities in the International Settlement is that they should be expelled, forcibly if necessary, and driven into Chinese Territory.
Thus the divided city administration of Shanghai proved to be an exceptional advantage for mendicancy.
To some extent, begging in Shanghai was not only an occupation but also a profitable business, and consequently, like anything profitable, it engendered competition.
In the May Fourth movement of 1919 when Shanghai was on strike, for a week or so few beggars were seen on the streets.
For instance, leftovers from restaurants were one of Shanghai beggars' main sources of food.
The "Eight Brothers" divided Shanghai into four districts (East, West, South, and North).
One of the Shanghai's beggar chiefs, Zhao, could trace his family back to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) when his ancestors were beggars in Songjiang (near Shanghai, but at that time a larger and more important place than Shanghai).
According to their place of origins, Shanghai's beggars were divided into five groups (bang): Fengyang (of Anhui province), Huiyang (of Henan province), Shandong, Jiangbei (northern Jiangsu province), and Shanghai locals.
A new beggar in Shanghai first had to find out who was the ringleader of the area where he or she wanted to beg and to get permission from him.