Bendigo has a proud history of Chinese heritage dating back to the Gold Rush era of the 1850’s when the state of Victoria was the gold capital of the British Empire. A central part of Easter celebrations in the city since the 1890’s has been the parading of Chinese Golden Dragons.
The Golden Dragon Museum is home to an incredible collection of Golden Dragons in Bendigo, including their prized treasure, Gum Loong (Golden Dragon), the worlds oldest Imperial era Golden Dragon was made in Circa 1890! Their main collection of dragons originate from China and Hong Kong.
The old Imperial era dragon proudly marched down Pall Mall for decades until replaced in 1970 by Sun Loong (New Dragon), which at 140 metres is the longest Golden Dragon in the world (he is covered in over 6,000 handmade scales and 90,000 mirrors)! This is the dragon of my childhood attending the Easter parade, but in 2019, after 50 years of service (they serve a long time!), he and Gum Loong, along with Yar Loong (Night Dragon), welcomed their newest member, Dai Gum Loong (Big Gold Dragon).
Dai Gum Loong was made in Hong Kong by Master Hui and is covered in over 7,000 hand-made scales. He recently arrived into the country and at 125 metres long, this mighty parading dragon had to be rebuilt in a hangar at the Bendigo Airport, then marched back to the Golden Dragon Museum! Sun Loong will now be retired but like his Imperial predecessor, Gum Loong, he will continue to make special appearances from time to time.
Yar Loong (Night Dragon) is around 80 years old and rarely appears in a day parade. The Night Dragon has an interesting history – damaged by crackers in 1939, the 34 metre long dragon spent decades in a box until rediscovered in the 1970’s. Following restoration he returned to ceremonial duties in 1996 and has made sporadic appearances ever since, including the Bendigo Easter Festival Torchlight Parade.
The Imperial era Gum Loong or just Loong as he is normally referred to, was given a heritage listing in 2008 and special permission was required to parade him at this years festival. I was surprised to hear that he would be paraded at all, given his fragile nature at over 120 of age but it was great to see!
A huge crowd of 80,000 people lined View Street and Pall Mall in Bendigo this Easter to see the parade and the meeting of the four Golden Dragons at Alexandra Fountain to greet Dai Gum Loong (to replicate the 1970 meeting of Gum Loong and Sun Loong). They were guarded by Chinese lions to protect them along the way. A truly historic moment!