Australia

Bendigo's Chinese dragon tradition continues after more than 120 years

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Continuing a tradition dating back to 1892, the Victorian town of Bendigo has unveiled its Golden Chinese Dragon during its Easter parade.

His name is Dai Gum Loong, it means 'big gold dragon' in Mandarin.

Entering Bendigo’s CBD, he’s supported by 65 people, including a team which is charged with carrying and rotating his 27-kilogram head. 

At 125 metres long and covered with more than 7000 handmade scales, Dai Gum Loong is thought to be the longest Golden Dragon in the world. 

Golden Dragon Museum general manager Anita Jack, says the dragons are no longer just a Chinese tradition but a Bendigo tradition. 

“Traditionally it was about the Chinese from the goldrush displaying their culture to a wider audience, but today when you see the Chinese dragons performing it’s for everyone," she said.

"All different nationalities, all races come together to celebrate the Bendigo Chinese tradition.”

The Chinese community introduced Bendigo’s first Imperial Dragon, Loong, in 1892. He was replaced by Sun Loong in 1970, meaning 'new dragon'. 

Loong during the parade of 1920
Loong during the parade of 1920
SBS

Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke said seeing the debut of a new dragon is a once in a generation experience for most.

“I was only seven years old when Sun Loong danced the streets for the first time so I’m fortunate that I will get to see two in my lifetime.”

Hong Kong-based dragon maker Master Hui Ka Hung worked 12 hours a day for eight months to complete the dragon in time. 

“This dragon was made by all three generations of my family, it is very memorable. We will come back every year to say hi to Dai Gum Loong.”

Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke and Golden Dragon Museum GM Anita Jack with Loong
Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke and Golden Dragon Museum GM Anita Jack with Loong
SBS

The masterwork was carried to a Hong Kong temple to be blessed last February before making the journey to Bendigo. 

Doug Lougoon, Bendigo Chinese Association President, said the birth of a new dragon inspires a new sense of multiculturalism in Bendigo. 

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“Sun Loong and Dai Gum Loong belong to the people of the City of Greater Bendigo and I think that’s been key to the people embracing our Chinese culture," he said. 

"They’re part of it, particularly on Easter weekend everyone is part Chinese.” 

Dai Gum Loong is the first male dragon in Bendigo to be carried by both men and women and feature the town's first ever female head carrier. 

Felicity Brennan-Tong is first female head carrier.
Felicity Brennan-Tong is first female head carrier.
SBS

Felicity Brennan-Tong said it was an honour to carry on her family tradition.

“My dad carried Sun Loong, I hear stories about him all the time from the other guys. He was one of the strongest carriers,” she said. “I think dad would be quite proud if he was here today.”

Tens of thousands lined the streets to see the dragon's debut, some securing their position before daybreak.

Arriving to the fanfare of drums, cheering and exploding crackers, Dai Gum Loong bowed to the senior dragons, officially taking the torch from his ancestors.

Sun Loong and Loong will now retire to the museum, leaving Dai Gum Loong to champion Bendigo’s Chinese legacy for the next. 

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