Situated at the Bendigo town centre, The Golden Dragon Museum was established in 1991 to document, interpret and preserve Chinese heritage in Australia. The Museum was built at the former Bridge Street, the site of one of Bendigo’s historic China towns. The museum complex also houses Guan Yin temple and Chinese Gardens. Russel Jack, then President of Bendigo Chinese Association first put forward the suggestion for a Chinese Museum in Bendigo and worked towards it. In 1988, the Chinese year of the Golden Dragon, official fundraising for the museum began.
A major part of the Museum’s collection reflects the history of Chinese in Bendigo. From the 1870’s the Chinese community in Bendigo used to participate in the annual Easter Parade which was a major yearly event in Bendigo. The Chinese community in the 1880’s imposed a levy on all Chinese nationals in the region to buy embroidered theatrical costumes for the Easter Parade. Much of this collection remains today and on display at the museum.
The Museum also houses ‘Loong’, which is believed to be the oldest and the longest imperial dragons in the world. Loong made its first processional appearance at Bendigo Easter Parade in 1901. Loong was made by the Sing Cheung Workshop in the city of Foshan on the Pearl River near Guangzhou in Southern China. Loong the Chinese Dragon is an imperial (five clawed) dragon with regalia of pearl and flame, carried in the Bendigo Easter Celebrations in a tradition dating from the 1870’s. In 2007 Loong was included in the Victorian Heritage Register (Register Number 2120). Loong also appeared in the May 1901 procession in Melbourne to welcome the Duke and Dutches of York who had come to open the first Parliament of the Federation.
In China Dragon was a national symbol and his image was used as a badge of imperial power. In Chinese art, the imperial dragon is identified by five claws while an ordinary dragon has four. Traditionally a dragon is composed of certain characteristics of nine animals. The head of a camel; the horns of a deer; eyes of a rabbit; ears of a cow; neck of a snake; belly of a frog; scales of a carp; claws of a hawk and paws of a tiger. The Pomelo tree is the life of the dragons. In Bendigo, before each easter fair, water in which the Pomelo leaves are immersed is sprinkled over Loong and later a sprig from the tree is placed in his mouth where it stays until he is blessed and reawakened.
The Museum also displays ‘Sun Loong’, which was made in between 1969 and 1970 in Hong Kong by Lo On Kee workshop which was overseen by Lo On a traditional Lion and Dragon Maker to replace Loong which was used in the processions in the 1900’s. This was widely considered as the longest processional dragon in the world at that time. Sun Loong made processional appearance at the Bendigo Easter Parade from the 1970’s until its retirement in 2019.
The processional dragon, Dai Gum Loong was made in Hongkong at the Hung C Lau workshop as a part of the $750,000 project to create a new dragon for Bendigo and to augment and preserve elements of processional collection. His construction overseen by Master Hui Ka Hung took place from June 2018 through to February 2019. At 125 metres in length Dai Gum Loong is believed to be the longest traditional style processional dragon in the world. Dai Gum Loong is also the major parade dragon in Bendigo to be carried by both men and women together.
A major attraction at the Museum is the Dragon Chariot of ten thousand sages. This chariot made of Serpentine Jade is carved with Chinese symbols compromising 188 dragons, 18 Phoenixes, and 36 bats. This is a ceremonial object.
The Museum’s St Alban collection was donated by John St Alban a private collector from Adelaide, who donated some of his collections to the Museum in 2001. Throne Chairs from China from the early 20th century forms this collection.
The Museum also feature Qing Dynasty carriage, which was once housed in a property in Lismore, New South Wales, where Chinese market gardeners worked and resided during the 19th century.
In 1991, Horrie Bridges, a local, donated his collection of Chinese coins to the Museum which is on display. The collection contains Zhou and Quin Dynasty era coins as well as early Republic of China currency.
The Chinese Garden at the Museum was a joint project by the Bendigo Chinese Association Inc, The City of Greater Bendigo, The Federal Government, The State Government of Victoria and the City of Boading (Hebei Province, China). All foundation and bricklaying were done by local Bendigo tradesmen and on the 15th August 1996, twenty one highly skilled artisans from Hebei province arrived in Bendigo to complete the gardens. Based on the gardens in the Imperial Palace in Beijing, the architecture and construction of the garden is authentic in every way.
Within the walls of the garden, there are magnificent group of statues, which are known as Ban Xian, the eight immortals, always depicted as a group for Goodluck. Entry to the Guan Yin Temple at the Museum complex is free. The Guan Yin temple has no heritage value and was built in 1996 along with the Chinese Gardens. The temple was constructed in accordance with the traditional Norther Chinese building style. The birthday of Guan Yin is traditionally celebrated on the 19th day of second lunar month. On that day the Bendigo Chinese Association usually organises a performance in her honour.
Address: 1-11 Bridge Street, Bendigo, Victoria
Open every day during Victorian school holidays.
Phone : (03) 5441 5044