Many of the world’s cultures left a lasting mark on Bendigo, thanks to those days when everyone came to have a looksee for treasure. But perhaps none is as evident and celebrated as the Chinese.
In the mid-1800s, 20 per cent of Bendigo’s population hailed from China. They came as miners and merchants, bringing their customs, culture and beliefs to the goldfields. Today, we treasure the remnants of these. Such as the original Chinese Joss House. This exquisite building of ritual was painted deep red; a symbol of strength and vitality. Indeed its hand-made brick construction has lasted since the 1860s, making it one of the oldest examples of its kind in Australia.
Learn the full story of Chinese settlement at the Golden Dragon Museum. Built on the site of the Chinese camp, the museum is also at the beating heart of the Bendigo Easter Festival. It all started in the early 1870s, when the community united to raise funds for the Sandhurst Benevolent Asylum and Hospital. To contribute, the Chinese community arranged for scores of cultural treasures to be sent from their homeland; embroidered costumes, traditional banners, richly carved iron-wheeled vehicles, and the legendary dragon Loong. These were to feature in the first Bendigo Easter Festival in 1871, which raised 1000 pounds for the health care cause.
The festival is now Australia’s longest running cultural event. In Bendigo it brings together all people, in part to honour the Chinese contribution to the city. The world’s longest imperial dragon, Sun Loong, is undoubtedly the highlight. Although you can visit him year-round resting in the museum, he stretches his 200-plus legs just once a year as the finale of the Bendigo Easter Procession. See him once and you won’t forget him.
The museum takes pride of place in the Dai Gum San precinct, which also features the Yi Yuan Gardens and Kuan Yin Temple; home of the Goddess of Compassion. Many cultural events happen here throughout the year. Otherwise, it’s a peaceful place to visit at any time, to soak up the atmosphere of a golden relationship between Bendigo and China. Boy, have they got some history.