The gold rush of the 1850s saw many thousands of Chinese arrive in Bendigo. Within ten years the Chinese miners and merchants made up 20% of the Bendigo population. In the 1870s an impressive imperial dragon known as Loong was sent from China. He is now the oldest Chinese dragon in the world and is the highlight of Australia’s oldest event; the Bendigo Easter Festival.
While most of the Chinese gold miners returned home when the alluvial goldfields declined, a small population remained to form the Bendigo Chinese community which has continued to influence the city.
A traditional Chinese Joss House is a reminder of the rich Chinese heritage in Bendigo. It was constructed of timber and hand-made bricks during the 1860s by the local Chinese, who were plentiful on the goldfields around Bendigo. The temple is one of the oldest surviving constructions of its kind in Australia and was built from locally handmade bricks. It was painted red - in Chinese tradition this represents strength and vitality.
The Joss House was constructed to worship the god Kwan Gung. Kwan Gung was a Chinese general (AD 221-26) and the miners worshipped him as a judge, guide and protector. The building was restored by the National Trust upon advice received from a Chinese historian and is the oldest Australian joss house still in use today. The Joss House is located in Finn Street, for more information visit our Joss House page.
Another significant reminder of the Chinese population, who came to the goldfields, is the Bendigo Easter Festival. It is Bendigo’s major cultural event – and has been for more than 130 years. Since 1871, the street procession has taken place featuring the Chinese community. Today the procession is energetic, exciting and dazzling as Sun Loong weaves his way through the historic Bendigo streets. Sun Loong, the world’s largest imperial Chinese Dragon stretches his legs in this yearly outing, surrounded by smaller dragons, firecrackers and colourful Chinese regalia.
The Chinese have always been an integral part of the Easter celebrations. In the early 1870s, after 20 years of hard work on the Bendigo goldfields, the Chinese were aging with little means of support, as any gold found was sent back to their families in China. Scores of finely embroidered costumes, banners of all colours and sizes, richly carved iron-wheeled vehicles and the most impressive article of all, the dragon Loong, now the oldest imperial Chinese Dragon in the world, were sent to Bendigo from China so the Chinese people in Bendigo could contribute to the festival.
Both Loong and Sun Loong are now on display at the Golden Dragon Museum throughout the year.
DAI GUM SAN PRECINCT
The chinese called the rich goldfields in the heart of Victoria Dai Gum San, Big Gold Mountain. A place of untold wealth and promise.
Today, Dai Gum San is again rich as the Chinese Cultural Centre of Australia. Where wealth was once measured in gold, it now sits in the deep history left behind by those early Chinese miners.
The beautiful new Chinese precinct links the Golden Dragon Museum with the Yi Yuan Gardens and Kuan Yin Temple. Spanning the historic Bendigo creek this new development glitters with golden pavers and colourful Chinese symbolism. The gardens are a place of peace and beauty and the Kuan Yin Temple is a stunning home for the goddess of compassion.
Golden Dragon Museum – a living history of the Chinese people of Bendigo from the goldrush of the 1850’s to the present day. Having become the hub of Chinese cultural activity in Australia, the museum allows visitors to experience first hand. Chinese arts and crafts with visiting artisans and tradespeople.
The Yi Yuan (Garden of Joy) was a joint project between the Bendigo Chinese Association Inc., the City of Greater Bendigo, the Federal Government, the Victorian State Government and the City of Baoding (Hebei Province, China). Based on the Imperial Palace in Beijing, the architecture and construction of the gardens is authentic in every way. The gardens also feature a Buddhist Temple, the Guan Yin Miao (temple of The Goddess of Mercy).
The Golden Dragon Museum dining room can seat up to 120 people. During museum hours, light refreshments are served. Bookings can be made for banquets, conference or special menus.