Dai Gum San: Big Gold Mountain
Dai Gum San: Big Gold Mountain
Please contact the Bendigo Chinese AssociationCopyright
Bendigo Chinese Association
In this video, the history of the Chinese in Bendigo is discussed, in particular their participation in the Bendigo Easter Fair.
The Chinese arrived in Bendigo, Victoria, during the 1850s gold rush. In 1854, it was estimated that over 4,000 Chinese were on the gold fields. In 1871, the Chinese community joined the Bendigo Easter Fair and Procession (which began in 1869) to assist fundraising for charity. Providing music, theatre and acrobatic displays, the Chinese section of the Procession soon became the main attraction.
This remarkable collection of 19th Century processional regalia has been preserved by the Chinese community in Bendigo and is held in the Golden Dragon Museum. It is not only a collection of world significance but, importantly, it contextualises and preserves the living heritage of both Victoria and China through the objects and through the ceremonies that continue to be practised today.
[Dennis O'Hoy, Member - Bendigo Chinese Association]
The name for Bendigo in Chinese is Dai Gum San - the Big Gold Mountain. That's why they all came here, to make their fortune. Some did, of course, but a lot didn't. When you think about a big gold mountain, what attraction it must be to people in the villages of Guangdong Province.
[Neil Crowle, Former Chinese General - Bendigo Easter Parade]
Of course, we've got the Irish, the Cornish, the Germans, the Italians and all sorts of people came here for the mining.
[Anita Jack, Treasurer - Bendigo Chinese Association, General Manager - Golden Dragon Museum]
During the peak of the Gold Rush, about one out of every four to five people were Chinese, so there was a very large settlement here.
[Sepia photograph of Chinese inhabitants]
It was a fairly harmonious existence, most of the time. No real mass riots or anything as happened on some of the other goldfields.
Then, of course, after the Gold Rush, people leave Bendigo and central Victoria.
[Photograph of snowy Victorian town]
Because it became a lot quieter, the organisers of the city decided to have a fair, a festival, and this was called the Bendigo Easter Fair and it was used to be a fundraiser.
[Russell Jack, President - Bendigo Chinese Association, Director - Golden Dragon Museum]
To raise money for the Bendigo Base Hospital and what was known then as the Benevolent Asylum, and because the Chinese had colourful ceremonies in their camp, they said, 'What about joining with us?' Which they did! They were only too grateful to do that.
They put on a performance and it was really well received and some of the papers actually wrote up that it was the highlight of the Bendigo Easter Festival.
[Close-up on newspaper article]
So from that time onwards, the Chinese were always invited to participate and this was a great way for them to show their culture and show their traditions in the public arena and, really, it was the first introduction of Chinese culture to Australia.
[Black-and-white photograph of Chinese family]
The Chinese community in 1882 decided that if they're going to raise money for charity, then they should do it on a grand scale.
And there was actually an advert in the local paper and it was asking for any groups in the Bendigo region to help promote and make the Easter Festival parade bigger and better.
[Black-and-white photograph of Easter parade]
So the leaders of the Chinese community of the day placed a levy on every Chinese in Bendigo and surrounding districts, they raised over £750, an enormous amount of money.
[Close-up on the Suscription List]
They sent that to Canton and they actually bought over 100 crates of textiles, costumes.
[Costumes displayed in museum]
There is still a large amount of that collection that remains here at the museum.
The costumes were silk, gold bullion thread, they're now priceless and regarded as the best collection in the world.
It's interesting - the regalia was once kept in the Chinese camp, what was called Emu Point, that's North Bendigo where the Joss House is and, back in 1913, there was a major fire there. The first thing that the Chinese community did was to go into the building and retrieve all the objects. The rest of the camp burnt down but, luckily, everything from the 1890 period was preserved.
[Various objects displayed in museum]
They didn't worry about their own belongings - they had to preserve all this regalia.
[Black-and-white photograph of dragon parading, Image courtesy State Library of Victoria]
The costumes were really important because what it allowed was an integration into society. It's really quite amazing when you look back at the photographic collection and you see these Europeans and they're in their Sunday best and they're there to watch the Awakening of the Dragon.
[Black-and-white photograph of young boys watching the parade, Image courtesy State Library of Victoria]
They're quite frightened, they're here in Chinatown and it's always been considered, during that time, a scary part of town because, you know, they spoke a different language and they ate different things and it smelt a little bit unusual with the incense burning... You see them in their Sunday best and they're sitting there smiling and they're enjoying the entertainment.
[Black-and-white photographs of the crowd watching the parade, Image courtesy State Library of Victoria]
Anita Jack: It shows that they obviously respected it, they admired it and they turned up in their hundreds and now, they turn up in their thousands, tens of thousands, to actually see the Chinese culture here in Bendigo.
[Images of the Bendigo Easter Parade today]