Feathers, silk, papier-mâche, wood and hand cut mirrors.
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Bendigo Chinese Association
This is a fan banner from the Golden Dragon Museum’s collection of processional regalia used in the Bendigo Easter Fair processions, and dates from the 1880s.
Fan banners were eye-catching emblems associated with the Eight Immortals of Chinese mythology. Pairs of fan banners have traditionally stood on rods flanking altars in Chinese temples and feature in ceremonies and processions.
In this example, made in China in the 1880s, the upper blue sections are composed of Kingfisher feathers mounted very close to each other. ‘Painting’ with kingfisher feathers, a technique known as tian-tsui has a long history in Chinese decorative art. While similar to cloisonné, it could achieve greater brilliance than enamel, and gave a shimmering effect at the slightest movement. By the twentieth century, the art of tian-tsui was uncommon, and wild kingfishers almost extinct in China.
The lower section of the fan banner is hand-embroidered silk, and features a butterfly at the base, where it joins the handle. The butterfly, hu tieh, represents joy and happiness in marriage.
Inscribed on the back of the fan banner is 'Provincial capital, five blessings'. The five blessings are longevity; wealth and honour; health and tranquillity; good morals and virtue; and to pass away gracefully.
The Golden Dragon Museum is guardian to exquisite examples of historic fan banners and banner tops that survive from Bendigo's early processions. Combining papier mâche, carved wood, mirrors, gilding, filigree work, faux jewels, woven silk and silk embroidery, gold couching and feathers, their intricate details showcase various traditional skills, some now rare or no longer practised in China today. (Text taken from The 1880s Processional Regalia of the Bendigo Chinese Association, Golden Dragon Museum, 2010).
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.