Head ornament, Chinese Dragon, paper mache. Circa 1897. Photograph by Jary Nemo.Contributors
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Copyright in photograph with Jary Nemo.
Victoria is home to two of the four oldest surviving Chinese-made Imperial dragons in the world.
The dragon pictured here, Loong, of Ballarat, was commissioned by the Ballarat Chinese community in 1897 for the 60th anniversary celebrations of Queen Victoria's reign. Ballarat's Loong drew much attention when it was first shown. A columnist for the Ballarat Star described the dragon as ‘exquisitely worked in gold and jewels’.
Many public celebrations in Ballarat and Melbourne, including Easter carnivals, the Begonia Festival and other charity events, have featured Loong of Ballarat. His final appearance was at Ballarat’s Begonia Festival in the 1960s.
The dragon is made from layers of papier-mâché, kingfisher feathers, mirrors and pompoms. His face has been painted over, though the original layer is partially visible. The head has survived along with portions of the dragon’s body including fragments of his scales and tail.
Ballarat’s Loong is one of four historically significant Chinese dragons in the world. The Ballarat dragon appears to be the oldest in Australia and the third oldest in the world. The other remaining historical dragons are from Marysville, United States (circa 1889), Wyoming, United States (circa 1893) and the magnificently preserved Loong, of Bendigo, Victoria (circa 1901).
The similar markings on the Ballarat and Bendigo dragons reveal that they came from the same maker – the Sing Cheung workshop in Foshan, Guangdong province in China. The workshop produced and exported processional material to the Chinese diaspora around the world.
With thanks to the Gold Museum-Sovereign Hill Collections Manager Elizabeth Marsden and Curator Snjezana Cosic.