Statement of Significance

In early 2021 Dr Sophie Couchman, an expert in Chinese Australian history and culture, was commissioned to undertake a Significance Assessment of the Golden Dragon Museum’s Collection.  For the first time, the 30,000 or so objects in the Collection were considered and assessed, looking both at key individual pieces and the Collection as a whole.

Significance Assessments help museums to better understand their collections, their areas of strength and where they can best be further developed. A Significance Assessment is also invaluable for informing future exhibition programs as well as planning public and education programs.  Significance Assessments are current often for years, even decades as they form an essential part of how a museum cares for, researches, develops and uses their most valuable asset; their collection.

Dr Couchman has described a Significance Assessment as ‘A reasoned, readable summary of the values, meaning and importance of a collection. It is more than a description of what the collection looks like. A Significance Assessment summarises how and why the collection is important. It is supported by research and evidence assembled through the assessment process.’ The Statement of Significance is the key findings of the Assessment and draws attention to the unique qualities of the Golden Dragon Museum’s Collection.

Following is Dr Couchman’s Statement of Significance of the Collection at the Golden Dragon Museum:

Loong, Bendigo’s oldest dragon, parading at the Easter Festival in 2019 to welcome Dai Gum Loong, the newest dragon to join the unbroken history of processional dragons in Bendigo.

Although trade links between China and Australia pre-date British colonisation, Chinese only began arriving and settling in Australia in large numbers from the 1850s goldrushes. They become the largest non-British immigrant group in Australia at this time. Popularised pseudo-scientific ideas about race and racial hierarchies shaped how these Chinese arrivals were treated. This in turn drove Government legislative responses to Chinese immigration. This legislation was adapted to control all non-white immigration as part of the White Australia Policy. While the White Australia Policy has been dismantled, the repercussions of this period of our history continue to reverberate through Australian society and to shape Australia’s relations with Asia. With a sizable ethnically Chinese population and the rise of the People’s Republic of China as a global power, understanding Australia’s Chinese history continues to be highly relevant today.

Despite the significant role of Chinese during the goldrushes and as a part of Australia’s immigration history, until the 1970s and 1980s their role and contributions were largely overlooked in the histories and collections of public institutions. The Golden Dragon Museum was established in part to rectify this. Its construction in Bendigo’s declining Chinese quarter highlights its role telling this local history. The Museum holds a rich and large collection of objects, textiles, photographs, documents and oral histories that relate to the family and community lives of Chinese and their descendants in Bendigo, the wider Victorian goldfields and beyond. The Museum also seeks to foster an appreciation of Chinese arts and culture through its collection.

An important function of the Museum has been to house the Bendigo Chinese community’s growing collection of processional regalia used in the Bendigo Easter Fair since the late nineteenth century. Chinese processions were relatively common in the nineteenth century, but Bendigo’s is the only one to have continued to the present day. The procession draws on nineteenth century Cantonese cultural practices but transforms these into a uniquely contemporary Australian event.

The Golden Dragon Museum and its collection through its association with the annual Bendigo Easter Fair, the Bendigo Chinese Joss House Temple and the historic White Hills and Bendigo cemeteries has a high social and spiritual significance. The Chinese Easter Fair procession is a focal point for Chinese Australian communities nationally and is deeply symbolic of Chinese Australian achievements and endurance. Paying respect to ancestors at the temple and cemeteries personalises this experience.

This spiritual significance is felt beyond Bendigo Chinese families to others in the Bendigo and the wider Victorian goldfields region. Chinese Australians across Australia and international Chinese visitors also feel the power of this symbolism. For overseas visitors, particularly from the People’s Republic of China, the processional regalia is also a reminder of Cantonese social and spiritual practices suppressed and largely lost during the Cultural Revolution. International lion dancing and Cantonese opera troupes visit the collection to connect with this historical cultural legacy.

The collection is rich in research potential. Embedded within the provenance of the collection are the social, familial and business connections that describe Bendigo’s Chinese Australian communities. These networks extend outwards across Australia and internationally to southern Chinese villages, metropolitan centres like Hong Kong and Shanghai and across the Chinese diaspora.  The fine-grained local community history captured within the Museum’s collection has high state, national and international significance.

The Museum’s collection of material related to the Bendigo Chinese Association and local lodges of the Yee Hing / Chinese Masonic Society has the potential to greatly enrich our understanding of these organisations and communities locally and internationally. In addition, they help to show how Bendigo shaped the nature of these groups over time. Both organisations had strong ties to other similar Chinese organisations across Australia, in southern China and across the Chinese diaspora. Both played an important role in the nature of Chinese-Australian communities. These collections have high historical significance.

Contained within the collection are items of high artistic or aesthetic value. The Qing-dynasty processional regalia is particularly stunning in its artisanship, quality of fabric and condition but later collections also have high aesthetic value. Social history collections are not predicated on aesthetics but contained within the Chinese Australian social history collection are high quality textiles such as Charles Powell Hodges imperial robes and other textiles, photographs and beautifully decorated documents and objects. Many pieces within the John St Alban collection are impressive in size, artistic design, workmanship, and materials. They provide insight into Qing dynasty Han Chinese and Sino-Mongolian fine and decorative arts.

The provenance of the processional regalia and Chinese Australian history collections is very strong, often linked to particular individuals and businesses and donated to the Museum by descendants or close family friends. This provenance has been enhanced by the extensive research archive, library and the deep local knowledge of staff members. For families researching their family history these collections have powerful spiritual significance in addition to their historical significance.

There are numerous items in the collection that are rare, unusual or uncommon in public collections, but the Museum’s collection is more significant in its entirety than any one particular object. The Qing dynasty processional regalia and even individual items within it have high historic, aesthetic, research, social and spiritual significance on their own but their significance is greatly enhanced by being part of the set of Qing dynasty regalia. It is even further enhanced by being part of a multigenerational collection of regalia that reflects an unbroken and continuing cultural practice that has evolved since at least the 1870s.

Similarly, there are individual items within the Chinese Australian social history collection that are significant in their own right, but the real strength of the collection is the deep insight it provides into the Bendigo Chinese community as a whole. No other single collection in Australia is able to provide the depth of insight into a Chinese community as large as Bendigo’s, in the detail it does, over such an extended time period. A deep understanding of Bendigo’s Chinese community helps us better understand the histories of Chinese communities around Australia and internationally and, through the connections of Chinese Bendigonians, helps us understand Chinese Australian social and business networking and mobility. This gives the Museum’s collections a national significance.

Dr Sophie Couchman

July 2021



尽管早于英国殖民地时期中国和澳大利亚之间已开始了贸易往来,但华人是从19世纪50年代的淘金潮时期才开始大批抵达和定居到澳大利亚的。在那个时期,他们组成了澳大利亚最大的非英国移民群体。当时普及的种族和种族阶层的伪科学观念,影响了这些中国移民抵澳后的待遇。接下来就驱使政府针对中国移民有了立法, 这项立法作为白澳政策的一部分,用于控制所有非白人移民。虽然白澳政策已废除,然而,我们历史上这段时期所造成的影响,仍然在澳大利亚社会中回荡,并影响着亚澳之间的关系。伴随着中华民族的庞大以及中华人民共和国崛起成为世界强国,在当今了解澳大利亚的中国历史依然至关重要。







藏品中包含了具有高度艺术或美学价值的物品。尤其是清朝时期的游行物品,在用料的质地和保存至今的状态上都令人惊叹,当然后期的收藏也具有很高的审美价值。社会历史性的收藏品并非基于美学,但在中澳社会历史性收藏品中也包含了高质量的纺织品,例如查尔斯 · 鲍威尔霍奇斯的帝国长袍以及其他纺织品、照片和装饰精美的文件和物品。约翰 · 圣 奥尔本收藏品中的许多作品,在尺寸、艺术设计、工艺技巧和材质方面都令人印象深刻。这些藏品提供了对清朝汉族和中蒙的美术装饰艺术的洞察。




柯素菲 博士


Loong Conservation Project


Loong is not only a treasure at the Golden Dragon Museum, but he is also recognised as having outstanding heritage value and is included on the Victoria Heritage register.  He is unique in the world as the oldest surviving complete processional dragon.

Loong and his regalia form the start of an unbroken chain of three dragons that have been the centerpieces of the Bendigo Easter Festival and Chinese life in the region and across Victoria for over 120 years.  Succeeded by Sun Loong in 1970 who was in turn succeeded by Dai Gum Loong in 2019, the Museum’s dragons are wonderful works of art that are deeply embedded in their community where they are still used regularly for cultural and ritual purposes.

Museums are places that store, conserve, research, exhibit and celebrate objects that have special meaning and value to a vast array of audiences.  Often the various objects on public exhibition represent only some 5% – 10% or less of a Museum’s total collection.  In the case of the Golden Dragon Museum whilst we have many objects on display, they represent only a small percentage of the 30,000 objects in our Collection.  To learn more about the Collection and its significance click here.

One of the very important tasks every museum undertakes is the conservation of the various objects in their collection.  Be they paintings, statues, wooden, bronze, new or ancient, local or from far away, to ensure that objects remain in excellent condition and do not suffer any more damage or wear and tear than they absolutely must, conservation is a never-ending task.  This very technical and delicate work is undertaken by highly trained professionals, Conservators, who work tirelessly most often away from the public view to report, clean, repair, and document museum objects to ensure they can be enjoyed for many years to come.

The project – more details

Starting with detailed condition reporting with many photographs and videos being taken, through to a thorough cleaning literally from head to tail and then painstaking repair work, the Loong Conservation project will see Loong carefully treated using a range of techniques and materials. When finished Loong will be in the best possible condition to stay on exhibition for many years ahead.  The project will be current from November 2021 – April 2022.

Given Loong’s size and the complexity of the project being undertaken, much of the work will happen in front of the public when they visit the Museum’s Loong Gallery. Visitors will have the opportunity to speak with the conservators and ask about their work, the project and the project’s progress.  From November and into the new year, this will be a very special time to see how these experts work and learn more about what is involved in conserving Loong.

Regular updates on the project will be posted here including monthly newsletters produced by Grimwade Conservation Services.

If you have specific queries or for further information on the project, please email [email protected]

Loong 龍

Loong is the oldest intact processional dragon in the world. He made his first processional appearance in 1901 and was the star attraction of Bendigo’s annual Easter parade until his retirement in 1970. He was created by the Sing Cheung 勝昌 workshop in the city of Foshan (Fatshan) on the Pearl River near Guangzhou (Canton) in southern China. Loong was constructed from silks, mirrors, bamboo, kingfisher feathers, and papier-mache. His name simply means ‘dragon’ but historically he was also referred to by the Chinese community as Gum Loong 金龙 (Golden Dragon) and Moo Loong 舞龍 (Dancing Dragon)

During his parading career Loong made several important appearances outside of Bendigo, most notably at the May 1901 procession in Melbourne to welcome m the Duke and Duchess of York who had come to open the first Australian parliament – a century later he also appeared in the Melbourne parade which marked the centenary of the achievement of Australian Federation.  In 2007 Loong was placed on Victoria Heritage register due to his historic and cultural significance.  Loong last paraded in the Easter parade of 2019 when he joined Sun Loong 新龍 (new Dragon) and Yar Loong 夜龍 (night Dragon) to welcome Dai Gum Loong 大金龍 (The Great Golden Dragon) to Bendigo.

Loong requires 22 carriers and is 29 meters long.  His head weighs 21kg

Project Updates

Project Partners

Golden Dragon Museum is very pleased to be partnering with Grimwade Conservation Services who are based in the Arts Faculty at The University of Melbourne and will be undertaking this project.  Recognised internationally for the quality of their work and with many awards and accolades to their credit, Grimwade Conservation Services will be working with local experts, volunteers and students and oversighting the project to ensure that it delivers outstanding results.

Funding of $133,000 has been provided by the Victoria State Government through Heritage Victoria’s Living Heritage Grants Program.

Golden Dragon Museum gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our project partners.

The Loong, Chinese Dragon Conservation project is supported by the Victorian Government through the Living Heritage Grants Program.

Grimwade Conservation Services, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, are proud partners in this project.

Bendigo Chinese Association has proudly cared for and lovingly owned Loong since 1901. Loong is generously on permanent loan to the Golden Dragon Museum.

Golden Dragon Museum wins major award

At the recent 2022 Victorian Museums and Galleries Awards Golden Dragon Museum won The Archival Survival Award: Small organisations for Loong Conservation Project.
The Awards are the peak state-wide awards for museums and galleries and recognise excellence across various categories.

The Loong Conservation Project lasted 12-months and saw Loong conserved to the highest possible standards by conservators from Grimwade Conservation Services (GCS), BCA and other volunteers and University of Melbourne students.
The project was supported by the Victorian Government through the Living Heritage Grants Program, Heritage Victoria, and the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies. The conservation project team (conservators and volunteers) delivered 2375 hours of treatment work to a rare and culturally significant processional dragon on permanent display at the Golden Dragon Museum. This conservation project ensures Loong can be enjoyed, researched, used culturally, and exhibited for decades ahead.

Judges’ comments “The judges praised Golden Dragon Museum for a “great project making the process of cultural materials conservation visible to the public, particularly when it can be a very time consuming and delicate operation. Wonderfully engaging”.

The Museum is proud to win this award from a very strong group of finalists and thanks all our Project Partners for their unstinting support and enthusiasm.

Loong Conservation Project wins national award

The team of conservators who worked tirelessly throughout the Loong Conservation Project, led by Grimwade Conservation Services, has won the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material’s award for Outstanding Conservation Treatment of the Year 2022, for their outstanding efforts throughout this project. Recognised as the pre-emanant acknowledgement of excellence in conservation throughout Australia, the Award showcases the care, professionalism, diligence and expertise of the team of 18 conservators who worked on Loong throughout the Project.

The Loong Conservation Project was supported by the Victorian Government through the Living Heritage Grant program.

Receiving the Award with thanks to the sponsor. Angela Henricksen, Sales and Customer Service Manager, Archival Survival, Doug Lougoon, Chair Golden Dragon Museum and President, Bendigo Chinese Association, Megan Hall, Collections Manager, Golden Dragon Museum.
Photo credit: Simon Peter Fox Photography
Home page: Some of the winning team. Dr Holly Jones-Amin, Senior Conservator, Grimwade Conservation Services, Doug Lougoon, Chair Golden Dragon Museum and President, Bendigo Chinese Association, Megan Hall, Collections Manager, Golden Dragon Museum, Penny Tripp, General Manager, Grimwade Conservation Services.
Photo credit: Simon Peter Fox Photography.