Thousands of Chinese arrived during Victoria’s gold rush in the 1850’s. Within 10 years they made up 10% of the Bendigo population. Many returned home after the rush ended but some stayed and have created a vibrant Chinese community. Every year they play a major part in the Bendigo Easter Festival where Sun Loong, the world’s largest imperial dragon weaves his way through the streets of Bendigo.
There is a precinct of Bendigo that is famous as the Chinese cultural centre of Australia. This is where the Chinese lived during the gold rush and the area is celebrated with the Golden Dragon Museum and the Chinese Gardens. There is also a Joss House nearby.
The museum is designed to represent Chinese history in Australia from the 1850’s to today. Mel and I spent quite a while walking around reading all the information and looking at the displays. Sun Loong (Chinese dragon) is also kept in an upstairs, roped of area but is still visible from the main part of the museum. In fact it wraps around the whole balcony. I believe it’s the longest such dragon in the world. It is such an interesting place to visit.
A few metres away from the museum is the Yi Yuan (Garden of Joy). The architecture is based on the Imperial Palace in Beijing and is authentic in every way. There is also a Buddhist Temple and the Guan Yin Miao (temple of The Goddess of Mercy). I first visited the gardens not long after they were opened and was really disappointed this time to see there hadn’t been much growth in the plants and trees. In fact it feels like a lot had been removed; possibly they died and weren’t replaced. It’s such a shame. I love the Chinese Gardens in Sydney because they are so lush and provide an oasis just outside the CBD.