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Bendigo. Head of the worlds longest dragon Sun Loong. In the Golden Dragon museum of Bendigo | by denisbin
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Bendigo. Head of the worlds longest dragon Sun Loong. In the Golden Dragon museum of Bendigo

The Chinese on the Victorian Goldfields. Of the 62,990 Chinese recorded as entering the colony of Victoria between 1850 and 1890, some 48,000 were recorded as leaving the colony. Probably a couple of thousand died on the goldfields with around 250 in the White Hills cemetery of Bendigo alone. Those that stayed became market gardeners, shearers or labourers or started shops and businesses and ran laundry services. It is estimated that 20% of Bendigo’s population during the 1860s was of Chinese origin. Not all came to the goldfield to be miners. Many came to seize the trading opportunity that existed on the goldfields. They bought with them opium smoking, incense burning and their religious practices( Taoism and Confucianism) which is why Bendigo still has the old Joss House from the early 1860s in the city’s second Canton. As we have seen, the cemeteries still have ritual burning towers in which offerings were made and burnt for the souls of the departed. The Chinese were never popular on the goldfields and conflict with European background miners often ensued. The Chinese were usually required to live in a Chinese camp of Canton where police felt they could more easily control and restrict them. Few Chinese women ever came to Victoria so most miners and traders left after a few years to return to their families in China or they stayed longer whilst repatriating money for their families. As the gold mining, at least alluvial mining, petered out the remaining Chinese turned more to market gardening and business. Fortunate were the few who married European or Aboriginal women as they were usually allowed to stay on in Victoria and later the Commonwealth of Australia. After the inauguration of the Commonwealth in 1901 one of the first pieces of legislation pushed by the Labour Party was the White Australia Policy to make sure white jobs were protected. The other factional parties were usually either protectionists or liberal free traders. The protectionists also supported the White Australia Policy and it came into being in 1901 and lasted until the Policy was repealed in 1975. The effect of this policy was dramatic on Chinese in Victoria and the rest of Australia. Those that remained could usually “pass” for European or they were married to Europeans. Several hundred remained in Bendigo. Nationwide the number of Chinese dropped from 29,600 in 1903 to just 9,100 by 1940 but despite discrimination 198 men of Chinese descent enlisted in World War One. But the cultural heritage of the Chinese in Bendigo was never forgotten. Since the 1870s the city has held an annual Easter Festival which included Sun Loong the world’s longest imperial Chinese dragon at 200 feet of length. He is housed in the Golden Dragon Museum situated in the old Chinese Canton of Bendigo along with the Kuan Yin Temple and Yi Yuan Gardens. Around 30 Chinese families in Bendigo trace their origins back to the gold mining days.

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Taken on April 3, 2017