Melbourne Dai Loong - The Great Dragon

History, Information & Working Specifications

China has always been an agricultural society and so the people rely heavily on rain. The Spiritual Dragon, the bringer of rain, is therefore considered the most important of all Dragons. He, along with the Phoenix, represent Yin and Yang, the balance of nature. His home can be found at the bottom of the sea, where he waits until spring when he soars high into the sky to control the elements.

The Dragon has a body formed out of many creatures.
He has:

The head of a camel, with long whiskers and a beard
The horns of a deer
Eyes of a rabbit
Ears of a cow
Neck of a snake
Belly of a frog
Scales of a carp
Claws of a hawk
Palms of a tiger
Along his back are 81 scales, and when he breathes, vapour appears from his mouth. Sometimes it changes into water, at other times into fire. His voice is a sound like the clanging of copper pots.

There are also other dragons in Chinese mythology. The Heavenly Dragon guards the mansion of the Gods. The Early Dragon clears the rivers and deepens the seas. The Dragon Keeper guards the hidden treasure. The Imperial Dragon protects the Emporer. He is depicted chasing the pearl of wisdom and is the only Dragon with five claws.

In 1978, a number of the Melbourne Dai Loong Commitee members travelled to the ancient city of Fo Shan, in the Guangdong Province of China, the traditional centre of dragon making. This old art had not been practiced for over 30 years, but with the help of the grand nephew of an old dragon maker and using numerous photographs, the Melbourne Dai Loong was born, and with him, the rebirth of dragon making in China.

It was a painstaking job for there were 84,000 mirrors to be cut by hand and 6,000 multi-coloured silk scales to be sewn and glued. By the time he was completed, he was 100 metres long and 3 metres high, the LARGEST (not the longest) Dragon in the world.

Melbourne Dai Loong now appears in the streets of Melbourne for Moomba, Chinese New Year and other special occasions. There are many "Friends of the Dragon". Some help carry banners, lanterns and mystical animals. While others form the 100 "legs" that parade the Dragon through the street.

Once a year, before the Melbourne Dai Loong appears, he must first be aroused and awakened. Incense, food and prayers are offered to the God of Peace, Guan Gong, and to his helpers. The Dragons eyes are dotted with chicken blood. Lastly the Lion Dance is performed to scare away the evil spirits and coax the Melbourne Dai Loong from his home. And so, to the beating of the drum and to the banging of crackers, he emerges once again.

When the Melbourne Dai Loong is not being parded, you can visit him at the Museum of Chinese Australian History, at 22 Cohen Place, in Melbourne, Victoria (this is in Melbourne's Chinatown, off Little Bourke street).

The Melbourne Dai Loong

The Young Chinese League always paraded their own Dragon in Moomba. That Dragon was purchased over 35 years ago and paraded in Moomba for almost all of 20 years, plus at a number of other processions arount the country and suburbs. The Dragon was even hired out to Sydney for an overseas trade show, but remained under the control of the Young Chinese League.

By 1976, the Dragon had become a wreck and it was decided that it was in too bad a condition to parade again. 1977 and 1978 saw Moobma without a Dragon. The League received many enquiries and even some complaints from people wanting to know what happened to the Chinese Dragon. With no Dragon in the Moomba Parade there was a big hole, so it was felt that something should be done.

Discussions were held with the late David Wang in 1977. David Wang was very much in favour and we approached a number of restuarants and stores in Chinatown to get their reaction and support. A new association was formed, the Melbourne Dai Loong Association. It was David Wangs idea to have the biggest Dragon in the world. Many meetings took place and the finance was raised in various ways.

It was decided to approach Fat Shan (Fo Shan) in China, the original home of dragon making, to see whether they would make "Our Dragon". At this point, Mabel Wang had discussions with the appropriate people in China and permission was given to build the first dragon since the revolution.

Specifications were put together for the Dragon. John Ball, who was the editor of "The Asian" newspaper and who has been involved in Bendigo Chinese affairs as a boy, together with Ron Li, were sent to China to make all arrangements regarding clothing and ancilliary equipment.

Cathay Pacific donated air freight and from the time the order was placed, approximately October 1978, the consignment of one dragon and equipment arrived on Thursday, February 22nd, 1979.

The Melbourne Dai Loong Association had been given the use of the basement of the old Sands & McDougall's warehouse in Spencer street and it was with great exitement that the public stood in the lane at the back and watched the truck with the container reverse to be unloaded.

It was a truely memorable day and some of the Committee had taken time off work to help with the unloading.

After it was unloaded, all that could be seen were piles of bamboo, crates and boxes. There were no instructions and the Committee had to virtually build the lot by trial and error. The work was unlimited and things like wooden stands had to be made before anything could be started.

The Committee worked every night, from 6:00pm to 10:00pm and every weekend, up until the Sunday before Moomba. Scales came in single strips and although brilliant in colour, disappointing in their practicallity. The head was magnificent, the colours and work were something to be very proud of.

On the Sunday prior to Moomba, the Committee took the Dragon out for a trial run. Normally, the head is carried by one man. The strongest carrier only took six steps and that was it. Carriers had to be improvised quickly, which is still the method used today, that is, four carriers for the head being relieved every few minutes.

The Dragon went around the block and faults were found, these were fixed. On that Monday, Moomba 1979, away went the Dragon officially for the first time.

It was, and still is, something to be very proud of.

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Document Created: Sunday 15th August, 1995.
Document Last Updated: Friday 2nd April, 1999.
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