Lunar New Year

Melbourne's Chinese Heritage

Published: 21st February, 2019


Melbourne has a very vibrant Chinese community. Although there are now Chinese communities all across the city, the Little Bourke Street Chinatown is the second longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world. The Chinese have a long history of exploration, but it was the gold rushes of the 19th century that were responsible for attracting so many Chinese to Victoria. Despite being a country which wouldn't exist without immigration, the White Australia Policy was officially in force until 1973. Attitudes towards Greeks and Italians were pretty poor for many years, so imagine what it would might have been like to have been Chinese in the 19th century. Certainly relations between Chinese and white Australians were not encouraged, yet they did occur. Also, many Chinese names were anglicized, so there are possibly a good many Australians with the surname Lee, for example, who have no idea they have Chinese ancestry!

Chinese processions have been entertaining Melbourne crowds since the 1830s; there were even two dragons at the opening of Federal Parliament in 1901. Bendigo's Sun Loong ('new dragon') is still considered to be the longest Chinese dragon in the southern hemisphere, but Melbourne's Dai Loong ('big dragon') is not far behind.

In Singapore there are gardens everywhere, even in the middle of the baggage carousels at Changi airport

Celebrations for Chinese Lunar Year take place across the city over a couple of weeks but the dragon parade takes place in Chinatown. Several city streets are blocked off, stalls are set up and large crowds turn out to enjoy the entertainment. The Millenium Dragons are smaller and more manoeuvrable than Dai Loong and together with Lion Dance and Martial Arts teams form the bulk of the displays. Of course, there are also fireworks. Fireworks seem to perform a dual function: to wake the dragon, and also to ward off evil spirits.

Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles at what is believed to be the historic Raffles Landing Site

Go to the Lunar New Year 2019 gallery for more images...