The Dragon and the Kangaroo Blog aims to be a hub for discussion and insight about China, Australia and international relations. As is well known, China is Australia’s largest trading partner (with over $150 billion AUD worth of goods and services being traded between the two countries in 2013) and both countries are of fundamental importance to each other’s interests (even if Australia’s interests are significantly more served by relations than China) 1. This burgeoning relationship is only set to grow in importance in the coming years, as trade and relations deepen, which makes it especially worthwhile for there to be a corresponding large volume of discussion about China-Australia relations. So it is the hope of the Dragon and the Kangaroo Blog to help spark further discussion about China-Australia relations.
The particular name of this blog was chosen in part because it simply and obviously makes clear the concerns of this blog. The kangaroo is the well-known unofficial symbol of Australia (with the kangaroo appearing prominently on the official Australian coat of arms since 1908, and the boxing kangaroo being a well-known symbol of Australian sport), while the dragon has long been considered the most important symbol of power in China, as Chinese emperors were exclusively associated with the emperor (in particular, the five-clawed imperial dragon was a symbol that was only used by the emperor) 2. Moreover, the dragon represents the male, positive principle of the universe, namely the yang in traditional Chinese thought, with the phoenix (one of the four greatest creatures, alongside the dragon, tiger and tortoise; 四象, Sì Xiàng) representing the contrasting female principle, the yin, and these two symbols are still used today, for instance in a traditional Chinese wedding (with cakes often having both symbols on them) 3. And a final poignant illustration of the dragon’s deep connection with China is that Chinese have consistently considered themselves ‘descendants of the dragon’ (龙的传人, Lóng de chuánrén).
Yet the name the Dragon and the Kangaroo Blog was also chosen because these symbols also reveal unobvious connections with regards to Australia and China, whose relations are all too often described very simplistically. An excellent case in point of the surprising and deeper than often acknowledged connections between Australia and China is the long history of processional dragons in Australia. Processional dragons in Australia date back to the 19th century, where the gold rush city of Bendigo (with a significant Chinese population) had a processional dragon appear at the 1892 Bendigo Easter Procession (after imperial permission was granted for the five-clawed dragon to be gifted to Australia and Bendigo), and processional Chinese dragons still appear in Bendigo today during annual Easter celebrations. Bendigo’s processional dragon Loong, which did dragon dances in Bendigo for 78 years, from the 19th century up until 1970, is acclaimed as ‘the oldest surviving Imperial Dragon in the world’ 4. The dragon has gone on to become something of a symbol for the city of Bendigo itself.
The history of Chinese processional dragons in Australia goes even deeper with Melbourne having an especially important connection to Chinese processional dragons. Melbourne had regular dragon dances from at least the 1950s up until 1978, when the main processional dragon, Sun Loong, was worn out from use. So an effort was made by Melbourne’s Chinese community to procure a new dragon from the city of Foshan in Guangdong province, where Chinese dragons were traditionally made. However, since 1949 dragon production had effectively ceased. So Melbourne’s Chinese community sent samples of Sun Loong to Foshan, and with the production of Melbourne’s new Chinese processional dragon the dragon making industry of Foshan got revitalised. Hence the industrious Chinese community of Melbourne and Australia-China relations were the crucial spark that reignited the making of processional dragons in China 5. Processional dragons are still paraded twice a year in Melbourne, on Chinese New Year and on Melbourne’s own festival Moomba, with Melbourne’s current dragon, the Millennium Dragon, ranking as the largest processional dragon in the world, with the head alone weighing 200 kilograms and requiring 8 people to lift it (video of the dragon available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GE7bq1y9pqs) 6.
So the Dragon and the Kangaroo Blog will endeavour to describe and discuss all details of Australia-China relations, both the obvious and the not so obvious connections between the two countries, in the good detail that this highly important relationship deserves. It is the plan of this new blog to provide at least two or three blog posts (articles) a week, and it is the hope that this blog will productively grow alongside the ever growing Australia-China relationship.
2 Dorothy Perkins, Encyclopedia of China: History and Culture, Routledge, p. 131.
3 ibid, p. 131.
4 Information obtained from the Golden Dragon Museum of Bendigo.
6 With regards to who has the longest annual processional dragon in the world, Bendigo or Melbourne, it is disputed, with both camps claiming to possess the longest processional dragon in the world.