SUN Loong could go into retirement after the 2018 Bendigo Easter Festival as the city’s Chinese association makes plans to replace the famous imperial dragon.
A condition report completed earlier this year identified a number of structural issues with the 100-metre long imperial dragon – the longest in the world.
The Bendigo Chinese Association has formed a plan for the replacement of Sun Loong.
Next month, a delegation from the Golden Dragon Museum will travel to Hong Kong to meet with dragon makers to begin plans for Sun Loong’s replacement.
It is expected 2017 will be his last year as the sole main feature of the parade, before the new dragon joins him to travel through the parade together in 2018.
The new dragon will then take on the role solo while Sun Loong is retired to the museum.
Golden Dragon Museum general manager Anita Jack said one of the main priorities was to preserve Sun Loong for future generations.
“It came to light that he did have a limited life, and so with that, we have set a staged approach in having him replaced with a new parading dragon,” she said.
“We will be able to facilitate that conservation work on the dragon so that our future generations can see Sun Loong in the same condition that we see him today.”
Sun Loong replaced the retiring Loong dragon in 1970. The pair paraded together for Loong’s final parade – an event the Chinese association hopes to replicate in 2018.
Sun Loong himself was also created in Hong Kong, and was brought to life by 101-year-old Chinese elder James Lew, who dotted his eyes with chicken blood.
Plans to replace Sun Loong received a boost on Tuesday, when Labor announced $400,000 for his restoration and replacement.
Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters made the announcement at the Golden Dragon Museum with Labor Senate candidate Jennifer Yang.
Ms Chesters said extra funding was needed to ensure Sun Loong could be preserved in the museum, while also purchasing a new dragon for the Easter festival.
“We have had an imperial dragon as part of the Easter festival for as long as we have had a federal member, so that proud history will continue,” she said.
“(We will make) a grant to the Golden Dragon Museum of $400,000 to help restore and preserve the old fella, Sun Loong, and also to help them purchase a new dragon.”
Liberal candidate for Bendigo Megan Purcell welcomed the funding announcement, but said it was a “contrast” to Ms Chesters’ comments on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
“This announcement is a welcome contrast to Lisa Chesters' xenophobic public comments on the China Australia Free Trade Deal that have disappointed the local community,” Ms Purcell said.
“Sun Loong is a great community asset and one I've loved seeing each year since I was a kid. Labor's problem is that they have no credible way to pay for – or deliver – their promises.”