Dan Beck has tears in his eyes and a huge smile on his face as he tries to describe what he has just taken part in.
The 45-year-old helped bring Bendigo's new dragon Dai Gum Loong to life as part of the eye dotting ceremony on Friday afternoon.
The ceremony blesses Dai Gum Loong, dots his eyes and sees him officially awoken or brought to life.
"There's a lot of emotion. It's been a huge commitment for me. It makes me so happy I want to cry," Mr Beck said.
"It's an amazing honour for me to be allowed to do that. It really is.
"It's so amazing what people in Bendigo did to achieve this, how they gave so much money.
"Obviously having an impressive dragon is part of Bendigo's identity, so to be involved so intimately like this is a great honour and I'm really touched I've been able to do it."
Mr Beck's family arrived in Bendigo in the 1870s, just after the gold rush. As a fifth-generation Chinese-Bendigonian, Mr Beck took up lion dancing at age seven and "retired" at age 18. After returning from travelling at 21 he was thrust under the head of Sun Loong.
"Like lots of Bendigo kids I went away, went to university, travelled and came back," he said.
"When I was about 21 I remember coming back for my first Easter and they said 'Right, you're carrying Sun Loong's head'. I said 'Are you serious?' and they said I'd earned my stripes and that's how I joined the head carriers team.
"Since then [I have] carried all of our dragons, particularly Sun Loong, on many occasions."
Mr Beck has been heavily involved in the Dai Gum Loong project for about 18 months. His passion for the project is so strong he has paid to visit Hong Kong a number of times.
He has also formed a strong relationship with the people who made Dai Gum Loong as well as the people who assembled him in Bendigo.
"The mission was to get something at least as impressive as Sun Loong, hopefully even more, and I think we've succeeded," he said. "I was involved in the build at the hangar and I've got scars and blisters on my hands from doing it. It was hard work but it was memorable.
"I got to know a whole lot of new people, like the Woodturners Association that built the stands for us - they're wonderful, kind generous people.
"The ladies from the Embroiderers' Guild were also amazing. One was my old school teacher from Gravel Hill, who I hadn't seen since then, another was my old mate's mother.
"So a lot of it was reunions as well as new friendships in that experience."
In helping bring Dai Gum Loong to life and carrying the dragon's head, Mr Beck said his lion dancing training served him well.
"The plan was to make him look like he has just woken up. For a large part, lion dancing is really good training," he said.
"In a lot of ways, even though it's a different mythical creature, has more length and different story, it's like a huge lion head.
"Lion dancing teaches us a form of puppeteering, so we're conscious of what (the dragon) is doing and where it's looking."
Mr Beck also had to train to be prepared for the weight of Dai Gum Loong's 25 kilogram head.
There's a lot of emotion. It makes me so happy I want to cry... Obviously having an impressive dragon is part of Bendigo's identity.- Dan Beck
"To deal with the size and weight I got a pole that is the same dimensions as the pole on Dai Gum Loong with 25kg weight plates on it," he said. "So I had practice in heaving it up and swinging it around."
After his performance on Friday, Mr Beck said he felt immense pride.
"To me it makes me feel an enormous amount of pride," he said.
"I'm fifth generation and have got relatives buried all around Bendigo. I work in Melbourne but Bendigo is where I feel at home.
"There is no more obvious example of how Bendigo is a very culturally diverse and open minded town than (an event like this). It's a beautiful thing."
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