The Rock Springs Dragon and his “brother” in Australia

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The vintage photograph that made identification of the Rock Springs dragon possible – note the Chinese characters on the back of the dragon’s head. Photo courtesy of the Sweetwater Historical Museum.

Wyo4News Staff, [email protected] [PRESS RELEASE]

SWEETWATER COUNTY – Last year the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River discovered that it has a unique cultural and historical link to another museum on the other side of the world.

At around the turn of the 20th century, a huge silk dragon was used in parades and processions by the Chinese community in Rock Springs. All that remains of the dragon now are carefully-preserved photographs and its grapefruit-sized glass eyes, currently on exhibit in the County Museum’s gallery.

In 2021, museum researchers discovered that the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo, Australia, north of Melbourne, recognized as the Chinese Cultural Center of Australia, has in its collection a similar Chinese parade dragon. As it turns out, the Bendigo dragon was made at about the same time, in the early 1890s, and by the same workshop, located in Guangdong Province in China, that made the Rock Springs dragon.

The connection was made possible by Brie Blasi, the County Museum’s former director, when she studied a remarkable photograph depicting the back of the Rock Springs dragon’s head, bearing Chinese characters that identified its maker but were difficult to decipher. The museum’s current director, Dave Mead, enhanced the photograph to make the characters legible, making translation possible: the Sing Cheung Workshop of Foshan (Fatshan), about 100 miles northwest of Hong Kong, also made the Bendigo Dragon, whose name is “Loong,” which means “dragon.”

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Loong was recently the object of a 12-month preservation undertaking – the Loong Conservation Project – for which the Golden Dragon Museum received Australia’s Archival Survival Award for Small Organisations for 2022.

For a YouTube video about Loong and the project, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycwQvcjfS0o

The County Museum’s gallery features an extensive exhibit on the historic Chinese community in Rock Springs, including the infamous Chinese Massacre of September 2, 1885, during which at least 28 (and as many as more than 50) Chinese miners were killed by a mob of white miners.

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and admission is free.

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