This year the Dragon Museum will celebrate Guan Yin’s Birthday with a celebration at Guan Yin Temple on Sunday 19th March when the Bendigo Chinese Association Lion Team and Plum Blossom Dancers will perform traditional cultural birthday celebrations. Guan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness.

We are also holding three Harmony Flag workshops at the Golden Dragon Museum between 1.30pm – 3.00pm to celebrate cultural diversity week. The workshops will be held on Sunday 19th, Tuesday 21st and Thursday 23rd. They are in the Buddhist tradition. We offered our space to the Bollywood Indian night last year and we will have that event here again this year as well. We have been part of the Festival of Cultures for a couple of years now.

Historically the museum was founded by the Chinese Association which was one of the few non-European groups in Bendigo. The old Society didn’t have much of a profile from the 18th century through much of the 20th century. So the museum grew out of the Chinese community here in Bendigo. On the goldfields the Chinese often had a tough time being accepted, at various times in history, for a number of reasons right through the 1960s and 70s with the White Australia Policy.

Having that visibility of other cultures and promoting acceptance is part of what the Society and Museum have been doing in different incarnations since 1879 so for us it is an important part of what we do.

A few years ago Tibetan monks made a sand mandala at the Bendigo Chinese Museum. Members of the public were welcome to visit the venue each day to observe and chat with the monks as they created the mandala. The creation and dissolution of the mandala was a reminder of the profound Buddhist concept of impermanence.

Our temple is from the Chinese Buddhist faith but its usage has not just been for the Chinese community. Anyone can pray regardless of religion and I want to stress that message of inclusiveness so anyone is welcome including Tibetan monks. Even though their Buddhist tradition isn’t quite the same as the Chinese tradition it’s that spirit of finding common ground and it was entirely appropriate to have them here. That was one of our most successful events.

We are always happy to support the Festival of Cultures as it chimes in very much with our own ethos and very long history.

Interview and photo: Dawn Delaney