Dragon at heart of Chinese NY celebrations

The Dunedin Culture & Arts Association performs a dance in front of the historic Chinese Empire...
The Dunedin Culture & Arts Association performs a dance in front of the historic Chinese Empire Hotel at last year’s Chinese New Year celebrations at Lawrence Chinese Camp. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Lawrence's Chinese Camp is looking forward to a special celebration this weekend.

Chinese New Year occurs today, and tomrrow the 157-year-old former gold rush camp will celebrate the start of the Year of the Dragon by holding a combined cultural festival and country fair.

Lawrence Chinese Camp Charitable Trust chairwoman Denise Ng said the dragon bore a particular significance for the camp, as it had been its adoptive symbol since it was founded in 1867.

"The mythical dragon is considered a symbol of power, courage, wealth and wisdom to Chinese. Dragons are particularly meaningful to the camp because the yellow imperial dragon flag of China was flown there in the 1800s. The flag is still flown today, heralding its Chinese heritage, and has become the camp’s logo."

Ms Ng said celebrations would begin about noon tomorrow with local children performing a traditional dragon dance to bring good fortune to the camp.

The Otago-Southland Chinese Association would also perform a lion dance for "protection and good luck".

Ms Ng said the day, which would double as a fundraiser for the camp’s $3.5million restoration and development into a visitor attraction, had something for everyone.

"There will be Chinese pork roast, a sausage sizzle, dumplings and spring rolls. Children will be making dragons and candy floss and treasure hunting, while adults can visit the gambling den in the old hotel and learn to play mahjong, fantan and pakapoo."

There will also be historic book readings from authors Eva Ng and Maxine Alterio, and tours of the camp conducted by archaeologist Prof Richard Walter of the University of Otago.

Ms Ng said the camp, which was a Category 1 Heritage NZ Historic Place, was the earliest and largest Chinese goldmining settlement in Otago.

The planned restoration and development would take in the site’s Empire Hotel, stables and joss house, she said.

The hotel was expected to house the country’s first museum of Chinese goldmining history, including a virtual recreation of the old Chinese settlement and landscaped gardens.

New Year Festival

Lawrence Chinese Camp 

Noon-4pm, tomorrow

116 Beaumont Highway (SH8), Lawrence

Gold coin entry