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Loong and the Lion – Thank you Ballarat!

The world’s oldest Chinese processional Lion and Australia’s oldest dragon, Loong, have both returned to Ballarat after extensive conservation work undertaken by expert conservators at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (CCMC) at the University of Melbourne. The many months of work have removed a century of grime, reinforced the cane frameworks, and uncovered new details about the construction, design and decoration of each beast.

The conservation of Loong and the Lion has provided valuable information about the construction and history of the two pieces. Sovereign Hill sincerely thanks all the donors, supporters, grant bodies and foundations for assisting in this important work.

The Awaken the Dragon Appeal was successful in raising over $11,000, with many of the contributions coming from members of the Ballarat community. The support of the Ballarat community helped to secure additional funding from a number of avenues including a $9,000 federal Community Heritage Grant and $38,800 grant from the Copland Foundation.

There were a few surprises. In the case of the lion it was determined that the horn on the top of the head had been completely squashed. In resurrecting the horn, it is now thought that the lion is actually a fighting lion and the horn would once have had a metal tip resting on top.

In the case of Loong, the beard was in a bad way. The fibres of his beard were breaking and cracking, and that is because we now know that his beard is made of human hair! The conservators have conditioned his beard to soften the keratin which will hopefully prevent further breakages.

Perhaps the most shocking moment for the conservator was when she was reaching into the structure and discovered something soft and furry in the lion’s nose! Fortunately, this proved to be a woolly pom-pom from another part of the processional assemblage.

Loong and the Lion are safely back at Sovereign Hill, ready to face the next phase in their long and illustrious life.