Andy Wong (center, holding the orange ball) leads the new dragon in a parade through Portsmouth Square in Chinatown on February 16, 2018. (Anna Vignet/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Andy Wong (center, holding the orange ball) leads the new dragon in a parade through Portsmouth Square in Chinatown on February 16, 2018. (Anna Vignet/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

New Golden Era dragon unveiled at Chinatown New Year Ceremony

Hundreds of people who gathered at Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square Friday to usher in a new year also witnessed the unveiling of a brand new Golden Dragon — a 288-foot structure used in ceremonial dance that has long been a symbol of the annual festivities.

“This one is the longest dragon that we’ve ever had,” said Harlon Wong, Director of the Chinese New Year Parade, while standing in front of a bright yellow, orange and green dragon replica that measured 288 feet from head to toe.

The new dragon is some 50 feet longer than the dragon used in the Chinese New Year parade over the last nine years.

That dragon has finally been carried into retirement, according to Wong, who called this year’s ceremony a “once in a decade event” as it included a rare “eye-dotting” ritual — an initiation ceremony that symbolizes the spirit of the dragon coming to life before it is carried through the streets on poles held by dancers.

“This is a brand new dragon and before we utilize it, the whole point is that there is a ritual where you awaken it,” said Noreen Wong, a longtime volunteer of the festival and parade for the San Francisco-based Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which organized Friday’s ceremony.

Wong said that the last time the Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s festival committee acquired a new dragon was in 2009. “This is the one that we will use in the finale of the Chinese New Year Parade.”

Adorned with colorful images and materials representing different animals, construction of the new dragon, called “Gum Lung,” spanned some six months, according to Kitman Chan, President of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

The honor of dotting the dragon’s eye was given to San Francisco’s current Mayor Mark Farrell and former Mayor Willie Brown.

“This is our version of China,” Brown said. “The culture and every aspect of what happens in the Chinese community in San Francisco reveals itself so dramatically on the day and time we celebrate the New Year.”

City leaders including Board of Supervisors President London Breed and Supervisor Jane Kim, both of whom are running for mayor in the June election came dressed in red, a sign of prosperity. They joined a diverse crowd of an estimated 500 participants for the celebration, which marked the beginning of the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

Many of those attending said that they had come to connect with their culture and build community.

“I wanted to introduce my two grandkids to Chinese culture and have them come see this new dragon that will be in the parade because it’s just amazing to watch,” said San Francisco native Lucy Mok. “Being American-born, this is as close to [Chinese] culture as we are going to get.”

Friday’s opening ceremony precedes the City’s Chinese New Year Parade scheduled for Feb. 24 that snakes through the heart of downtown toward Chinatown and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people.

The parade dates back to the 1850s, and this year marks its 60th year under the direction of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

Kim said that she helped to organize the yearly event in the past while working as a volunteer with the Chinatown Community Development Center.

“I used to help monitor the crowds and now I get to ride in the parade,” she said, adding that the parade “gets bigger every year.”

“This is truly an event that started in the community and has grown to become one of the biggest festivities in San Francisco,” she said.
ChinatownChinese New YearJane KimLondon BreedSan FranciscoYear of the Dog

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Students in an after-school community hub move quickly through a social circle as they play a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Parents scramble for ‘Summer Together’ spaces

City program offering free camps sees high demand, confusion over enrollment

The San Francisco Giants celebrate team legend Willie Mays' 90th birthday before taking on the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on May 7, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Willie Mays returns to the ballpark for a special birthday bash

Giants celebrate No. 24’s 90th in an intimate party for a few thousand friends

Legislation introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting has expanded the range of people who can request a gun violence restraining order against someone. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Use of gun violence restraining orders continues to rise

For the fourth year in a row, the number of gun violence… Continue reading

The Port of San Francisco, which controls much of the The City’s waterfront, faces potential layoffs due to a financial crisis caused by the pandemic. 
Steven Ho/
Special to S.F. Examiner
In a financial ‘crisis,’ SF Port officials lobby for stimulus funding

Looking to right their financial ship, Port of San Francisco officials are… Continue reading

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

Most Read