Green River Star -

By David Martin
Editor 

Museum seeks help in promoting eyes

 

Courtesy photo

The pair of glass eyes, originally part of a Chinese dragon, are one of 25 artifacts under consideration as one of Wyoming's Most Significant Artifacts

A pair of eyes on display at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum compete with 25 historical artifacts in the running to be named one of Wyoming's Most Significant Artifacts.

Eyes are often referred to as the windows to the soul, but the eyes on display are actually a window into the Chinese influence within Sweetwater County during its early days. The eyes are decorative glass pieces originally part of a dragon that would be paraded through Rock Springs during the late 1800s. The dragon itself measured 140 feet in length and was constructed out of silk, paper and bamboo. The only surviving remnant of the dragon are its eyes, with the rest of the colorful beast believed to have wasted away during prolonged storage. Brie Blazi, interim director of the museum, said the eyes were donated by Robert Murphy in 1968.

Glass preserves like rock, that's why we still have the eyes," Dave Mead, exhibits coordinator for the museum, said.

Chinese workers were brought to the area by the Union Pacific Coal Company to work in the area's mines, often being paid smaller wages than other miners. Those workers brought their cultural traditions with them, including their celebrations.

Mead said the dragon would be a major attraction during the annual Chinese New Year Parade in Rock Springs. Mead said 26 men would operate the dragon during a parade, weaving back and forth in the streets along its parade route. The parade also included traditional drums, cymbals and gongs.

According to Asian women's lion and dragon dance troupe Gung Kwok's website, the dragon is a benevolent figure within CHinese culture and the dragon dance symbolizes bringing good luck and prosperity in the coming year.

The dragon eyes aren't the only piece of southwest Wyoming's Chinese heritage under consideration for the Wyoming's Most Significant Artifacts designation. The Uinta County Museum submitted two wooden panels from its Chinese Joss House Museum. Residents can vote on their 10 favorite artifacts by visiting goo.gl/fEQMp6.

 

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