As you pass from George Street via Hay Street into the centre of Chinatown you would be forgiven for wondering why an old dead tree trunk has been left to obstruct your passage across a small traffic island at the intersection with Sussex Street.
While it is, indeed, an old dead tree truck, a yellow-box eucalyptus one to be precise, it is no ordinary tree truck. Look up. Yes, it is partly covered in 23-carat gold leaf.
This is a 1999 sculpture by Chinese born artist Lin Li and a gift from the City of Sydney to the Chinese Community. It is also the symbolic entry point to the village of Chinatown and replaces the traditional wooden pagoda more regularly seen at village entrances in China.
The sculpture, entitled Golden Water Mouth, stands 10.7m high and incorporates a mix of Feng Shui principles and Australian native material with the latter representing the Shui Kou or five natural elements. Thus you can see wood (the tree), metal (gold which also provides a link to early Chinese settlers in Australian gold fields), fire (scorched tree – very familiar to Australians via bushfires), earth (tree ‘grows’ from the earth/ terracotta below) and water (which cascades from the top of the tree down).
In addition to encouraging harmony and serenity in this bustling location the sculpture is said to exude positive energy and bring good fortune for the Chinese Community.
On perhaps a more practical level for most people the tree is often used as an easy to locate meeting point for people getting together for dinner or whatever.
I am not sure what passing dogs think of it!
Address: Intersection of Hay and Sussex Street, Haymarket