Discovery of the Shou Lao

A significant discovery was made in 1879 by a team of road workers who were removing a large Banyan tree, approximately half way up the hill from Doctors Gully of a small Asian statuette.

It wasn’t until 1928 when it was positively identified as an image of the Taoist immortal Shou Lao, God of Longevity. It is thought early visiting Chinese sailors deliberately placed the symbol under the Banayan tree as a gesture of sacrificial offering. The Banyan tree, also believed to be of Chinese significance, has a dense root system that was able to preserve the statuette over centuries of time.

This has opened endless theories that connect the Shou Lao with the famous Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho who may have visited Darwin between 1405 and 1433 – either blown off course or taking a two day detour from Timor where it is known they searched for riches, timbers and spices. It seems very likely that the Chinese landed at Doctors Gully as early as the 5th century and were using it as a base to mine gold, silver and tin as far way as Kakadu.

Today this statuette is on display in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum where it has been since 1950.