Bought by a Chinese patron in 2014, Long Ma, the dragon horse is back in Nantes for a major overhaul. The opportunity to return to the journey of this creation of the company La Machine, whose mission is as much cultural as diplomatic.
His graceful silhouette greets passers-by who have the chance to meet him during the tests. That morning, the La Machine team tested the movements of the animal’s neck and tongue, heavy and complex mechanics, full of power and finesse.
Arrived from China last spring, in spare parts, Long Ma, the dragon horse has been undergoing revision since last summer, in the workshop where it was born in 2014.
“There are things that deteriorated over time, but there, we took everything back“, explains François Delarozière, artistic director of the company La Machine. “We redid all the joints of the hydraulic cylinders, we also modified certain electrical components which had ended up being damaged or oxidized. It’s a global check up, we took everything apart, and now we’re putting everything back together. We also redid dermatological work, the yolk became perfect again where there were traces of grease linked to the life of a machine.“
Technically unemployed, Long Ma took advantage of his long break forced by the Covid to return to the workshop of his birth, and take advantage of this refurbishment after eight years of a history of travel, dismantling, and transport. from one continent to another.
Because the dragon horse is an ambassador. It was first born in the spirit of the committee for the fiftieth anniversary of Franco-Chinese diplomatic relations, whose festivities organized in 2014 were overseen by the French Embassy in Beijing. The organizers then went to see Adam Yu, CEO of Winland, a Chinese group specializing in luxury real estate investments. Francophile, Knight of the Legion of Honor, the Chinese businessman was already known for actions of patronage in the cultural field.
For an amount of 2.8 million euros, Adam Yu had therefore agreed to finance the creation of this machine of 45 tons and 12 meters high, without knowing exactly what he was going to do with it. “Initially, there was the desire to help promote Franco-Chinese relations“says Simon Wang, the wealthy patron’s assistant.”Long Ma first took part in a show in Beijing, at the Olympic Park site. For its future, it had first been planned to install it in a park, for wanderings, a bit like the elephant in Les Machines de l’île.”
But at the time, no location could be found, and the dragon horse had bad luck. On December 31, 2014, during New Year celebrations, 36 people were trampled to death in a crowd in Shanghai. The incident, in which Long Ma was not involved, highlights the risks of major events in a country with cities of up to 22 million people.
In the aftermath, all the events where the dragon horse was to be present were canceled one after the other, and the latter returned to Nantes to be presented on the esplanade des machines in the summer of 2015.
In 2016, the dragon horse then participated in Calais in a show by the company La Machine, along with the giant spider. Then in 2017, it was the city of Ottawa, in Canada, which financed the visit of Long Ma, again in the context of a show by La Machine.
“The cost of a session of these great shows varies greatly. For Beijing, in 2014, where a big show was needed, the budget was 900,000 euros. For Calais, the show was bought for 400,000 euros, but there were fewer effects “, explains Fredette Lampre, of the company La Machine.
If Adam Yu, the Chinese patron, paid for the design, manufacture, and finances the maintenance and costs related to the dragon horse, it is the cities and communities that finance the shows, trips and wanderings of the animal. Hence its rarity.
In 2018, Long Ma was invited by the municipality of X’ian City, famous for its Terracotta Army in Shaanxi Province. A stroll on the occasion of the Franco-Chinese cultural forum, organized in particular by the Prospective and Innovation Foundation, directed by Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
Then in 2019, Long Ma took a walk in Macau, for the 20th anniversary of the return of the peninsula to China by Portugal. “In all of Long Ma’s travels, there is also a diplomatic side. The walk in Macau coincided with the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China“, specifies Simon Wang.
Subsequently, the dragon horse was invited for Chinese New Year to a tourist resort in Zhuai, a border town of Macao. Six days before the very first measures related to Covid 19, which led to the suspension of all events. In October 2020, Long Ma briefly resumed his wanderings, until the date of the Chinese National Day.
Whether on Chinese territory or abroad, the dragon horse is always invested with a political mission. “With Long Ma, Adam Yu has no economic objective. But there is a return for the city that invites it, in terms of image, and also for China, because it is a powerful symbol, the dragon of the emperors and the horse, which represents vitality, speed and perseverance. Through the street show, we convey a different and above all more positive image than that conveyed by the media.“, explains Simon Wang, the assistant of the Chinese patron.
Sumptuous and expensive representative of a certain Chinese “soft power”, Long Ma will go to Toulouse after his major overhaul, for a presentation in the Halle de la Machine from February 19, then for a show with of the giant spider and the minotaur, April 16 and 17. Finally, until May 8, he will take spectators with the help of a temple installed on his back for a ride on the “track of the giants”, a former aviation track which saw the beginnings of airmail. .
This time, the show will be financed by the operating budget of the Halle de la Machine, itself funded by the city of Toulouse as part of a public service delegation.