The Merlion is an iconic icon and an unofficial mascot of Singapore, depicted as a mythical creature with a lion's head and the body of a fish. You will find it widely used across the country in sport teams, advertising, branding and tourism, even being established as the emblem for the Singapore Tourism Board in 1964. But the history of this iconic symbol goes back further to represent Singapore's ancient past.
The symbol is an ode to two different parts of Singapore's origin as a country. The Lion head of the icon symbolises the legend of the rediscovery of Singapura, while the fish tail symbolises the ancient city of Temasek, Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village. These two different stories of Singapore's past comes together to create this unique symbol.
In ancient times, Singapore was known as Temasek, a Javanese word for sea. In the 11th century A.D, Prince Sang Nila Utama of the Sri Vijaya Empire rediscovered the island. When the Prince first landed on Singapore's shores, he sighted a mythical beast which he later learnt was a lion. The Prince then decided to name the island "Singapura" which in Sanskrit means Lion (Singa) City (Pura).
In the 1970s the current Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew officiated the installation ceremony of the Merlion Statue which was then located at the mouth of the Singapore River. It was created by the late Singapore sculptor, Lim Lang Xin and it measure 8.6 metres high and weighs 70 tons.
But in the 1990s after the completion of the Esplanade Bridge the views of the Merlion was blocked from the Marina Bay Waterfront. It was then relocated to the current Merlion Park that fronts Marina Bay where it stands in front of The Fullerton Hotel. Exactly thirty years after the original installation of the statue, Lee Kuan Yew returned, then a Senior Minister, to welcome the Merlion to it's new home.
There are now many Merlion Statues throughout Singapore but here is a list of the most iconic ones you will find:
- The Original Merlion - Still Standing Tall at Merlion Park
- The Merlion Cub - The Smaller two metre Statue that stands behind the original Statue and is inlaid with Chinese porcelain plates and bowls as part of its design.
- Sentosa Island Merlion - This 37-metre-tall gigantic replica can be found on Sentosa Island and is capable of shining laser beams from its eyes.
- Tourism Court Merlion - The three-metre-tall glazed polymarble statue at Tourism Court completed in 1995
- Mount Faber Merlion - This three-metre-tall polymarble statue can be found at Mount Faber's Faber Point
As well as being seen as statues around Singapore you will also found the merlion commonly sold in tourist areas as a wide range of Merlion souvenirs, or as an icon in different medias from graphic novels, to movies.