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The Story of Merlion Retold

The Story of Merlion Retold

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Ulysses poem Singapore

…..Travelled and travelled,
Suffering much, enjoying a little;
Met strange people singing
New myths; made myths myself.

But this lion of the sea
Salt-maned, scaly, wondrous of tail,
Touched with power, insistent
On this brief promontory…

Nothing, nothing in my days
Foreshadowed this
Half-beast, half-fish,
This powerful creature of land and sea…

Brief history of Merlion

A mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish is probably the most clicked icons of Singapore till date. The name of Merlion combines “mer”, meaning the sea, and “lion”.Though Singapore has no sightings of lion, it is said, that the Merlion is a mythical reflection of the legend Sang Nila Utama, a Malay prince, who sailed across the seas before discovering a fishing island called Temasek, meaning “fish town” in Javanese. There he met a majestic creature, a lion, that purported him to name the island Singapura which translated in Sanskrit as the “Lion City”.The lion head represents Singapore’s original name — Singapura — meaning “lion city” or “kota singa”.The fish body represents Singapore’s origin as the fishing village Temasek, which means “sea town” in Javanese.

How The Merlion came into Shape?

The Merlion genius conceptualized by Kwan Sai Kheong, the then vice-chancellor of the National University of Singapore and sculptured by Lim Nang Seng was officiated on 15th September 1972, by the then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew.

The Merlion, the official mascot of Singapore was first used by the Singapore Tourism Board. It was designed by Alec Fraser-Brunner, a member of the Souvenir Committee and curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium. It was in use from 26 March 1964 to 1997 and was trademarked since 20 July 1966. Although the tourism board changed its logo in 1997, the STB Act continues to protect this emblematic icon.

The original Merlion statue was located at the mouth of the Singapore River, at the tip of the former Merlion Park with Anderson Bridge as its background. However, the Esplanade Bridge completed in 1997, was blocking the views of the Merlion from the Marina Bay waterfront. So in 2002, the statue and its cub were relocated 120 metres to the current Merlion Park, that fronts Marina Bay. It stands there on a newly reclaimed promontory in front of The Fullerton Hotel.

The Merlion statues in Singapore

There are five authorised Merlion statues in Singapore….

  • The 8.6-metre-tall original statue at Merlion Park.
  • The smaller two-metre-tall statue standing behind the original statue weighed 3 ton and was commonly referred to as the “Merlion cub”, inlaid with Chinese porcelain plates and bowls as part of its design.
  • The 37-metre-tall gigantic replica — with Mouth Gallery Viewing Deck on the ninth storey, another viewing gallery on its head and Sentosa Merlion Shop, and capable of shining laser beams from its eyes — at Sentosa Island.
  • The three-metre-tall glazed polymarble statue at Tourism Court (near Grange Road) completed in 1995.
  • The three-metre-tall polymarble statue placed on Mount-Faber’s Faber Point.

Also, a pair of Merlion statues constructed by the Ang Mo Kio Residential Committee in 1999, sits at the entrance of the car park along Ang Mo Kio Ave.

The appealing emblem of Singapore makes its appearance in movies like Crazy Rich Asians, in TV series, anime, video gaming, literature, sculpture and many other aspects as the significant personification of Singapore.

Perhaps having dealt in things,
Surfeited on them,
Their spirits yearn again for images,
Adding to the Dragon, Phoenix,
Garuda, Naga those Horses of the Sun,
This lion of the sea,
This image of themselves.

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