What Is The Singapore Merlion?
The Merlion: A Fusion of Legends and Modernity
The Singapore Merlion, one of the most iconic landmarks of the Lion City, has established itself as a must-visit spot for tourists worldwide. This captivating creature is more than a mere statue or tourist attraction—it’s a seamless blend of Singapore’s ancient maritime history and forward-thinking modernity.
Delving into the Origins of the Merlion
The Merlion’s symbolism draws on a rich tapestry of folklore and history. The creature consists of a lion’s head and a fish’s body, each part narrating a unique tale about Singapore’s origins. The lion represents the legendary discovery of Singapore by Prince Sang Nila Utama, a Sumatran prince. According to the legend, the prince sighted a lion on the island, an auspicious omen, prompting him to establish a city here, which he named ‘Singapura,’ or ‘Lion City.’
The fish body, on the other hand, symbolizes Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village called ‘Temasek.’ This name, of ancient Javanese origin, translates to ‘Sea Town.’ Hence, the Merlion reflects both the modern nation we know today and its roots in antiquity.
Designing the Emblem of Singapore
In 1964, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) commissioned Fraser Brunner, a British ichthyologist and curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium, to design an emblem that would symbolize and promote Singapore. The resulting creation was the Merlion.
Brunner’s concept was a brilliant amalgamation of a lion’s head, representing bravery and strength, and a fish’s body, signifying the city-state’s close relationship with the sea. In its open mouth, one can imagine a roar that resonates with Singapore’s ambition and relentless progress.
The Original Merlion Statue: A Waterfront Marvel
The original Merlion statue, located at Merlion Park near Marina Bay, stands at an impressive height of 8.6 meters and weighs 70 tons. Lim Nang Seng, a local craftsman, constructed this iconic structure, which was officially unveiled on September 15, 1972, by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
The statue is a stunning sight, particularly when its mouth pours out water, illuminating the Marina Bay backdrop with a unique charm. Nighttime brings a different aesthetic, as the statue is bathed in lights, reflecting a mesmerizing spectacle on the bay’s waters.
Merlion Statues: Multiple Representations Across Singapore
While the original Merlion statue is the most famous, several representations exist throughout the city. One of these is the Merlion cub, located just behind the original statue, standing at 2 meters tall. Another notable statue is the Sentosa Merlion, towering at 37 meters. This larger-than-life statue was a beloved feature of Sentosa Island until its demolition in 2019, to make way for a themed linkway connecting the north and south shores of the island.
The Merlion: A National and Cultural Icon
The Merlion’s symbolism has not just been confined to representing the country’s tourism. It’s widely utilized in a variety of areas, from business logos to being the mascot for national sports teams. This broad adoption reflects the Merlion’s role as a national and cultural icon, an embodiment of the Singaporean spirit.
The Merlion: An Enduring Symbol of Progress
Over the decades, the Merlion has withstood the test of time, just like the nation it symbolizes. It has witnessed Singapore’s transformation from a small trading post into a global hub for commerce, finance, and technology. The Merlion’s robust presence amidst the rapidly evolving cityscape reflects Singapore’s reverence for its history and its audacious strides into the future.
Merlion in Art, Literature, and Popular Culture
The Merlion’s appeal extends beyond the physical realm; it permeates art, literature, and popular culture, reinforcing its role as a national icon. It has been the muse for artists and poets, the backdrop for countless photographs, and even found its way into local jokes and comics, portraying the lighter side of the Singaporean culture.
In 1971, renowned Singaporean poet Edwin Thumboo wrote a poem titled “Ulysses by the Merlion,” capturing the mythical allure of the Merlion and the city’s cultural complexities. The Merlion’s image often graces festive decorations, like during Chinese New Year or National Day, as a representation of Singapore’s shared identity.
The Merlion: A Visual Narrative of Singapore
Ultimately, the Merlion is a visual narrative of Singapore. It embodies the fusion of cultures that make up this diverse nation, reflects the transformational journey from ‘Temasek’ to ‘Singapura,’ and personifies the steadfastness with which Singapore has weathered global changes. This unique creature, a lion’s head atop a fish’s body, continues to stand tall, its gaze firmly set on the horizon, symbolizing the city-state’s unwavering determination and its ceaseless ambition to remain a Lion City in its own right.
Preserving the Legacy of the Merlion
The Singapore Merlion, though rooted in the past, serves as a beacon guiding the nation into the future. The maintenance and preservation of the Merlion statues reflect the city-state’s commitment to safeguard its history while embracing evolution and growth.
The significance of the Merlion extends beyond being a mere icon or symbol. It is a shared emblem representing Singapore’s collective memory, identity, and aspirations. As the country progresses, the Merlion continues to hold a special place in the hearts of its people and the many visitors it attracts, serving as a constant reminder of Singapore’s rich past and promising future.
Conclusion: The Everlasting Roar of the Merlion
Today, the Singapore Merlion continues to roar across the nation, echoing the strength, perseverance, and ambition that propelled a small island into a bustling metropolis. As Singapore forges ahead, the Merlion stands, not just as an embodiment of its past, but as a symbol of the Lion City’s indomitable spirit and bright future. Hence, the Merlion is more than just a tourist attraction. It is a representation of the nation’s journey, a token of Singapore’s indelible spirit, and an embodiment of its aspirational narrative.
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