The Merlion

From the number of monikers tagged with the island-state of Singapore, it is the “Lion City” that stands out among the others. It is even symbolised by a half lion and half fish chimera called the Merlion. And though it is not proven that lions existed in this part of the tropical region, the particular moniker and its symbol just fit best to what Singapore is today: strong.

Singapore’s other monikers are the “Little Red Dot” that basically refers to its size in general and “City in a Garden” which is based on the country’s initiatives to transform the city from being a ‘garden city’ to a ‘city in a garden’.

The Icon: Merlion

The Merlion is a mythical creature often used as icon representing Singapore. Its name is a portmanteau of two words, “mer” which means sea and “lion”. Its fishtail represents the country as a former fishing village back in the ages and the lion bust to honour the country’s original name which is Singapura that means lion city.

It is so iconic that it becomes synonymous to the country itself. Its first use can be traced back in 1964, the year when the Singapore Tourism Board was formed and used it as their official symbol. It was designed by a member of the board’s souvenir committee, Alec Fraser-Brunner.

On the other hand, the original statue that stands 8.6 metres tall was initially installed at the Singapore River was constructed by renowned sculptor, Lim Nang Seng based on a blueprint by Kwan Sai Kheong. It was launched to public in 1972 by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and has since been one of the most photographed spots in the country. The project had a budget of U$ 165,000.

The famous icon is trademarked in 1966 under the Singapore Tourism Board and an approval from the agency is needed before it can be used or featured.

Of the number of Merlion replicas in Singapore, there are only five that are recognized and formally authorized by the country’s tourism board. These are the ones at the Merlion Park, Faber Point, Tourism Court and the largest, in Sentosa Island. Although not in Singapore, the Merlion in a restaurant in California is also recognized by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Currently, the original Merlion, along with its cub, is placed at a reclaimed spot fronting the Marina Bay – which is 120 metres away from its previous location. It was moved after the Esplanade Bridge was completed in 1997 and blocked the view of the Merlion.

Through the years, the iconic symbol has well represented Singapore’s various fields: literature, gaming, sculptures, dining, design and anime. It has become a common souvenir item purchased by visitors of the island-state as well.