Just what is a Merlion?
It’s a mythical creature who is the official mascot of the country of Singapore. It has the head of a lion and the body of a fish.
The merlion was created by a man named Fraser Brunner back in 1964. He was a curator for the Van Kleef Aquarium and an ichthyologist. That is someone who studies fish.
It’s said the idea for the merlion was based on the legend of how Singapore got its name.
Based on the legend, there was a prince from Malay, Sang Nila Utama, who was sailing nearby. He reached the shores of an island which was called Temasek. In Javanese Temasek means “Sea Town.” It was a small fishing village.
Prince Utama was met by, what he called, a mystical creature on the shore. After some asking about, he discovered the creature was a lion.
There has never been another lion sighting on the island and most historians believe the story is nothing more than a myth. But the legend stuck.
Prince Utama decided that the name for the island should be Singapura. In his language that meant “Lion City.” “Singa” means lion and “Pura” means the city. His language was Sanskrit, which is a classic language in South Asia.
What does the Merlion represent?
The Merlion is said to embody the people’s humble beginnings- that of the original fishing village, and their enduring and fighting spirit. That’s where the lion part comes in. It symbolizes strength and courage.
The mane of the lion is said to represent the nation’s goal to rise to any challenges and overcome any obstacles.
Even the Merlion’s teeth represent a part of Singapore. The teeth represent the main people’s ethnicities of Singapore. Those are Malay, Indian, Chinese, and Eurasian.
It was adopted as the official mascot of Singapore in 1964, and in 1965 Singapore became its own country.
Previously the island was a British colony. The people of Singapore declared their independence from Britain in 1965, becoming their own country!
So, the merlion is actually older than the country it represents!
The Singapore Board or Tourism wanted an animal which would represent everything about the people of this country.
They agreed on the Merlion and it’s said that his statue welcomes all visitors to the country.
There are 5 statues of the Merlion located throughout Singapore.
The Singapore Merlion Statues
The Marina Bay Merlion
One of the first had to be relocated in 2002 because it was blocked from view by a bridge which had been completed.
The huge statue was moved from the Singapore River’s mouth to its new location, Marina Bay, also called Merlion Park.
This was quite a feat because the statue is huge! It stands 8.6 meters tall, which equals just over 28 feet and it weighs 70 tons. That’s equal to 140,000 pounds!
The Esplanade Bridge in Singapore
It had to be loaded onto a barge, lifted over the bridge by crane, and put back on the barge to finish its relocation. The grand statue had to be lifted over the bridge because it was too tall to ride on the barge underneath the bridge!
The big statue has a pump which constantly sprays water into the bay. It also was placed facing east. This is important in the culture and belief of Feng Shui. Placing the Merlion facing east is said to bring prosperity to the land.
Feng Shui is a Chinese practice involving the placement of items for the best results. Living in harmony with the world around you. It gets pretty intense. People use it in their homes and businesses.
The Merlion Cub
Image courtesy WikiCommons
A smaller Merlion statue was also relocated to Marina Bay. It’s called the Merlion Cub. It’s about half the size of the big guy.
The Sentosa Merlion
The biggest Merlion was located on Sentosa Island of Singapore. It was big enough that you could go inside it, ride an elevator to the top, and have a look at the surrounding area!
There were viewing galleries inside this huge Merlion’s head! He stood a whopping 118 feet tall. That would have given you quite the view from that height.
Unfortunately, this landmark of Singapore has been closed. The officials of Singapore had something else in mind for the location called a Sensoryscape. Their intent is to provide a multi-sensory park for all the visitors to Singapore. They want to open in in 2022.
The Merlion on Mount Faber
Image courtesy WikiCommons
Then there is the highest Merlion, found on Mount Faber. The highest point in Singapore, Point Faber, is home to an almost 10-foot tall Merlion.
The Singapore Board of Tourism Merlion
And the final official Merlion is located outside of the Singapore Board of Tourism.
A unique creature for a unique place. The Merlion represents everything that embodies the people and culture of Singapore.
And you can enjoy the cuisine with our Singapore box as you eat2explore!