Raffles statue against the Singapore skyline in the background

Arms folded and looking thoughtfully out to sea, the white polymarble statue of Raffles at the Singapore River is often photographed by tourists and locals alike.

Take your selfies with this popular figure, located at the historic Raffles Landing Site where Raffles was believed to first set foot on the island in 1819.

The statue is actually a copy of the original dark bronze statue, and was placed here in 1972, on the 150th anniversary of Singapore’s founding.

If you want to see the much older, original statue, it’s just a short stroll away, in front of Victoria Memorial Hall at Empress Place. Sculpted by renowned English sculptor and poet Thomas Woolner, it was unveiled on Jubilee Day on 27 June 1887.

Singapore’s iron man

Trivia buffs will love some of the stories behind the Raffles Statue. For one, it was nicknamed orang besi (“iron man” in Malay) when it was first unveiled.

Another quirky fact is that the first statue was relocated from its original location at the Padang in 1919. It was often hit by flying footballs during games, and early Padang spectators liked sitting at its base for a good view.

During the Japanese Occupation, the statue was moved to Syonan Museum (the former Raffles Museum, now National Museum Singapore), and it was widely believed that the Japanese had intended for it to be melted for its bronze. It was reinstalled at Empress Place in 1946.

Today, the statue is a national icon (the white version is popular on some cheeky souvenirs) and remains a symbol of modern Singapore.