Photo by Andrew Tan
Travellers acquainted with Singapore will probably already know of our city’s national icon—the mythical Merlion, which possesses the body of a fish and the head of a lion.
One of the most famous depictions of this iconic symbol is the statue found at Merlion Park—a scenic spot located at One Fullerton, Singapore, near the Central Business District.
Before you pay a visit to this beautiful locale, you may want to learn more about the symbolism behind the Merlion, and how it intertwines with our nation’s history.
Fishing Village, Lion City
Photo by Yik Keat
The Merlion being part-lion and part-fish is a tale that runs more than just skin (or stone) deep.
The Merlion’s fish-like body symbolises Singapore’s origins as a fishing village, known as Temasek—a name which comes from same root as the word tasek (‘lake’ in Malay).
The statue’s head represents the city’s original name of Singapura (lion city in Sanskrit). According to legend, Sang Nila Utama—a Srivijayan prince of Palembang—landed on our shores amidst a tempest at sea.
Near the mouth of the Singapore River, the prince spied a strange creature which he identified as a lion, thus giving Singapura its name.
The story behind the statue
Today, you can glimpse echoes of this legend, embodied in the statue at Merlion Park.
Spouting water from its mouth, the Merlion statue stands at 8.6 metres and weighs 70 tonnes. Originally located at the mouth of the Singapore River, it was built by local craftsman Lim Nang Seng, designed by Kwan Sai Kheong, and unveiled on 15 September 1972 by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
With the completion of Esplanade Bridge in 1997, the statue could no longer be viewed clearly from the waterfront and was relocated to the Merlion Park, which stands in front of Fullerton Hotel and overlooking Marina Bay.
As you travel across our island, see if you can spot other statues of our city’s national icon, which has inspired travellers, poets and Singaporeans alike.
Marking The Merlion’s Golden Jubilee
2022 marks a very special occasion, with the Merlion turning 50 on 15 September.
To commemorate the Merlion’s 50th birthday, a month’s worth of unforgettable celebrations is in the works.
From 15 to 28 September, the Merlion Statue at Merlion Park will be illuminated from 6pm to 12 midnight each day, in a display of light and colour, creating the perfect photo opportunities for commemorative selfies with our island’s most beloved icon.
Don’t forget to mosey on by The Fullerton Hotel, just a stone’s throw away from Merlion Park. As part of the Merlion’s Golden Jubilee, the hotel’s façade will be lit in warm, golden hues throughout the month of September.
Fans of the Merlion can also mark its jubilee with exclusive Merlion and Merli-themed merchandise from local brands, ranging from children’s apparel and furniture to games, learning tools and customised chocolates.
You’ll find these exclusive merchandise—from local brands like Boldr, doob Bean Bags, Edupod, Fossa Chocolate, Lilo, Mer-Lion Games Studio, Oeteo, Prima Taste and Scent by Six—via the brands’ distribution channels, with some of them retailing at Design Orchard from 1 Sep—4 Oct.
Celebrations of the Merlion’s 50th birthday abound all across the island, with five outlets at Marina Bay Sands creating themed drinks and SingPost rolling out an exclusive series of Singapore Mascots stamps.
These limited-edition stamps feature the adorable Merli, a heart-warming and whimsical illustration of Singapore’s national icon. The character’s energetic, outgoing demeanour and love for Singapore invites visitors to explore our island of many possibilities.
There’s no better to get pumped for the celebrations than with a dose of adrenaline, and thrilling activities abound all across the island.
Merlion “hunters” can explore the island to discover all six official Merlions through the “Merli-Go-Round x Merlion 50th edition” game on the Singapore Travel Guide app or find them through the Prudential Merlion 50 Hunt Challenge (9 – 22 September).
For art aficionados, the Merlion can be found at National Gallery Singapore’s latest exhibition “Nothing is Forever: Rethinking Sculpture in Singapore”.
For the full list of activities and products as part of the Merlion’s 50th birthday celebrations, please click here.
Fascinating facts on the Merlion’s 50th birthday
Eager to learn more about The Merlion on its 50th birthday? Here are 3 fun facts about this national icon:
#1: The Merlion has been the subject of many verses by local writers. Ulysses by the Merlion—by famed local poet Edwin Thumboo—imagines the wonderment of mythical Greek hero Odysseus upon seeing the Merlion
#2: The Merlion has also turned up in acclaimed works of international media, including the beloved Japanese anime Cowboy Bebop and the Hollywood hit movie, Crazy Rich Asians.
#3: The first Merlion statue was built with many hands, with sculptor Lim Nang Seng enlisting the help of his eight children to work on the Merlion’s eyes, scales and tail fins.