The Merlion (Malay: Singa-Laut) is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, used as a mascot and national personification of Singapore. Its name combines "mer" meaning the sea and "lion". The fish body represents Singapore's origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means "sea town" in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore's original name — Singapura — meaning "lion city" or "kota singa".
The symbol was designed by Fraser Brunner, a member of the Souvenir Committee and curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium, for the logo of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in use from 26 March 1964 to 1997 and has been its trademarked symbol since 20 July 1966. Although the STB changed their logo in 1997, the STB Act continues to protect the Merlion symbol. Approval must be received from STB before it can be used. The Merlion appears frequently on STB-approved souvenirs.
On 15 September 1972, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew officiated the installation ceremony of the Merlion statue. The original Merlion statue used to stand at the mouth of the Singapore River
, at the tip of the current The Fullerton Waterboat House Garden with Anderson Bridge
as its background. The Merlion is a male.
It was conceptualised by the vice-chancellor of the University of Singapore (now known as National University Of Singapore
) then, Kwan Sai Kheong. Made from November 1971 to August 1972 by the late Singapore sculptor, Mr Lim Nang Seng, it measures 8.6 metres high and weighs 70 tons. Its body is made of cement, skin from porcelain plates and eyes from small red teacups. The project cost about S$165,000.
A wide variety of Merlion souvenirs are sold at tourist areas in Singapore. Some form of Merlion souvenirs include:
- Display model, with smaller ones doubling up as paperweights
- Mini soft toy keychains or mobile phone charms
- Picture frames
- Refrigerator magnets
- Soft toys
The Merlion In Art And Popular Culture
In decoration and insignia
- The Merlion appeared in the influential anime Cowboy Bebop (episodes 18 and 24), where its appearance in an ancient home movie offers Singaporean amnesiac bounty hunter Faye Valentine a clue to her true origins.
- The Merlion featured heavily in Hajime Satō's reimagining of Shinjuku in the 2005 anime, Karas.
- A merlion can be seen on the Crest of the 8th Marine Regiment of the United States Marine Corps.
- The Merlion is the chosen motif for Number 92 Wing located at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia. The Merlion was chosen for its skills as a maritime hunter patrolling the seas without fear nor failure as it prosecutes its prey.
- The Merlion can also be seen in the popular video game Animal Crossing for the Nintendo GameCube, and its sequels, as a decoration.
- The Merlion can be summoned in the DS game, Scribblenauts and Super Scribblenauts.
- Singaporeans often substitute the term "Merlion" in lieu of vomiting, in reference of the constant gushing of water from the Merlion's mouth. It is now used by Singaporean medical staff as slang for a patient who has intractable vomiting.
- A small Merlion, complete with a plaque giving information about the original statues, forms part of the decoration in the "Mystic East" area of British theme park Chessington World of Adventures.