For most travelers, a trip to Singapore will not be complete without seeing this iconic statue at Merlion Park facing Marina Bay.
It has become a beloved symbol of Singapore and every time we think of Singapore, we think of the majestic half-lion-half-fish statue that spits water out of its mouth.
But why does it spit water out of its mouth AND WHY DOES IT HAVE A HEAD OF A LION AND A BODY OF A FISH?
In this article, we answered 9 questions you’re probably asking about the Merlion.
1. Is the Merlion real or a myth?
As much as we’d like to believe that the Merlion is real, unfortunately, the Merlion is a mythical creature.
The myth that surrounds this icon trails back to the 11th century.
When Prince Sang Nila Utama of Sumatra was sailing in the South China Sea, he endured a vicious storm. Brought by his fear of his ship being destroyed, he sacrificed his crown to the gods by throwing it into the ocean. When the weather cleared, they arrived at an island paradise where the prince encountered a “lion”.
The encounter gave birth to the island’s name, Singapura, where -Singa comes from the Malay word, ‘lion’, and -pura which means, ‘city’. This story, later on, became the basis of Merlion’s concept and design.
2. What does the Merlion represent?
The Merlion’s lion head represents Singapore’s original name which means ‘Lion City’ as mentioned in #1. The fish body, however, commemorates the city’s origin as a fishing village, known as Temasek.
3. How many Merlions are there in Singapore?
The most popular Merlion statue is probably the original Merlion located at Merlion Park, 1 Fullerton Road which stands at 8.6 meters tall and weighs 70 tonnes.
The Merlion was originally designed by Fraser Brunner as an emblem for the Singapore Tourism Board in 1964 and has served as their corporate logo for 31 years.
The original statue was designed by local designer Kwan Sai Kheong and crafted by local sculptor Lim Nang Seng in 1972.
But did you know that there are actually 5 other Merlions scattered all over Singapore?
- Merlion Cub. This Merlion faces away from its bigger sibling and is only 2 meters high, which is why it is dubbed as the ‘Merlion Cub’. (But I like calling it as ‘Baby Merli’ instead.)
- Tourism Court’s Merlion Statue. This 3-meter high Merlion is located in 1 Orchard Spring Ln. It is made of glazed polymarble and was built in the Philippines in 1995.
- Mount Faber’s Merlion Statue. This Merlion statue was installed in 1998 by the National Parks Board as part of the park’s redevelopment. It is located at the top of Mount Faber a.k.a Faber Point. As to why there is a mini Merlion in this park, it is because back in the day, Mount Faber was a popular spot for tourists when they visited Singapore. Nowadays, tourists are mellow but the statue remains.
- Ang Mo Kio’s Merlion Statues. This pair of Merlions guard the car park entrance of Ang Mo Kio which was built in 1998 by the Ang Mo Kio Residential Committee. These two Merlions almost faced forced removal for not getting prior approval from the Singapore Tourism Board which owned the copyright and intellectual properties of the Merlion design and concept.
- Sentosa Island’s Merlion Statue (Closed). Standing at 37 meters high, this Merlion statue that looms over the Imbiah Station on Sentosa stood as the biggest Merlion. Unfortunately, visitations for the Sentosa Merlion stopped last October 29, 2019 and the statue is believed to be demolished by the end of 2022.
So, in total, there are SIX official Merlions in Singapore!
4. Are Merlions male or female?
Ever wondered whether or not the Merlions are male or female? Well, the answer is that the Merlions that spit water are female and the ones that don’t are male! That means, the Merlions in Merlion Park are both females!
5. Why does the Merlion spit water?
In Chinese culture, water represents wealth and the statue’s act of spitting of water means the endless spitting of money into the deep ocean of money (represented by the Singapore River).
Therefore, the Feng Shui interprets the iconic statue’s spitting of water as the never ending prosperity into the river of life.
6. Is the Merlion older than Singapore?
The simplest answer is, YES! The Merlion is, in fact, ONE YEAR older than Singapore.
The original statue was designed in 1963 and was then used as the former Singapore Tourism Board’s logo in the year 1964. Singapore became an independent nation a year after which makes the dearly beloved figure older than the city-state!
The Merlion turned 50 years old last September 15, 2022!
7. Where is the largest Merlion Statue in Singapore?
If you think the biggest Merlion in Singapore is the statue facing the Marina Bay, then you have to think again because the biggest and tallest Merlion in Singapore is located in Sentosa which stands at 37 meters tall!
Unfortunately, in 2019, it was announced that the Sentosa Merlion will be demolished to give way to the Sentosa Sensoryscape Project, a bridge that will connect Sentosa and Pulau Brani.
8. Is the Merlion protected by UNESCO?
Unfortunately, the Merlion is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to UNESCO, there is only one cultural heritage site in Singapore, the Botanic Gardens located at 1 Cluny Road. A bid to include Singapore’s Hawker Centers in the Representative List (RL) of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Humanity has been successfully submitted and awaits approval.
To know more about where to go and what to do in Singapore, read more of our 5-Day Singapore Itinerary here:
9. Which movies and shows featured the Merlion?
The Merlion has made cameos in countless of movies and shows, both live action and animation.
The Merlion Park was one of the filming locations of the hit romcom drama film, Crazy Rich Asians!
The statue is also a favorite in Disney Channel’s animated series, Phineas and Ferb, appearing at least twice in their songs!
- Bouncing Around the World Song Scene. Phineas, Ferb, and friends can be scene bouncing on top of the statue.
- Summer All Over the World Song Scene. This summer song featured Singaporeans dancing along to the beat in front of Merlion Park with the Merlion at the back.
Japanese animators also adore the icon and have incorporated the symbol in animes like Detective Conan: The Fist of Blue Sapphire (2019) and Cowboy Bebop.
A full episode was even dedicated to explain the history of the Merlion in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders wherein a character was even named, ‘Anne Merlai’, after the Merlion.
Final thoughts on the Merlion
The Merlions are a great way to start or end your journey in the Lion City. So, always remember to head on to at least one of the locations mentioned above. If you have time, you might want to go Merlion hunting and maybe you can even spot other Merlions around Singapore! The most popular one is the one at Downtown Marina Bay. If you’re there be sure to check out these attractions below that are close by to maximise your trip!Klook.com
Have you ever visited any of the Merlions in Singapore? Comment down below and let us know about your experience!