Half-lion, half-fish, the Merlion is the trademarked mascot of Singapore. No, this absurd creature isn’t from a local myth or children’s story; it was dreamed up by the Singapore Tourism Board in 1964 to use as their logo. The fish body represents Singapore’s long history as a port and the lion head is a reference to the city’s name – Singa Pura (Lion City). In spite of the extreme cheesiness of the water-spewing sculpture, a photo op with the Merlion is on many visitors’ to-do list.
The original Merlion statue is located at Merlion Park near the mouth of the Singapore River and accompanied by a smaller Merlion cub. Standing just under nine metres, the big Merlion spews a constant stream of water into Marina Bay, which has inspired the local idiom ‘do the Merlion’ to describe what might happen after drinking waaay too much Tiger Beer. He (yes, the Merlion is officially male) has had an eventful few years and was struck by lightning in 2009 and converted into the one-room Merlion Hotel during the 2011 Singapore Biennale.
However, the title for biggest Merlion goes to the 37 metre-tall monster that’s part of the Merlion Walk attraction on Sentosa Island. For just S$8 you can climb a staircase inside the Merlion’s body and end up at a viewing platform in its mouth. Or save your money and appreciate him from a distance!
If you just can’t get enough Merlion, there are two more official Merlions in Singapore: a three-metre Merlion atop Mount Faber, and similarly sized statue at the Singapore Tourism Court on Grange Road. And don’t forget your Merlion souvenirs – Singapore’s official mascot can be found on T-shirts, magnets, paper weights, cigarettes lighters, plush toys… and you’ll even find Merlion-shaped durian cookies.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 10th April, 2015.