After October 20, 2019, you won’t have a chance to take a photo with Singapore’s Merlion in Sentosa. The 37-meter statue is scheduled for demolition to make way for the S$90-million Sentosa Sensoryscape project targeted to become a leisure and tourism destination.
Since the gigantic statue has been there since 1995, it has been a part of the childhood of many Singaporeans, news of its demolition saddened a lot of locals and foreigners. But how exactly did Singapore’s iconic Merlion originate?
The origin of the mythical Merlion
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In 1964, British zoologist Alec Fraser-Brunner designed the Merlion for the Singapore Tourism Board and the mythical creature went on to be the official mascot of Singapore. It had the head of a lion and the body of a fish. The Merlion drew inspiration from Singapore’s past as a fishing village, therefore ‘mer’ which means sea and Singapore’s original name, Singapura which means ‘lion city.’
The original Merlion statue sat at the mouth Singapore River
The original Merlion is probably the most photographed Merlion in Singapore, it’s where your Facebook friends pose for that iconic I’ve-been-to-Singapore photo. The original Merlion was made by Singaporean sculptor Lim Nang Seng in 1972.
It used to stand at the mouth of Singapore River where the first Merlion Park was opened by the Singapore Tourism Board. In 1997 when the Esplanade Bridge was completed, it blocked the views of the Merlion from Marina Bay waterfront. In April of 2002, the statue was moved to the other side of the Bridge at a larger location where it has stayed until now.
The Sentosa Merlion is the largest and tallest Merlion in Singapore
Towering 121 feet tall, the Sentosa Merlion has a Mouth Gallery Viewing Deck on the 9th floor, another viewing deck on its head, and a Sentosa Merlion Shop. At night, it’s also able to shoot laser beams from its eyes, a feature that continues to delight young visitors.
There are 7 Merlions in total scattered all across Singapore
A Merlion pair at the entrance of Ang Mo Kio car park
The first one was the 8.6-meter tall original statue at Merlion Park. Just behind it is the smallest Merlion at 2-meters-tall which was fondly dubbed as Merlion Cub. The largest Merlion is found in Sentosa and two 3-meter-tall Merlion statues are found at Tourism Court and at Mount Faber’s Faber Point respectively. The last pair of Merlions can be found by the entrance of the car park along Ang Mo Kio Ave 1. Which of these statues have you visited?
The Merlion has been referenced multiple times in pop culture
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The most famous appearance would be the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians which is largely set in Singapore. The Merlion also appeared in Phineas and Ferb, We Bare Bears, an episode of The Amazing Race 25, and cake inspiration for Cake Boss.
Although it is truly sad news about the Sentosa Merlion’s demise, the promised new theme park which would link Pulau Brani and Sentosa is exciting news. But while you still have time, visit Sentosa Merlion for the last time before October 20, 2019.
Tickets are at SGD 18 for adults and SGD 7.50 for locals.