A mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, the Merlion is considered the national personification of Singapore, much like the eagle is for the US, or Britannia is for the UK. 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 Alec 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.
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.
It was conceptualised by the vice-chancellor of the University of Singapore then, Kwan Sai Kheong. Made from November 1971 to August 1972 by the late Singapore sculptor, Lim Lang Xin, it measures 8.6 metres high and weighs 70 tons. The project cost about S$165,000. In April 2002, the statue was moved to its current location in Merlion Park, near the mouth of Singapore River.