The Merlion turns 50: How would you 'remake' the national icon?

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The Merlion turns 50 this year. We quizzed visitors to the Merlion statue on how much they know about the Singapore icon.

SINGAPORE - It has been the "mane" attraction of Singapore, photographed by many locals and tourists, at times in hilarious poses.

It was even turned into a superhero, joining hands with Ultraman to fend off monsters that threaten to attack Singapore's landmarks.

Love it or loathe it, the Merlion is a Singaporean icon that is easily identified around the world, with replicas found at home and even abroad.

In honour of the Merlion's 50th birthday on Thursday, we are inviting you to reimagine the Merlion.

What does it mean to you? How would it represent the Singapore of the present and the future? Put your creativity to the test by completing the graphic below.

Submit your entries, along with your contact details, from now till 11.59pm on Sept 21 via this link.

If you are looking for inspiration, here are 10 lesser-known facts about the water-spouting lion-fish hybrid:

1. A nod to Singapore's past 

A nod to Singapore's origins as a fishing village, the Merlion was created by British zoologist Alec Fraser-Brunner, who was then the curator of the now-closed Van Kleef Aquarium on River Valley Road.

2. Built in 1972 by a local sculptor

Mr Lim Nang Seng was asked to build the 8.6m-tall statue after he won several prizes in the Singapore Handicraft and Design Competition. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Merlion statue was built in 1972 by local sculptor Lim Nang Seng, based on a blueprint by artist Kwan Sai Kheong.Mr Lim was asked to build the 8.6m-tall statue after he won several prizes in the Singapore Handicraft and Design Competition. The contest was organised by the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board, the predecessor of the Singapore Tourism Board.

Mr Lim also designed Singapore's first batch of one-cent coins in 1967.

3. Original location at mouth of Singapore River

Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew unveiled the Merlion statue at its original position at the mouth of the Singapore River on Sept 15, 1972.

4. Miss Universe meets Merlion

The Merlion was thrust into the international spotlight in 1987, when 68 Miss Universe contestants posed for a picture in front of the landmark. It was also the only time Singapore hosted the Miss Universe pageant.

5. Move to One Fullerton in 1997

The Merlion transported by barge from the Singapore River. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Merlion was moved from its original position to its current site at One Fullerton in 1997, as the completion of the Esplanade Bridge blocked the statue from view from the waterfront.

The 70-tonne statue was transported by barge from the Singapore River, lifted over the new bridge via two 500-tonne cranes and back onto the barge at the other side before it made its way to its new home.

6. Lighting strike in 2009

Scaffolding put up around the Merlion for workers to examine the damage caused by a lightning strike in February 2009. PHOTO: ST FILE

A chunk of the Merlion's mane fell off and struck its base when the statue was struck by lightning during heavy rain in February 2009.

Nobody was injured but the statue was closed for a month for repair, and to implement lightning protection measures.

7. Merlion Hotel in 2011

The statue was transformed into a pop-up hotel in 2011. PHOTO: ST FILE

The statue was transformed into a pop-up hotel in 2011 as part of an art installation by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi for the Singapore Biennale that year. The "Merlion Hotel" was a 100 sq m luxury suite that featured a double bed, balcony and dedicated butler.

8. Auspicious spot

People taking photographs at Merlion Park on July 16, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The Merlion faces east, an auspicious fengshui (Chinese geomancy) orientation that is believed to bring prosperity. It has become a popular tourist spot and is known as one of the country's top free-access attractions.

9. Where to find 5 other Merlions

Besides the main statue at One Fullerton, there are another five Merlions in Singapore. They are at: Mount Faber's Faber Point, Tourism Court in Grange Road, a pair at the entrance of the carpark in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, and one at Merlion Park.

The 2m-tall statue at the Merlion Park was also built in 1972 by Mr Lim, and is commonly known as the Merlion Cub.

10. Merlion statues overseas

A Merlion in Hokkaido's Merlion Park. PHOTO: ST FILE

There are seven Merlion statues in Japan, including an 8.6m-tall version in Hakodate, one of the main cities in Hokkaido. Merlion statues have also been seen on social media in India and in Indonesia.

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