iMerlion - The Singapore iPhone Guide obsessively covers the latest developments in the iPhone scene in Singapore.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Wasn't this site previously just known as The Singapore iPhone Guide?
2. Why was iMerlion added to the name?
Because we needed a catchy name that had a local flavour and that also suggested Apple's iPhone. We feel that iMerlion is that name.
3. What exactly is a Merlion anyway?
The merlion is a half-lion, half-fish figure that was the symbol of the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board between 1964 and 1997. It was designed by Van Kleef Aquarium curator Fraser Brunner.
The best known version of the merlion is the 8.6m high sculpture that now stands in Merlion Park, fronting Marina Bay. It was conceptualised by Kwan Sai Kheong, an artist who was also the vice chancellor of the University of Singapore.
The cement fondue sculpture, which is referred to as ‘the Merlion’, was made by craftsman Lim Nang Seng, who used porcelain plates to make the skin of the beast, and small red tea cups to make its eyes. The sculpture was installed at the mouth of the Singapore River and officially unveiled by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on Sept 15, 1972, the day before his 49th birthday. It was moved to its current location, 120m away, in 2002, following changes to the area that made it less prominent.
The Merlion’s imposing size, prominent location and unusual features (apart from its combination of lion and fish, it also spouts water) quickly made it, not just a symbol of the tourism board, but of Singapore itself.
A merlion cub playfully chasing a butterfly (note the hibiscus - the national flower of Malaysia - coyly tucked into the mane).
Merlion – Poetry in non-motion
The Merlion lies at the very heart of Singaporean culture. Poets, especially, have been particularly moved by the majestic Merlion, and a number of well-known local bards have penned lyrical odes to the semi-leonine effigy.
Singapore’s unofficial poet laureate, Edwin Thumboo, was the first to fall under the Merlion’s irresistable spell. In 1979, Thumboo published the seminal Ulysses by the Merlion, a poem that enshrined the Merlion in the cultural consciousness of Singaporeans. Some time later, Lee Tzu Pheng responded to Thumboo's work with The Merlion to Ulysses (1997). This was swiftly followed by Alfian Saat's The Merlion (1998) and Alvin Pang’s Merlign (1998), among others.
While the Merlion has been warmly embraced by the country's poets, it has been inexplicably ignored by local painters. Even though the Singapore River is a popular subject for the country’s watercolourists, the Merlion is conspicuously absent from most canvasses. The Merlion’s absence, in fact, was the theme of conceptual artist Lim Tzay Chuen’s work Mike. Failing to get permission from the Singapore Tourism Board to move the Merlion to Venice for the Venice Biennale in 2005, his installation at the Biennale consisted of an empty courtyard where the Merlion would have stood had he been allowed to move the icon.
The Merlion: A source of inspiration to sculptors and craftsmen
This exquisite piece is affixed to a ferrous metal-attracting material to enhance its utility.
Fortunately, although Singapore’s watercolourists have let the country down, sculptors and master craftsmen have leaped into the breach. These highly skilled artisans toil tirelessly in their workshops to produce highly sought-after miniature Merlions for the cognoscenti. (Interestingly, many of these artisans are based in what is the ancestral home of many Singaporeans, thus neatly tying together ancient migratory routes with modern day manufacturing practices). These valuable collectibles, painstakingly handmade, or lovingly manufactured in limited quantities, can be purchased from the city’s more exclusive boutiques. These stunning pieces come in various forms, and, typically, are as useful as they are beauteous. One popular form is the elegant clay relief that is typically affixed to a ferrous metal-attracting material. Usually painted in resplendent colours, with the Merlion attractively arrayed with other local icons, it plays a vital role in holding up pithy reminders on the refrigerator. For the fairer sex, there are delicate Merlion-adorned devices designed for achieving perfect manicures and pedicures. Domestic goddesses, on the other hand, often fall in love with the picturesque Merlion-themed kitchen implements, in equal parts beautiful and practical, that are used for carefully prising open the metal seals of beverage-holding glass vessels.
This elegant implement is popular with both the domestic goddess as well as the debonair man about town.
The metaphorical Merlion
The Merlion has become such a fixture in Singapore life that it has entered the vocabulary. In the local parlance, to 'Merlion' means 'to throw up', a piquant reference to the fact that the Merlion sculpture spouts water from its mouth. The word is used as a verb; for example, "If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of prescription pills, you should endeavour to make them Merlion the pills out,” or “He caught gastric flu and Merlioned several times during the day.”
Merlion is also the name of a Russian IT equipment distributor. It is not clear what links with Singapore, if any, this company has. However, the company says the Merlion was selected because it is a symbol of power, reliability and sustainability. The company notes: “People of Singapore still worship Merlion. To commemorate their savior, they have built the 37 meters high stone sculpture of the lion-fish.” This is a reference to another Merlion statue that was installed on the holiday island of Sentosa in 1996. This other merlion was designed by Australian artist James Martin. Apart from its massive height, it is also famous for the lasers that shoot out of its eyes at night. Just as the Colossus protected Rhodes, this colossal merlion symbolically stands guard over the port of Singapore, fiercely protecting the city from its enemies.
While Singaporeans see the Merlion as being a quintessentially Singaporean icon, lions with fishtails have been found in ancient Indian murals and Etruscan coins. It is not unknown in heraldry and has been used on the coat of arms of the East India Company as well as the City of Manila.
Ulysses by the Merlion (Edwin Thumboo)
The Merlion (Alfian Saat)
Merlign (Alvin Pang)
Various other poetic efforts.
Merlion entry in Singapore: The Encyclopedia.
Merlion entry in Wikipedia.
Merlion entry in Singapore Infopedia.
More about the Russian Merlion.
A light-hearted ANA TV commercial featuring the Merlion.