The MerLion, a mythical creature with the body of a fish and the head of a lion, commemorates both the ancient name Temasek (Javanese for "sea") and the Malay legend that explains how this became what we now know as the island city of Singapore.
Sometime during the 13th or 14th Century, a Sumatran prince called Sang Nila Utama decided to set sail for nearby islands in search of new adventures. After enduring a fierce storm, the prince eventually landed on a small island called Temasek. The prince soon set out on a hunting trip, one of his favourite past times, and in the heart of the jungle was suddenly surprised by a magnificent wild animal that he had never seen before. The prince was told the animal was a lion and, so impressed with the beast, he decided to name the island "Singapura", which is Sanskrit for Lion (Singa) City (Pura). The name stuck and the island became known as Singapore, the "Lion City".
The MerLion's fish-like body is symbolic of the ancient island name of Temasek and of modern day Singapore's strategic importance as a sea port and centre of trade. The lion's head recalls the adventures of the Sumatran prince who renamed the island in honour of the magnificent creature he saw.