I kid you not. There’s a shop near downtown LA, at the edge of old Chinatown, where you can buy a Merlion, the internationally known symbol of Singapore.
Fact: the Merlion is not a Singapore legend but a symbol owned by the Singapore Tourism Board, which has “all intellectual property rights (including design rights or copyright, trade mark rights and other forms of intellectual property rights) interest and title” in it.
In Singapore, there was an incident where the residents of Ang Mo Kio were asked to forced to remove a pair of unauthorized Merlion statues erected in the town. I couldn’t find The Straits Times article. but according to this article (looks like an Elias Pri School project), there were “a pair of Merlions at the entrance to the carpark leading to Blocks 217 – 220 along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1. They served as mascots for the Resident’s Committee there. Made of pink perino marble, the pair of Merlions is 2.5 metres tall. They were made in China in 1998 and cost $30,000.”
But out of Singapore, the Merlion takes on its own life . (I’ll let someone else with more poetic talent take this one) Aside from working the streets of LA, the Merlion in America has another incarnation: there’s a restaurant in Cupertino, California (Silicon Valley area) called the Merlion Marketplace. They have many many Merlions there, including one big one outside and one inside, safe from lightening bolts.
The biggest Merlion in Singapore is the one sitting in Sentosa (it apparently cost $8 million dollars to build, but once again, this is from the Elias Pri School report…).
Sidetrack: before it became an island resort, Sentosa was known as Pulau Belakang Mati. In Malay, the name means the “Island (pulau) of Death (mati) from Behind (belakang). Check this link out for some interesting public compiled information about its history. It’s a really interesting read, but can anyone verify the credibility of the information? I’d love to read more about Singapore’s pre-colonial past and the folklore associated with it, and preferably untainted by tourism marketing please.