Posted in History & Literature


It is common to see creatures in mythology that are a combination of different animals. The unicorn, griffin, chimera, basilisk, hippocampus… The list goes on and on. But perhaps the more interesting combinations are those between humans and animals. Centaurs are a cross between man and horse, harpies are a cross between woman and bird while mermaids and mermen are half-human, half-fish. Although these examples are all from ancient mythologies, there are more recent examples such as the merlion.

The merlion – top-half lion, bottom-half fish – is the national symbol of Singapore. This symbol was designed by Alec Fraser-Brunner in 1964 to promote the name of Singapore. Since then, the merlion has been used frequently in Singaporean art such as in statues and souvenirs. Although the concept of merlions have been found in certain ancient Indian and Hellenistic cultures (not to mention the “sea lion” which is an actual animal), it is almost synonymous with Singapore in modern times.

How did this bizarre combination of a lion and fish come to be? The union of the lion and fish is a symbol for Singapore’s history. Singapore originates from a small fishing village called Temasek – which means sea town in Javanese. This is symbolised by the fish tail, which forms the “root” of the icon. The lion symbolises modern Singapore, which gains its name from Singapura, which means lion city. Furthermore, Singapore is an island nation – a combination of land and water. The core culture of Singapore is descended from Asia via the land mass of South-East Asia, while its affluence and modernisation came from the sea via trade routes. Singapore is one of the most famous and important trade ports in modern history as it controls the passage from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This allowed the country to thrive economically from the flourishing trade, being dubbed one of the Four Asian Tigers (along with South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan – all four countries achieved exceptionally high growth rates from the 1960s to the 1990s).


Posted in History & Literature

Zodiac: Sagittarius

Sagittarius is the Zodiac sign for those born between November 22 and December 21. The symbol for Sagittarius is centaur (half-man, half-horse) with a bow and arrow.

The model for Sagittarius is the wisest and most intelligent centaur, Chiron. Although most centaurs are known to be aggressive beasts only interested in women and alcohol, Chiron was different in that he was culture and civilised. He was interested in gathering knowledge and learning philosophy, especially medical knowledge. Chiron is also famous for being the teacher and master of many famous heroes and gods. Among his students are: the god of medicine, Asclepius; the Trojan War hero, Achilles; leader of the Argonauts, Jason; and the famous hero, Hercules. One day, Hercules ended up in a fight with some centaurs, which resulted in a bloody battle. Hercules used arrows coated with the poison of the Hydra (which he obtained during his twelve labours), swiftly killing many centaurs. Chiron saw this battle and galloped there to try and stop everyone from hurting each other. But Hercules did not see his master and accidentally shot him with a poison arrow. Although Chiron was given the gift of immortality by the gods, the Hydra’s poison still caused excruciating pain. Even though he was one of the best medical professions of his time, he could not alleviate the pain and begged Zeus to put him out of his misery. Zeus accepted this and raised him into the heavens to become a constellation as a sign of respect.

(Part of the Zodiac series: