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History of Singapore

First settlement | Colonial rule | World War II | Independence

First settlement

The first written records of Singapore date to the 2nd century, when the island was identified as a trading post in several cartographic references.

Traders travelling between China and India have been plowing the waters around Singapore. Later, Singapore became a trading outpost of the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya, which had its centre in Palembang, Sumatra, and influenced the region from the 7th to the 10th centuries.

The beginnings of Singapore are steeped in local Malay legend. The island is said to have received its name from a visiting Sumatran prince in the 14th century, who saw a fearsome creature - later identified to him as a lion - on his arrival.

Taking this as a good omen, the prince founded a new city on the spot, changing the name of the island from Temasek to Singapura. In Sanskrit, "singa" means lion and "pura" means city. Thus the Lion City was born, and today the symbol of the merlion - a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish - is a reminder of Singapore's early connections to this legend and the seas.




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