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    THE MAGIC OF SINGAPORE

    Editorial Board

    Cultural melting pot, enchanting garden city, a blend of old-world and new architecture with the Merlion as iconic emblem. The Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and a fish’s tail. Singapore prides itself on being a multi racial country, and has a diverse culture despite its small size. The first records of Singapore date back to the second and third centuries where a vague reference to its location was found in Greek and Chinese texts, under the names of Sabana and Pu Luo Chung respectively. According to legend, Srivijayan prince Sang Nila Utama landed on the island and, catching sight of a strange creature that he thought was a lion, decided to found a new city he called Singapura, Sanskrit for Lion City, c. 1299.

    Alas, there have never been any lions anywhere near Singapore (until the Singapore Zoo opened) or elsewhere on Malaya in historical times, so the mysterious beast was more probably a tiger or wild boar. More historical records indicate that the island was settled at least two centuries earlier and was known as Temasek, Javanese for “Sea Town”, and an important port for the Sumatran Srivijaya kingdom. However, Srivijaya fell around 1400 and Temasek, battered by the feuding kingdoms of Siam and the Javanese Majapahit, fell into obscurity.

    As Singapura, it then briefly regained importance as a trading centre for the Melaka Sultanate and later, the Johor Sultanate. However, Portuguese raiders then destroyed the settlement and Singapura faded into obscurity once more. The story of Singapore as we know it today began in 1819, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles made a deal with a claimant to the throne of the Sultanate of Johor: the British would support his claim in exchange for the right to set up a trading post on the island. Well- placed at the entrance to the Straits of Malacca, straddling the trade routes between China, India, Europe, and Australia, Raffles’ master stroke was to declare Singapore a free port, with no duties charged on trade. As traders flocked to escape onerous Dutch taxes, the trading post soon grew into one of Asia’s busiest, drawing people from far and wide. Singapore became one of the Straits Settlements and a jewel in the British colonial crown. Its economic fortunes received a further boost when palm oil and rubber from neighbouring Malaya were processed and shipped out via Singapore. In 1867, Singapore was formally split off from British India and made into a directly ruled Crown Colony. In 1867, Singapore was formally split off from British India and made into a directly ruled Crown Colony.

    When World War II broke out, Fortress Singapore was seen as a formidable British base, with massive naval fortifications guarding against assault by sea, but on 15 Feb 1942, with supplies critically low after less than a week of fighting, Singapore was forced to surrender. Tens of thousands perished in the subsequent brutal Japanese occupation. The return of the British in 1945 to one of their most favoured colonies was triumphalist. Singapore features some of the most imposing modern architecture side by side with quaint fishing village, which remained mainly unchanged in more than a century, and stately British colonial edifices. With its Victorian government buildings, shrines, temples and mosques, it combines elements of China, India, Malaysia, Arabia and Britain dispersed amidst tropical garden. It is one of Asia’s greenest cities with one of the highest living standards in the world, Singapore is a unique blend of high tech Western facilities and an exotic fusion of Asian cultures. Definitely the appeal of Singapore lies in its immense diversity as well as history.

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