While the earliest known historical records of Singapore are shrouded in the mists of time, a third century Chinese account describes it as “Pu-luo-chung”, or the “island at the end of a peninsula”. Later, the city was known as Temasek (“Sea Town”), when the first settlements were established from AD 1298-1299.
During the 14th century, this small but strategically- located island earned a new name. According to legend, Sang Nila Utama, a Prince from Palembang (the capital of Srivijaya), was out on a hunting trip when he caught sight of an animal he had never seen before. Taking it to be a good sign, he founded a city where the animal had been spotted, naming it “The Lion City” or Singapura, from the Sanskrit words “simha” (lion) and “pura” (city).
The city was then ruled by the five kings of ancient Singapura. Located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, the natural meeting point of sea routes, the city served as a flourishing trading post for a wide variety of sea vessels, including Chinese junks, Indian vessels, Arab dhows, Portuguese battleships, and Buginese schooners.
The next important period in the history of Singapore was during the 19th century, when modern Singapore was founded. At this time, Singapore was already an up and coming trading post along the Malacca Straits. It was also then when Great Britain started to see the need for a port of call in the region. In particular, British traders needed a strategic venue to base the merchant fleet of the growing empire, and to forestall any advance made by the Dutch in the region.
Today, you can learn about Singapore’s rich historical heritage by visiting many of the national monuments, museums and memorials located around the city. On your trip here, remember to take a walk along one of the many heritage trails or visit the well-known landmarks.