Singapore City, Singapore
Singapore City (lion city), the capital of the Republic of Singapore and one of the world’s busiest free ports, is situated on the southern coast of the country. Though having few natural resources it a major centre for international trade, high-tech manufacturing and finance. The modern and colonial areas of the city face each other across the Singapore River.
Until the fourteenth century Singapore City was a fishing village in the Malay kingdom of Sri Vijaya when it became part of the Javanese Majapahit Empire. The country was claimed by the Malacca sultanate in fifteenth century, the Portuguese in the sixteenth and the Dutch in the seventeenth century. The modern city was founded in 1819 when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the administrator of the British East India Company, recognized the potential for a port and established a trading base. In 1824 the entire island was ceded to the company by the Sultan of Jahore. The excellent location on the narrow passage between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea was further enhanced by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Large numbers of immigrants were attracted to the city, particularly from China and India. In 1921 Britain designated the island its principal naval base in East Asia, but in 1942 it was captured by the Japanese. The city was liberated by the British in 1945 and established as a separate Crown Colony from Malaya the following year. In 1955 responsibility for domestic policy passed to locally elected ministers and in 1959 Singapore became a self-governing state. 1963 saw the union of Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak as the confederation of Malaysia. In 1965 Singapore split from Malaysia and Singapore City was designated capital of the independent republic.
Singapore City is the political and judicial centre of the Republic. With over 600 shipping lines, Keppel Harbour is one of the busiest in the world and the city is a major centre for oil refining and distribution. It is also a leading supplier of electronic components and one of Asia’s most important financial centres with over 128 banks and 78 merchant banks. It was here that the UK-based Barings bank collapsed following corrupt dealings by the derivatives trader Nick Leeson in 1995. Tourism is a growing industry. Changi, one of the largest international airports in Asia, is located 20 min from the centre. It is served by over 63 airlines flying to 149 destinations. Car ownership is restricted but the Mass Transit System provides underground services between commercial and residential centres. A 26-km railway crosses the Johor strait and links with the Malaysian railway system. The National University of Singapore was established in 1905, the National Arts Council in 1991 and the National Heritage Board in 1993.
Places of Interest
Raffles Hotel, built in 1887, is famous for its literary associations. Chijmes, formerly a gothic cloistered convent, now has shops and leisure activities. The Old Parliament House, with its bronze elephant presented in 1871 by the King of Siam, was built as a colonial mansion in 1827. The Supreme Court was designed in the classical style in 1939 by an Italian architect. La Pau Sat, a Victorian cast-iron structure, was built as a wet market in 1894, located in the business centre it now sells local produce. Open to visitors on public holidays, the Istana was the official residence of the representative of the British Crown and is now the official residence of the president. The Kranjii Memorial and grounds were built as a tribute to the allied forces of WWII. Singapore’s past presidents are buried here. Merlion Park is home to the national icon of a half-lion, half-fish statue created in 1972. The Asian Civilisations Museum houses Buddhist artifacts and imperial porcelain. Many temples and mosques are located along the Singapore River including the Tan Si Chong Su Temple built in 1876.