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A Brief History of Singapore

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National Museum of SingaporeNational Museum of Singapore (8 July, 2006)

Singapore was first mentioned in the 3rd century, when it appeared in Chinese chronicles as pu luo zhong which is a transliteration of Pulau Ujong, which means "island at the end [of the peninsula]".

During the 13th century, it was called Temasek, which means "sea town". A century later, the ruler of Palembang named Sang Nila Utama, sailed close to the shore of the island. He saw a beast which resembled a lion, causing him to call the island "Singa Pura", which in Sanskrit means "Lion City". This was later written as "Singapura" in Malay, and transliterated as "Singapore". The lion that Sang Nila Utama saw could well have been the Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) a common wild cat that still roam the forests in Pulau Tekong off the northeast coast of the island.

As with Penang, Singapore was little more than a pirate haven, with small pockets of Malay settlements. Archaeological excavation on Fort Canning revealed pre-colonial settlements on the island. That hill was known then as Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill), and the locals were afraid of going up there, lest misfortune should fall on them.

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