The Inception of Lion City

1819 and Before: Singapore’s Pasts
A special series of lectures commemorating Singapore’s bicentennial anniversary


About the lecture
In recent decades, outstanding progress has been made in understanding Singapore’s past, but many questions remain about its thirteenth-century founders, the so-called Tribuanic dynasty. This lecture examines the meaning and scope of the place names Temasek, Singapura and Melaka in connection with the dynasty’s Indo-Malay roots. The name Temasek is related to trading in tin, which was a distinctive part of the region’s economy. As for the “lion” of Singapura, it is shown to be both synonymous with the royal line and connected to the putative founder of the dynasty. The story of the sighting of a lion-like animal at the founding of Singapura draws on the old trope of the superior defender, which is repeated at the founding of Melaka and gives clues as to the real meaning of the city’s name. This fresh look at the ‘century of Singapura’ brings in previously overlooked visual and textual evidence from the period.

About the Speaker
Iain Sinclair is a Visiting Fellow at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre. He studies the history and art of South and Southeast Asia using sources in classical languages. His research at the Centre explores exchanges taking place between the Malay Archipelago and the Indo-Himalayan region throughout the tenth to fourteenth centuries. His PhD dissertation (Monash University, 2016) examined the late period of South Asian and Nepalese Buddhism. He has published work on iconography, portraiture, ritual, inscriptions, and manuscripts.

For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 2 April 2019.


Apr 03 2019


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2