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Lim Bo Seng Memorial, Singapore

The earliest known mention of Singapore was a 3rd century Chinese account that described Singapore as "Pu-luo-chung" ("island at the end of a peninsula"). By the 14th century, Singapore had become part of the mighty Sri Vijayan Empire and was known as Temasek ("Sea Town").

So be it the 3rd century description or the 14th century's the description was not too far off the mark. Located at the natural meeting point of sea routes at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore had long known visits from a wide variety of sea craft, from Chinese junks, Indian vessels, Arab dhows and Portuguese battleships to Buginese schooners.

During the 14th century, this small but strategically placed island had earned a new name - "Singa Pura", or "Lion City". According to legend, a visiting Sri Vijayan prince saw an animal he mistook for a lion and Singapore's modern day name was born. The erstwhile British Empire, seemingly omnipresent in those days, provided the next notable chapter in the Singapore story. During the 18th century, they saw the need for a strategic "halfway house" to refit, feed and protect the fleet of their growing empire, as well as to forestall any advances by the Dutch in the region. It was against this political backdrop that Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading station. The policy of free trade attracted merchants from all over Asia and from as far a field as the United States and the Middle East. By 1824, just five years after the founding of modern Singapore, the population had grown from a mere 150 to 10,000.

In 1832, Singapore became the centre of government for the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the advent of telegraph and steamship-increased Singapore's importance as a centre for the expanding trade between East and West.

Singapore has a checkered history what with the 14th century imbroglio for the Malay Peninsula between Siam (now Thailand), and the Java-based Majapahit Empire. Hey do you think the present day computer language Java had its origins here? Well, who knows!

Five centuries later, it was again the scene of significant fighting during World War II. Singapore was considered an impregnable fortress, but the Japanese overran the island in 1942. After the war, Singapore became a Crown Colony. The growth of nationalism led to self-government in 1959 and on 9 August 1965, Singapore became an independent republic.

A modern progressive republic with its sights set firmly on the future.

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