The “elephant statue” is a bronze monument located at the High Street entrance of the Old Parliament House (formerly known as the Old Court House, now The Arts House1) in the Downtown Core of Singapore’s Central Region. It was a gift from Thailand’s King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to commemorate his visit to Singapore in 1871 – the first by a Thai monarch. The statue was originally erected in front of the Victoria Memorial Hall on 25 June 1872.2 It was moved to the Old Court House in 1919, when the statue of Stamford Raffles was put in its place for Singapore’s centenary celebrations.3
Credited for modernising Thailand,4 Chulalongkorn – also known as Phra Piya Maharaj or the “the most beloved king” – was the fifth sovereign of the royal dynasty that founded Bangkok.5 His visit to Singapore marked the first time a Thai monarch had ever visited a foreign country.6
On 15 March 1871, Chulalongkorn arrived in Singapore in his yacht, the Regent, with a convoy of two other ships and a total of 66 followers. They were greeted on arrival with a gun salute by ships decked up for the occasion.7
The king landed at Johnston’s Pier the following day. He was received with the highest honour by Colonel A. E. H. Anson – who was administering in the absence of then Governor Harry St George Ord, as well as all government officials, military and naval officers, and foreign dignitaries. The royal visitor stayed at the Government House (now The Istana). He was accompanied by his two brothers, his team of officials and a private secretary. One of the highlights of his visit was a stop at the office of Eastern Telegraph, where he took the opportunity to transmit a cable to Queen Victoria.8
Chulalongkorn’s official state visit was the start of close friendship ties between Thailand and Singapore. The king made a second visit to Singapore on 30 May 1890.9
The elephant statue was given to the people of Singapore to commemorate Chulalongkorn’s visit to Singapore between 16 and 23 March 1871, and as a token of the king’s gratitude for the hospitality he had received during his visit. The statue was erected on 25 June 1872 and originally placed in front of the Victoria Memorial Hall. It was relocated to the front of the Old Court House in 1919, when the statue of Raffles replaced it outside the Victoria Memorial Hall for Singapore’s centenary celebrations.10
The elephant statue was cast in bronze in Bangkok, and mounted on a high pedestal. The pedestal bears inscriptions in Siamese, Jawi, Chinese and English. It reads: “His Majesty Somdetch Paramindr Maha Chulalongkorn, the Supreme King of Siam, landed at Singapore, the first foreign land visited by a Siamese Monarch, on the 16th March, 1871".11
1. “History,” Arts House Limited, last retrieved 24 June 2019.
2. S. Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks: Past and Present (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1961), 20. (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 RAM)
3. Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Author, 2010), 30. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
4. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage, 30.
5. “Founding of the Chakri Dynasty,” Straits Times, 28 March 1982, 2. (From NewspaperSG); Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, 22.
6. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage, 30.
7. Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, 20–21.
8. Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, 20–21; “Monday 13th March,” Straits Times Overland, 13 March 1871, 8; “Saturday 25th March,” Straits Times Overland, 29 March 1871, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, 23.
10. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage, 30; Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, 20.
11. Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, 22.
The information in this article is valid as at June 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.