Merlion – Singapore - Atlas Obscura


This statue once earned the distinction as one of the "Three Major Disappointments of the World." 


The water-spewing Merlion is the official mascot of Singapore. However, along with the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen and the Manneken Pis statue of Brussels, it’s also known as one of the “Three Major Disappointments of the World.”

The massive statue earned this moniker following its installment in 1972. Not long after, the statue’s pumping system jammed and stopped spouting water for nearly three decades. The front view of the fountain was also obscured from tourists by a bridge. The pump was fixed in 2002 and a new pedestrian bridge was later constructed for observation. Since these additions, the statue’s popularity has gradually returned.

Despite its symbolic status, the Merlion is not based on local mythology. It was designed in 1964 by Alec Fraser-Brunner, a member of the Souvenir Committee and curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium. The symbol was originally the logo for the tourism board. It represents the island city-state of Singapore, inspired by the country’s history and name, which means “lion city.”

In 2009, the Merlion was struck by lightning, but no one was hurt and the statue was restored in a month. Today, the structure has spawned numerous imitations across Asia. 

Although its water pump still jams from time to time, visitors won’t be disappointed by this magnificent structure. 

In partnership with KAYAK

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