Museum Of Traditional Medicine: Old School Pharmacy With Doctor Cosplay & Herb Lore Archives

4 minutes reading time

Museum of Traditional Medicine in Saigon

Some of us may consider the use of herbs and acupuncture to treat diseases as less efficacious, but the art of medicine is a form of science too.

Yes, science – perhaps not in the sterile lab, white coat, and microscope sense of the word – but the result of generations of research and experiments.

The Museum of Traditional Medicine in Saigon is a tribute to all of that. Housing a recreation of an old school pharmacy, esoteric texts, and hundreds of ancient vases and tools, it offers a fascinating glimpse into how our forefathers regarded human anatomy and health.

Venturing to an unpretentious street just outside Saigon’s bustling center, we sought out its humble façade and explored the wonders hidden inside to give you a glimpse of what to expect.

A world of wonders hidden behind a humble front

museum of traditional medicine - vases 2

At first glance, the museum can easily be mistaken for another generic shop due to its unassuming front. Perhaps it is for this reason that it remains relatively obscure even to many locals.

A real shame, too, as behind that ordinary surface lies a surprisingly expansive space designed to resemble an ancient Vietnamese house. Expect sculptured wooden furniture, tiled flooring, and ornamental signs bearing Sino-Vietnamese characters.

museum of traditional medicine - textbook

But we’ll get to that. First, you’ll be offered to sit down and watch a 10-minute introduction video, which has subtitles in several languages. It acquaints you with the philosophy behind traditional Eastern medicine – namely, how a person’s body is a mini-universe, and each organ represents one of the five Chinese elements.

The key to health, therefore, is to maintain harmony between them all.

museum of traditional medicine - vases 2

Then comes the exploring part. There is no tour guide, so you’re free to either walk the stairs up the building’s 5 floors, or take the elevator to the top and work your way down.

museum of traditional medicine - herb jars

Whichever you choose, waiting for you will be massive collections of ancient textbooks, vases, and tools such as knives and grinders of all shapes and sizes.

We found the most impressive exhibits of all to be a shelf displaying hundreds of herb jars, and a small room housing vases of medicinal wine.

museum of traditional medicine - medicinal wine

Some contain eccentric ingredients such as whole cobras and ginseng – just look at them marinating in their glass-domed jars.

Of course, the museum has more to offer besides just old vases and jars.

Photo ops with free costumes for cosplay

museum of traditional medicine - cosplay
Image adapted from @phule_20

One section of the museum is dedicated to recreating an ancient pharmacy, with a counter lined with scales and mortars, backed by a chest of drawers supposedly to store the medicine. Frankly, the whole thing looks straight out of those wuxia movies we often saw as a kid.

museum of traditional medicine - mortar

Understandably, few visitors can resist posing and snapping a few shots with the background, fancying themselves a medicinal expert of yore. And the museum has gone the extra mile to facilitate this fantasy.

museum of traditional medicine - herb containers

Around the room, you’ll spot traditional Vietnamese clothing hanging on stands. They’re not simply for display. The clothes come in various sizes for both men and women, and are free for anyone to put on for a cosplay.

So if your photo gallery is lacking a vintage-themed album, now’s your chance.

Museum of Traditional Medicine is open daily in District 10

Whether you’re in search of knowledge, or just want a vintage space to escape from Saigon’s busy streets and bring home some unique pictures, the Museum of Traditional Medicine makes for a worthwhile stop.

Due to the ongoing health crisis, it’s wise to educate ourselves about traditional remedies and the rich culture behind Eastern medicinal techniques.

Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing in Saigon these days, citizens have been advised to cut down on visits to public places. Here’s the information you’ll need to bookmark this place for when things calm down again.

Address: 41 Hoàng Dư Khương Street, District 10, Hồ Chí Minh City
Opening hours: 8.30AM-5PM, Daily
Entrance fee: VND120,000 (~USD5.23)/pax

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Cover image adapted from @phule_20 and The Smart Local Vietnam

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