Saigon’s Traditional Medicine Museum
Eastern medicine has centuries of history, thousands of cures, and millions of believers… but not much respect in the western world. We visited the FITA Traditional Medicine Museum in Saigon, to learn a little about the history of Vietnamese healing.
The museum is found in the west of Saigon, inside a beautiful wooden building which is rather new, but designed to look ancient. With its rooms resembling apothecaries, wooden staircases, and intricately carved scenes depicting healers hanging over the doors, the building itself was almost as interesting as the museum’s exhibits.
Not that the exhibits weren’t interesting. I didn’t know anything about Eastern medicine, beforehand, but now I am practically an expert. That might be overstating things a little… but I sure did look at a lot of weird stuff in jars! And really, “looking at weird stuff in jars” is the raison d’etre of a traditional medicine museum, isn’t it?
This isn’t a museum you can tour at your own pace; you’ll be put in a group, and accompanied by a guide. Whatever. Our group was small, and without someone to answer questions and explain things, all you’d be doing is… looking at weird stuff in jars. Our guide described the great 14th-century physician Tue Tinh, and explained that Vietnamese medicine only uses materials that can be found in nature. He even let us dress up like traditional doctors, and try out some of the old equipment, such as a foot-mill used to grind medicines.
In all, this was an interesting and easy excursion. If you’re at all interested in Eastern medicine, you’ll love it. Personally, I’m skeptical, but can’t dismiss it entirely. The heavy, ancient tomes kept behind glass look so important! No way they don’t store vast troughs of information. Maybe for my next headache, I’ll try out some eucalyptus oil and ginger tea, instead of aspirin.
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