Museum Of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine: Saigon’s Most Impressive Museum

Vietnam's Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

Jane Pham
Jane Pham | Published: June 2, 2020

Traditional Vietnamese medicine dated back to thousands of years ago and still exists until now. The humid tropical climate provides favorable conditions for many different types of plants growing. This helps herbal remedies live on and cure lots of Vietnamese people. If you are interested in methods of making Vietnamese medicine and its changes over time, Museum of traditional Vietnamese medicine in Ho Chi Minh city is a must-go place.

    Location: 41 Hoang Du Khuong street, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City
    Opening hours: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm from Monday to Sunday
    Entrance fee: VND 60.000/ a child, VND 120.000/ adult

I. Overview of Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

The Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine, also called FITO, was built in 2003 and open to the public since 2007. The owner of the museum is Mr Tam who has a strong background and passion for traditional medicine. Though it took a lot of money, he still decided to build this museum with the hope of preserving useful knowledge and methods of making medicine as well as commemorate 2 greatest Vietnamese medical herbalists called Hai Thuong Lan Ong (18th century) and Tue Tinh (14th century). Until now, it is still known as the one and only private museum for traditional medicine in the busy Ho Chi Minh City.

Medicine room in Museum of traditional Vietnamese medicine

Fito Museum includes 6 floors with a total of 18 rooms, covering an area of 600 square meters. It was once used as a private house and an office before it was renovated to change into a museum. The museum is mostly made of wood taken from the ancient houses across Vietnam, creating a cozy atmosphere. Wandering around the museum, you will have a chance to explore ancient architecture of Vietnam also. Each floor is a different style with tiles, walls, furniture made of various materials. Every detail of the building looks impressive thanks to skillful craft. This makes the interiors look so stunning. Notably, you can see images of Vietnamese dragons on the museum’s sloping roofs. Elevator access will take you to the 5th floor so that you can walk down the lower stairs for visiting. 

Coming here, travelers can study about plenty of different traditional herbs and get to know Vietnamese traditional medical methods. There are up to 3000 artifacts exhibited in the museum, depicting the origin, history, and changes of curing methods over time. Besides, the museum also houses traditional medicine making instruments including grinders, pots, jars, spoons, knives, bowls, teapots, stamps, etc. The passion of Mr Tam is clearly shown through his collection of many precious medical books and documents which was more than 200 years old. To give visitors a better understanding of traditional Vietnamese medicine, he also adapted modern technology to show the history of traditional Vietnamese medicine through documentary films. 

II. Structure of Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine

tree of traditional medicine

The structure of the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine is a great combination of traditional and modern features, revealing the striking aspects of different Vietnamese regions. There are 18 exhibition rooms and each of them shows a part of traditional Vietnamese medicine. Let’s see in details at the table below:

Room 1

The historical chronicle of important events and remarkable people who greatly contributed to the forming and developing process of traditional Vietnamese medicine.

Room 2

Altar of the 2 greatest Vietnamese herbalists: Le Huu Trac and Tue Tinh

Room 3

Items used in traditional medicine from Stone and Bronze Age

Room 4

Handcrafted pictures of 15 famous physicians and authors of traditional medicine in Vietnam from the 13th to 18th century.

Room 5

A miniature of the Cham Tower and unique architectural traits of different Vietnamese regions. 

Room 6

History of Vietnamese traditional medicine and medicine in China and Korea

Room 7

A wooden carved tree of traditional medicine with 100 authors and royal physicians from XII until XX century.

Room 8, 9, 11 to 15

Collections of Vietnamese medical ingredients, instruments, scales and mortars, jars, teapots, and tincture jugs.

Room 10

The model of a pharmacy house in the XIX century with a wooden cupboard of 81 drawers, each of them contains a kind of herbs. Visitors can try to mix their own remedies here under guidance.

Room 16

The Royal Medical Academy that takes care of the royal family members.

Room 17

The cinema room for showing 15-minute documentary films related to the history of Vietnamese traditional herbal medicine.

Room 18

Souvenir Shop and the Pharmacy. Visitors can buy some gifts for friends or experience herbal bathing here.

III. What To See & Do at Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine?

Once you reach the FITO museum, you will be instructed to head to the 4th floor before starting your exploring journey from the 5th floor to the ground floor. With just VND 120.000, you will be free to explore the museum on your own or ask for a guide if you need to know more about the artifacts.

Herbs for traditional medicine

1. Altar of The 2 Greatest Vietnamese Herbalists

As mentioned above, the museum was devoted to Le Huu Trac and Tue Tinh – the fathers of Vietnamese traditional medicine. Both of them came from Hai Duong and gave a great contribution to develop traditional medicine. Tue Tinh learnt medicine from the monks and was known as an excellent doctor. He even succeeded in treating sickness of the Chinese Queen. He also taught medicine to other people to spread medical knowledge to others. Le Huu Trac or Hai Thuong Lan Ong (or so called Lazy Old Man) was born in a rich family but didn’t follow his family’s path. He did medical research and helped cure and save the lives of many people. He also wrote several books to pass the knowledge to the next generations.

2. Collection of Traditional Medical Tools

In the museum, you can find different tools used in traditional medicine. These tools take up almost 4 rooms in the building, storing from the simple to complicated items. 

  • Grinder: The grinder is an important tool in the ancient time. After the herbs were dried, doctors used the grinder to grind them to powder. It looks quite simple with a boat shape but it is really useful in traditional medicine. Apothecaries use various materials to make this tool like terra cotta, stone, wood, or pig iron. In royal families, grinders can be made of silver or gold to grind valuable herbs. Among the extensive collection, FITO has a stone grinder which dates back from prehistoric time. It is known as the most valuable item in the museum. A grinder’s size also varies from a few centimeters to over 1 meter. 
  • Slicer: In traditional medicine, slicer helps to cut the herbs into slice-bars. Nowadays, many slicers still exist in many families that stick to this industry. Some are also used in Vietnamese traditional medicine stores. 
  • Other instruments: There are many other tools and instruments displayed in the Museum of traditional Vietnamese medicine. You can see lime pots, wine jars, bowls of herb decoctions.

3. Experiential Activities

After a tour around the museum, visitors can try different activities to get to know more about the methods of making Vietnamese traditional medicine. You can try to cut the herbs on your own, pulverizing and tasting them. It will give you a closer look at the job of the apothecaries and learn more about some kinds of herbs. Besides, you can also get medical consulting. The doctors here will give you the details of your health and treating advice. There is also a traditional medicine store in the building so you can buy some herbs for yourself or your family members.

IV. Tips on Visiting the Museum

  • There are 2 private museums by Mr Tam, one is the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine and the other is the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Pharmacy in Binh Duong. You should pay attention to the address when finding FITO.
  • Apart from the objects in glass cabinets, you can touch the artifacts freely. But please be careful when touching them.
  • The drugstore will give you free diagnosis and medicine.
  • It does not take much time to visit around the museum. 

Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine is truly a worth-visiting place for those who appreciate the uniqueness of Vietnamese history and architecture, or for those who wish to get a brand new experience. Don’t miss your chance to visit this museum on your trip to Ho Chi Minh city.

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