Fito Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine and Pharmacy is the collective name of two private museums. Officially opened in 2007, these are the first museums dedicated to traditional Vietnamese medicine.
The Fito Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine (Bảo tàng Y học Cổ truyền Việt Nam) is in Saigon. Meanwhile, the Fito Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Pharmacy (Bảo tàng Dược Cổ truyền Việt Nam) is in Binh Duong Province.
About Fito Museum
The Fito Museum started out as a personal collection of Lê Khắc Tâm. As his collection grew, the idea of building a museum came to be. Currently, the museum has nearly 3 000 objects and 1 863 samples of medicinal herbs on display.
As a man of traditional Vietnamese medicine, he’s also the CEO of the reputable Fito Pharmaceutical Limited Company. The company combines traditional Vietnamese medicine with modern medical techniques from around the world. Their products and exports are gaining international credibility.
Fito Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
The Fito Museum of Traditional Medicine is one of the up-and-coming destinations in Ho Chi Minh City. At 600 m2, it has 6 floors and 18 exhibition rooms. Objects on display have Vietnamese and English explanations.
The ticket includes a guided tour around the museum. It starts with the 15-minute documentary — ‘A Century of Health Care Experiences’. The audio can be Vietnamese or English and subtitles come in French, German, and Russian.
During the tour, you’ll also get to be a practitioner of traditional Vietnamese medicine. The guide will teach you how to grind ingredients in a boat-shaped mortar using your feet. Additionally, you’ll be doing this dressed in the traditional outfit of Ao Dai and headband (Áo Dài khăn đóng).
At the end, you’ll receive a complimentary cup of freshly brewed tea from herbs and mushrooms in their shop. The shop sells herbal teas, medicinal books, and other medicinal products of Fito Pharma.
This tour tends to last less than an hour, but feel free to look around for as long as you want. Furthermore, you can book a short 30-minute footbath treatment that comes with another nice cuppa.
Architecture of the Fito Museum
The Fito Museum uses traditional Vietnamese architecture and is constructed mainly from wood. A lot of the wooden frames are 200 to 300 years old. Throughout the building are wooden relief carvings of dragons, phoenixes, lotuses, and many more.
The triangular red clay tile roof and red clay square tile floors are features of traditional Northern Vietnamese houses. The wooden balcony, however, is more commonly seen in Hue structures. Additionally, there’s an open garden in the middle of the structure creating a calm and tranquil setting.
The fifth room opens to the rooftop taking inspiration from the Cham Towers. It’s built from red bricks and decorated with reliefs and statues of worshipable gods in the Cham culture.
The door is based on the entrance of the Thang Long Temple of Medicine (Y miếu Thăng Long), 1780. The temple, which you can still visit today, was inside Thang Long Capital City — the predecessor of present-day Hanoi.
History of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine
The first room displays key events in the history and development of traditional Vietnamese medicine. Records date back to the Hung Kings Period, 2879 BC. Room 6 gives a general introduction to Eastern medicine through the history of China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.
The second room has an altar with two legendary figures in the legacy of traditional Vietnamese medicine. On the left is the monk Tuệ Tĩnh (1330 -1400) — the godfather of traditional Vietnamese medicine.
Meanwhile, on the right is Hải Thượng Lãn Ông who is a distant successor. His real name was Lê Hữu Trác (1720 – 1791).
Room 4 showcases 15 gold-plated relief paintings. They depict famous traditional Vietnamese medical physicians and authors from the 13th to 19th centuries.
Furthermore, room 7 has the Tree of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine (Việt Nam Bách Gia Y). It’s a wooden relief painting of a tree. On it are names of 100 well-known traditional Vietnamese medicine authors and physicians.
Also, showcased in glass counters are exemplary books of traditional Vietnamese medicine majors. They include pharmacy, acupuncture, gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, and nutrition.
Medicinal Ingredient Samples
Traditional Vietnamese medicine follows the principle of Yin Yang and the Five Elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth). In Room 8, you’ll see over 300 typical ingredients from both plants, insects, and animals. These can include ginseng, lingzhi, licorice, and more.
Not every ingredient is on display because they only last for a few years and not decades. The room also has the Traditional Vietnamese Medicinal Herbs Encyclopedia (Việt Nam Bản Thảo). It contains drawings and information on nearly 2 000 plants.
Medicinal Implements at the Fito Museum
The third room displays some rock and copper medicinal utensils dating to prehistoric times. Room 9 showcases unique knives and grinders. These include guillotine herb cutters and boat-shaped mortars for preparing traditional Vietnamese medicine. After the herbs are sun-dried, they are squeezed together, then cut into slices before being ground.
The 11th room has a collection of ceramic jars for storing wine. It’s quite common throughout Asia to age rice wine with medicinal ingredients and imbibe for good health. One traditional method for storing these jars is to partially bury them.
Besides more wine jars, room 15 has wine pots from the 1st to 3rd century and the 20th century. The pots are containers for warming up the wine either directly over fire or kept in hot water.
Room 12 shows a number of medicine kettles, drinking bowls, and tea sets. On the wall are lacquer paintings of traditional Vietnamese medicine practices. They include picking and preparing ingredients, checking the pulse, writing prescriptions, and so on.
Additionally, room 14 is entirely dedicated to various medicine kettles from all over the country. The 13th room has antique scales from the late 19th century. Also, it has many mortars and pestles of all shapes and sizes.
Examples of Medical Facilities in History
Room 10 recreates a traditional Vietnamese pharmacy with common items. They include cabinets, advertising signs, scales, stamps, mortars and pestles. On the other hand, room 16 depicts the Royal Medical Institute (Thái Y Viện) catering to people of royalty.
Fito Museum in Binh Duong Province
The Fito Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Pharmacy in Binh Duong Province opened in 2016. It’s 16 km or 30 minutes away from Saigon so you can visit both museums in one day.
At 2000 m2, the museum curates an even more extensive collection than the Medicine Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. This is why a tour here takes longer, or around 90 minutes.
Additionally, you can visit a factory of Fito Pharma and observe the production of modern as well as traditional Vietnamese medicine. However, this requires prior booking and is only for groups of over 10 people.
On another note, a restaurant serving dishes from medicinal ingredients is under development.
Tips for Visiting the Fito Museum
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The Fito Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine and Pharmacy are quieter to visit during the weekdays. Being private, the ticket price is a bit higher than other popular museums in Ho Chi Minh City. The documentary can be a bit boring to some, but the tour around the entire museum will not disappoint.
The guides are really knowledgeable in traditional Vietnamese medicine and can explain the concepts very well. They enthusiastically answer questions, and pop quizzes about Southeast Asian culture make the tour more engaging. If you already have knowledge on traditional medicine, feel free to ask more difficult questions.
- Opening hours: 8:30 – 17:00.
- Entrance ticket: Adults: 120 000 VND ; Children below 1.2 m: 60 000 VND.
Note: The Fito Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine and Pharmacy may close during the pandemic. You can check their current opening hours on their Facebook page.