The aroma of herbs in traditional Chinese pharmacy

MALAYSIA - To meet the development of the times, many traditional Chinese pharmacies have gradually transformed into convenience stores. In addition to Chinese herbs, they also sell other household supplies, losing their "traditional" flavour. And apothecary cabinets can rarely be seen nowadays.

There is an approximately 80-year-old tradition Chinese pharmacy in Slim River, Perak. A huge antique apothecary cabinet in the shop filled the space with the scent of history.

Phooi Yen Thong's owner, 78-year-old Chen Lin Xiang, has helped his father, who founded the shop, since he was still a teenager. He never expected that he would stay in the shop for the whole of his life. However, thanks to the shop, he was able to support his family and made end meets.

The original apothecary cabinet had broken and the cabinet in the shop today was bought by Lin Xiang from another traditional Chinese pharmacy in Kampar.

The apothecary cabinet allows him to systematically classify and keep a great variety of herbs. Commonly used herbs are kept in easily reached drawers while expensive and rare herbs are kept in higher drawers.

After so many years, Lin Xiang no longer needs to rely on the yellowish drawer labels to get the correct herbs.

However, his memory is gradually failing due to aging, forcing him to remove some herbs from the cabinet and keep them in glass bottles.

Lin Xiang recalled and said that Phooi Yen Tang provided more services when his father was running the shop. Since his father was a Chinese medicine practitioner, consultation services were available in those days.

At that time, traditional Chinese pharmacies also produced herbal ointment, pills and powders and thus, there are a few pieces of pharmaceutical tools in the shop, including mortars and pestles, hand hay cutter and Chinese steelyard.

After about 80 years, some pharmaceutical tools in the shop are still functioning well, but the ancestral spirit of inheriting the shop from generation to generation seems to have gradually faded.

Lin Xiang has four children but none of them is interested in inheriting the shop.

Nowadays, the shops are selling only Chinese medicines and herbs and it survives on regular customers who would usually chat with Lin Xiang when they visited the shop.