I was actually quite thrilled to discover a distant relative of a loved one is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner who owns a shop in Kuching, Malaysia. The traditional Chinese medicine outlet, also known as the Kok Ann medical store is located at No. 30, Ground Floor, Jln Carpenter, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak.
I was more than happy to know that I could drop by for a visit and photograph whatever that interest me. As a photographer, that would mean anything and everything! The notion of having the opportunity to get up close and personal with an old trade of many centuries in the face of modern healthcare practice was indeed exciting to say the least. So I found myself at the traditional Chinese medicine outlet with my faithful Fuji x100s.
Using the Fuji x100s mirrorless camera was indeed a pleasure. My recent trip to Kuching saw me spending more time with it. I further explored its many features and got very good and accurate compositions with its EVF. Somehow, despite its non-zooming function, it turned out to be a very reliable and enjoyable camera to use.
If I understood correctly, Mr. Lok, the traditional Chinese medicine practitioner shown above at Kok Ann has been running the place since 1963. That’s a total of 51 years! Truly amazing. The very first objects that caught my attention as I entered the shop were three very old product signages/advertisements hanging from the ceiling in the shop. I knew they were original and VERY old and suffice to say, extremely valuable!
The three advertisement boards were none other than the iconic man with a humongous fish on his back; Scott’s fish oil, Strepsils and Optrex eye care products. I was curious as to whether he was approached for the purchase of these items. I wasn’t surprised the least when he revealed there have been numerous occasions he was offered a price but he wasn’t about to let them go. Personally, I felt these added a very special touch to the old world charm and characteristics of the place. There are things that money just can’t buy in this world.
I was there with a friend who kept him occupied in conversations while I took candid shots of Mr. Lok in between shots of every other aged things in the shop that piqued my curiosity. Luckily for me, he also spoke Cantonese which made communication much easier.
The TCM shop setup was a pretty standard scene; glass counter top with rear sliding glass doors fronting a row of ceiling-height glass shelves spotting various types of Chinese medicine from the familiar ginseng root to strange looking dried or preserved alien-like life forms in jars of water. Alright, the latter may be exaggerated but they do somehow looked wicked. This wall mounted glass shelves repeated themselves across the room, while a multitude of assorted bags with dried snacks-like “biscuits” of various medicinal properties were seen hanging from every available ceiling space.
One could quite easily tell how long these dusty metal hooks have been left untouched for many years gone by.
Also seen hung from the ceiling were paper wrappers used to package medicinal herbs for customers.
One of the many age-old legacies of the shop were the various furnitures found lying around at Kok Ann medical store. Again, the impressive weathered looks and time-tested nature of these valuable historic pieces were easily recognisable in awe. These table and stool date as far back as the early 60s and 70s.
This wall clock at the rear of the shop was no less impressive. It isn’t really a good shot due to my attempt at exposing for the almost pitch black darkness in there without a tripod.
The once familiar and hugely popular Fido Dido wasn’t that easy to be missed. Seen here almost immortalised as part of this 40 year-old piece of furniture’s wood grain.
I was not too sure how long this box has been around but it sure did sound/look foreign and unfamiliar (perhaps it was just me), except for the very well known household name of “Hudson’s”. Eumenthol jujubes are medicated pastilles used to soothe throat irritation.
There were many scribblings found in the shop, either written on the walls or on papers stuck on walls and doors along with many other paper cut-outs.
There were also many metal tins lining the floor’s edge on the aisle, supposedly containing traditional Chinese medicinal herbs.
As it was a double-storey shop lot, I found several foot wear laid on the wooden steps of the shop’s stair case leading to the next floor. It was a pretty quaint looking sight bathed in the late morning sun streaming in through the kitchen at the rear of the shop.
As common tools used by TCM practitioners, these abacus and traditional Chinese weighing scale are considered antiques.
The traditional Chinese medicine practice is certainly a dying trade in this time and age. Mr. Lok has definitely persevered through the years and I’m glad his children is ever ready to learn the ropes of his business and continue in his efforts.
I had a really great time photographing the many interesting things in this shop. I’d have to say this traditional Chinese medicine outlet is more than what it seems. Stepping into the shop transports one back on a journey in time down memory lane. It is not just a drug store. Kok Ann medical store is one of many living museums of the 21st century.