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​Preserved body, organ exhibition raises eyebrows in Ho Chi Minh City

Thursday, July 05, 2018, 16:15 GMT+7

A months-long exhibition of preserved human bodies and organs in Ho Chi Minh City is receiving a mixed reception from audiences as well as a call for review from Vietnam’s culture watchdog.

The expo, “Mystery of the Human Body,” runs from June 21 to December 31 at the Youth Culture House in District 1, with permission for the event granted by the municipal Department of Culture and Sports.

However, the arts, photography, and exhibition department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism sent a dispatch to the Ho Chi Minh City culture department on Wednesday, calling for a review of the event to be submitted by July 10.

The order came after the exhibition was criticized as being too creepy for the public, despite feedback from attendees regarding it as “amazing” and “humanistic.”

A tour around the exhibition. Video: Tuoi Tre

According to organizers, the exhibition aims to allow visitors the opportunity to discover the mysteries of the human body, in terms of body structure, pathology, physiology and anatomy, through the vivid specimens of real bodies and organs preserved with advanced technology.

A total of 131 specimens preserved with plastination, a technique involving replacing water and fat in human bodies by certain plastics, are on display.

Plastination yields specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay, and even retain most of the properties of the original sample.

The exhibition also juxtaposes organs of smokers with non-smokers and alcoholics with non-drinkers to raise health awareness and encourage healthy lifestyles within the local community.

Visitors watch preserved human organs at an exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Visitors watch preserved human organs at an exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Scary and graphic

Pham Thi Kim An, a District 7 resident, toured the exhibition earlier this week and left the venue frightened.

“It was scary to be among dead people. I was particularly freaked out by babies being kept in liquid-filled glass jars and lying tables,” she told Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law) newspaper.

An said that after her own experience, she does not have any plans to take her two sons to the exhibition.

“I’m afraid they will have nightmares after seeing all of these things,” she declared.

While “Mystery of the Human Body” is open to the public, An shared her belief that it isn not for the faint-hearted, young children, and pregnant woman who could be psychologically affected by the preserved bodies and organs.

“The exhibition would have been better off being viewed by students or for medical research purposes rather than being open to the public,” she concluded.

A visitor watches a preserved body sample at an exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A visitor watches a preserved body sample at an exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Huynh Dao Thanh Viet, who traveled from Thu Duc District to visit the exhibition, was more concerned about the origins of the body samples.

“I heard that these samples are from South Korea, but I’m still wondering if those body donors, or their parents and family members, knew that the preserved bodies would one day put on public display?” Viet said.

Viet added the exhibition seems to be more about attracting people’s curiosity than providing knowledge about the human body.

“It would have been more suitable to incorporate lessons about life and death into the exhibition rather than just displaying human bodies and organs,” he underlined.

Impressive and amazing

But not all visitors left the exhibition with such negative impressions.

“This is the first time I have seen an exhibition of human bodies,” Tran Thi Hong Phuc, a visitor from Tan Binh District, exclaimed.

Phuc praised the organizers for displaying the preserved bodies in positions, such as cycling and throwing discs.

“The organs don’t look scary at all,” she said.

Visitors watch preserved human organs at an exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Visitors watch preserved human organs at an exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Phuc said the display of visual images of the human body and organs helped her to understand what really happens inside the body, something she had only previously seen in books.

“I was impressed and amazed at how well the blood vessels, treated with the plastination technology, were woven into each other,” she said.

“I was quite surprised with the samples of fetuses from a few weeks to eight months, it made me treasure the sanctity of life.”

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Uyen Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News Contributor

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