Back Travel » The Curious Case of Quy Hoà Leprosy Colony's Park of Busts

The Curious Case of Quy Hoà Leprosy Colony's Park of Busts

A delightfully bizarre place, Quy Nhơn’s Quy Hoà leprosy colony deserves exploration in full, but clustered in a grove of trees on its outskirts in Nhân Ái Park stands a particularly peculiar assemblage of more than 50 cement busts atop podiums. Who are they? One must walk closer to find out.

Hippocrates, Ivan Pavlov, and Alexander Fleming hold solemn expressions beside Khắc Quảng, Nguyễn Như Bằng, Trương Công Quyền and others along with brief descriptions. The entire park is devoted to individuals associated with some of the world’s most important scientific and medical breakthroughs, as well as notable Vietnamese involved in the nation’s hospitals, health institutes and laboratories. Officially inaugurated in 2010, the project was envisioned and implemented by directors of Quy Nhơn’s leprosy hospital in the 1980s to honor individuals who contributed to science and medicine. 

Statues as a concept have recently come under scrutiny, especially in the west where depictions of men whose behavior modern society has taken a more critical view of, have been torn down. But beyond removing statues of colonizers, racists and genocidal maniacs, there are debates about the value of statues altogether. By elevating a singular person for their role in collective accomplishments, the contributions of many people essential to the effort are ignored. For example, Doctor Calmette may have helped develop a rabies vaccine while in Saigon, but what about the assistants who risked death to ferry rabid rabbits across the sea for him? On the other hand, having Vietnamese professionals among international luminaries can be a source of national pride, helping inspire locals with the truth they are capable of contributing on the world stage.

Some opponents of statues decry that they are taking up valuable space that could be used for more important things. This, at least, doesn’t apply to Nhân Ái’s statue garden as a large stretch of idyllic beachfront exists just beyond the treeline surrounded by an ample amount of open land. During Saigoneer’s visit, a group of karaoke-warbling nhậu revelers were on that nearby sand. Had they sauntered over to the statue garden, would they have reflected on the fact that the majority of them wouldn’t have made it to middle age were it not for the scientific breakthroughs honored by the individuals memorialized there? And if so, would their beer have tasted a bit cooler, and their songs come out a little more passionately? 

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