At the family-owned Heng Foh Tong Medical Hall, supporting community members and empowering others to live a fuller life has always been at the center of the business.
Since opening their shop in 1957, husband and wife team Mdm Ng and Mdm Chye (alongside their son Peter Lee) have accumulated decades of experience in TCM herbs, and are committed to making wellness available to as many people as possible. The store was honored to participate in Singapore’s national Heritage Festival in 2021, but the global pandemic had other plans. Unable to welcome physical visitors to their shop, Heng Foh Tong Medical Hall got creative, capturing the space and its rich interiors using a digital twin.
We had the opportunity to speak with Chin Siong Lee to learn more about the process of rendering this one-of-a-kind store and how the Heng Foh Tong Medical Hall team plans to keep honoring this historic trade.
What inspired the 3D capture of this space?
Our herbal medicinal hall, Heng Foh Tong, participated in Heritage Festival 2021 organized by the Singapore National Heritage Board in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, we planned to welcome visitors in the flesh to experience the herbal dispensary.
We have engaged Matterport service to capture HD 3D images of our historical medical hall mainly to keep a detailed record of the fast-disappearing trade of medicinal herbs within the compound.
What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why?
One “must-see” is the rows of antique wooden cabinets. In 1957, Shanghainese masters engraved them with traditional character fonts directly onto the facade. The HD images allow even the depth of the characters to be clearly seen.
Check out the rows of beautiful glass canisters holding various herbs that are important for concoctions. These glass lantern-shaped containers are used to house items like tonics for vitality and pearls for beauty therapy. The beautifully curved shape amplifies the lighting and magnifies the aesthetics of herbs within the jug.
Not to be missed is the hint at the traditional practice of gratitude to particular deities. In Heng Foh Tong, the altar is dedicated to three benefactors: Guan Yin (“ 观音菩萨” in Mandarin ), the Goddess of Mercy; Guan Gong (“关公”), the God for Business Wealth, and Bao Sheng Da Di (“保身大帝”), the God of Health. Praying to these three deities daily reminds the elderly owners in their 70s of the values of kindness, compassion, and competency, which keep this humble, small medical hall grounded and successful.
What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring your 3D tour?
An appreciation of the functioning herbal dispensary medicinal hall in addition to the historical storage cabinets, measuring tools, display canisters, and even the deities that owners pray to daily.
What are the benefits of Matterport digital twins?
Heng Foh Tong is able to capture an immersive and detailed experience within its herbal dispensary medical hall. The ability to measure the dimension of the physical location is important for future generations to gather a sense of space.
Do you have any plans to capture more 3D experiences?
Yes, we’d like to do 3D mapping and capture the medical hall’s evolution every five years.
Anything else you would like to add?
Due to the unpredictable nature of COVID-19, virtually all the physical tours during the Singapore Heritage Festival 2021 were canceled. The 3D experience captured by Heng Foh Tong is the only one that allowed the tour to be conducted virtually and in a safe environment at any time during the festival.
Heng Foh Tong has continued to showcase Matterport 3D on its website to share its rich heritage.