This article examines the making of a national medicine in Vietnam. How can it be that the medical traditions in Vietnam came to be described as Vietnamese during the course of the twentieth century? In this article, I suggest that historical contingencies in Vietnam have facilitated what might be thought of as a “doctrine of combination,” somewhat in contrast to the institutionalized and contentious separation of, for example, Chinese and Korean medicine from modern medicine. In particular, I show how when it came to traditional medicine, Hồ Chí Minh and the people around him responsible for health-care-related issues were on the “offensive” from the very outset of their nation-building efforts.

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