Vietnam is a country which has a
rich and wide variety of religions. These include religions
based on popular beliefs, religions brought to Vietnam from the
outside, and several indigenous religious groups..
As with other
countries, the Vietnamese have several popular beliefs, such as
animism and theism. The most widespread popular belief among the
Vietnamese is the belief in ancestor-worship.
In regard to
the major world religions, Vietnam is a multi-religious state,
with more than 20 million believers, and more than 30,000 places
of worship. Buddhism is the largest of the major world religions
in Vietnam, with about ten million followers. It was the
earliest foreign religion to be introduced in Vietnam, arriving
from India in the second century A.D. in two ways, the Mahayana
sect via China, and the Hinayana sect via Thailand, Cambodia,
and Laos. During the ten-century feudal reign of Vietnam,
Buddhism was considered a state religion. At present, Vietnam
has more than 20,000 pagodas dedicated to Buddha, with a large
number of other pagodas being built or restored.
largest foreign religion in Vietnam is Catholicism, with about
six million followers. Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam by
Spanish, Portuguese, and French missionaries early in the 17th
century. There are now more than 6,000 churches engaged in
religious activities throughout the country. More than 500
churches damaged during the U.S. air war against Vietnam are
came to Vietnam in 1911, and was widely spread throughout
Vietnam in 1920, but the number of Protestants in Vietnam is
not very large. Islam was introduced to Vietnam long ago, but
did not flourish.
to these religions originating in other parts of the world,
Vietnam has indigenous religions, such as the Cao Dai and Hoa
Hao sects, with their holy lands in the city of Tay Ninh and the
provinces of Chau Doc and An Giang in the Mekong Delta. The
Vietnamese religions have never opposed or competed with one
another, but were united in a national united front, the Vietnam
Fatherland Front, peacefully coexisting in the Vietnamese
community, and contributing to the struggle against foreign
aggression for national construction.
beliefs and religions
The Vietnamese folk beliefs since the ancient time consist
of belief in fertility, worship of nature and worship of man.
Human beings need to be reproduced, crops need to be lushly
green for the nourishment and development of life, so belief in
fertility came into existence.
agriculture that depended much on natural factors ignited the
belief of worshiping nature. In Vietnam, this belief was
polytheism and respect for goddess, and worshipp of animals and
plants as well. A research book published in 1984 listed 75
goddesses, mostly matriarchal goddesses, also called Mau
(ancient people not only worshipped the Creator but also Mau
Cuu Trung which was a female Creator, as well as Mau
Thuong Ngan, River Goddess and so on). Regarding
botany-worshiping beliefs, the rice plant was most venerated,
the next were the banyan-tree, the areca-tree, the mulberry tree
and the gourd. In respect of animal-worshiping beliefs, unlike
nomadic culture that worships fierce wild animals, Vietnamese
tend to worship gentle species of animals like stag, deer, frog,
especially those which are easy to come by in the riverside
regions like water-birds, snakes, and crocodiles. The Vietnamese
proclaimed themselves as belonging to the Hong Bang
family line and the Tien Rong breed (Hong Bang was
the name of a huge species of water-bird, Tien, or Fairy,
was deification of an egg-laying species of bird, Rong,
or Dragon, was an abstract image of snake and crocodile).
The ascending dragon that was born in the water is meaningful
and special symbol of the Vietnamese nation.
human-revering beliefs, the custom of worshiping ancestors is
the most popular, which nearly become one belief of the
Vietnamese (also called Dao Ong Ba in the Cochinchina).
The Vietnamese choose the death-day rather than the birthday to
hold a commemorative anniversary for the deceased. Every family
worships Tho cong, or the God of Home, who takes care of
the home and blesses the family. Every village worships its
Thanh hoang, the God of the village, who protects and guides
the whole village (the Vietnamese always honour the people who
rendered distinguished services for villagers or national heroes
who were born or died in the village to be their Thanh hoang).
The whole nation worships the very first kings, sharing the
common ancestorsí death anniversary (the Ritual of Hung
Temple). Particularly, the worship of Tu Bat Tu, or the
Four Immortal Gods, namely, God Tan Vien (preventing
flooding), God Giong (resisting and defeating foreign
invaders), God Chu Dong Tu (together with his wife
growing out of poverty to consistently build his fortune) and
Goddess Lieu Hanh (heavenly princess who left Heaven for
the earth in the yearning for happiness) has been regarded as
extremely beautiful national values.
into superstition in some specific cases, folk beliefs have
lasted consistently and mixed with orthodox religions.
might have been imported directly into Vietnam from India
through sea routes since the 2nd century A.D. Vietnamese
Buddhism stays on earth rather than ascends up to heaven,
attaches to exorcism and prayers for wealth, happiness and
longevity rather than heads toward nirvana. Only when Maharayana
Buddhism approached the country from China did Vietnamese monks
have the chance to carry out in-depth study of Buddhism;
however, separate schools were later formed, such as Truc Lam
Buddhist School which attaches importance to the Buddha inside
the human heart. In the Ly-Tran dynasties, Buddhism,
though having reached its peak, still embraced both Taoism and
Confucianism to create a cultural face with "the three religions
existing at the same time". Over ups and downs throughout the
history, Buddhism has become absolutely familiar to the
Vietnamese; according to the 1993 stastistics, there were up to
some 3 million Buddhist believers and some other 10 millions
frequently going to the pagoda for worshipping the Buddha.
Under the Chinese
domination, Confucianism had yet to gain a position in the
Vietnamese society. The official adoption of Confucianism had
not been recorded until 1070 when King Ly Thai To built
Van Mieu (the Temple of Literature) to worship Chu
Cong and Khong Tu (confucius). In the 15th century,
due to the need of constructing a unified nation, a centralized
administration and a social order, Confucianism took the place
of Buddhism to become a national religion under the Le
dynasty. Confucianism, mostly Song Confucianism, that took root
deep into the social and political structure, the system of
education and examinations and the circle of Confucian scholars
gradually dominated social and moral life. However, Confucianism
was only accepted to Vietnam in specific factors, particularly
on politics and morality, rather than its entire system.
Vietnam at roughly the end of the 2nd century. Since the Vo
Vi (letting things take their own course) doctrine bore the
thought of resisting the Chinese rulers, it was used as a weapon
against the Northern feudalism. This religion also contained
factors of magic and mystery, so it fits human subconscience and
primitive beliefs. Many Confucianists also admired Taoismís
tendency of enjoying quietness and joyful leisure. However,
Taoism has long been regarded as an extinct religion that only
left vestiges in folk beliefs.
Christianity came to
Vietnam in the 17th century as an intermediary of the Western
culture and colonialism. It made use of the favorable
opportunity in which feudalism was in crisis, Buddhism was
depraved and Confucianism was in deadlock to become a spiritual
relief of a part of the population. However, this religion
failed to integrate into the Vietnamese culture for a long time.
Christians had to set up an altar dedicated to Jesus Christ
right at their homes. Only when the Gospel was introduced into
Vietnam, Christianity was able to gain a position. In 1993,
there were 5 million Catholics and nearly half a million
imported to Vietnam did not exterminate the local folk beliefs,
but they mixed with each other to derive specific variants for
both sides. For example, Taoism could not lower the womenís
role, which was reflected by widespread worship of Mau
(Goddess). The features of polytheism, democracy, and community
are manifested by the worship of groups of ancestors, and pairs
of gods. Entering a pagoda, people can easily recognize that not
only Buddhas but also gods and even human are worshiped there.
Perhaps, only in Vietnam, there were legends that a toad dares
to sue Heaven or a human being marries a fairy. These are the
prominent features of Vietnamese beliefs.