Religions in Vietnam

Religions in Vietnam: The turbulent story, many atrocious wars without stop and cultural influences from India, Chine and European make Vietnam a very diverse country in terms of beliefs and religions. So, there are many religions in Vietnam, including Buddhist branches such as Mahayana, Hinayana, Hoa Hao... some Christian branches such as Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and some other religions. Indigenous primitive beliefs still exert strong influence in Vietnam.

Religions in Vietnam

Many Vietnamese people consider themselves non-religious although they frequent religious sites several times during the year. Some people believe that the Vietnamese people are less religious and that religions are rather presented by the practices of the cult but the doctrine and the spirit are less interested.

Popular beliefs:

With the idea that every object has a soul, the ancient peoples worshiped many gods, especially things related to agriculture such as the sky, the moon, the land, forests, rivers, mountains...to be protected. This primitive and popular belief is called animism. When we worship many gods together, it's called polytheism.

In addition, the most popular custom since the dawn of time of the Kinh people (Viet people) and of some minorities is to venerate the ancestors. In almost all Vietnamese families, each house has the altar of ancestors to be grateful for the merits of the predecessors. In addition to ancestor worship in each family, the family line, the lineage...most villages in Vietnam venerate the tutelary genius. The worship of tutelary genius and the communal house (communal temple) are the unique characteristic of the Vietnamese village. The revered deities in the communal temple can be the gods or the remarkable personages who have great merit as: Creator of a profession, national hero against foreign invaders... In addition, the Vietnamese people also worship the gods such as god of the kitchen, the god of the earth...This is the spirit of polytheism.

Religions in Vietnam

Different religions in Vietnam:

Since prehistoric times, there were already forms of religious practice. The ornamental figures on Dong Son bronze drums from the Dong Son Culture (bronze era) reflect the religious ritual of this era with many images of birds, especially phoenixes. Historians believe it is the totem of the ancient Vietnamese people.

In addition, the dragon is also present in many art products that originated from the cult of Lac Long Quan, a dragon. According to legend, Lac Long Quan is the father of the Vietnamese nation. In addition, Nature such as animals, mountains, rivers, sea...is also venerated as the god of protection of human beings. Religion in Vietnam is influenced by Chinese civilization and Indian civilization, but Vietnamese people incorporate elements of traditional ethics to form a religion with its own identity.

During the monarchy in Vietnam, Confucianism was encouraged by different dynasties to find royal officials and many temples of Confucianism were built throughout the country. However, under dynasties such as Ly, Tran, Nguyen... Buddhism also played an important role in the royal court and was encouraged by feudal governments. There are actual following religions in Vietnam:

Religions in Vietnam

Buddhism: This religion was introduced in Vietnam after the AD second century, by the Indian priests. It is more an ethic, a philosophy than a religion. It orients human race toward the good and provides a means to liberate the sufferings of human life. The Buddhism was divided in two different schools that are Mahayana Buddhism or Big Vehicle – simplified Buddhism and Nihayana Buddhism - original Buddhism or the Small Vehicle. For a certain period of history, it was served as a national religion under the various feudal dynasties. Buddhism plays currently the predominant role of religion in Vietnam.

Confucianism: Introduced in Vietnam in the early years of the Christian era, as Buddhism, Confucianism is more an ethic of life than a religion. It is rather a set of moral, social doctrines, studies valorization to climb on society hierarchy. This doctrine became the theory in favor of feudal dynasties to select mandarins, royal officials from 1076 until 1919. The influences of this religion are still very clear until today in the mentality and behavior of Vietnamese people.

Taoism: Appeared in Vietnam about the same time of these mentioned religions, Taoism originally searched for the harmony and balance of the universe to live longtime. This religion was quickly mixed with other Vietnamese local beliefs: the cult of genies, animism, and shamanism … In short, it becomes a mysterious belief.

Religions in Vietnam

Catholicism: The arrival of European missionaries in the 16th century, mostly Portuguese and French people mainly because of the war in Indochina, gave a new image to Vietnam’s religions: Catholicism was evangelized. Now, we count 10 million of people practicing this religion in the country.

Hinduism: This religion was practiced by Cham ethnic of the Champa Kingdom in central Vietnam. Hinduism became the main doctrine during the development of the kingdom which ended around the 17th century due to the Viet or Kinh conquest of Daiviet Kingdom – Vietnam today.  Hinduism is just little practiced by a small community of Cham people in the South of Vietnam.

Islamism: Peacefully practiced by a small community of Chams and Khmers in the South of Vietnam, this religion was introduced by Arab traders in recent times, seems to fit perfectly with the evolution of other religions in the country.

Caodaism: Founded in the 1920s in the South of Vietnam by Ngo Minh Chieu in a particular historical atmosphere, Caodaism wants to gather the main doctrines of these religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and even Catholicism. The gathered doctrine is mixed with the local beliefs and important persons: Victor Hugo, Revolutionary persons…The aim is to unify all the disciples of the world to avoid conflict because of difference of principles. There are 3 million followers in the country, mainly in the South and in the Mekong delta.

Religions in Vietnam

Hoahaoism: Known as a local sect of Buddhism or an adaptation of Buddhism to the local life in the South of Vietnam, Hoahaoism is based on three Gratefulness: Gratefulness of Buddha, of Parents and of nation.

Except from these religions, the local beliefs: Animism, shamanism, cult to different genies, cult to three Mothers (God of Sky, Land and Water), cult to national heroes…are widely practiced in the whole country.

Religious activities of believers:

In Vietnam, each year, there are about 8,500 religious festivals at the national and local levels. Religious believers are free to perform religious rites, to express and practice their beliefs and religions. Dignitaries and religious practitioners are free to practice canonical religious activities. The ordination, appointment and transfer of the titles are made in accordance with the regulations of their religious association. The number of religious organizations with recognized legal status in recent years is growing. Many foreign religious organizations have come into contact with Vietnamese religious organizations...