OVERVIEW OF VIETNAM
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is located in the center of
Southeast Asia, and 127,800 square miles
of land area and 386,100 square miles of offshore territory. The
country lies in the eastern part of the Indochina peninsula, bordered
by China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, and the East Sea
and Pacific Ocean to the southeast. Vietnam's coastline is 2,025 miles
long and its inland border measures 2,320 miles. The country's total
length, from the northernmost point to the southernmost point, is
1,025 miles. Its width, stretching from east to west, is 375 miles at
the widest point in the north, 245 miles in the south, and 31 miles at
the narrowest part in the Quang Binh province on the central
coast. The coastline stretches from Mong Cai in the north to Ha
Tien in the south with many spectacular beaches. Vietnam is a
transport junction from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Vietnam’s topography is
diversified with rivers, mountains, plains, highlands and islands.
Three quarters of Vietnam's territory consists of mountains and hills.
The Hong and Thai Binh rivers form the northern plain. The
northeastern region are covered with arrow-shaped limestone mountain
ranges, of which the Dong Trieu range forms the mountain cliffs of Ha
Long Bay, known for its spectacular beauty as one of the seven wonders
of the world. The Center of Viet Nam is a narrow region, covered with
a mixture of mountains, hills, rivers and coastal plains. The Truong
Son range runs along the west coast, with a soil formed of granite and
basalt. The southern region consists mainly of low lying tropical
plains and river basins, with some hills and small mountain ranges
near Tay Nguyen and the western region of Kien Giang provinces. The
majority of the southern territory consists of the Dong Nai and the
Mekong river deltas; the latter is the largest delta in the country.
Vietnam is located in a tropical zone to the
south and a temperate zone to the north. It is affected by the ASIAN
monsoon regime: northeastern and southeastern monsoon wind but has a
considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high
The southern provinces are affected by
southeastern monsoon wind, with high temperatures year round and two
distinct seasons; rainy season from May to October, dry season from
November to April. The difference in temperature between the two
seasons in southern Vietnam is almost unnoticeable, averaging around
85ºF. The northern region has 4 somewhat distinct seasons.
Temperatures in the northern provinces may vary through the
year by as much as 50ºF, with winter lows averaging around 45ºF and
summer highs around 95ºF.
PEOPLE and RELIGION
of Vietnam is slightly under 80 million people with an annual
population increase of around 2%. Vietnam’s population is quite
young with over half of its citizens born after 1975.
The population of males and females is virtually equal.
The birth rate is running as high as 19% while the death rate
is currently at about 6%. On average, women between the ages of 15 to
49 years old conceive 2.3 children. Education is a high priority in
this rapidly developing nation, with the literacy rate now topping
94%. Well over three quarters of the Vietnamese population live and
works in the countryside, but this demography is beginning to change
as Vietnam is experiencing major industrialization in and around the
fifty-four ethnic cultures residing in
Vietnam, the Vietnamese – Kinh are by far the largest at 86% of the
population. Among the other ethnic minorities, the largest are the Tay
and Thai, followed by the Muong, Hoa, Khme, Nung, and H’mong.
The primary religions of Vietnam are
Buddhism and Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), with
smaller practices of Caodaism, Hoahaoism, and Islamism.
Tong), also known as Northern Buddhism, the Greater Wheel School, or
the Greater Vehicle School, is the predominant religion in Vietnam.
Traveling Chinese monks around AD200 carried this form of Buddhism
into the Red River delta region. Mahayana Buddhism is itself a variant
of the original Theravada Buddhism (Hinayana), also known as Southern
Buddhism, or the Lesser Wheel School, which developed in India and Sri
Lanka. The latter Buddhism, brought by Indian travelers, also found
its way to Vietnam at around the same time, though remained in the
Mekong Delta area, particularly among the Khmers who still are its
main practitioners. For several centuries after its arrival, Mahayana
Buddhism remained a relatively esoteric and elitist religion. It was
not until the 10th century, when it received a royal
following that Buddhism began to take hold in Vietnam. By the mid-12th
century, when it was made the state religion, the apparatus of the
organized faith quickly established itself, with senior members of the
Buddhist hierarchy advising the court and state-financed temple and
pagoda projects pushing Buddhism out into rural areas to the
peasantry. But the rise of Buddhism was always tempered by the court’s
wavering attachment to Confucianism, and during the 13th
and 14th centuries the Tran emperors favored advisors of
Confucian, not Buddhist, persuasion. To compound their fall from
grace, when the Chinese invaded northern Vietnam in 1414, numerous
pagodas and Buddhist scripts were destroyed. The ideological influence
of Buddhism, however, remained very strong in social and cultural
life. Presently, over 70 percent of the population of Vietnam are
either Buddhist or strongly influenced by Buddhist practices.
was introduced to Vietnam in the 17th century. At present, the most
densely populated Catholic areas are Bui Chu-Phat Diem in the northern
province of Ninh Binh and Ho Nai-Bien Hoa in Dong Nai province to the
was introduced to Vietnam at about the same time as
Catholicism. Protestantism, however, remains an obscure religion. At
present most Protestants live in the Central Highlands. There still
remains a Protestant church on Hang Da Street in Hanoi. The number of
Protestants living in Vietnam is estimated at 400,000.
About 20 percent of the population is considered Christian.
was first introduced to the country in 1926. Settlements of the
Cao Dai followers in South Vietnam are located near the Church in Tay
Ninh. The number of followers of this sect is estimated at 2 million.
was first introduced to Vietnam in 1939. More than 1 million Vietnamese
are followers of this sect. Most of them live in the western part of
followers in Vietnam are primarily from the Cham ethnic minority group
living in the central part of the central coast. The number of Islamic
followers in Vietnam totals about 50,000.