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OVERVIEW OF VIETNAM

Bac Lieu CanalThe 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.

Da Nang Hai Van PassVietnam’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 humidity.

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

Boy RidingThe population 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 major cities.

Of 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. 

VN FacesMahayana Buddhism (Bac 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.  

Hue thien Mu PagodaCatholicism 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 South.  Protestantism 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.

Caodaism
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.

Hanoi Hoan Kiem LakeHoahaoism 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 South Vietnam.

Islamic 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.

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About Vietnam

ø Overview Of Vietnam
ø History Of Vietnam
ø Legend of Vietnam
ø Vietnam Chronology
ø Facts About Vietnam
ø Vietnam Custom