However you look at religion in Vietnam, one can only describe it as complex.
Now — Are the Statistics Really True?
When one looks at putting Vietnam’s religious beliefs into one box, or getting the Vietnamese to tick in a box in 1999 census (the most recent available), often the conclusion is made that they are non believers of anything. Mainly because they do not necessarily belong to one organised group, when actual fact Vietnamese have a very rich and diverse cultural and spiritual life, which is collectively known as Triple Religion.
Vietnam’s spiritual influences come from a combination of three major traditional religions: Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism fused with popular Chinese beliefs and ancient Vietnamese Animism, which through the centuries has existed in parallel; which also contains a combination of Ancestor and Mother Worships. Catholicism and Islam have also been followed by some Vietnamese, and still are to this day.
According to census statistics from 1999 10 years ago, religion was divided into: Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, none 80.8%.
But we have to wonder, did they ask the right question to clearly define ‘Religion in Vietnam’?
PAST – IMPORTANT NOTE: Through all their history of wars, takeover bids and general invasions, it is worth noting that all through their chop and change of leadership forcing different religions and values, and the destruction of some of their historic religious sites, they have always maintained their own beliefs never had a religious war.
Confucianism was introduced into Vietnam as early as the first century during the Chinese domination, but didn’t become popular until 1253. Not really a religion, but more of a philosophical system for education, social regulation and political morals, which has taken on a religious status. It lays the foundation for the strong family values, duty to society and learning, which is still evident today.
Taoism penetrated Vietnam at roughly the end of the 2nd century. A principal of creating harmony in the universe, involving the reasonable and sensible behavior of humans; and the relationship between human life and eternal truth.
2nd century it was introduced, then by the 11th century it reached its peak in popularity and was considered the official ideology. Now interpreted as the way of life; and a religion of finding life’s truth through one’s own spiritual cultivation.
How Do 3 Beliefs Work in Day to Day Life
Vietnamese may say they are Buddhist, but when acting in a patriotic way in the community and within their families they are probably following Confucianism and then looking to Taoism to understand nature and the cosmos.
Officially founded in 1936 by Ngo Van Chieu; who used a séance to communicate with the spiritual world. Cao Dai worships three supreme beings: Buddha, Jesus and Duc Cao Dai.
In 1939 Huynh Phu So founded this religion which is also known as Hoa Hao Buddhism. Simply for people to live in harmony, and that ‘The Buddha’ is in our own hearts.
In 1525 a group of 21 missionaries arrived, but it wasn’t until the middle of the 17th century did it spread. But, at the beginning it was not easily accepted as it came with the Western colonialism and rejected traditional beliefs such as Ancestor worship.
Thought to be introduced to Vietnam’s communities during the 10th and 11th centuries. The followers are practicing a localized interpretation or adaptation of Islamic theology and laws.
Long surviving belief is that the Mother Spirit or Mother Cult protects children. There are many different Mother Spirits who exist beside children to help them in specific areas in their lives. Since worship of the Mother Spirit normally involves witchcraft or sorcery rituals, as the way of communicating between humans and spirits it has been criticized in the past. Many ordinary people and especially women still have a strong attachment to this.
ANCESTOR WORSHIP – click here
Stores selling, Feng Shui carved Happy Gods that bring prosperity into the family including items depicting the Chinese Horoscope.
Burning Votive’s – gifts and money burnt to send to people in the afterlife.
Tree Spirit House, offering table attached to a tree and incense burnt.
Spirit House for Motorbike shop.