Early history

The archaeological excavations carried out recently have proved the presence of human beings in the territory of Vietnam since the Paleolithic Age or the Old Stone Age (300,000 - 500,000 years). In the Neolithic Age (New Stone Age), Hoa Binh - Bac Son cultures (about 10,000 BC) had witnessed the development of agriculture and animal husbandry, including even the technique of paddy rice cultivation.

The Vietnamese as an ethnic group had been formed and developed early in the Red river and Ma river delta situated in northern part of the present-day Vietnam. Generations to generations, people moved from highland and mountainous areas to the plains, developed new lands for cultivation. They constructed a system of irrigation dams and dykes to tame the mighty Red River, the river that brought about several devastating floods every year. It is the process of continuous labor to control water - to fight against flood, storm and drought, to build up irrigation dams and canals for agricultural cultivation that formed the paddy rice civilization and the commune culture.

In the Bronze Age, a unique and distinct civilization had been formed that reached a high level in technical skill as well as art - the brilliant Dong Son culture. The recent ethnological, historical and archaeological studies and researches have asserted the existence of the Hung Kings' period in Van Lang Kingdom (later Au Lac Kingdom) about 1000 years BC. In 200 BC, Au Lac Kingdom was invaded and annexed into the giant empire of the Han feudalism in the north. Nevertheless, the ten-century domination of Chinese feudalism could not assimilate Vietnamese culture and break the Viet people's brave resistance.

The Dai Viet

In the 10th century AD, the Vietnamese had won their freedom and built up an independent state named Dai Viet. The country was under the ruling of many national feudal dynasties, among which the most important ones are the Ly Dynasty (11th and 12th century), the Tran Dynasty (13th and 14th century), the Le Dynasty (15th, 16th and 17th century) with their centralized administration, strong army forces and a highly developed economy and culture. During this period, Vietnam as a nation had to ceaselessly fought against the vicious conquering conspiracies of Chinese and Mongolian feudal empires. Vietnam's long and tough struggles of resistance against the invasions of the Song (11th century), the Yuan or the Mongols (13th century), the Ming (15th century) had acquired glorious victories. Vietnam became stronger, all its ethnic groups became more united and the country moved into a new prosperous period after each struggle.

Dong Son culture which was enriched by the influence of Chinese culture developed from centuries to centuries in a framework of an independent state. Buddhism and Confucianism entered Dai Viet and brought with them many popular cultural features and distinct forms. Nonetheless, Vietnam still preserved its own language and a highly developed agricultural civilization.

In the 17th and 18th century, feudalism in Vietnam was considerably weakened. Peasants ceaselessly rose up in revolts that led to the Tay Son movement (1771-1802). Tay Son overthrew all regional feudal lordship that divided the country into two parts, united the country and chased away the Qing (Manchus) invaders from China, simultaneously implemented many social and cultural reforms. However, with foreign aid, Nguyen Anh soon took over the ruling power and the Nguyen Dynasty was established, which was the last royal dynasty in Vietnam.

Struggle for national liberation

In the middle of 19th century (1858), French colonialists began to invade Vietnam. The incompetent government of the Nguyen gradually gave in and from 1884, French colonists established a protectorate and a colonial government that controlled the whole territory of Vietnam. In the early days, resistant movements of the Vietnamese people under the leadership of intellectual patriots like the literate, cultured people and scholars broke out everywhere, but they all failed in the end.

Nguyen Ai Quoc, who later became President Ho Chi Minh, traveled abroad to find the way to save the country. He laid the foundations for the Vietnam Communist Party, which was founded on 3rd February 1930. Under the leadership of the Communist Party, the Vietnamese people rose up against French colonization and Japanese occupation, organized the Great National Uprising in August 1945 and established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on 2nd September 1945.

Being confronted with aggressive schemes and intervention of France and the United States, the newly born Democratic Republic of Vietnam had to carry out the thirty-year war of resistance. The coming back of French aggressive troops had resulted in the nine-year war of resistance (1945-1954) which ended by the famous victory of Vietnam in Dien Bien Phu and the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam. According to this Agreement the country was temporarily partitioned into North Vietnam and South Vietnam by the 17th parallel, which should be reunified within two years (1956) through a general election held all over Vietnam. The northern part of Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with its capital Hanoi) was placed under the control of the Vietnam Workers' Party. The southern part (the Republic of Vietnam), which was controlled by a pro-French administration and later, a pro-American administration, had its capital in Sai Gon. The Sai on government used all its forces to prevent the election, suppressed and killed former participants in the resistance movement. The situation led to the national movement fighting for peace and unification of the country. The Sai Gon government could not suppress the aspiration of all Vietnamese people to unify the country, especially since the National Front for Liberation of South Vietnam was established on 20th December 1960.

In order to maintain the Sai Gon regime, the United States increased its military aid to the Sai Gon government. Particularly, in the middle of the '60s, half-million American troops and their allied troops were sent to South Vietnam in direct military intervention. From 5th of August 1964, they started bombarding North Vietnam. In spite of that, following president's Ho Chi Minh's teaching "Nothing is more precious than independent and freedom", the Vietnamese people bravely and firmly stood up and won numerous victories in the northern as well as southern part of the country. In 1973, Washington had to sign the Paris Agreement on the restoration of peace in Vietnam and the withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam.


In the spring of 1975, the patriotic armed forces of Vietnam swept across the country in the great general offensive and overthrew the Saigon government. The southern part of Vietnam was liberated and the country was united as one.

On 25th April 1976, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was renamed into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which governs both northern and southern parts in its territory.

In 1977, Vietnam became a member of the United Nations.

After many years of prolonged war, the country was heavily devastated. In the 1975 - 1986 period, Vietnam had to cope with innumerable difficulties. The aftermath of war, social evils, the mass flow of refugees, war at the southwest border against the genocidal policies of Pol Pot government in Cambodia, the dispute at the northern border, the isolation and embargo from the United States and Western countries, plus continual natural calamities ...put Vietnam before tremendous tough challenges. Moreover, those difficulties became more severe due to subjective reasons such as hastiness and impatience, and voluntarism in rebuilding the country regardless of specific actual conditions. Early in the 80s, Vietnam witnessed the most serious ever socio-economic crisis, the inflation rate rose up to a record 774.7% in 1986.

Economic renovation: Doi Moi

Since 1986, the government launched the "Doi Moi" or all-round renovation process, stepping in the general development trend and the process of gradual globalization and regionalization. The 6th Congress of Vietnam Communist Party in December 1986 strictly self-criticized its mistakes in the past years, assessing carefully its achievements, analysing mistakes and drawbacks, setting forth all-round renovation policy. With top priority being given to economic reform for creating a multi-sector market economy regulated by the Government, at the same time consolidating legal environment and renovating Party's and State's structure. Since then the Vietnamese economy became opened and transformed from centralized planned economy heavily based on imports to a market-oriented one. The self-determination of financing was introduced. All aimed at budget balancing and promoting exports. As from 1989, Vietnam began to export about 1 - 1.5 ton of rice, inflation rate gradually decreased (the rate stood at 67.4% in 1990), living standards were improved, democracy got enhanced, national defense and internal security got firmly consolidated, the external relations were broadened freeing the country from blockage and isolation.

In June 1991, the VIIth Congress of the Vietnam Communist Party reaffirmed its determination to pursue the renovation process overcoming difficulties and challenges, stabilizing political situation, pushing back unfairness and negative activities, directing the country out of crisis. The Congress also set forth the foreign policy of multilateralization and diversification the guideline "Vietnam wants to be friend all other countries in the International Community for Peace, Independence and Development".

With renovation process, Vietnam step by step surpassed many difficulties, hindrances, and achieved great results. During the 1991-1998 period, the average economic growth rate (presented by the increase rate in GDP) reached 8%. In 1999 the economy was seriously affected by the economic crisis in the region and natural calamities; it GDP growth was only 4,5%. However, economic performance is inspiring in 2000 with GDP growth of 6,7% by first nine months. By September 2000, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) reached $ 36 billion with 2,500 projects; inflation decreased from 67.1% (in 1991) to 6% (in 2000), living standards of the majority were improved. The cultural and intellectual standard got further increased. Generally, Vietnam has made a lot of progress in the fields of education, health care, culture and art, sports, family planning, public media, and other social activities. The political situation, independence and sovereignty of the nation, national security and defense have been maintained stable, thus actively facilitating the "Doi Moi" process. The political system from central to local level was consolidated; the State's rule and law has been firmly constructed and increasingly made perfect. The foreign policy of independence and sovereignty multilateralization and diversification has brought about great results. Now, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with nearly 170 countries, trade relations with 165 countries, and attracting foreign investment from more than 70 countries and territories.

The future

The IXth Congress of the Vietnam Communist Party in April 2001 reviewed achievements recorded during 15 years of renovation (1986 - 2001), laying targets for development by the year 2001 and 2010: focusing on promoting industrialization and modernization.

Socio- Economic strategy for 2001-2010:

Viet Nam's socio-economic development strategy for the 2001-2010 period has been defined as to accelerate national industrialization and modernization along the socialist line and build the foundation for the country to basically become an industrialized nation by 2020.

The three breakthroughs defined by the strategy to promote socio-economic development are to build uniform market-oriented economic institutions in line with socialism with focus on renewal of policy to liberate the production force and expand markets at home and abroad; make a vigorous change in the development of human resources, focusing on education-training, science-technology; renew the organization and operation of the political system, focusing on administrative reform.

The specific goals of the Strategy are:

  • To ensure that by 2010, GDP will have at least doubled the 2000 level. To increase visibly the efficiency and competitiveness of products, enterprises and the economy; to better meet essential consumption demands, and a considerable part of production and export demands. To ensure macro-economic stability; a sound international payment balance and growing foreign exchange reserves; to keep budget deficits, inflation and foreign debts within safe limits to effect positively economic growth. Domestic savings are to amount to over 30 percent of GDP. Exports are to increase at a rate more than double that of GDP growth. Agriculture is to account for 16-17 percent of GDP, industry 40-41 percent, and services 42-43 percent. Agricultural labor is to drop to around 50 percent of the workforce.
  • To raise substantially our Human Development Index (HDI). The population growth rate is to have dropped to 1.1 - 1.2 percent by 2010. To eliminate the category of hungry households, and reduce quickly the number of poor households. To solve the employment issue in both urban and rural areas (to reduce urban unemployment rate to below 5 percent; and increase utilized worktime in rural areas to about 80-85 percent); to raise the trained labor ratio to around 40 percent. To ensure schooling to all school-age children; to accomplish junior secondary education universalization nationwide. To provide medical treatment to patients; to reduce (under-five) child malnutrition to around 20 percent; to increase the average life expectancy to 71 years.

Industrialization and modernization is aimed at developing Vietnam into an industrial country with a modern technical and physical infrastructure, rational economic structure, a progressive productional relationship in conformity with production level, a firm national defence and security, for wealthy people, strong country, just, democratic and advanced society .


Vietnam boasts an age-long and special culture that is closely attached to the history of the formation and development of the nation.

Historians have shared a common view that Vietnam has got a fairly large cultural community that was formed around the first half of the first millenium before Christ and flourished in the middle of this millenium. That was Dong Son cultural community. This culture attained a degree of development higher than that of others at that time in the region and had its own characteristics but still bore the features of Southeast Asian culture because of the common South Asian racial root (Southern Mongoloid) and the water rice culture. Different development routes of local cultures in various areas (in the deltas of Hong (Red) river, Ma (Horse) river, Ca river and so on...) joined together to form Dong Son culture. This was also the period of the very "embryonic" state of Vietnam in the form of inter- and super-village community, which come into being and existed in order to resist invaders and to build and maintain dykes for rice cultivation. From this pattern of "embryo" state, primitive tribes grew into nations.

The period of Van Lang-Au Lac culture (lasting for nearly 3,000 years up to the end of the first millenium before Christ) in the early Bronze Age with 18 Hung kings was regarded as the first apogee in the history of the Vietnamese culture, which was typified by the Dong Son bronze drum and stable technique of cultivating water rice.

The post-Chinese domination period was characterized by the two parallel trends of Han assimilation and anti-Han assimilation. The Dai Viet (Great Vietnam) period was the second apogee of the Vietnamese culture. Throughout the time of independent feudal states, milestoned by the Ly-Tran and Le dynasties, the Vietnamese culture underwent comprehensive restoration and quick boom, under the tremendous influence of Buddhism and Taoism.

After the chaotic Le-Mac and Trinh-Nguyen period, when the country was separated, and since the Tay Son dynasty reunited the country and territory, the Nguyen dynasty tried to restore Confucian culture. They, however, failed because Confucianism had already been fading and the Western culture started to penetrate into the country. The period up to the end of French domination was marked by a cultural mix brought about by two opposite trends - i.e. of Europeanization and anti-Europeanization; that presents, the fight between patriotic culture and colonialist culture.

The period of modern Vietnamese culture has gradually taken shape since the 30?s and 40?s of this century under the banner of patriotism and Marxism-Leninism. Vietnamese culture, with the increasingly intensive integration into the world modern civilization and the preservation and enhancement of the national identity, promises to reach a new historical peak.

It can be said that there were three layers of culture overlapping each other during the history of Vietnam: local culture, the culture that mixed with those of China and other countries in the region, and the culture that interacted with Western culture. The most prominent feature of the Vietnamese culture is that it was not assimilated by foreign cultures thanks to the strong local cultural foundations. On the contrary, it was able to utilize and localize those from abroad to enrich the national culture.

The Vietnamese national culture emerged from a concrete living environment: a tropical country with many rivers and the confluence of great cultures. The natural conditions (temperature, humidity, monsoon, water-flows, water-rice agriculture ...) exert a remarkable impact on the material and spiritual life of the nation, the characteristics and psychology of the Vietnamese. However, social and historical conditions exert an extremely great influence on culture and national psychology. Thus, there are still cultural differences between Vietnam and other water-rice cultures like Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, India and so on. Though sharing the same Southeast Asian cultural origin, the Vietnamese culture was transformed and bore East Asian cultural characteristics because of the long domination of the Chinese Han dynasty and the imposition of its culture on Vietnam.

The Vietnamese nation was formed early in the history and often had to carry out wars of resistance against foreign invaders, which created a prominent cultural feature: a patriotism that infiltrated and encompassed every aspect of life. Community factors with primitive origin were amalgamated early in the history and became the foundations for the development of patriotism and national consciousness. Continual wars were the major cause of the vicissitudes of the Vietnamese social development history. All the social and economic structures were often dismantled by wars, so the social development could hardly reach its peak. Also because of the destruction of wars, Vietnam has virtually no gigantic cultural and artistic construction, or if any, they could not have been preserved intact.

Vietnam boasts 54 ethnicities living across the country. Each ethnicity has its own cultural colour, thus, the Vietnamese culture is a diversified unification. Apart from the typical Viet-Muong culture, there are other cultural groups like Tay-Nung, Thai, Cham, Hao-Ngai, Mon-Khmer, H'Mong-Dao, and especially Tay Nguyen groups that still maintain fairly diverse and comprehensive traditions of a purely agricultural society that is closely attached to forests and mountains.


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.

The second 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 being rebuilt.

Protestantism 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.

In addition 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.