Official name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Area: 331,211.6km2 Population: 90 million (2013)
Vietnam lies at the coordinates of 23o23′ north to 8o27′ north in the Indochinese peninsula by the Pacific Coast of the Southeast Asian Region. The country shares 4550km of borderlines with China in the north and Laos and Cambodia in the west. It borders the East Sea in the east and Southeast and bay of Thailand in the Southwest. Vietnam’s marine territories include the over 3260km coastlines, thousands of islands, two offshore archipelagos, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), vast continental shelf and fine beaches.
In some areas, limestone mountains arise from the sea. The most famous example is Ha Long Bay, geological wonder twice registered a UNESCO World Natural Heritage. In 2012 Ha Long bay was voted as the New World Natural Wonder.
Vietnam is characterized by tropical climate and diverse terrains from lowlands, mountains and plateaus to lush forests. The mainland territory includes the Northern Mountains, the Red River Delta, Truong Son Range, the Central Highlands, the Central coastal platforms and the Mekong Delta in the south. The northeast, northwest and west of Vietnam include mountainous regions and midlands, highlands and hills which are the residence of various ethnic minorities. The highest peak in the Indochinese peninsula is Fansipan (3143m) in the northwest. The Hanoi capital is located in the center of the Red River Delta while Ho Chi Minh City in the basin of Saigon – Dong Nai river in the southeastern region.
The country’s flag features a five pointed yellow star, two-thirds the flags length, set on a red rectangular background. The five pointed star flag was first introduced in the Southern Revolt (November 23, 1940) and later became the national flag of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam since its foundation in August, 1945.
Vietnam’s 54 ethnic communities have total 90 million people (2013). Vietnamese (Kinh) make up over 85% of the population and are concentrated in platform provinces and the basin of alluvial rivers. The rest of the 53 ethnicities lives in mountainous regions and midlands across the country. The rest of the population includes the Khmer Krom ethnicity 1.5%, Chinese 3% and other ethnicities including: Tay, Muong, Mong, Cham and more.
Vietnamese language is the lingua franca applied for all ethnicities in the education system, administrative machinery and social conversations.
There are 24 ethnicities with distinctive writing systems such as Tay, Nung, Mong, J’rai, Ede, Thai, Khmer, Chinese or Cham… Some of these languages are optional in many public schools.
Buddhism and Catholicism are the two most popular religions in Vietnam along with many others such as Protestantism, Islam and some vernacular religions (Hoa Hao, Cao Dai.)
Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate with high humidity and rainfall levels all year (1500 – 2000mm). Average temperature varies from 21 oC to 27oC and gradually ascends from the north to the south. The north (from Hai Van pass up) has the tropical monsoon climate with 4 separate seasons. The Northern winter is quite harsh as temperature in the Northern mountainous regions may drop below 0oC, and occasionally snow.
The Southern territory from Hai Van pass down is characterized by the sub-equatorial climate which is consistently hot and divided into two seasons: rainy (May to November) and dry.
An Duong Vuong who later renamed the country Au Lac built the Co Loa citadel (Dong Anh, Hanoi). By 208 BC Au Lac was replaced by Nam Viet nation of Zhao Tuo. In 111 BC, Nam Viet was annexed by the Chinese Han dynasty.
During 1000 years, Vietnamese made constant uprisings to regain independence as initiated by the resistance of the Two Trung Sisters (Hai Ba Trung) (40 – 43) and followed by Lady Trieu (248). In the mid-6th century, Ly Bi led troops to Giao Chau defeat Tieu Tu and took over Long Bien Fortress. This set up the first independent kingdom which was pitifully ill-fated. Many successive revolts of Mai Thuc Loan (722), Phung Hung (766 – 791) and Ngo Quyen, who defeated the South Han navy on Bach Dang River in 938m marked the end of the poignant 1000-year Chinese colonization. In 939, Ngo Quyen seized the throne and established the capital in Co Loa.
Vietnamese feudal states
In the dynasties of Ngo (938 – 965), Dinh (969 – 979) and Pre-Le (980 – 1009), feudalism took root. Vietnam entered a prolonged age of renaissance and development by the name Dai Viet throughout the dynasties of Ly (1010 – 1225), Tran (1225 – 1400), Ho (1400 – 1407) and Preliminary Le (1428 – 1527). Dai Viet in this period emerged as a prosperous Asian power. Thang Long (the Hanoi capital) became the capital in 1010 (the name Dai Viet appeared in 1054). From the 16th to 18th century, urban areas and trading ports were set up for trade including foreign countries. This was the Age of Dai Viet Civilization.
French started putting the yoke of colonialism on Vietnam in 1858. For 87 years (1858 -1945) Vietnam was a quasi-colonial feudal country. With control over the entire Vietnamese territory, French officials eventually carried out massive colonial exploitation.
From the August Revolution on
The birth of the Vietnam Communist Party in 1930 led to fierce attempts to regain independence. On September 2, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence to announce the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Between 1945 and 1954 Vietnam underwent resistance against French colonialist army. The war ended with the Dien Bien Phu victory (May 1954) and Geneva Agreement (July 1954). Vietnam was torn into two divisions.
North Vietnam conducted a transformation to socialism while the South Vietnam, under the Geneva Agreement, was temporarily controlled by France and the US in run-up to the national election. However, the election in accordance with the Agreement was never held, making the divide last over 20 years.
For over 20 years (1954 – 1975), Vietnam fought the liberation war to reunite the two divisions. The war ended with the victory of Ho Chi Minh campaign on April 30, 1975.
In 1976, the National Assembly renamed the country the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Vietnam is highly diverse in ethnicity, culture and belief. Vietnamese culture is enriched by various ethnicities and incorporates many traditional factors from the mountainous, lowland and marine regions. Kinh people along with other ethnicities such as Tay, Nung, Chinese, Cham, Thai, Khmer… together make up and retain the richness of the national culture.
Kinh people possess a village- based culture. Different types of villages and communities take part in agriculture, craftsmanship or commerce. Traditional customs in Northern, Central and Southern villages also vary greatly.
Tay – Thai communities mainly live in the North while Mon – Khmer people live sporadically in highlands for cultivation and have long mastered the prairies.
Southern Khmer people are associated with Brahmana practices and festivals that take place in their unique pagodas.
Cham people mainly populate Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan and An Giang. They left some of the most magnificent architectural structures in the Southeast Asia including Cham grave towers in the South Central region.
Mong and Dao people are genuine nomads and live in earthen, semi-earthen or stilt houses in the Northern Highlands. They are skillful at irrigating rocky mountains for wet cultivation, herding, iron crafting and herbal medicine.
In traditional Vietnamese society, a typical family would comprise three or four generations under the same roof. People desired a multitude of children. Vietnamese also treasure ancestor cults.
Vietnam boasts some rich performance arts such as chèo, tuồng, cải lương, water puppet, royal court performance arts, quan họ singing, chầu văn, ca trù, xoan singing, Southern chants, etc. Of these water puppet performances are the most famous and unique. Invented in the Ly dynasty (10101225), water puppet performances are a captivating theatrical art of Vietnamese. Chèo, quan họ and ca trù originated in northern villages, tuồng and classical theater started during the Ly – Tran dynasties and cải lương was invented in the south in the early 20th century.
Vietnam Is proud of Its traditional craftsmanship, with a long standing history and a wide array of sophisticated products famous worldwide. Some crafts are still inherited and have evolved up to now particularly: pottery, lacquering, silk weaving and rattan craft. Indigenous products made by adept artisans from Vietnam have captured the hearts of customers throughout the world.
The Đổi mới (Renovation) initiated in 1986 has generated huge success and giant leaps in Vietnam’s economy. Impressive growth has resulted in vastly improved quality of life among the people. Vietnam was granted official membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July 1995 and also in other international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), Asian Regional Forum (ARF), Asia – Europe Meeting (ASEM), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Vietnam was officially admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in January,
2007. The country’s position in the international arena has also brought back huge opportunities for further regional and global economic Integration and development.
Tourists worldwide are free to travel in Vietnam since the country is of great cultural diversity and rich in history. Furthermore, Vietnam boasts appealing and scenic wonders registered as World Natural Heritages, Tangible or Intangible Cultural Heritages by UNESCO. In recent years, fueled by the nonstop advancement of the country, the tourist sector has made crucial contributions to Vietnam’s economy. The number of tourists to Vietnam rocketed from over 5 million in 2010 to 6.847 million in 2012 alone. In December 2011, in Hanoi, the Association of Tourism and Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism officially announced the new logo and slogan for the National Tourism Promotion Program 2012 – 2015: Vietnam – Timeless Charm.