The major religious traditions in Vietnam are Buddhism (which fuses
forms of Taoism and Confusianism), Christianity (Catholicism and
Protestantism), Islam, Cao Daism and the Hoa Hao sect.
Buddhism was first introduced to Vietnam in the 4th century B.C., and
reached its peak in the Ly dynasty (11th century). It was then regarded as
the official religion dominating court affairs. Buddhism was preached
broadly among the population and it enjoyed a profound influence on people's
daily life. Its influence also left marks in various areas of traditional
literature and architecture. As such, many pagodas and temples were built
during this time.
At the end of the 14th century, Buddhism began to show signs of decline. The
ideological influence of Buddhism, however, remained very strong in social
and cultural life. Presenty, over 70 percent of the population of Vietnam
are either Buddhist or strongly influenced by Buddhist practices.
Catholicism 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.
About 10 percent of the population are considered Catholic.
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.
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.
Caodaism was first introduced to the country in 1926. Settlements of the Cao
Dai followers in South Vietnam are located near the the Church in Tay Ninh.
The number of followers of this sect is estimated at 2 million.
Hoahaoism 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.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a sovereign and reunified independent
country, has a high percentage of territorial waters. Looking at the map,
Vietnam is located in the center of the Southeast Asia, and is shaped like
the letter "S". 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 coast line is
3,260 km long and its inland border measures 3,730 km.
The country's total length, from the northernmost point to the southernmost
point, is 1,650 km.
Its width, stretching from east to west, is 600 km at the widest point in
the north, 400 km in the south, and 50 km at the narrowest part in the Quang
Binh province on the central coast. Vietnam is also a transport junction
from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.