If you are planning a trip to Vietnam travel, knowing about Vietnam religion and belief is recommended. With a rich history and numerous sacred heritage sites, Vietnam offers visitors the opportunity to have a deep insight into the religious traditions of the country. Read on to broaden your horizons and gain a profound understanding of Vietnam religion.
1. How many Vietnam religions and religious organizations are there?
Vietnam religion is characterized by its diversity, with several recognized religions and religious organizations.
According to statistics, as of 2020, there are 16 official religions in Vietnam, with 36 religious organizations in many Vietnam locations. Among them, there are 6 major religions in Vietnam, namely Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Cao Dai, and Hoa Hao. There are 25,000 places of worship across the country.
2. Learn about the top 6 major religions in Vietnam
2.1. Buddhism - the dominant religion in Vietnam
Buddhism, the most common religion in Vietnam, was introduced to the country in the early years of the Common Era and underwent significant growth from the 10th to 15th century.
During the Ly - Tran Dynasties (from the 11th to 14th century), Buddhism experienced a period of prosperity. In this period, King Tran Nhan Tong founded the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect. Mahayana Buddhism is widely practiced in Vietnam, while Theravada Buddhism is more common in neighboring countries such as Cambodia and Laos.
As the main religion on the Vietnam religion map, there are over 11 million Buddhist followers, more than 17,000 pagodas, and four Buddhist academies in Vietnam. The official Buddhist organization in Vietnam is Vietnam Buddhist Sangha.
Catholicism came to Vietnam religion during the latter half of the 16th century. Catholic missionaries from Portugal, Spain, and France, following merchant ships, brought Catholicism to Vietnam.
During the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries, with Alexandre de Rhodes being the most famous person, developed an alphabetic system for the Vietnamese language based on the Latin script. This writing system is still used nationally today.
In the 1960s, when South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic, was in power, there was a significant shift in Vietnam religion. Catholicism was the dominant religion in Vietnam over Buddhism then.
Presently, there are approximately 6.5 million followers of Catholicism in Vietnam religion, with 42 bishops, around 4,000 priests, more than 100 religious orders, institutes, and congregations comprising over 17,000 members. The official Catholic organization in Vietnam is the Catholic Church in Vietnam.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance introduced Protestantism to Vietnam during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Currently, there are approximately 1.5 million Protestant believers in Vietnam religion.
In addition, there are around 3,000 pastors, nearly 400 places of worship, one seminary, and one biblical school. Most of the Protestants in Vietnam are ethnic minorities residing in the northwestern highlands, such as the Hmong, Thai, and Dao.
There are two officially Protestant organizations in Vietnam, which are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South) and the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North).
There are some interesting Vietnam religion facts about Islam in Vietnam. The majority of Islam believers are the Cham people. There are two groups of Cham people who follow Islam: one group in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan, known as Cham Bani, and another group in Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh, and Dong Nai, known as Cham Islam. Currently, there are over 80,000 Muslim believers in Vietnam, with 89 places of worship. In Vietnam, there are 7 recognized Islamic organizations.
2.5. Cao Dai
Caodaism became a part of Vietnam religion in 1926. It combines teachings from various beliefs. The religion used to be banned by the government but was allowed to operate later. Now, Caodaism has around 6 million followers and 7 recognized Cao Dai organizations.
2.6. Hoa Hao
Hoahaoism is a reformed Buddhist sect founded by Huynh Phu So in 1939 in An Giang province. It emphasizes the practice of Buddhism at home by laypeople, and has approximately 1.3 million followers with 94 temples in 20 provinces. Followers use a plain brown cloth at home as an altar and pray using flowers, fresh water, and incense. The official Hoa Hao organization is Hoa Hao Buddhist Church.
3. Top 5 well-known religious destinations in Vietnam
If you have a chance to visit and explore Vietnam religion, the below destinations are must-visits for those who want to dive into Vietnam religious beliefs.
- Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi is a historic Buddhist temple on an islet in West Lake. It was built in the 6th century and hangs on through the ups and downs of history. The temple, with stunning views of West Lake, is an ideal place for meditation and learning about Vietnamese Buddhist culture.
- Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue is a famous Buddhist site with stunning architectural styles. The prominent features in this pagoda are a seven-story tower and many magnificent Buddha statues, along with breathtaking views of Perfume River and surrounding mountains.
- Nha Trang Cathedral in Nha Trang, also known as Christ the King Cathedral, is a renowned religious site in Vietnam with a unique Gothic architectural style. Visitors can admire the beauty of the cathedral's architecture and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere inside. It is recommended to attend a mass here to fully experience the spiritual ambiance of the site.
- My Son Sanctuary in Hoi An is a famous archeological site that can take visitors back to over 1,600 years ago during the era of the Champa Kingdom. Here, you can learn about the rich history and culture of the Champa people.
- Da Nang Cathedral in Da Nang, or Pink Church, is a well-known Catholic church in Vietnam. Its distinctive pink exterior, Gothic architecture, and stained-glass windows have attracted many visitors. The church hosts daily masses in English and Vietnamese, and visitors are welcome to attend.
4. The best guide for your visit to religious sites in Vietnam
- Mind your manners at sacred sites.
- Wear modest, non-revealing clothes to pagodas and temples
- Avoid tight-fitting or overly short outfits
- Remove hats before entering a sacred site
- Refrain from making loud noises
- Don’t litter
Vietnam religions and beliefs have made significant contributions to the country's history and culture. Moreover, these beliefs and religions also facilitate spiritual tourism in particular and tourism in general. Coming to Vietnam, besides visiting some aforementioned sacred attractions, tourists can also explore nature, culture, people and experience a variety of exciting activities.
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Understanding Vietnam religion is an essential aspect of exploring the country's rich cultural heritage. Visitors to Vietnam can learn about the long-standing traditions and customs of the Vietnamese people through the exploration of major Vietnamese religions. By delving into the religious traditions and sacred heritage sites of Vietnam, travelers can gain a deep insight into the culture and beliefs of the country.
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