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Population, Language, History, Religion and Culture

Vietnam’s population stood at around 83 million (2005 figure). The most popular language is Vietnamese. The country's history dates back more than 4,000 years to when the ancient Vietnamese people founded their first nation under the name “Van Lang.”

Population and Language

Vietnam’s population stood at around 87.3 million (est.) in 2007. The average population density is about 240 people per sq. km.

Of the 54 ethnic groups, those of Kinh (Vietnamese) descent account for 88% of the total population. The adult literacy rate is 93%. Approximately 57% of the population is employed in agriculture and nearly half is under the age of 25.

Vietnamese is the most popular and national language. English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and German are popular foreign languages in Vietnam.

History

Vietnamese history dates back more than 4,000 years to when the ancient Vietnamese people founded their first nation under the name “Van Lang.”

The recent history of Vietnam is best characterized as one long, continuous struggle for freedom and independence. The country was ruled by the Chinese feudalists for nearly a thousand years from 111 B.C. to 939 A.D. It was also colonized by France for almost a century, from 1859 to 1945.

During the Second World War, Vietnam was occupied by Japanese troops, but the French administration continued until March 9, 1945 when it was toppled by the Japanese. Vietnam regained its power from the Japanese in August 1945 and was declared independent on September 2 in the same year, giving the birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Right after the declaration of independence, the country was immediately plunged into a war against the French attempts to re-colonize, which lasted for another nine years. The war ended in 1954, leaving the country divided at the 17th parallel. The north remained as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, led by the communists, while the south fell under the influence of the West, namely the United States.

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam grew in the 1950s and escalated into a full-fledged war in March 1965 when the first U.S. troops landed in Vietnam. Although U.S. troops were completely withdrawn by the end of March 1973 as a result of the Paris Peace Accords, the war continued until April 30, 1975, when the south was liberated. The nation was reunified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in January 1976. However, the legacy of war did not end until 1979.

Vietnam is now at peace and maintains diplomatic and economic relations with more than 160 nations and territories, including all the world powers. The country is currently a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC), and the ASEAN – Europe Meeting (ASEM). Vietnam is also negotiating for the accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and expected to become its member by the end of 2006.

Religion and Culture

The religions of Vietnam are varied and rarely clear-cut. Although some people call themselves Buddhists, they do likely practice Confucian and Taoist principles, ancestral worship and a little animism, and superstitions as well. Actual beliefs have developed over centuries from a melting pot of many ideas.

The strong influence of Buddhism, the most popular religion in Vietnam and, to certain extent, of Taoism and some other beliefs resulted in certain characteristics of Vietnamese people such as: gentleness, tolerance, hospitality, generosity, non-violence, compassion and humility.

Confucianism, which places strong emphasis on duty, courtesy and virtue, also has strong influence in Vietnam. As a result, Vietnamese people have a tradition of respecting teachers, elders and authorities and being responsible to their families and society. Because, according to the Confucianist virtue principle, a person’s actions determine his future, much emphasis is placed on education in Vietnam, resulting in the country’s current high literacy rates.

Other religions practiced in Vietnam include Christian, Catholic, Cao Dai...



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