About Vietnam

General information

Geography and climate

History

Central political system

Administrative Divisions and Local Authorities

Economy

People

Culture

 

1. General Information

Full name: The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Vietnamese: Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam)

National Capital: Hanoi (http://www.thudo.gov.vn/)

Major Cities: Ho Chi Minh city (www.hochiminhcity.gov.vn/), Hai Phong (www.haiphong.gov.vn/), Hue (www.vietnamtourism.com/Hue/, or  http://english.thuathienhue.gov.vn/), Da Nang (www.danang.gov.vn/), Can Tho (www.cantho.gov.vn/)  

Independence: 2nd September 1945

Constitution: 1992

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

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2. Geography and climate

Location: Vietnam is the easternmost nation on the Indochina Peninsula. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, and Cambodia to the southwest. On the country's east coast lies the East Sea.

Longitude: 102°09'- 109° 30' east

Latitude: 8°10' - 23° 24' north.

Area: 331,688 km²

International boundaries: 4,639 km

Topography: Hills, densely forested mountains, and lowland. Mountains account for 40% of the area, with smaller hills accounting for 40% and tropical forests 42%. The highest mountain in Vietnam is Phan Xi Păng (located in Lào Cai province), at 3,143 m (10,312 ft).

Northern Vietnam has large plains lying in the river basins of the Red, Lo, and Chay, which flow in a northeast-to-southwest direction into Gulf of Tonkin. North and northwest of these plains are large hilly and mountainous areas. The delta of the Red River (also known as the Sông Hồng), a flat, triangular region of 3,000 square kilometers of the North, is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta of the South. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in by the enormous alluvial deposits of the rivers over a period of millennia, and it advances one hundred meters into the Gulf annually. There is a system of dike along the rivers in the North, which is thousands of kilometers length.

The Mekong delta, covering about 40,000 square kilometers, is a low-level plain not more than three meters above sea level at any point and criss-crossed by a maze of canals and rivers. The Mekong River splits into nine tributaries before flowing into the East Sea, so Vietnamese people call it the Cuu Long (Nine Dragons) River. So much sediment is carried by the Mekong's various branches and tributaries that the delta advances sixty to eighty meters into the sea every year. The rich and fertile Mekong Delta region is the leading rice producer of the country.

Between these large delta regions in the north and south is the long and narrow Central Vietnam. In the west is the Truong Son mountain range. Short rivers run straight to the East Sea cross the region, creating small narrow plains along the coast. Lying in the southwestern part of Central Vietnam is the high plateau at 1,000 meters above sea level, with fertile basalt layers, appropriate for the cultivation of tropical and temperate cash crops, such as rubber, tea, coffee, and cocoa.

Climate: Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, with humidity averaging 84% throughout the year. However, because of differences in latitude and the marked variety of topographical relief, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place. The North has four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Winter in the North is from November to April and is characterised by cool damp weather. Summers run from May to October and are hot with periods of heavy rain. The South of Vietnam has a more tropical climate with a dry hot season from December to April and a wet season from May to November. From March through to May humidity it at its highest. Central areas can experience heavy rain from December to February especially in costal areas.

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3. History

Country's official name throughout history: Van Lang (2876 BC – 258 BC), Au Lac (257 BC – 207 BC), Van Xuan (544-602), Dai Co Viet (968 – 1054), Dai Viet (1054 – 1802), Dai Ngu (1400 – 1406), and Viet Nam.

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.

Reunification

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.

Renovation (Đổi Mới)

At the 6th Congress of the Communist Party in 1986, the Doi Moi (reform) policy was launched with the focus on economic reform. This marked an important milestone in the new stage of development of the Vietnamese nation. The Doi Moi policy was consistently reaffirmed throughout the later Party Congresses. With the implementation of four five-year socio-economic development plans, Vietnam, from a food importing country, has become the second largest rice exporter in the world. Vietnam also exports a lot of other commodities with well-known brands. The economy attained high growth rate in the late 20th century and the early years of the 21st century, people’s lives have been significantly improved; social policy received greater attention, the legal system has become increasingly complete and social management based on the rule of law put into place.

Looking back on the formation and development of the Vietnamese nation, we can see that patriotism, self-reliance, tradition of unity and the willpower to fight for the righteous cause of the nation are the most important features and the moral standards of the Vietnamese. The tradition of industriousness, creativeness and patience originated from the life full of hardship of the Vietnamese people. The need to stand united to cope with difficulties and challenges has created close bonds between the people and the nature and among the people in the family and in the community in the family-village-nation relations. Throughout history, the Vietnamese people have been characterized by the traditions of mutual assistance, ethic-based lifestyle, benevolence, one-mindedness and sharing of hardships in needy times, flexible ways of behaviour, the tradition of eagerness to learn, respect for righteousness and tolerance. These are the powerful and endless endogenous strengths for the Vietnamese nation to embark on the cause of national construction towards the goals of strong country, prosperous people, just, democratic and advanced society.

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4. Central Political System  

The Communist Party of Vietnam (www.cpv.org.vn/)

The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) was established on February 3, 1930. Over the past 75 years, the CPV has been in the vanguard of the struggle for national independence, liberating the country from almost a century of domination by western colonialists and leading the people to total victory in the 30-year resistance war against powerful aggressors. Since the country's reunification, the CPV has led the Vietnamese people in carrying out the country's renovation, modernization and industrialization.

The National Assembly (www.na.gov.vn/)

The National Assembly is the highest representative organ of the people; the highest organ of state power of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the sole organ that has the constitutional and legislative rights.

The State President

The State President, as the Head of State, is elected by the National Assembly from among its deputies to represent the Socialist Republic of Vietnam internally and externally.

The Government (www.vietnam.gov.vn)

The Government is the executive organ of the National Assembly, and the supreme state administrative agency of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Supreme People’s Court (http://sotaythamphan.gov.vn/)

The Supreme People’s Court is the highest judicial organ of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It consists of the Chief Judge, Deputy Chief Judge, jurors and court secretaries.

Supreme People’s Procuracy

The Supreme People’s Procuracy observes the implementation of and respect for the Constitution and laws by Ministries, ministerial-level agencies, Governmental organs, local authorities, social and economic organizations, armed forces, security forces and all citizens; and to practice public prosecution as stipulated by laws, ensuring due law enforcement. The Supreme People’s Procuracy consists of the Head who can be elected, dismissed, or removed from office by the National Assembly on the State President’s proposal, the Deputy Heads, prosecutors and inspector appointed or dismissed by the State President at the Head’s request.

Principal Government Officials

President--Nguyen Minh Triet
Prime Minister--Nguyen Tan Dung
National Assembly Chairman--Nguyen Phu Trong
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs--Pham Gia Khiem

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5. Administrative Divisions and Local Authorities

Vietnam is subdivided into 59 provinces and 5 province-level cities, which are further subdivided into districts and municipalities. Provincial governments are expected to be subordinate to the central government. Often, the Vietnamese government groups the various provinces into eight regions: Northwest, Northeast, Red River Delta, North Central Coast, South Central Coast, Central Highland, Southeast, Mekong River Delta.

59 provinces: An Giang, Bac Giang, Bac Kan, Bac Lieu, Bac Ninh, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Ben Tre, Binh Dinh, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Binh Thuan, Ca Mau, Cao Bang, Dac Lak, Dac Nong, Dien Bien, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, Gia Lai, Ha Giang, Ha Nam, Ha Tay, Ha Tinh, Hai Duong, Hau Giang, Hoa Binh, Hung Yen, Khanh Hoa, Kien Giang, Kon Tum, Lai Chau, Lam Dong, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Long An, Nam Dinh, Nghe An, Ninh Binh, Ninh Thuan, Phu Tho, Phu Yen, Quang Binh, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Quang Ninh, Quang Tri, Soc Trang, Son La, Tay Ninh, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, Thua Thien-Hue, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, Tuyen Quang, Vinh Long, Vinh Phuc, Yen Bai

5 province-level cities: Can Tho, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh

Local authorities

People’s Councils

- People’s Councils of the cities and provinces

- People’s Councils of districts

- People’s Councils of communes, wards and towns.

People’s Committee

- Provincial level: consisting of services, subcommittees, other organs administered by the People’s Committees and the People’s Committee offices

- District level: consisting of departments, sections, other organs administered by the People’s Committees and the People’s Committee offices

- Communal level: sections and the offices.

Local people’s court

- Provincial-level people’s courts

- District-level people’s courts.

Local People’s Procuracy

- Provincial-level people’s procuracy

- District-level people’s procuracy

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6. Economy

Currency: VND (Dong)

GDP (2006): $61 billion.

Real growth rate (2006): 8.2%.

Per capita income (2006): $726.

Inflation rate (2006): 7.5%.

External debt (2005): 32.5% of GDP, $17.2 billion.

Natural resources: Coal, crude oil, zinc, copper, silver, gold, manganese, iron.

Agriculture and forestry (20.4% of GDP, 2006): Principal products--rice, maize, sweet potato, peanut, soya bean, cotton, coffee, cashews. Cultivated land--12.2 million hectares. Land use--21% arable; 28% forest and woodland; 51% other.

Industry and construction (41.5% of GDP, 2006): Principal types--mining and quarrying, manufacturing, electricity, gas, water supply, cement, phosphate, and steel.

Services (38.1% of GDP, 2006): Principal types--wholesale and retail, repair of vehicles and personal goods, hotel and restaurant, transport storage, telecommunications, tourism.

Trade (2006): Exports--$39.6 billion. Principal exports--garments/textiles, crude oil, footwear, rice (second-largest exporter in world), sea products, coffee, rubber, handicrafts. Major export partners--U.S., EU, Japan, China, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, and Germany. Imports--$44.4 billion. Principal imports--machinery, oil and gas, garment materials, iron and steel, transport-related equipment. Major import partners--China, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

Vietnam was accepted into the WTO on November 7, 2006.

The country is listed among the "Next Eleven" economies; the second fastest growth rate among countries in East Asia and the fastest in Southeast Asia.

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7. People

Population

Total (2007 estimate): 85.2 million.

Annual growth rate (2007 estimate): 1.004%.

Ethnic groups

At present there are 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting Vietnam, in which Kinh (Viet) people make up nearly 90% of the whole population, and 53 other ethnic groups represent over 10%.

54 different ethnic groups inhabiting Vietnam can be divided into eight major groups by the Vietnamese language:

- The Viet - Muong Group includes 4 ethnic groups: Chut, Kinh, Muong, Tho.
- The Tay - Thai Group includes 8 ethnic groups: Bo Y, Giay, Lao, Lu, Nung, San Chay, Tay, Thai.
- The Mon - Khmer Group includes 21 ethnic groups: Ba Na, Brau, Bru-Van Kieu, Cho Ro, Co, Co Ho, Co Tu, Gie Trieng, Hre, Khang, Khmer, Kho Mu, Ma, Mang, M'nong, O Du, Ro Mam, Ta Oi, Xinh Mun, Xo Dang, Xtieng.

- The Mong - Dao Group includes 3 groups: Dao, Mong, Pa Then.
- The Kadai Group includes 4 ethnic groups: Co Lao, La Chi, La Ha, Pu Peo.
- The Nam Dao Group includes 5 ethnic groups: Cham, Chu Ru, Ede, Gia Rai, Raglai.
- The Han Group includes 3 ethnic groups: Hoa, Ngai, San Diu.
- The Tang Group includes 6 ethnic groups: Cong, Ha Nhi, La Hu, Lo Lo, Phu La, Si La.

Languages

Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer, mountain area languages.

Religion

Buddhism, Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholicism, some Protestantism), animism, Islam, Cao Daism, and the Hoa Hao sect.

Education

Literacy--90.3% (2004)

Health (2007 estimate)
Birth rate—16.63 births/1000 population. Infant mortality rate--17.4 /1000. Life expectancy--70.8 yrs. Death rate--6.56/1,000

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8. Culture

Philosophy and ideologies

At the start, with primitive and rudimentary cognition of materialism and dialectics, Vietnamese thought was mixed with beliefs. However, originating from agricultural culture that differs from nomadic culture by the appreciation of stillness over movement and closely related to natural phenomena, the Vietnamese philosophy paid special attention to relations that was typified by doctrine of yin and yang and the five basic elements (not exactly the same as the Chinese doctrine) and manifested by the moderate lifestyle tending towards harmony.

Afterwards, the influence of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, that were conciliated and Vietnamized, contributed to the development of the Vietnamese society and culture. Particularly, Zen-Buddhists in the Tran dynasty came up with the interpretation of most philosophical subjects that was set forth by Buddhism (Heart- Buddha, being or not being, life and death) in an original and distinguished way. Although Confucianism flourished afterward, many famous Vietnamese confucianists did not stick blindly to Confucianism and Mencianism, but rather adopted the spirit of Buddhism and Taoism to make their ideology more open, closer to the people and more harmonious with the nature.

Under autocratic dynasties, deep feudal ideologies were imposed on farmers and bound women, however, village democracy and primitive community still existed on the basis of self-supplied agriculture. Farmers' thoughts that penetrated deeply into the Vietnamese agricultural society had many positive and typical features of the traditional Vietnamese. Farmers were the core of wars of resistance and uprisings against foreign invaders. Many talented generals, topped by Quang Trung Nguyen Hue - the hero of the common people in the 18th century, came from farmers.

The policy that facilitated agriculture and restrained trade, prevailing in the Nguyen dynasty, blocked the development of city-dweller's consciousness. In the past, the Vietnamese ranked agriculture and education as their first and second priorities of occupations, while having a low opinion of business people. Other trades were regarded as minor ones, including cultural activities.

In the 19th century when Vietnamese feudalism faded and Chinese civilization declined, Western culture started to penetrate our countries, following the colonialists' guns. The working class formed at the start of the 20th century as a result of the colonial exploitation programs. Marxism-Leninism was introduced in Vietnam in the '20s and '30s, combining with patriotism to become a momentum of historical changes, which led the country up to independence, democracy and socialism. The person representing this era was Ho Chi Minh, who was recognized by the international community and UNESCO as Vietnamese hero of national liberation and great man of culture. The ailing national bourgeoisie could only implement a number of partial reforms in the first half of the 20th century.

That Vietnam did not have its own philosophical and ideological theoretical system and lacked world-class philosophers does not mean that it does not have ways of living and ideologies suitable to its nation.

The agricultural society is characterized by the village community with many prolonged primitive vestiges that have formed the specific characteristics of the Vietnamese. Those were the thoughts of dualism, a concrete way of thinking that was tilted to emotional experiences rather than rationalism and preferred images to concepts. However, it was also a flexible, adaptable, and conciliatory way of thinking. This was a way of living that highly valued emotional ties and attachment to relatives and the community (because "there would be no home in a lost country" and "the whole village rather than a sole roof would be engulfed by flood"). This was a way of behaving toward conciliatory, equilibrium and relations-based settlement of conflicts and disputes. This way of living could cope accordingly with the situation, which many times in the history was successful in using suppleness to prevail over firmness and weakness to resist strength.

On the scale of spiritual values, the Vietnamese highly appreciate "Benevolence" and closely combined it with "Righteousness" and "Virtues"; no benevolence and righteousness are tantamount to no virtues. Nguyen Trai once described the Vietnamese concept of Benevolence and Righteousness as the opposition to fierce violence, which was enhanced to the foundation for the policy of ruling as well as saving the country. The Vietnamese understood that Loyalty meant being loyal to the nation, which was higher than the loyalty to the ruler, and respected Piety without being so bound with the framework of family. Happiness was also among the top social values; people often make compliments on the happiness of a family rather than wealth and social position.

On the road of industrialization, modernization and integration into the international community, Vietnam will have to overcome some shortcomings in its traditional culture like conservatism, and parochialism, egalitarism, and the weakness in practical organization, etc.

Literature

Vietnamese literature came into being at an early date, including two major components - folk literature and written literature. Folk literature held a great significance in Vietnam and made immense contribution to preserving and developing the national language as well as nourishing the people’s soul. Folk literary works were diversified by mythologies, epics, legends, humorous stories, riddles, proverbs, folk-songs and so on... with many colorings of Vietnamese ethnic groups.

Written literature was born roughly in the 10th century. Up to the 20th century, there had been two components existing at the same time: works written in the Han characters (with poems and prose demonstrating the Vietnamese soul and realities; thus, they were still regarded as Vietnamese literature) and works written in the Nom character (mostly poems; many great works were handed down to the later generations). Since the '20s of this century, written literature has been mainly composed in the National language with profound renovations in form and category such as novels, new-style poems, short stories and dramas... and with diversity in artistic tendency. Written literature attained speedy development after the August Revolution, when it was directed by the Vietnamese Communist Party’s guideline and focused on the people’s fighting and working life.

Admittedly, the whole Vietnamese nation likes poetry and composing poems - ranging from kings, mandarins, generals to monks, feudal scholars, and even revolutionaries. A farmer, an old boatman, a soldier all know some six-eight-word meters or satirical verses.

Regarding the content, the mainstream was the unyielding patriotic literature in every time and the anti-feudalist literature that was often expressed through the plight of women. Another important theme was the onslaughts against social vices. Great poets of the nation were all great humanists.

Modern Vietnamese literature has developed from romanticism to realism, from heroism in wartime to all aspects of life, and scoured into ordinary life to find out genuine values of the Vietnamese people.

Classical literature generated such masterpieces as Truyen Kieu (Nguyen Du), Cung oan ngam khuc (Nguyen Gia Thieu), Chinh phu ngam (Dang Tran Con), Quoc am thi tap (Nguyen Trai)... Vietnamese had some brilliant female poets like Ho Xuan Huong, Doan Thi Diem, Ba Huyen Thanh Quan... centuries ago.

In the Vietnamese modern prose, there were authors who could emulate with whoever in the world, namely, Nguyen Cong Hoan, Vu Trong Phung, Ngo Tat To, Nguyen Hong, Nguyen Tuan, Nam Cao... They were sided by excellent poets like Xuan Dieu, Huy Can, Han Mac Tu, Nguyen Binh... Regrettably, great works that faithfully reflect the country and the times have yet to appear.

Arts

Vietnam has got some 50 national music instruments, in which the set of percussion instruments is the most popular, diverse and long-lasting such as trong dong (copper drums), cong chieng (gongs), dan da (lithophone), dan t’rung... The set of blowing instruments is represented by flutes and pan-pipes, while the set of string instruments is specified by dan bau and dan day.

The Vietnamese folksongs are rich in forms and melodies of regions across the country, ranging from ngam tho (reciting poems), hat ru (lullaby), ho (chanty) to hat quan ho, trong quan, xoan, dum, vi dam, ca Hue, bai choi, ly. Apart from this, there are also other forms like hat xam, chau van, and ca tru.

Traditional performing arts include cheo and tuong. Water-puppet shows are also a special traditional art that was ignited in the Ly dynasty. At the start of the 20th century, cai luong (reformed theatre) appeared in Cochinchina with melodies of vong co.

The Vietnamese acoustic arts generally have symbolic, expressive and emotional features. Traditional stage relates closely to the audience and is a combination of music and dance forms. The Vietnamese dance has few strong and tough actions, but contains many smooth and curling features with closed feet and a lot of arm-dancing actions.

In Vietnam, the arts of sculpturing on stone, copper and baked clay came into existence very early, dating back to the 10,000 B.C. Later, enameled ceramics, wooden statues, shell-encrusted pictures, lacquers, silk-made pictures and paper-made pictures all attained high degree of artistic development. The Vietnamese plastic arts focus on expressing innermost feelings with simplified forms uses many methods of stylization and emphasis.

There have been 2014 cultural and historical relics have been recognized by the State and other 2 relics, namely, the Old Capital of Hue and the Ha Long Bay, have gained international recognition as the world heritage site. The remaining ancient architectures are mostly pagodas and temples of the Ly-Tran dynasties, palaces and stelae of the Le dynasty, the 18th century’s community houses, citadels and tombs of the Nguyen dynasty and Cham towers.

In the 20th century, in contact with the Western culture, especially after the national independence, many new categories of arts like plays, photography, cinemas, and modern art had taken shape and developed strongly, obtaining huge achievements with the contents reflecting the social and revolutionary realities. Up to 1997, there have been 44 people operating in cultural and artistic fields honored with the Ho Chi Minh Award, 130 others conferred with People’s Artist Honor, and 1011 people awarded with the Excellent Artist Honor. At the start of 1997, there were 191 professional artistic organizations and 26 film studios (including central and local ones). There have been 28 movies, 49 scientific and documentary films receiving international motion picture awards in many countries.

The traditional and national culture in the time of industrialization and modernization is facing tough challenges posed by the market economy as well as the tendency of globalization. Some cultural and artistic branches have been seeking for renovation. The preservation and development of the national culture, the selection of the traditional values and the construction of the new ones have turned the most important than any time in history. The traditional cultural values should be preserved but should be also enriched by the advanced cultural values of the mankind.

Customs

The old-style Vietnamese house was related to the watery environment (stilted house with curved roof). Then came thatch-roofed house with clay walls, which were built mostly from wood and bamboo. This kind of house did not stand too high to avoid high winds and storms, and more importantly, the house should face to the South direction to be free from hot and cold weathers. The interior of the house was also not so spacious to leave room for the courtyard, pond, and garden. Also, the Vietnamese thought that "spacious home was no better than sufficient food". Sizeable ancient architectures were often built shrouded and in harmony with natural environment.

Vietnamese customs of weddings, funerals, holidays and rituals all are attached to village community. Marriage not only reflect the lovers' desire but also had to meet the interests of the family lines, the village; thus, the choice for future bride or bridegroom was done very carefully, which had to go through many formalities from the plighting ceremony, the official proposal to the bride's family, the wedding to the marriage tie, the ritual of sharing bridal cup of wine, the newly-weds' first visit to the bride's family. Besides, the bride had to pay a fine in order for her to be accepted as a new member of the village. Funeral service is also proceeded very thoroughly to express the grief and see off the relative into the other world. The family of the deceased does not have to take care of the service by themselves, they are also given a helping hand by the neighbors.

Vietnam is the country of festivities which take place all year round, especially in spring when there is little farming work. The major festivities are Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year), Mid-First month, Han thuc (cold food), Doan Ngo (double five), Mid-Seventh month, Mid-Autumn Festival, Ong tao (the god of the kitchen) etc... Each region has its own ritual holidays, the most important of which are agricultural rituals (such as the rituals of praying for rain, getting down to the rice field, and new rice...) and trades' rituals (like the rituals of copper casting, forging, making fire crackers, and boat racing...). Besides, there are also rituals dedicating to national heroes and religious and cultural services (e.g. Buddhist rituals). Ritual holidays are usually divided into two parts: the service is carried out for blesses and thanksgivings, the holiday is the cultural activities of the community consisting of many folk games and contests

Vietnamese people prefer to wear light, thin, well-ventilated kind of clothing that originated from plants and was suitable for such a tropical country as Vietnam, with grey, indigo and black colours. Men's clothing changed from loin-cloth with bare upper half of the body to short jackets and Vietnamese traditional trousers (re-designed from Chinese trousers). In the past, women often wore brassieres, skirts and four-piece long dresses that were later modified to the modern ao dai. In general, Vietnamese women adorned themselves subtly and secretively in a society where "virtue is more important than appearance". Áo dài was once worn by both genders but today it is worn mainly by female, except for certain important traditional culture-related occasions where some men do wear it. Áo dài is worn often for special occasions such as weddings or festivals. White Áo dài is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across Vietnam today.

Vietnamese cuisine uses very little oil and many vegetables. The main dishes are often based on rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), sour (lime), nuoc mam (fish sauce), and flavored by a variety of mint and basil.

Sports

The 4000-year history filled with eternal wars of founding and defending the country had tempered a martial Vietnamese nation. This martial tradition was evidently manifested in sporting events found in the collective activities of the Viet people from the very old time.

In the cultural aspect, the Red River delta’s traditional rituals is well-known with the quan ho songs and the cheo melodies; and in the eyes of sportsmen, it proceeded excitingly with contests of wrestling, wushu, swinging and playing Chinese chess. The annual races of canoeing, swimming and diving are always fierce competitions among young men from coastal and riverside regions. Up in the mountainous areas, horse races, elephant races, contests of arrow and cross-bow shooting and other sporting games like throwing con ball have been perpetuated until today.

Under the French domination and the South Vietnam regimes, Vietnamese national sportsmen, though being scattered in operation, attended many international competitions in the region and finished as champion or among the top standings many times in such categories as soccer, boxing, cycling, tennis...

Since 1975, the Vietnamese sports and physical culture have been truly promoted to become a widespread movement among people with the slogan "To be strong to construct and to defend the country". The French and American war posed big obstacles to the development of the Vietnamese sports; nonetheless, at every interval during these two wars, Vietnam had been hectic to construct the preliminary infrastructure for sports. Stadiums and training centers had been built, and more importantly, the first training officers and managing officers of the sports branch had undergone basic training inside the country and abroad.

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