Religion in Vietnam

One of the most important sides of Vietnam is its religion, it is what formed the Vietnamese culture and its country at the end. The Vietnamese are primarily following the Mahayana tradition which the Vietnamese use as their pillar of the Buddhist religion. With its harmonization with other religions and many traditions. With all its traditions and harmonies and celebrations, Buddhism in Vietnam is really complex and can easily be confusing. What is the story about Buddhism in Vietnam and how did it develop to be its main religion in Vietnam? In this text we will talk all about it, from its history to its influence these days.

Beliefs in Ancient Vietnam

Before Vietnam was a thing, there were many tribes living in the Vietnamese land with many anamistic and totemistic religions. It is believed that the tribes that lived there saw birds and dragons as idols, this was proven with the ancient Vietnamese art that was made in those times. Dragons were important because of an important figure in Vietnamese culture. They believed that LAc Long Quan was a mythical dragon king who was seen as the father of the Vietnamese people. However this king would get support and help from the Golden Turtle God Kim Quy. A generous god that would appear to kings that were in high needs and crisis. He would only help the kings that really need it instead of just granting them powers. One of the greatest powers that was granted to a mortal king was King Le Loi. He was granted the legendary sword Thuan Thien which was first dropped deep in a lake for having too great powers. The next time the sword would be used is against the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty was one of many great Chinese Dynasties that ruled over the Chinese lands. Apparently the sword itself had magical powers which made the wielder of the blade very tall and gave the user great powers, the power of the strength of 10 thousand men. With this sword, the Vietnamese were able to be liberated after winning the rebellion against the Ming. However, after the animistic religions came Buddhism. This was done after the first few contacts were made with the Chinese, since the Vietnamese were bordering this massive Chinese Empire. Because of this, the Vietnamese people were introduced to many religions like Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism. However, the majority accepted Buddhism as its main religion out of the three.

The history of Buddhism in Vietnam

It is of course not possible to accurately follow religion to its root sometimes, this is why there are several theories about Buddhism. One of the main theories is about when Buddhism came to Vietnam, if it is either in the 2nd to 3rd century or the 1st to 2nd century. The other theory is if Buddhism came from India or China at the time. In either case, all that is known is that Buddhism came to Vietnam in the 2nd century. Throughout the century, Vietnam became a central hub for the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism which was in Luy Lau which is today's Bac Ninh Province, northeast of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. It also became a popular stop for Indian Buddhists that are traveling to China. This is because centuries ago, China was also following the Buddhist religion and had major stops and end points for Buddhist pilgrims. The route is the silk road that goes to China while going through major trading hubs, the Silk Road is one of the major medieval trade routes that would go from the Levant all the way to China, this is also how for example the Romans learned that the Chinese existed since they conquered the Levant. This is also how China got their translated Buddhist scriptures. After many centuries of religious influence, China and Vietnam started to get a lot of similarities, because of this they got this cultural philosophical and religious heritage together. The other reason for this strong bond is because Vietnam usually got conquered throughout the centuries. This is also why Chinese Buddhism is related to Vietnamese Buddhism.

Religion in Vietnam these days

In modern times, after the many events happening in Vietnam. The majority of the people in Vietnam do not specifically follow a religion, they would still stick with their folk beliefs or would simply not follow any religion. This is 73 percent of the population in Vietnam. However, most Vietnamese would seem to accept Buddhism. After its whole story with the Vietnamese, Buddhism has been a very influential religion and hence accepted to most Vietnamese that would become religious. In total, around 15 procent would become Buddhists in Vietnam. Next to Buddhism is Catholicism. After the colonization of the Vietnamese land and the colonial policies, Catholicism has been a great influence within the Vietnamese people. This has been done with the Portuguese and Spanish Colonizers after they have visited the land and spread the word of Christ. After that the French came to also spread the word of Christ and to then settle into the Vietnamese land to make it a French Colony.

Religion in Vietnam under Communist rule
In general, there are no strict rules about religion. Everyone has the freedom to believe whatever they want to believe. This was introduced by the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This also means that the Buddhist, Catholic, Islamic faiths have been recognized by the state. Therefore, there is no official religion in Vietnam. However, there are still some limits to this freedom. Foreign missionaries are for example not allowed to proselytize or do any kind of religious activities to convince people of their religion. There are also no other new religions allowed to be introduced except the mentioned religions by the state. It is especially forbidden for any missionary to spread religious propaganda that would give the government a bad view or to spread hate against the government. There are however some controversies about the Communist government, after the stories of Vietnamese people that fled to the US. They explained how the Communist government is being oppressive while the communist government claims to help and honor their preachers and missionaries in Vietnam. In the end, Vietnam has the freedom for religion and are allowed to believe in anything the government allows them to believe.