Viet Nam is located on the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It has a long land border of 4,550 km, bordering China to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the West, and Eastern Sea (South China Sea) of Pacific Ocean to the East. The country’s diverse topography consists of hills, mountains, deltas, coastline and continental shelf, reflecting topography formation in a monsoon, humid climate and strong weather exposure. The topography is lower from the Northwest to the Southeast. Three quarters of Viet Nam’s territory are made up of low mountains and hilly regions. One-fourth of the Vietnamese territory is covered by deltas. The country has a long coastline of 3,260 km running from Mong Cai in the North to Ha Tien in the Southwest. Viet Nam’s territorial waters in the Eastern Sea extend to the East and Southeast, including the continental shelf, islands and archipelagoes.
Viet Nam is located in the tropical zone. Its climate is characterized by high temperature and humidity all year round. The Northern part has more or less mainland climate.
Viet Nam’s climate changes by seasons and by regions from the lowland to the highland, from North to South and from East to West.
There are two major climate regions in Viet Nam: (1) Northern Viet Nam (from Hai Van Pass northwards) has a highly humid tropical monsoon climate with four distinguishable seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) and is influenced by the Northeast and Southeast monsoon. (2) Southern Viet Nam (from Hai Van Pass southwards) has a rather moderate tropical climate given the weak influence of monsoon and is characterized by dry and rainy seasons and warm weather all year round. The average temperature in Viet Nam varies between 21°C and 27°C and gradually increases from the North to the South. In the summer, the average temperature is 25°C (Hanoi 23°C, Hue 25°C, Ho Chi Minh City 26°C). In the winter, the temperature in the North reaches the lowest in December and January. In Northern mountainous regions like Sa Pa, Tam Dao and Hoang Lien Son, the temperature sometimes reaches 0°C with snow. The annual average rainfall stands between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm. Air humidity is around 80%. Viet Nam is prone to natural disasters like typhoons, floods and droughts.
With 85,789,573 people (as of 1 April 2009), Viet Nam ranks 13th among the most populous countries in the world. 30% live in urban areas and 70% in rural areas. People aged 15 to 60 account for 60% of the country’s population. Total work force in all economic sectors is around 45 million people (2008 figure). Ho Chi Minh City (7.1 million people) and Ha Noi (6.44 million people) are the most populous cities. Average life expectancy is 73.
Viet Nam is a multi-ethnic country with 54 ethnic groups coexisting peacefully, among which Kinh people account for 86% of the population. The majority of the other 53 ethnic groups are scattered over mountainous areas and the midland, particularly ones in Northern and Northern Central region. Ethnic minorities have uneven development levels. All ethnic groups have their own unique cultures. Their beliefs and religions are also diverse.
Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. Foreign language learning, particularly English, is popular among young people in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang and other cities. Tourist guides can speak English, French, Russian, Chinese and Japanese.
Hotels in Vietnam and private hosts must register their guest’s presence with the police. You will be expected to hand over your passport, along with your visa number.
Currency Exchange in Vietnam
The official currency, the Vietnamese Dong, is non-convertible and is currently at about 20,000 (Oct 2011) dong to 1 USD . The US dollar is widely accepted among major shops and restaurants. Travelers checks can be cashed at authorized foreign exchange outlets and banks, and always require presentation of passport. Visa, Mastercard, Amex are accepted in some of the bigger hotels and restaurants. There are also a small number of international banks now operating in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. There are now many 24-hour ATM machines now all over Vietnam.
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However, visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio.
The cuisine of Vietnam is a pleasant surprise to many visitors and is definitely a part of the Vietnam experience not to be missed. One of the characteristics of Vietnamese food is that it is always fresh being bought the same morning straight from the market Typical Vietnamese dishes you can expect to try include “pho”, a type of rice noodle soup eaten for breakfast; cha gio, deep-fried spring rolls; and goi ngo sen, a delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimp and peanuts. Due to the strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam, vegetarian food is widely available.
Mainly 220V but in some areas 110V is also used.
International phone charges are steep in Vietnam and many hotels add extra fees.
Faxes can be sent from hotels, business centers and post offices. Rates may vary.
Email and interent is readily available in almost every hotel.
January 1: New Year's Day
January / February: Tet or Vietnamese New Year. The actual dates vary from year to year according to the lunar calendar. Officially 3 days holiday but many businesses close down for a full week. This is the busiest time of the year for traveling in Vietnam and hotels, flights and trains are often full.
April 30: Victory Day
May 1: International Labour Day
September 2: National Day
Vietnam is a country where tourists can visit in all four seasons. The country's tourism service offers a range of programmes convenient to your circumstances. In the North, the best tourist season lasts from November to April the next year. Spring time is especially pleasant because of the cooler, drier climate. Also at this time there are a lot of ritual ceremonies and folk festivals of many diverse forms; such as: Festivals to commemorate national heroes and heroines, folk cultural festivals, spring festivals, as well as prayer ceremonies for good crops, to cite just a few. The most interesting one is the Lunar New Year Festival. Visiting Vietnam in that season, you are recommended to bring along warm clothes. The temperature in Winter is around 10-15 degree Celsius. It becomes warmer in March and April. Meanwhile in the South, the average temperature throughout the year is about 27 degree Celsius, so you just need thin garments, sun glasses and may be a hat or two.
BRIEF HISTORY OF VIETNAM
Viet Nam is located in a region considered a cradle of mankind, one of the earliest agricultural centers practicing wet rice farming, where the stone and metallurgical revolutions took place. On the basis of socio-economic development in the Dong Son Era and given the struggle against natural disasters and foreign invasion, the Van Lang State, the first State in Viet Nam was established in the 7th century B.C. With their hard work and creativeness, the Van Lang (and then Au Lac) inhabitants created a civilization that influenced the entire Southeast Asian region. Together with the formation of the first State in Viet Nam’s history was the evolution of a diverse economy and an advanced civilization known as the Red River Civilization (or Dong Son Civilization), symbolized by Dong Son bronze drum, a heritage reflecting the quintessence of the lifestyle, traditions and culture of the ancient Vietnamese people.
In the cause of national building, the Vietnamese people had to cope with various foreign aggressions. During 12 centuries from the resistance war against the Qin Dynasty in the 3rd century B.C until late 20th century, the Vietnamese had to launch hundreds of struggles and uprisings against foreign aggressions. The principle of placing the small and weak forces before much larger and stronger ones has become the rule of thumb in the national defense wars of the Vietnamese people.
Since the 2nd century B.C, Viet Nam had been dominated by different Chinese feudal dynasties for more than a thousand years. During this period, the existence of the nation had been challenged, giving rise to the spirit of undauntedness and unyieldingness of the Vietnamese people in the struggle to maintain the nation’s vitality, to preserve the quintessence of its culture and to gain national independence.
The Bach Dang victory in 938 opened up a new era in Viet Nam’s history – the era of development of an independent feudal state, national construction and defense. As a result, the centralized administrative state was established under the Ngo (938-965), Dinh (969-979) and Earlier Le (980 - 1009) Dynasties. Viet Nam entered the period of renaissance and development under the Ly (1009-1226), Tran (1226-1400), Ho (1400-1407) and Le So (1428-1527) Dynasties. Dai Viet, the name of the country under these dynasties, was known as a prosperous nation in Asia. This period marked the golden age of Viet Nam’s history. In economic terms, this period saw the development of agriculture and irrigation (with the construction of the Red River Dike) and the formation of traditional handicraft villages. In religious terms, traditional beliefs, Buddhism and Confucianism were considered the three co-existing official religions.
One important achievement in the Ly-Tran Dynasties was the introduction of Nom scripts, Viet Nam’s own writing system based on the reform and Vietnamization of Chinese Han scripts. In addition, this period also marked the splendid development of education, science, culture, art, history and law (establishment of Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam, introduction of Hong Duc Code and Complete Book of Dai Viet History). This period was called the Civilized Age of Dai Viet. Thang Long (the old name of Ha Noi) was officially recognized as the imperial capital city of Dai Viet according to the Proclamation on the Transfer of the Capital to Ha Noi in 1010 by Ly Thai To.
From the 16th century, the backwardness and weakness of the feudal regime under Confucius ideology were revealed. Feudalism fell into a decline. While many nation states in Europe were moving to capitalism, Dai Viet was bogged down in civil wars and divisions, which heavily impeded the country’s evolution despite certain developments in the economy and culture, the establishment of towns and ports and the rapid growth of domestic and international trade between the 16th and 18th century.
In the early 19th century, Western capitalist countries entered the period of imperialism and colonialism. Through missionaries and trade, the French gradually dominated Viet Nam. For the first time in history, Viet Nam had to cope with the invasion of a Western industrial country. In that context, some Vietnamese intellectuals were aware of the need to carry out reforms, bringing the country out of stagnation and save national independence. Many reform plans were proposed, yet rejected by the Nguyen Dynasty. Subsequently, the country was driven into backwardness and deadlock and became a semi-feudal colony for nearly 100 years from 1858 to 1945.
The founding of the Communist Party of Viet Nam on 3 February 1930 was an important milestone in the Vietnamese history. In August 1945, under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by President Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese people successfully launched an uprising to seize power and the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam came into being on 2 September 1945.
The newly founded Viet Nam had to go through another 30-year-long struggle for national liberation and reunification. Dien Bien Phu victory and Geneva Accord in 1954 put an end to the war of resistance against the French colonialists. According to the Accord, the country was temporarily separated along the 17th Parallel North into two territories, North Viet Nam and the South Viet Nam, which were expected to be reunified two years later with a general election. South Viet Nam was ruled by a pro-French and then pro-USA government in Saigon. Though Saigon regime attempted to prevent reunification, it failed to subdue peace and national reunification campaigns. As a result, the National Liberation Front for South Viet Nam was founded on December 20 1964.
Between 1954 and 1975, Viet Nam had to stand up for national liberation and unification. To support the South Viet Nam regime, the US sent military aid and over half a million soldiers to Viet Nam, and started bombing North Viet Nam in 1964. To fulfill President Ho Chi Minh’s apiration that "nothing is more precious than independence and freedom", the Vietnamese people experienced untold hardship and sacrifice. In 1973, the Paris Accord was signed for restoration of peace in Viet Nam and withdrawal of the US troops. The war came to an end in spring 1975 as the patriotic armed forces launched an offensive against the Saigon regime, liberated southern Viet Nam and reunified the country. Since then, the unified Viet Nam has ushered into a new era of peace, unification and national construction. Democratic Republic of Viet Nam was renamed Socialist Republic of Viet Nam on April 25 1976. In 1977, Viet Nam became a member of the United Nations. In the first ten years of post-war period, many socio-economic targets could not be achieved due to both internal and external reasons. Viet Nam’s economy fell into crisis and stagnation. People’s lives were difficult.
At the 6th Congress of the Communist Party in 1986, Doi Moi (reform) policy was launched with focus on economic reform. This marked an important milestone in Viet Nam’s new stage of development. Doi Moi policy was consistently reaffirmed throughout later Party Congresses. For over 20 year, Viet Nam, from a food importer, has become the second largest rice exporter in the world. Viet Nam also exports various other commodities with well-known brands. The economy has attained high growth rate during the late 20th century and early years of the 21st century. People’s lives have been significantly improved. The legal system has become increasingly improved and social management based on the rule of law has been put into place. Security and national defense have been firmly maintained and international relations have increasingly been extended and deepened.
Throughout the formation and development of Viet Nam, 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 originates 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, which can be observed in the family as well as the community no matter at home, village or nationwide level. Throughout history, the Vietnamese people are also characterized by traditions of mutual assistance, ethic-based lifestyle, benevolence, hardship sharing in needy times, high consensus, quick adaptation and integration, flexible behavior, eagerness to learn, respect for righteousness, and tolerance. These are the powerful and endless endogenous strengths for the Vietnamese people to embark on the cause of national construction towards the goals of strong country, prosperous people, and just, democratic and advanced society.
Implement consistently the foreign policy line of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development; the foreign policy of openness and diversification and multilateralization of international relations. Proactively and actively engage in international economic integration while expanding international cooperation in other fields. Viet Nam is a friend and reliable partner of all countries in the international community, actively taking part in international and regional cooperation processes.
The tasks of foreign activity consist of solid preservation of peaceful environment and creation of favorable international conditions for renewal, accelerated socio-economic development, national industrialization and modernization, and construction and defense of the Homeland, while contributing actively to the common struggle of the world people for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress.
Deepen, stabilize and sustain the established international relations. Develop relations with countries and territories in the world and international organizations in the principles of respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other's international affairs; non-use or threat of force; settlement of disagreements and disputes by means of peaceful negotiations; mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.
Consolidate and strengthen relations with communist, workers' and leftist parties, and national independence, revolutionary and progressive movements in the world. Continue broadening relations with parties in power.
Develop people-to-people external relations under the motto ''proactiveness, flexibility, creativeness and efficiency''. Actively participate in world people's forums and activities, and contribute to the common struggle for peace, equitable and sustainable development, democracy and social progress. Intensify assistance mobilization efforts and raise the quality of cooperation with foreign non-governmental organizations for socio-economic development.
Proactively participate in the common struggle for human rights. Stay ready to hold dialogues with concerned countries and international and regional organizations on human rights issues. Resolutely foil schemes and acts of distortion and abuse of issues of ''democracy'', ''human rights'', ''ethnicity" and "religion" to interfere in our internal affairs and encroach upon Viet-nam's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and political stability.
Push ahead foreign economic activities, integrate more deeply and fully in global, regional and bilateral economic institutions, with national interests as the highest objective.
Proactively and actively engage in international economic integration following a roadmap in conformity with the national development strategy till 2010 and the 2020 vision. Make proper preparations for the signing of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements. Promote comprehensive and efficient cooperation with ASEAN and Asia-Pacific countries. Consolidate and develop reliable bilateral cooperation with strategic partners; effectively take advantage of opportunities and minimize challenges and risks following our accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Further innovate economic institutions, review legal documents, amend and improve the legal system with a view to ensuring harmony, consistency, stability and transparency. Improve the investment environment; attract inflows of FDI, ODA, portfolio investment, commercial credit, and other sources of capital. Accurately determine utilization goals and accelerate disbursement of ODA funds, improve management patterns, raise efficiency and have on-time debt service schedules; and keep a reasonable and safe foreign debt ratio.
Promote the role and dynamism of enterprises in all economic sectors as actors in international economic integration. Step up trade and investment promotion, strive for new outlets, products and trademarks. Encourage Vietnamese enterprises to set up cooperative and joint-venture projects with foreign enterprises and boldly invest overseas.
Push forward foreign-bound cultural and information work, thus helping enhance cooperation and friendship between ours and other peoples.
Cater for the training, fostering and forging of a contingent of foreign relations personnel with political steadfastness, proper command of foreign languages, high professional standards, and adequate ethical and moral qualifications.
Intensify research, forecasting and advisory work related to foreign relations, and mobilize the participation and wisdom of research institutions and scientists.
Ensure the Party's unified leadership in and the State's governance over external activities. Closely coordinate external activities of the Party, State and people; external political and external economic relations; foreign relations, national defense and security; and foreign-bound information and home-bound information.
Doing Business in Vietnam
Viet Nam has been a reliable partner in the region and the world and its economy has developed into an integral part of the global market. We attach great importance to full and rigorous implementation of our commitments to the WTO, ASEAN FTAs with China, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand, as well as Viet Nam - Japan Agreement on Economic Partnership and to the efforts to build the ASEAN Community. We just signed a Free Trade Agreement with Chile during the APEC 2011 Summit in Hawaii. Vietnam is also actively engaging in negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and about to launch negotiations with the EU for a Free Trade Agreement.
The year 2012 will mark the 26th anniversary of Viet Nam's broad reform efforts - Doi Moi. Vietnam has made firm steps on the path of development and international integration, actively contributing to peace and cooperation for development and economic linkages of ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Vietnam has emerged from being a war-torn, underdeveloped country to become a reliable partner and a rapidly growing economy in the Southeast Asia region. Vietnam has met and surpassed many of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, ensuring social progress and justice, eradicating hunger and alleviating poverty, and improving social welfare.
Vietnam is now focusing on restructruring the economy and our growth model, with emphasis given a reform of the investment model, restructure the financial and banking systems and reform and reduce the number of state-owned enterprises. Vietnam will also place priority to maintaining social welfare, steping-up the fight against corruption, accelerating administrative reform and intensifying poverty alleviation and hunger eradication activities.
One of the main focus is the process of eccelerating the restructuring of SOEs, with focus on consolidating and increasing efficiency. The number of SOEs has reduced from 12000 in 1990 to 1000 now and will be down to 500 in the next four years. All SOEs are planned to be equitized this year. Only SOEs of core, strategic industries, like energy, heavy equipment, infrastructure... are retained because these industries in Vietnam are still in the process of developing.
In the long term, as detailed in the Social and Economic Strategy for 2011 – 2020, Vietnam will focus on 3 goals: i) building market economy institutions and mechanism, with emphasis on a fair, transparent, efficient business environment being supported by a streamlined bureaucracy; ii) developing human resources, especially high-skilled resources; and iii) building integrated infractructure to support growth.
Relationship with the United States is of strategic importance to Vietnam, especially our economic and trade cooperation. Vietnam welcomes US investment and trade, especially high-tech areas. Vietnamese products, especially from small and medium Vietnamese enterprises, are also reaching American consumers in greater number. Economic cooperation within the framework of TPP negotiation as well as other aspects of trade and investments will also be one of the key building blocks for the advancement of our relations to higher level, toward strategic partnership.
As a nation characterized by old-aged history and culture, diversified natural resources, young, dynamic and skillful labor force, and political and social stability, Vietnam will continue to be a market full of potentials and an ideal destination for international investors and businesses, especially from the United States.
Culture and Society
In Viet Nam’s traditional society, a typical family has three or four generations living under the same roof. With the view of "more children, more fortunes", many families want to have lots of children and grandchildren. Influenced by Confucianism and the feudal view of male preference, men play the most important roles in family and always have final say. Feudal ethics shape women around “three obediences, four virtues” (three obediences: obedience to their fathers during childhood, to their husbands when married and to their sons in widowhood; four virtues: diligence, good manner, proper speech, and morality). Since reunification, the State of Viet Nam has adopted a number of legal documents, notably Law on Marriage and Family, in order to make family relations more equal. Different measures have also been taken to raise the awareness of the public and change the obsolete attitude, ensure gender equality and fight for the legitimate rights of women. Today, Vietnamese family size tends to be narrowed down to two or three generations. Most couples have only two children. The advocacy for men's superiority over women is weakening and gradually being eliminated. However, the time-honoured tradition of "respect for the elderly and love for the children" has been maintained and advocated in each and every Vietnamese family.
Most ethnic groups in Viet Nam have their own costumes that reflect their unique cultural identities. Most of these costumes are decorated with vivid patterns in contrast colours: black-white, black-red, green-red or green-white and made of natural fiber such as ramie, silk, pineapple yarn or cotton. These materials are fine, durable and sweat-absorbing, suitable for tropical climate. The traditional costume of Vietnamese men was white pants, brown tops with scarf and ordinary sandals or wooden clogs called "guoc". The official costume for men includes velvet or cotton long dress and turban. For women, costumes are more complicated and colourful with black skirt, white brassieres, four-panel dress with "crow-beak" scarf and pergularia-like belt. The official costume includes three layers of dress. The first one is the velvet four-panel dress in dark colour or light brown, then a light yellow dress underneath and a lotus-colored one. Wearing this costume, the woman only fastens the buttons below her underarms, and the upper part is opened to show the three colours of their dresses. Beneath these three dresses is a red brassiere. They wear a special large conical hat called "non", which gives them an elegant look and makes Vietnamese women more graceful.
Today, the official costumes of the Vietnamese people have changed. Suits have replaced the traditional costume of Vietnamese men. The long dress or Ao Dai, which was first worn under Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat's regime, has been modified to better suit Vietnamese women and is used in many important ceremonies of the year. The modern Ao Dai is a tunic slit to the waist with the two loose panels falling down to mid shin. This dress, which is really suitable to the small build of a Vietnamese woman, reveals the hidden beautiful curves of her body.
Currently, with increasing exchanges among different cultures, Vietnamese clothing becomes more diverse and fashionable, reflecting a higher level of integration, especially that of urban youth Major Festivals: Festivals are typical folklore cultural activities in all regions of Viet Nam. Such festivals bring peace to the heart and mind of the Vietnamese people, wipe out their pressures from daily life, and bring them closer to nature and the motherland. As an agricultural country, most Vietnamese festivals are held during “leisure times”, which are spring and autumn. There are also national festivals for all Vietnamese people, including the Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan), July Full-Moon, August Full-Moon or Hung Kings Festival. Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan-usually in late January or early February): Lunar New Year is the biggest one among Vietnam’s traditional festivals. This is the time for family to get together and enjoy traditional food, visit relatives, friends and colleagues and wish them a happy new year. As perceived by all people, Tet is the end of the old year, the wrap-up of misfortunes to open up a new year of good opportunities. The New Year Eve is the most sacred moment when all family members worship and pay tribute to gods and ancestors. Apart from the New Year Eve worshiping, other traditional rites such as "the first visitor of the Year", "buds picking" and "lucky money" are still practiced today.
Vu Lan Festival (July Full-Moon Festival): Vu Lan Festival is dedicated to the deceased parents, grandparents, and ancestors - an honored tradition that reflects the "when eating fruit, remember who planted the tree". According to Buddhism, on this day, spirits of the dead come to the living world to enjoy offerings. Most families hold worshiping rites for ancestors. Upon the end of the rite, votive papers are burnt for spirits of the dead. July Full-Moon Festival is also the dead pardoning day or worshiping the souls of the dead. Offerings are parched rice, dry pancake, candies and fruits to worship for wandering spirits, who are not worshiped by relatives.
August Full-Moon Festival (Mid-Autumn Festival):
Mid-Autumn Festival (aka Moon Watching Festival) is dedicated to children who are very exited about the Festival as presents will be sent out like star lanterns, masks, baked rice cake, etc. On the night of the Festival, most families have a tray of specialties for members to get around and enjoy the Moon's beauty. The specialties are mainly fruits and confectionery formed like animals. The atmosphere of the festival night is enjoyable with the laughter and songs of children, the light of the Moon, lanterns, and candles of many kinds. Games are also available in many places such as Lantern Carrying Dance, Lion and Dragon Dance, etc. Hung Kings Worshipping Festival: March 10th of the Lunar Calendar is the day of Hung Kings National Worshipping Festival. This event is celebrated everywhere in the country and abroad where there are large Vietnamese communities. The major celebration is held in Phu Tho, the first capital of Viet Nam under Van Lang Dynasty and the location of the Temple for 18 Hung Kings. During this event, traditional offerings are prepared, including lanterns, incense sticks, wine, betel, areca-nut, water, Chung and Day (Square and Round Sticky Rice) Cakes. In 2007, Hung Kings Festival was declared a National Day
Vietnamese Literature has been developed with a unique identity since the early days of the nation. As a country of multi ethnic groups with different literatures, Viet Nam boasts a literature of multi-identities. Traditional Literature: including folklore literature, classical Chinese (Han) and Nom (Vietnamese scripts modified from classical Chinese scripts) literature. Folklore literature was born as early as the primitive time during work and struggle for a living. It was passed down from one generation to another by the words of mouth and existed in various forms, including folk-tales, mythologies, epics, legends, fairy-tales, funny stories, poetic tales, folklore verses and quizzes, etc. Classical Chinese Literature: The classical Chinese scripts were first used in Viet Nam during the first period of Northern rule. After gaining national independence in 938, Vietnamese feudal regimes, with high spirit of independence, developed their own literature and used classical Chinese as a means of transmission. There are a number of masterpieces in classical Chinese preserved till today. Among them are Deity’s poem by Ly Thuong Kiet, Proclamation to Generals and Soldiers by Tran Hung Dao, and Dai Viet History (Dai Viet su ky) by Le Van Huu. Nom Literature: Nom scripts were modified from classical Chinese. Nom Literature first appeared in the 8th century, reached its peak in the 18th century and lived on to the 20th century. Famous works now still remain, including Proclamation of Victory over the Wu by Nguyen Trai, A Nationwide Collection of Poems with 254 poems by Nguyen Trai - a World Man of Culture, Hong Duc Nationwide Collection of Poems by King Le Thanh Tong, Bach Van Poem Collection by Nguyen Binh Khiem, Laments of a Warrior’s Wife by Dang Tran Con or poems reflecting the aspiration for gender equality by the “Queen of Nom poetry” Ho Xuan Huong, etc. The most famous works of this period was The Story of Kieu by great poet Nguyen Du. In addition, there were historic books written in Nom such as Complete Works of Dai Viet History (Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu) by Le Dynasty historians of Phan Phu Tien, Ngo Sy Lien and Vu Quynh or History of the Le Dynasty by Le Quy Don.
The introduction of the National Language (Quoc Ngu) was the foundation for Contemporary Literature or Modern Literature. Renowned works were produced by writers like Ho Bieu Chanh, Hoang Ngoc Phach, Nguyen Trong Thuat, Truong Vinh Ky, Tan Da, The Lu, Ngo Tat To, Nguyen Cong Hoan, Nguyen Hong, Xuan Dieu, Huy Can, Luu Trong Lu, Nam Cao, etc.
Revolutionary Literature (since 1945):
Between 1945-1975, Vietnamese literature reflected the nation's aspiration for peace and independence, calling on the population to stand up for national independence and unification.
Since the reunification, in pursuit of the policy to build an “advanced culture with strong national identity”, Vietnamese artists and writers have been seeking to reflect various aspects of the social life in their works and call upon the whole nation to build a Viet Nam that is a “strong country, wealthy people, a just, democratic and advanced society”. The Vietnamese Literature has been rapidly developed by thousands of writers and poets and with various forms: prose, poetry and literature review, etc, thus contributing to the development of Vietnamese culture. Viet Nam’s literature works have been translated into English, French, Chinese, Japanese, etc.
The Vietnamese performing arts include various types, such as Cheo (popular theatre), Tuong (classical theatre), cai luong (reformed theatre), water puppet, court music and dancing, Quan Ho (Folk-song or Love duet of Bac Ninh), Chau Van (Worshipping Ceremonial Songs), Ca Tru (literally “singing for reward”), “Then” singing of the Thai, “Ly” singing of the Southern region people, etc. Among them, the most commonly performed are cheo, tuong, cai luong, quan ho, water puppet, “ly” singing and nha nhac (refined music) - one kind of Court Music.
Royal music and dancing: Royal music and dancing thrived during the dynasty of King Le Thanh Tong with various branches, such as Trung Cung Chi Nhac (Palace Music), Yen Nhac (Banquet music), Nha nhac (Refined Music) and mieu nhac (Confucian temple music), Dai Nhac (great music), Van Vu (civil dance), Vo Vu (military dance), etc. During the Nguyen Dynasty, court music and dancing reached its peak with the most solemn and intriguing, Bat Dzat dancing performed during Offering Ceremony of Nguyen Kings at Nam Giao Esplanade (Dan Nam Giao). However, the majority of royal dances functioned to wish the King and his family happiness, prosperity and longevity and to perform at royal anniversaries such as Fan Dance, the Tam Tinh Chuc Tho, the Bat tien Hien, the Luc Triet Hoa Ma Dang and the Luc Cung Hoa Dang. Many dances and music pieces are preserved till today. In 2003, UNESCO recognized Refined Music of Hue Royal Court as the Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Water puppetry: water puppetry is believed to appear first in the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225). Usually, there are many characters (puppets) involved in one water puppet playlet. Each character is a sculpture work which bears different shapes and personalities. The puppets are sculpted from wood and coated with water-proof. The prominent character is buffoon Teu with a plump body and a humorous smile. Hidden from the audience by a blind, the puppeteers stand chest-deep in the water to manipulate the puppets through bamboo rods and pulleys. Musical accompaniment is provided by a drum set of drums, tocsins, and gongs. Water puppetry is a unique folklore performing art that is widely loved by the audience in many countries.
Cheo (Popular theatre): Originated from folklore music and dances, cheo is among Viet Nam’s most distinct theatrical arts. Traditionally performed in villages, Cheo was set to become popular theatrical art of northern delta residents. Cheo includes dancing, singing, music and literature from tales. Part of the abiding appeal of Cheo was that while it taught traditional values such as filial devotion, good morals, justice, benevolence, courage and courtesy, it was always essentially satirical and anti-establishment in nature. Cheo may move the spectators to tears or laughter identified as optimistic, smart, intelligent and mischievous with a clear sense of humanity. This form of art reflects the desire for happiness and a harmonized society where human rights are protected and the good will always wins the evil. Some of the most popular plays through generations are Quan Am Thi Kinh, Luu Binh Duong Le, Chu Mai Than and Kim Nham, etc. These plays are classified as precious treasures of the nation’s “popular theatre”.
Tuong (aka hat boi) is a classical and most scholarly theatrical art of Viet Nam, also a traditional performing art. Tuong originates from folklore theatre of Viet Nam literature, developed from diverse traditional music, dancing and performances. In late 18th century, Tuong had fully developed in terms of literary scripts and performance art. Today, tuong is considered as Viet Nam’s “national soul and national characteristic”, usually compared to China’s opera theatre or Japan’s Noh. Cai luong (Reformed Theatre) is a form of traditional opera originated at the start of the 20th century. The roots of Cai luong are Ly folk songs and amateur music from the Mekong Delta. Cai luong uses many of Tuong’s (classical theatre) ways of performance and music. Similar to other forms of traditional art opera, Cai luong includes dances, songs and music. A Cai luong orchestra consists mainly of guitars with concave frets and Vietnamese two-cord guitar. Among those most well-known plays are Ms. Luu’s Life, To Anh Nguyet, Mong Hoa Vuong (Hoa Vuong Queen), Half Life of Prostitute, Chim Viet Canh Nam (Viet Bird Southern Branch), and Queen Mother Duong Van Nga.
Folk architecture consists of wood, stone, brick and thatch, bamboo and leaves, which are quite popular throughout Viet Nam. Houses made of thatch, bamboo and leaves can be found in many rural areas in Viet Nam, while the wooden architecture is most typically represented in pagodas, villages' communal houses and houses of wealthy families across the country. Some of the well-known historical sites with wooden architecture are One-pillar pagoda, Dau pagoda, Boi Khe pagoda, Thai Lac pagoda, Keo pagoda, But Thap pagoda, Tay Phuong pagoda, Dinh Bang communal house, and ancient houses in big cities, particularly in Hanoi, Hoi An and Hue… The architecture of brick and stone is typically reflected in pagoda towers (Hoa Phong tower, Bao Thien tower, Pho Minh pagoda tower, Thien Mu pagoda tower,...), citadel gates and walls (Ho Citadel gate, Hanoi Citadel gate..), three-door temple gate (Van Mieu three-door temple gate, Tran Vu three-door temple gate, Hien Nhan gate), Hanoi Flag Tower, Ngo Mon (Noon) Gate in Hue... Brick and stone architecture also constitutes a considerable part in temples built by the Cham people (known as Cham temples) scattered from Quang Nam to Binh Thuan, notably My Son Historical site.
Foreign styled architecture: Since the 19th century, Vietnamese architecture underwent a change, a combination of the two architectural schools, i.e. European, North American architecture and the traditional Oriental one. As a result, Hanoi, Saigon and Hai Phong had chessboard streets which made it convenient for transportation. Many buildings were built in the classical European style, such as the Presidential Palace, Supreme Court, Hanoi Opera House, State Bank of Viet Nam, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saigon Municipal building, Saigon Central Post Office, and some villas… Subsequently, in the 19th century, new features emerged in the Vietnamese architecture picture, i.e. Catholic churches in Saigon, Hanoi, Hue and local parishes. Noticeably, temple and pagoda features and traditional Vietnamese architecture could be found in even such European-styled architectural constructions, most notably Phat Diem church.
In the 1954-1975 period: In northern Viet Nam, many buildings followed Soviet-styled architecture, i.e. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Friendship Cultural Palace, etc. In the south, American architectural style is noticeable, notably General Science Library of Ho Chi Minh City and Independence Palace (now Dinh Thong Nhat – Reunification Hall). In Doi Moi period: There have been a lot of big, modern construction works in various styles, such as hotels and office buildings (Horizon, Hanoi Tower, Sofitel Plaza, New World, Phu My Hung, Ciputra, etc). Like in many other countries, the current architecture in Viet Nam generally consists of four main components: interior design, architectural design, urban planning design, environmental design and area planning.
Painting and sculpture Folk painting:
There are two kinds of folk paintings: New-year paintings and Worshipping paintings. Folk paintings are closely connected to religious belief of worshipping for forefathers and deities. For mass production, folk paintings were executed through woodblock printing. They became quite popular in the 16th century, and developed steadily at a high level in the 18th and 19th centuries. Given their artistic styles, printing and drawing techniques and materials, folk paintings could be classified into some different brands.
Today, however, folk paintings are almost obsolete. Amongst the few existing brands of folk paintings under preservation, Dong Ho paintings still develop and can be found in many countries such as Japan, France and the US... Dong Ho is the name of a small village lying along the southern bank of Duong River in Bac Ninh province. Dong Ho paintings are made in an original way, technically and aesthetically, in every aspect from pattern design, carving, paper production (dzo (poonah) paper is hand-made, coated with white powder made from baked shell), color mixture (made from natural materials) to picture drawing and printing.
The founding of The Fine Arts College of Indochina in 1924 marked a milestone in the development of contemporary plastic arts in Viet Nam. The first generation of artists graduating from the Fine Arts College of Indochina and their works are now known in the world. Most prominent are “Hanoi’s Old Streets" by Bui Xuan Phai, “Game of Squares” by Nguyen Phan Chanh, “Little Thuy” by Tran Van Can, “Young Lady and the lilies” by To Ngoc Van, “On the bank of Sword Lake” by Nguyen Gia Tri, and “See a student off to the exam” by To Ngoc Van. These paintings are invaluable masterpieces in Viet Nam’s cultural treasury. In succession to the former generations, current artists, on one hand, pay regard to capturing the quintessence of the world art, and on the other hand explore new styles of Vietnamese paintings on oil, lacquer and silk… This generation of artists has become popular with their works particularly those by Luu Cong Nhan, Pham Cong Thanh, Nguyen Thu, Dang Xuan Hoa and Thanh Chuong, etc.
Ancient sculpture: In the traditional artistic heritage, sculpture experienced continuous development and provided typical images of the Vietnamese in various parts of the country and at each period, whether in the form of deities or earthly human beings. The ancient Vietnamese sculpture was very diverse, but mostly in the following existence: Prehistoric sculpture with sculptured images on stones, in caves, on bronze drums and household utensils; sculpture of Phu Nam and Chan Lap Kingdoms in the Southern part; Cham-pa sculpture in the Southern Central part; Great Vietnamese Sculpture in the Northern part and sepulchre sculpture by aborigines in the Central Highlands. Despite long time of warfare, many regions across Viet Nam still manage to preserve a lot of villages’ common houses, pagodas and temples with a variety of Buddha statues.
Traditional fine-art handicraft
Traditional Vietnamese handicraft has a long history and a diverse range of products, which have become well-known at home and abroad. Vietnamese products of ceramics, lacquer, silk, rattan and bamboo… have made their popular presence in many countries. Today, some handicraft industries are still preserved and developed, offering jobs and incomes to many laborers and contributing to exports, like ceramics, silk weaving, lacquer making, rattan & bamboo weaving, conical hat making, bronzecasting and woodworking etc. Amongst traditional crafts, the most salient is ceramics which provides a variety of products to meet both civil and industrial demands. Ceramic products are made in many localities across Viet Nam, for example in Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Quang Binh, Dong Nai, Dong Thap provinces and Bat Trang village in Hanoi, and there is also Cham ceramics. Silk weaving came into beings very early throughout Viet Nam, yet today the most well-known silk-weaving villages are Van Phuc (in Ha Dong, Ha Tay) and Phuong Tanh – Truc Ninh (in Nam Dinh). As early as the 15th century, Vietnamese silk made its appearance to the world through merchants. Rattan and bamboo weaving has a thousand-year-long tradition. This craft closely links to the availability of these natural materials in all regions across Viet Nam. Vietnamese craftsmen have skillfully produced a lot of furniture of charming and beautiful designs, like tables, chairs, beds, cabinets, fruit trays and flower baskets etc. Among the localities renowned for such products are Ha Tay and Thanh Hoa provinces.