People and Society, Religion
Hoa Hao, Mahayana Buddhists, Cao Dai, French missionaries, Theravada Buddhism
Vietnam contains a rich mixture of religions, reflecting the influence of many cultures. Early Vietnamese culture included three major belief systems: Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism (Taoism). Indian and Chinese monks brought Buddhism to Vietnam early in the 1st millennium ad, and Confucianism and Daoism (Taoism) were both introduced after the Chinese conquest. After the restoration of Vietnamese independence in the 10th century, the royal court initially gave official support to all three belief systems. Eventually, however, the court recognized only Confucianism, which is more a set of social ethics than a religious faith. Buddhism and Daoism continued to be popular among the mass of the population.
Today, the majority of Vietnamese are at least nominally Mahayana Buddhists. Of this number, only a minority are serious adherents. Roman Catholicism, which French missionaries introduced in the 17th century, is a major religion, claiming almost as many followers as Daoism. Other religions include such recently established sects as Hoa Hao (a variant of Buddhism practiced in the Mekong Delta) and Cao Dai, which blends various Asian and Western religious beliefs. Theravada Buddhism is practiced by the Khmer minority. Some tribal peoples practice spirit worship. Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution, but the Communist government suppresses religious organizations and activities that it considers threatening to national security.
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