Caodaism, also known as the Cao Đài faith, is an organized monotheistic folk religion that is unique to Vietnam. That religion started was officially established in 1926 in the the city of Tây Ninh where the Declaration of the Founding of the Cao Đài Religion was signed and shown to the French Governor for approval. The religion quickly grew rapidly popular with its appeal towards nationalist spirit, message of universal salvation and its ability to bring together underground sects in Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon in 1975 the Communist government of now united Vietnam banned the religion due to their earlier critiques of the communists. In 1997 Vietnam's government lifted the ban and granted Caodaism legal recognition as a religion. The religion has a yin symbol in the Mother Goddess, The Queen Mother of the West and a yang symbol in the Left Eye of God, which is also the symbol of the religion. Followers of the religion engage in strict ethical practices such as nonviolence, vegetarianism, prayer and veneration of the ancestors with the goal of achieving freedom from saṃsāra (cycle of death and rebirth) and a union with God. The religion's teachings state that a Third Amnesty will unify all of the world's religions, which will bring about a universal peace and lead to a great new religion being established that will lead to the salvation of all life being universal destruction. Caodaism is recognized as one of the six state religions of Vietnam.
Taoism is believed to have first been introduced to Vietnam by the Chinese during the first Chinese domination of Vietnam from 111 B.C. until 40 A.D. Under the Lý dynasty (1009-1225), it is known that King Lý Nhân Tông (1072-1127) had his officials take an examination during recruitment where they had to write an essay on the three doctrines of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Pure Taoism is no longer practiced in Vietnam but its elements have greatly influenced other religions in Vietnam, including Caodaism, Dao Mau, and other Vietnamese folk religions.
Similar to Taoism, Confucianism is believed to have been first introduced to Vietnam by the Chinese during the first Chinese domination of Vietnam. The religion is then believed to have been reinforced gain during the second Chinese domination (43-544), the third Chinese domination (602-938) and the fourth Chinese domination (1407-27) over Vietnam. The Chinese reinforced Confucianism during their rule by using the Confucian examination system in their government in Vietnam and also by raising and teaching their children using Confucian values. Also similar to Taoism, Confucianism is no longer practiced in Vietnam in its pure form but its elements have greatly influenced other religions in the country.
Đạo Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương
Đạo Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương is an organized folk religion in Vietnam that takes some of its religious traditions from elements of Buddhism. That religion was started by a Vietnamese mystic named Đoàn Minh Huyên (1807–1856) who while living in the Thất Sơn mountains claimed to be a living embodiment of Buddha. In 1849 when a devastating epidemic of cholera swept through Vietnam Huyên was reported to be able to cure sick and insane people with his supernatural abilities. Soon people began to follow him and they wore amulets that had the Chinese characters for Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương that later on became associated with the religion and the following millenarian movement that the religion had. Currently, there are around 15,000 followers of the religion throughout Vietnam.
The Vietnamese folk religion of Đạo Mẫu refers to the worship of the various mother goddesses of Vietnam, a practice that has gone on in Vietnam since its prehistory. These include, but are not limited to, the worshiping of such goddesses as Bà Chúa Xứ (The Lady of the Realm) and Bà Chúa Kho (The Lady of the Storehouse), as well as actual people, including the female warrior Lady Triệu (225-248 AD) and the Trung Sisters, who were female military leaders. The religion started to be truly promoted starting in the 1970s, as it became distinct from other folk religions with shamans, temples and spirit rituals that became associated with the religion. The religion was barred by the Communist government for a time but was legalized in 1987.
Đạo Tứ Ân Hiếu Nghĩa
Đạo Tứ Ân Hiếu Nghĩa is an organized folk religion in Vietnam that was founded at some point towards the end of the 19th Century. The religion currently has around 80,000 practitioners, mostly poor farmers throughout out the south of Vietnam, with most of them located in the Tri Tôn district of the country.
Minh Đạo is a religion that has its roots from the Xiantiandao (Tiên Thiên Đạo) religion of China. That religion started to emerge in Vietnam around the city of Saigon in the 17th Century just as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) of China declined and lost influence in Vietnam. For most of its history the religion focused in literature, helping the poor and worship but took on a more nationalistic tone at the beginning of the 20th Century. There are five primary sects of the religion, that over time have either remained district religions or have been absorbed into different branches of Caodasim. The main gods of most Minh Đạo sects are the Queen Mother of the West and the Jade Emperor.
Atheism and Agnosticism
Since Vietnam has a communist government, the country is officially an atheist state. North Vietnam (1945-76) was a communist state and since they defeated South Vietnam in the Vietnam War and unified the country in 1976, all of Vietnam became communist. For decades the communists cracked down hard on all forms of religion, which drew international condemnation. In recent years the government had slightly soften their stance, when in 2007 they recognized six religions, namely Buddhism, Cao Đài, Catholicism, Hoa Hao, Islam, and Protestantism. The countries Committee for Religious Affairs has also approved other religions to operate in the country. Today in Vietnam around 28% of people say that they are either Atheist or Agnostic.
Buddhism and Hoa Hao
Buddhism is believed to have arrived in Vietnam from China at some point starting in the 2nd Century. Mahayana Buddhism from China first appeared in the Red River Delta area in some time around 300 AD and Theravada Buddhism is believed to have come from India into Vietnam's Mekong Delta at some point between 300 and 600 AD. Most ethnic Vietnamese adhere to the Pure Land branch of the Mahayana school of Buddhism and some ethnic minorities in southern Vietnam follow the Theravada school of Buddhism. Buddhism in Vietnam does not have any institutional structures, hierarchy, or sanghas that most traditional Buddhists follow, since it has grown in isolation in a symbiotic way with Taoism and other native religions in Vietnam. Hoa Hao is a religious based on Buddhism that was established in 1939 by Huỳnh Phú Sổ (1920-47). Followers of Hoa Hao consider Huỳnh Phú Sổ to be a prophet and that the religion is the continuation of the Đạo Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương folk religion foundered by Đoàn Minh Huyên. Both Sổ and Huyên are also believed to have been living Buddhas and that they are destined to protect the country. The religion places a strong emphasis on temple worship, ordination and stress aid to the poor and helping peasant farmers. Both Buddhism and Hoa Hao are is recognized as one of the six state religions of Vietnam.
Roman Catholic Christianity
Roman Catholic Christianity first came into contact with Vietnam in the 16th Century via Portuguese Catholic missionaries who first came to the country shortly after the Portuguese made contact and starting trading. The Portuguese had mild success, but it was not until Vietnam became a French colony (French Indochina 1887-1954) that Catholicism made a definitive dent in the country. In 1933 John Baptist Nguyễn Bá Tòng was made the first Vietnamese bishop and by 1976 the first Vietnamese cardinal, Archbishop Joseph Mary Trịnh Như Khuê was ordained. There are currently 26 Roman Catholic dioceses, three archdioceses and close to 2,200 parishes and 2,600 priests throughout Vietnam today. Roman Catholic Christianity is recognized as one of the six state religions of Vietnam.
Protestant Christianity first came to Vietnam in the early 20th Century when the Canadian Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) missionary Robert A. Jaffray (1873-1954) visited the city of Da Nang in 1911. In 1963 the Evangelical Church of Vietnam North (ECVN) was officially recognized by the government. However, it was not until 2001 that another Protestant church, the Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam (SECV), was officially recognized. Since then more Protestant churches have been recognized by the government. The Baptist and Mennonite movements were recognized in 2007 and in 2009 the Assemblies of God was given permission to run church operations in the country. Many Protestants in the country belong to the different people in the Degar, also known as the Montagnards, an indigenous group of people. Protestant Christianity is recognized as one of the six state-acknowledged religions of Vietnam.
Orthodox Christianity in Vietnam is centered in the city of Vũng Tàu where the Vietsovpetro corporation is located. The city is where the Russian employees of the joint Russian-Vietnamese oil and gas exploration company live and follow Russian Orthodox Christianity. In 2002 the Our Lady of Kazan parish opened in the city for the Russian employees to use. Vietnam is also under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia Nikitas of the church, although there are not activities in Vietnam.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or as it is more commonly known the Mormon Church, is one of the newest religions to arrive in Vietnam. In May of 2016, the leaders of the church met with officials in Vietnam from the Government Committee for Religious Affairs. After this meeting the Government Committee for Religious Affairs officially recognized the church and its representative committee. The two congregations of Mormons in the country currently meet in the capital of Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh city.
Hinduism first arrived in Vietnam from India and became the religion of the Cham ethnic minority in Vietnam. The Champa Kingdom (192-1832), was a group of independent Cham states that practiced Shaivite Hinduism until they got annexed by Vietnam in 1832. The Cham people today mostly practice Hinduism, with most of them belonging to either the Kshatriya or Brahmin castes. There is also a small number of Tamil Indians and mixed Indian-Vietnamese people that practice Hinduism in Ho Chi Minh City. There are many ancient Hindu temples all throughout Central Vietnam, most of which are still used today by people to worship at. Hindu Chams have had to face ethnic and religious persecution and also religious restrictions under the current Communist Vietnamese government. The government has taken Cham property and land against and has also turned Hindu temples into tourist sites or just completely destroyed them in order to build on the land.
Islam is believed to have first made contact with Vietnam after its arrival in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), since Vietnam was under their third period of Chinese domination at this time. The amount of followers of Islam in Vietnam increased as Vietnam had more contact with the religion following the Sultanate of Malacca's (1400-1511) growth and establishment in what is know nearby Malaysia. Starting in the middle of the 17th Century the religion grew amount the Cham ethnicity of Vietnam and today most followers of the religion are Cham Muslims. Since Muslims in the country have been mostly isolated from mainstream Islam for most of their history and have lacked Islamic religious schools, the religion in the country has blended in elements from other religious and to have different beliefs, such as praying on Friday and only celebrating the holy month of Ramadan for three days. In 2006 the largest mosque in the country opened in the city of Xuân Lộc. Similar to Hindu Chams, Muslims Chams have experienced religious persecution and restrictions under the Vietnamese government. Islam is recognized as one of the six state religions of Vietnam.
Vietnam's first contact with Judaism came at some point in the middle of the 19th Century when a number of Jews came to Vietnam after the French colonized the area. From 1940 until 1945, Vietnam followed the anti-Semitic laws that Vichy France implemented since Vietnam was a French colony. Most of Vietnam's Jews left the country during the French evacuation of Vietnam following their loss in the First Indochina War (1946-54). Today, Vietnam's Jewish population is estimated to be only around 300 people, who are mostly expatriates and there is not Jewish community or religious structure in the country.
After `Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921), the second leader of the Bahá'í faith, identified Vietnam, which was then known as French Indochina, as a potential destination for the religion, some followers of the faith visited the country over the course of the following years. However, it was not until the 1950s that in South Vietnam the Vietnamese Bahá'í community became truly well established, and it grew tremendously thereafter. Shortly after the Communists unified all of Vietnam, the Bahá'í religion was banned in 1978 and the number of followers of the religion declined sharply. It was not until 2007 that the Bahá'í religion was finally full recognized by the government of Vietnam as a religious community.
|Rank||Belief System||Adherence Among Vietnamese Population|
|1||Caodaism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Other Vietnamese Folk Religions||50.1%|
|2||Atheism or Agnosticism||27.9%|
|3||Buddhism and/or Hoa Hao||13.6%|
|4||Roman Catholic Christianity||6.8%|
|Protestant Christianity, Islam, Bahai, Hindu, and Other Beliefs||1.6%|