Vietnamese Culture

Traditional souvenirs sold in Hanoi.
Traditional souvenirs sold in Hanoi.

The Vietnamese culture is one of the oldest in Southeast Asia and is heavily influenced by the Chinese culture. After Vietnam attained independence from China in the 10th century, the country began to expand southwards which led to the incorporation of elements of the Champa and Khmer cultures into the Vietnamese culture. Later, French colonial rule in Vietnam introduced the Western culture to the country and led to the spread of Catholicism and the adoption of the Latin alphabet. Once the communist regime started in Vietnam, several restrictions were placed over cultural exchanges with the Western civilization and instead exposure to the cultures of other communist nations like Cuba, Soviet Union, and others was encouraged. Despite the changes over the years, some elements of the Vietnamese culture like the veneration of the ancestors, respect for family values, devotion to study, etc., remained intact.

7. Social Beliefs And Customs In Vietnam

In Vietnam, family and clan are valued over individualism. Clan is the most important social unit in the country and each clan features a patriarch heading the clan and a clan altar. Even today, in some parts of the country, the tradition of clan members living together in longhouses is quite prevalent. It is also not uncommon to see three to four generations of a family living under the same roof. Members of a clan are related by blood and often name their villages based on their clan names. Death commemorations of clan members are usually attended by all members of the clan. Weddings in Vietnam were earlier arranged mainly by parents and people were married young. However, things have changed now and the Vietnamese youth enjoy greater freedom of selecting the time of their marriage and their partner. Weddings are still mostly held in the traditional manner with elaborate rituals and ceremonies.

The traditional funeral ceremony in Vietnam is also quite elaborate and long-stretched. The body of the dead person is washed and dressed. A chopstick is wedged between the teeth and the mouth is filled with three coins and a small amount of rice. The body is then placed on a grass mat and buried in a coffin. The funeral is attended by all family and friends and mourning rituals continue in several phases after the funeral day till it ends after about two years. The number of rituals has, however, dwindled over the years with modern burials and funerals being less elaborate than before.

6. Cuisine Of Vietnam

Vietnamese cuisine is appreciated across the world. It exhibits great diversity but can be classified into three primary categories pertaining to the north, south, and central regions of the country. Many types of noodles and noodle soups are popular here. Less use of oil and greater use of vegetables is preferred. Soy sauce, fish sauce, mint, and basil are popular ingredients. Rice is a staple of the region. The flavors of Vietnamese food range from spicy and sour to sweet. The phở, a noodle soup originating in North Vietnam is a noted Vietnamese dish and features rice noodles with beef or chicken soup and scallions or bean sprouts as accompaniments.

5. Clothing Of Vietnam

The traditional clothing of the Vietnamese people changed significantly from time to time and depended largely on the whims and fancies of the region’s rulers. The common people of the country had greater freedom to choose their clothing prior to the Nguyễn dynasty. During the rule of the Nguyễn dynasty, several restrictions were placed on the type and colors of clothes that could be worn by the common people of Vietnam. Some of the examples of traditional Vietnamese costumes are the Áo giao lĩnh, the Áo Tứ Thân, Áo cánh, and the Áo bà ba. The first one refers to a cross-collared robe worn by the Vietnamese men while the second is a four-part dress worn by the women. The last two dresses were worn by the peasants in the north and south, respectively and appeared like silk-pajama-type costumes. The color code of the dresses also varied from time to time and during the rule of the Nguyễn dynasty, only the monarchs enjoyed the exclusive rights of wearing golden clothes while purple and red were popular among the nobles and aristocrats. The headgear worn in Vietnam changed over the years with the conical hat or Nón Lá being the most popular among the people

4. Vietnamese Music And Dance

Vietnam is associated with a rich tradition of dance and music. Vietnamese music also exhibits variance in different parts of the country. It is older and more formal in the north while Champa culture exerts considerable influence on Central classical music and music in the southern part of the country is a more lively affair. The country has nearly 50 national music instruments. The Imperial Court music and the Ca trù are important traditional forms of Vietnamese music.

The great ethnic diversity of Vietnam has gifted the country with diverse dance forms. These dances are usually performed at the cultural programs and festivals held in the country. The Lion dance, platter dance, fan dance, imperial lantern dance are some of the traditional dance forms of Vietnam. The dances that developed in the imperial courts of Vietnam are quite complex in nature and require great skills to be mastered.

3. Vietnamese Arts And Literature

Literature in Vietnam has greatly evolved over the years from romanticism to realism. Two aspects of the literature in the country are the folk literature and the written literature both of which developed almost at the same time. Folk literature features fairytales, folk legends, humorous stories, and epic poems. Written literature was previously written in the Cham and Nom characters and focussed on poetry and prose. Now, it is mostly written in the National Language and includes short stories, dramas, novels, etc.

Vietnamese art is mainly influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. However, more recently, the Cham and French influence have also been reflected in the art presentations. Silk painting is popular in Vietnam and involves the liberal use of colors. Calligraphy is also a much-respected art form and often, during festivals like the Lunar New Year, people would visit a village teacher or an erudite scholar to obtain calligraphy hangings for their homes. Vietnamese wood-block prints are also quite popular. Water puppetry and several forms of theaters represent other performing art forms in Vietnam.

2. Religions And Festivals Of Vietnam

Most people of Vietnam identify with the three major religions of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Catholic followers are also growing in the nation. The Vietnamese also practice ancestor worship quite rigorously. Ancestor altars are set up at homes or offices of the people. Several festivals including both traditional ones and those adopted from other cultures are celebrated in the country with great pomp and glory. Three of the most notable centuries-old traditional festivals of Vietnam are the Mid-autumn lantern festival, Buddha's Birthday, and the Lunar New Year.

1. Martial Arts In Vietnam

Vietnam has a very well-developed tradition of martial arts that is heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts. The "Viet Vo Dao”, the Vietnamese martial arts philosophy guides the martial arts practice in the country. It is associated with intense spirituality because of its close association with Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. The scissor kick is a famous movement of this form of martial arts. Although Vietnamese martial arts is less popular in other parts of the world than its Chinese or Japanese counterparts, there is no doubt that it is gradually and steadily gaining greater popularity worldwide with the establishment of schools teaching this martial art form in many parts of the world.


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