that have shaped the way we think and behave
The Chinese legacy
The roots of Vietnam’s culture are firmly bedded
in a thousand years of Chinese domination, but other
influences have helped to shape Vietnam’s intellectual
achievements and way of life. The early Dong Son people,
the original Vietnamese, brought sophisticated mining,
smelting and casting skill from their Mongolian origins
and left a legacy of magnificent bronze statues and
drums. The Champa Kingdom also left its mark in the
form of ornately carved sculptures decorating their
mysterious brick towers.
However, the impact
of other races and nations is dwarfed by that of China.
The Confucian code and Buddhism introduced during
their occupation of the country have dominated Vietnamese
life for two millennia, and will doubtless continue
to do so for centuries to come.
Putting aside the differing
cultures of Vietnam’s many smaller ethnic groups,
most of which have migrated into Vietnam comparatively
recently, the post-Chinese development of the culture
of the majority ‘Kinh’ people that constitute
85% of the population can be divided into four phases.
They are a long period of dynastic rule, the French
occupation, the years between 1945 and 1986, and the
post ‘doi moi’ period.
The years of the Imperial Dynasties that ruled Vietnam
from the 10th to the 19th century were marked by wars
and feuds with neighbouring countries as the country
expanded to the south and consolidated its territory.
Culturally, there was little change under the Confucian
administrative structures inherited from the Chinese.
The conservative nature of Confucianism limited technological
and cultural progress, making the country highly vulnerable
to the advanced military power of the French.
The French brought European-style administration,
Christianity in the form of Catholicism, and implemented
the written version of Vietnamese that had been ignored
by the Vietnamese since its creation by a Jesuit monk
in the 17th century. They introduced new forms of
cultural expression, such as painting and prose, established
a European-style theatrical tradition, brought in
a different style of architecture and European cuisine,
and created the social conditions that led to the
rise of communism in Vietnam during the twentieth
The USSR model
Ho Chi Minh’s declaration of independence in
1945 ushered in a new era of social realism in which
the purpose of culture and all forms of artistic expression
was to further the county’s revolutionary aspirations.
Many traditional and French-influenced artistic genres
were suppressed. The influence of the USSR was considerable
during this period. Russian became the second language,
large numbers of Vietnamese people went to the Soviet
countries to study, and new administrative systems,
economic structures, planning models and mass movements
based on examples in the Soviet Union were introduced.
The advent of ‘doi moi’ (new thinking)
following the failure of centralisation and collectivisation
paved the way for opening up the country to the outside
world and re-entering the international community
after a long period of isolation. Since then, the
reins have been loosened, and several traditional
and new forms of cultural expression are beginning
to flourish. Tourism, television and the Internet
have hastened the rate of change, but the brake of
Confucianism has meant that cultural development has
been slower than might have been expected. However,
it has also helped to insulate Vietnam from some of
the more pernicious features of globalisation
is moving ahead relentlessly, and the culture of Vietnam
is being reborn in a different guise. Vietnam’s
large proportion of young people will mature into
a social and cultural milieu that will be completely
unrecognisable to their elders.
page | About
us | Destinations
Tours | Practical
things | Enquiry