Vietnam Overview

Lying on the east of Indochina Peninsula with a distance of 1650 km from south to north, Vietnam is one of the most romantic and naturally beautiful destinations in the world. The diverse natural environment, geography, history, and culture have created a great potential for the tourism industry.

Fifty four ethnic groups makes a united community. Vietnam is a tropical country with diverse climate. Tourists can enjoy 4 distinct seasons in the north or a sunny and rainy season in the south. Vietnam's environment includes long coastlines, forests, and mountainous areas with beautiful caves. As well, Vietnam has a history and culture of ancient architecture, religions and cults, and traditional festivals.

Some great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people. Vietnam natural resources offers unspoiled landscapes, virgin beaches, soaring hills and mountains, peaceful rivers and springs. On the other hand, its long history and distinctive culture serve as additional magnets for first-time and returning visitors alike.

Vietnam is a country with a past as rich as the soil in the blazing green deltas. This past reads like a romantic legend, full of heroic struggles and astounding victories whereby this small country retained its culture, absorbing and adapting the strengths of its foes but never losing its traditions or sense of history. In Vietnam, traditions carry real meaning. Ancient heroes are still venerated at colourful temple festivals, people honour their ancestors, and village elders teach values of hard work, hospitality, and filial loyalty. Most of ethnic groups live in remote areas and follow age-old customs, therefore Vietnam has a great chance to offer unparalleled cultural exploration.

Over the past few years, much energy has been expended in promoting the previously war-torn Vietnam as a desirable destination for travelers, especially those drawn toward "eco-tourism." With its majestic mountains, fertile jungles, and ancient cities, Vietnam holds a special allure for travelers seeking to catch a glimpse of the practices and lifestyles of a resilient Eastern culture.

As well as fine weather, there is spectacular natural scenery and historic sites. Vietnam's greatest resource is its friendly, welcoming people. Long closed to the outside world, Vietnam retains a charming innocence that most tourist regions lack. Yet in the decade since the country opened its doors to visitors, the country has built world-class hotels and tourism facilities. with international standards and traditional Vietnamese hospitality. Vietnam is ready to take you on an unforgettable adventure.

On the way of integration, Vietnam has instantly received new values from the outside. On the other hand, the preservation of national characteristics is an unneglectable task. People come to Vietnam not only for a remembrance of the past, but for an ideal tourist spot.

TravelToVietnam takes you to well-known beauty spots in Vietnam, with the splendid scenery and rich culture depending on the private shade of every region. Be fully prepared to enjoy wonderful trips to a beautiful Asian Southeastern country!


In 2000 BC, before the first history was recorded in writings, there had been already among people the legends and mythology about the origin of mankind and stories about the beginning of formation of Viet nation from HUNG VUONG. These are stories on HONG BANG dynasty, on offspring of dragon and fairy, bag of hundred eggs, eighteen kings of Hung Vuong dynasty, Son Tinh - Thuy Tinh's conflict, Thanh Giong's victory over An foreign aggressors, folk of betel and areca nuts, "banh chung banh day", watermelon ..... All these legends together can be regarded as a folk history comprising mythology characteristic as well as core of history in memory and tradition through many ages of people. Most of history of a nation of the world, with or without writing, is penetrated with treasure of folk and legends.

At the beginning of the Bronze Age, the Viet tribe groups had settled down in the North and in the north of Central Vietnam. There were about 15 groups of Lac Viet tribesmen living mainly in the northern highland and delta and a dozen Au Viet groups of tribesmen living in Viet Bac, the northern region of old Vietnam. At that time, the two ethnic tribes of the Lac Viet and Au Viet lived together in many areas with other inhabitants . Due to the increasing need to control floods, fight against invaders, and exchange culture and economy, these tribes living near each other tended to gather together and integrate into a larger mixed group. Among these Lac Viet tribes was the Van Lang, which was the most powerful tribe. The leader of this tribe joined all the Lac Viet tribes together to found Van Lang Nation, addressing himself as Hung King. The next generations followed in their father’s footsteps and kept this appellation. Based on historical documents, researchers correlatively delineated the location of Van Lang Nation to the present day regions of North and north of Central Vietnam, as well as the south of present-day Kwangsi (China). The Van Lang Nation approximately lasted from the beginning of the first millennium B.C. to the 3rd century B.C.

In 221 BC, Tan Thuy Hoang, King of Tan (China), invaded the land of the Viet tribes. Thuc Phan, the leader of the alliance of Au-Viet tribes was respected as the chief of the resistance war against the Tan enemy that later, in 208 BC, was forced to withdraw. With his imposing power, Thuc Phan nominated himself as King An Duong Vuong and founded Au Lac Nation with groups of Lac Viet and Au Viet tribes. In 179 BC, Trieu Da, King of Nam Viet (China), invaded Au Lac country. The resistance of An Duong Vuong failed soon after this invasion. As a result, the northern feudalist took turns dominating the country over the next seven centuries, establishing their harsh regime in the country and dividing the country into administrative regions and districts with unfamiliar names. However, the country’s name of Au Lac could not be erased from the people’s minds in their everyday life.

In the spring of 542, Ly Bi rose up in arms and swept away the Chinese administration, liberating the territory. He declared himself King of Van Xuan Kingdom in February 544, acknowledging the national superiority complex of the independent spirits to live in eternal peace. However, the existence of Ly Bi’s administration was very brief. He was defeated by the Chinese imperial army, and the country returned to feudal Chinese domination again in 602. The name Van Xuan was restored only after the victory over the Han army at the Bach Dang River led by General Ngo Quyen in 938. This victory marked the end of the Chinese domination period in Vietnam.

In 968, Dinh Bo Linh defeated the twelve lords and unified the country. He declared himself King and named the country Dai Co Viet. This name remained throughout the Dinh dynasty (868-979), Pre-Le dynasty (980-1009) and the beginning of Ly dynasty (1010-1053).

In 1054, a flaming bright star appeared in the sky for many days, which was considered a good omen. As a result, the Ly King changed the name of the country to Dai Viet. This name remained until the end of Tran dynasty.

In March 1400, Ho Quy Ly usurped the throne of King Tran Thieu De, founded the Ho dynasty and changed the country’s name to Dai Ngu, meaning peace in the ancient language. This name only lasted for very short time, until April 1407, when the Minh enemy invaded Dai Ngu and defeated the Ho dynasty.

After 10 years of resistance against the Ming occupation (1418-1427), Le Loi had achieved a victorious triumph. In 1428, Le Loi declared himself King of Le dynasty and changed the name of the country back to Dai Viet. At this time, the territory of Vietnam had expanded to the region of present-day Hue. The name Dai Viet remained under the Le dynasty (1428-1787) and the Tay Son dynasty (1788-1810).

In 1802, Nguyen Anh claimed his coronation to become the first Nguyen King, starting the Nguyen dynasty and changing the country’s name to Viet Nam. This name was officially recognized in many diplomatic missions in 1804. However, the words "Viet Nam" had already appeared very early in history. In the 14th century, there was a book of code entitled "Viet Nam The Chi", edited by Doctor Ho Tong Thoc. In the book by scholar Nguyen Trai entitled "Du Dia Chi" at the beginning of 15th century, the words "Viet Nam" were repeated several times. Doctor Trinh Nguyen Binh Khiem (1491-1585) had written on the first page of his work "Trinh Tien Sinh Quoc Ngu" the following: "... Viet Nam have constructed its foundation..." The words "Viet Nam" were also found in some carved stelae of the 16th - 17th century in Bao Lam Pagoda, Haiphong (1558), in Cam Lo Pagoda, Ha Tay (1590), in Phuc Thanh Pagoda, Bac Ninh (1664), etc. In particular, in the first sentence on the stele Thuy Mon Dinh (1670) at the landmark on the border at Lang Son, it was written: "This is the gateway of Viet Nam that guards the northern frontiers..." In terms of meaning, there are many theories that prove the words "Viet Nam" are created by combining two racial and geographic elements, which is understood as "Viet people from the south". During the reign of King Minh Mang (1820-1840), the name of the country was changed to Dai Nam, but Viet Nam was still widely used in many literary works, civil business affairs, and social relations.

Following the triumph of the August Revolution on August 19th 1945, which had entirely swept away Vietnamese feudal and French colonial oppression and began a new era in the country, President Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the nation’s independence and the national name Democratic Republic of Vietnam was born on September 2nd 1945. Although Vietnam suffered from war and separation in the following 30 years, the sacred words "Viet Nam" were very popularly used from the north to the south, and were deeply imprinted in the hearts of the Vietnamese people.

Following the liberation of Southern Vietnam on April 30 1975, the entire country of Vietnam was completely unified. In the first meeting of the national assembly of the unified Vietnam on July 2nd 1976, the assembly decided to name the country The Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The constitution of 1980, and 1992, continued its affirmation of the country’s official name, legally and actually.


In general, the Vietnamese are exceptionally friendly and outgoing. Be prepared for many personal questions and comments regarding your age, marital status, and weight. Easy-going people may put these types of questions. Although this may make you believe that the Vietnamese are open people, don't make the mistake of asking too many personal questions. Let the person you are talking with guide the conversation. In fact, because of reputated hospitality, they are warm, helpful and easily ignore mistakes when your behaviour doesn't apply to their standard. Above all, they also know much about the western culture.

It is not unusual to be asked how much something you own costs--anything from a pen to your house back home. Don't worry about being evasive. A simple "I don't know," or "It was a gift" or even a pleasant, enigmatic smile should do the trick.

The Vietnamese get very embarrassed by displays of anger. Their usual reaction is to laugh. This is not because they do not take the situation seriously, but because they don't know how else to respond. It is not a good idea to chastise a person in front of others. This is a culture affected strongly by the concepts of pride and "face." Fortunately, there are no unique gestures that will get you in trouble.

The Vietnamese eating habit tends towards vegetarianism. Rice and vegetables are the main course of the meal that may be diversified by aquatic products. Boiling is a special way of cooking of the Vietnamese people. Vietnamese people like a synthetic food processing style that involves many materials and ingredients. Today, although meat and fish are the main dishes of the meal, the Vietnamese do not forget pickled egg-plant.

The Vietnamese preferred to wear light, thin, well-ventilated kind of clothing that originated from plants and was suitable for such a tropical country as Vietnam, with grey, indigo and black colours. Men’s clothing changed from loin-cloth with bare upper half of the body to short jackets and Vietnamese traditional trousers (re-designed from Chinese trousers). In the past, women often wore brassieres, skirts and four-piece long dresses that were later modified to the modern ao dai. In general, Vietnamese women adorned themselves subtly and secretively in a society where "virtue is more important than appearance". Old/time clothing also paid attention to kerchiefs, hats and belts.

Vietnam is the country of festivities which take place all year round. The major festivities are Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year), Doan Ngo (double five), Mid-Seventh month, Mid-Autumn Festival, etc... Each region has its own ritual holidays, the most important of which are agricultural rituals (such as the rituals of praying for rain, getting down to the rice field, and new rice...) and trades’s rituals (like the rituals of copper casting, forging, making fire crackers, and boat racing...). Besides, there are also rituals dedicating to national heroes and religious and cultural services (e.g, Buddhist rituals). Coming to Vietnam, you will have a great chance to get accustomed to a rich culture. Religion still takes a very important role in their spiritual life. When you come to worship places like temples, pagodas, etc., it's recommended not to wear so casual clothes. It is not clearly stated, but Vietnamese people may be offended if your way of dressing doesn't show your respect in those places.

Vietnamese people are very helpful. Besides, they are good at foreign languages, so it's a great advantage to foreigners. If you have any troubles, don't hesitate to ask them for a more comfortable stay.


The Vietnamese language belongs to a language group which was established a long time ago in East Asia. Changes in material conditions over many centuries and the increasing demands of cultural life have influenced the Vietnamese language.

While adopting many elements of the Chinese language, the Vietnamese people changed many Chinese words, gradually creating Han-Viet (Chinese-Vietnamese) which incorporated purely Vietnamese words. "Vietnamization" not only applied to the Chinese language, but also to French and other language groups, creating a diverse vocabulary for the Vietnamese language.


When the multi-ethnic Vietnamese nation was taking shape, a great monarchy was established in the North, and it began a southward expansion. The Vietnamese nation underwent thousands of years of Northern domination. This was why Chinese was used for a long time as the official written language. Local mandarins of various levels were allowed to sit for examinations in the Northern Court (China), and were recruited into the administrative machinery of foreign invaders.

Based on Chinese characters, the Vietnamese worked out a unique writing system of their own called Chu Nom. In Chu Nom, two Chinese characters were usually combined, one of which indicated the meaning of the Vietnamese word, while the other indicated pronunciation. Chu Nom was welcomed and widely used by the masses in their daily life, as well as in transcribing their national history and literature. According to researchers, Chu Nom probably originated around the end of the Northern domination period and early in the 10th century (the independence period). The oldest evidence of Chu Nom currently available is a stele in the Bao An Pagoda in Yen Lang, Vinh Phu province, dating back to 1209 AD (Ly Dynasty). It was not until the 13th century under the Tarn dynasty that Chu Nom was systematized and used in literature.

Nguyen Thuyen (alias Han Thuyen) and Nguyen Si Co wrote poems in Chu Nom. Ho Quy Ly (1400 AD) made Chinese textbooks which translated the Vietnamese language using the Chu Nom writing system. He also used Chu Nom to write royal proclamations and ordinances. In the 15th century, Nguyen Trai, a national hero, used Chu Nom to write 250 poems in Quoc Am Thi Tap (Collection of Poems in the National Language). The Chu Nom literature continued to be developed from the 16th century onwards and totally dominated national literary circles. Ba Huyen Thanh Quan (the wife of the Chief of Thanh Quan district), Cao Ba Quat and Kieu Story of Nguyen Du, and the translation of Chinh Phu Ngam (Lament of a Wife Whose Husband has Gone to War) by Doan Thi Diem were quite noteworthy poems.

In conjunction with the development of the nation, the Vietnamese language was constantly developed and improved. Around the 17th century, western missionaries came to Vietnam and learned Vietnamese in order to disseminate Catholicism. They developed a romanced script to represent the Quoc Ngu (meaning national language) in order to translate prayer books and catechisms. A number of Portuguese and Italian missionaries used Quoc Ngu to compile catechisms and Portuguese-Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Portuguese dictionaries. Based on these works, Alexandre de Rhodes, a French Jesuit missionary, published the Vietnamese Portuguese-Latin dictionary which was a fundamental catechism in Rome from 1649-1651. After Alexandre de Rhodes, Quoc Ngu was further improved by foreign missionaries and Vietnamese scholars.

In 1867, some colonial schools began to teach Quoc Ngu. It was not until early in the 20th century that Quoc Ngu became widely used in the local primary educational system. The introduction of Quoc Ngu constituted a new step in the development of the Vietnamese language. While romanization received a reserved welcome in other Asian countries, it recorded extraordinary success in Vietnam, creating favorable conditions for cultural and intellectual development.

In general, Vietnamese clothing is very diverse. Every ethnic group in Vietnam has its own style of clothing. Festivals provide an opportunity for the various ethnic groups to wear their favorite clothes. Over thousands of years, the traditional clothing of all ethnic groups in Vietnam has changed, but each ethnic group has separately maintained their own characteristics.

During the Nguyen period - the final dynasty in Vietnam, young women wore light brown-colored short shirts with long black skirts. Their headgear consisted of a black turban with a peak in the front. To make their waist look smaller, they fasten a long piece of pink or violet cloth. On formal occasions, they wore a special three-layered dress called an "ao dai", a long gown with slits on either side. The outer garment was a special silk gown called an "ao tu than" which was brown or light brown in color with four slits divided equally on its lower section. The second layer was a gown in a light yellow color and the third layer was a pink gown. When a woman wore her three gowns, she fastened the buttons on the side, and leaved those on the chest unfastened so that it formed a shaped collar. This allowed her to show the different colors on the upper part of the three gowns. Beneath the three gowns was a bright red brassiere which was covered the woman's neck.

Together with “ao tu than”, there’s an indispensable thing - “non quai thao” - a flat palm hat with fringes. Yet the women in the North loved to wear brown shirts, whereas in the Central and South provinces, women usually wore black, middle- buttoned shirts. By the end of Tu Duc’s dynasty, a special shirt called “ao ba ba” was introduced in the South. Bibliographies described that men wore brocade or gauze-made gowns, crepe turbans, and buffalo-leathered slippers.

Up to the beginning of 19 century, women in all parts of the country knew the value of cosmetics. In 1935, “Le Mur” long dress appearance was a remarkable event. It was a mandarin collared, puff-sleeved dress. At first, the “Le Mur” dress had several features borrowed from European dresses current at that time, and was considered the most modern fashion. Over time, the traditional "ao dai" has gone through certain changes. Long gowns are now carefully tailored to fit the body of a Vietnamese woman. The two long slits along the side allow the gown to have two free floating panels in the front and at the back of the dress. The floating panels expose a long pair of white silk trousers.

An elegant looking conical palm hat, which is traditionally known as a "non bai tho" (a hat with poetry written on it), is worn as part of a woman's formal dress. This traditional conical hat is particularly suitable for a tropical country such as Vietnam, where fierce sunshine and hard rain are commonplace.

To make a conical hat, a hat maker chooses young palm leaves and lets them be dried under the sunshine. Attached beneath the almost transparent layers of dried palm leaves is a drawing of a small river wharf. Below the drawing, there is a piece of poetry to be recited by the hat wearer.

Under the effect of social development, Vietnamese costume has gradually changed. In 1945, women started wearing black trousers and brown short shirts. European fashion influenced men clothes. The traditional set of a long gown and turban gave way to more modern looking suits, while business shirts and trousers were replaced traditional long sleeved shirts and wide trousers.

In recent years some foreign fashions have been introduced to Vietnam; it’s now easy to find young boys and girls in Western-style clothes imitated international music bands in big cities. Daily costumes of the Vietnamese people tend to be very simple and modest. Men wear shirts, trousers. Young women wear shirts with  trousers or skirts. However, the traditional "ao dai" remains preferable to women in both urban and rural settings. Traditional costumes still exist and efforts are increasingly being made to restore traditional festivals and entertainment, which incorporate traditional costumes.


The major religious traditions in Vietnam are Buddhism (which fuses forms of Taoism and Confusianism), Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), Islam, Cao Daism and the Hoa Hao sect.

* Buddhism

Buddhism was first introduced to Vietnam in the 4th century B.C., and reached its peak in the Ly dynasty (11th century). It was then regarded as the official religion dominating court affairs. Buddhism was preached broadly among the population and it enjoyed a profound influence on people's daily life. Its influence also left marks in various areas of traditional literature and architecture. As such, many pagodas and temples were built during this time.

At the end of the 14th century, Buddhism began to show signs of decline. The ideological influence of Buddhism, however, remained very strong in social and cultural life. Presenty, over 70 percent of the population of Vietnam are either Buddhist or strongly influenced by Buddhist practices.


Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam in the 17th century. At present the most densely-populated Catholic areas are Bui Chu-Phat Diem in the northern province of Ninh Binh and Ho Nai-Bien Hoa in Dong Nai province to the South. About 10 percent of the population are considered Catholic.


Protestantism was introduced to Vietnam at about the same time as Catholicism. Protestantism, however, remains an obscure religion. At present most Protestants live in the Central Highlands. There still remains a Protestant church on Hang Da Street in Hanoi. The number of Protestants living in Vietnam is estimated at 400,000.

* Islamic

Islamic followers in Vietnam are primarily from the Cham ethnic minority group living in the central part of the central coast. The number of Islamic followers in Vietnam totals about 50,000.

* Caodaism

Caodaism was first introduced to the country in 1926. Settlements of the Cao Dai followers in South Vietnam are located near the the Church in Tay Ninh. The number of followers of this sect is estimated at 2 million.

* Hoahaoism 

Hoahaoism was first introduced to Vietnam in 1939. More than 1 million Vietnamese are followers of this sect. Most of them live in the western part of South Vietnam.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a sovereign and reunified independent country, has a high percentage of territorial waters. Looking at the map, Vietnam is located in the center of the Southeast Asia, and is shaped like the letter "S". The country lies in the eastern part of the Indochina peninsula, bordered by China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, and the East Sea and Pacific Ocean to the southeast. Vietnam's coast line is 3,260 km long and its inland border measures 3,730 km.

The country's total length, from the northernmost point to the southernmost point, is 1,650 km.

Its width, stretching from east to west, is 600 km at the widest point in the north, 400 km in the south, and 50 km at the narrowest part in the Quang Binh province on the central coast. Vietnam is also a transport junction from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.


The Vietnamese nation was primarily influenced through a process of anthropological cross-pollination between ancient Chinese and Indian cultures.

As far as anthropology is concerned, the Vietnamese people have their origin in the Mongoloid race, which is scattered throughout northern and eastern Asia.

At present, there are about 54 Ethnic minority groups inhabiting Vietnam.

The Kinh (or Viet) people account for nearly 90 percent of Vietnam's total population. Major ethnic minority groups include the Tay, Thai, Muong, H'Mong, Dao, and Khmer. Each ethnic group has developed its own language and cultural identity, thus making the Vietnamese culture a well blended combination of different cultures.

The Viet language is recognized, however, as the official language and serves as a universal means of communication for all inhabitants of Vietnam. In the historical course of national development, all ethnic groups have been closely attached, sharing in the fight against foreign invaders, defending the country's territory, and gaining the right to national independence and self determination.

With a population of more than 70 million people, Vietnam is the homaland

The Vietnamese nation was primarily influenced through a process of anthropological cross-pollination between ancient Chinese and Indian cultures.

As far as anthropology is concerned, the Vietnamese people have their origin in the Mongoloid race, which is scattered throughout northern and eastern Asia.

At present, there are about 54 Ethnic minority groups inhabiting Vietnam.

The Kinh (or Viet) people account for nearly 90 percent of Vietnam's total population. Major ethnic minority groups include the Tay, Thai, Muong, H'Mong, Dao, and Khmer. Each ethnic group has developed its own language and cultural identity, thus making the Vietnamese culture a well blended combination of different cultures.

The Viet language is recognized, however, as the official language and serves as a universal means of communication for all inhabitants of Vietnam. In the historical course of national development, all ethnic groups have been closely attached, sharing in the fight against foreign invaders, defending the country's territory, and gaining the right to national independence and self determination.


Vietnam is a country rich in handicraft products, thanks to the hardworking, dexterous, and creative qualities of the Vietnamese people.

For a very long time, handicraft products have been a source of cultural pride and a source of income for the people. As the varieties of handicraft products are too numerous to be fully introduced, only a few typical items and their sources are mentioned here.

Woven tapestries and tho cam handbags are unique works from the skilled hands of the ethnic women living in the Northwest regions, such as Cao Bang.

Embroidered articles and silk products are famous from the regions of Ha Dong, Nam Ha, Thai Binh and Hue.

Wool tapestries from Hanoi and Haiphong, and jute tapestries from Hung Yen, Haiphong, Hanoi and Thai Binh, are much sought after.

Ceramic and porcelain items have been produced in Vietnam for a long time. Ceramic and porcelain products glazed by traditional methods into beautiful art are well known in Bat Trang (Hanoi), Quang Ninh, and Haiphong. Copperware is fabricated by the skillful hands of coppersmiths in Nam Ha, Ngu Xa (Hanoi), Dong Son(Thanh Hoa), and Long Tho.

Jewelry products and metalwork are concentrated in Hanoi, Thai Binh and Hai Hung, while stonework are mainly produced in Danang (Five Element Mountain Region).

Wood products and wood carvings can usually be found in Phu Xuyen (Ha Tay), Haiphong, and Hue.There are thousands of types of handicraft products. Some of these handicrafts have been internationally recognized and popularized, such as lacquerware. While lacquer artists produce a limited number of paintings and sculptures, lacquer crafts have been part of Vietnamese life in many forms: vases, boxes, interior decorating items, jewelry, and office products. With about 2,000 years of history, Vietnamese lacquerware and other products made by a community of handicraft artists, have established a firm and growing position in the domestic and international markets.


The Kinh and all ethnic minorities in Vietnam have a time-honoured tradition of music and dance. This is evidenced by the figures seen dancing to music which were engraved on the bronze drums unearthed at Dong Son (Thanh Hoa province) and lithophones discovered in Tay Nguyen Highlands and other relics. Besides royal court music, there was also a rich vein of music which was closely attached to the daily lives of the working masses.

Thousands of diverse musical tunes have been collected from this source. From Quan Ho folk songs in the North to Hue songs (songs from the Perfume River), "guessing game" songs, satirical songs, joking songs and numerous songs in southern provinces, all are characterised by a profound sensibility and poetic, lyrical sense. After 1945, royal court music was underdeveloped. But folk music flourished more than ever before along with the increasingly popular modern music.

Situated at the crossroads of two powerful cultural currents, the Chinese and the Indian, VietNam has been influenced by these elements whose are evidenced in VietNam Music. The Indian influence dates back to the beginning of the Lyù dynasties (1010). When the Vietnamese people came in contact with Western civilization (18th century), they evinced also enthusiasm for European music. The National Conservatory of Music created in Saigon by the Ministry for National Education of South VietNam has set itself the task of renovating the national music of Viet Nam on the basis of a new synthesis of Oriental and Occidental arts.

Folk Music

As in other countries in the world, Vietnamese oral literature is composed mainly of the songs of the people which have a profound sensibility and poetic sense, and become real masterpieces of Vietnamese literature. The origins of these songs are rooted in the era preceding recorded history. They are so rich, maybe much more than in other countries, to form a very vast repertoire. They are so various with several genres of folk music of different ethnic minorities groups and those of the North, Central and South VietNam. The folk songs become a very valuable national heritage of our people. There are songs of boat rowers, of wood cutters, love songs, satirical songs, etc... There are also songs relating to heroic deeds, reflecting the soul of the laboring masses, expressing their happiness, sadness, patient resignation or courageous revolt. These songs are less artificial and less speculative than all the other types of literature, and the natural expressions used in popular songs, the beauty of their imagery and the pertinence of their observation, go beyond the rigid frame of confucianist ethics.

The language is itself musical, the Vietnamese people sing spontaneously on all occasion whether they are at play or at work. Echoing the preoccupations of the individual, the folk songs of VietNam reflect the vivaciousness, quickness, candor, ironic, wit and common sense of the Vietnamese people.

During the long centuries of Chinese and French dominations, folk songs always played the role of preserving hope, and keeping the spirit of Vietnamese traditions and customs.

Origins and Evolution of Vietnamese Music

In 1924 archaecological excavations in the village of Ñoâng Sôn, Thanh Hoùa province, North VietNam, unearthed bronze drums, and coins on which were engravings representing 2 men, one seated astride the other’s back, playing a "khen", an instrument made of several flutes tied together. Drawings on the drums depicted warriors, one of them playing a "khen" and the others playing castanets of a type still in use today. Since the Dong Son findings, dated from the Han dynasty (around 200 B.C.) we can conclude that Vietnamese already had their own indigenous music prior to the Christian era.

The study of the folk songs of the Tonkinese central region permits also affirmation that the most ancient musical discoverable are those of the citadel Coå Loa in which are found the tomb of King An Döông Vöông. At this time, the earliest music had a folkloric character which was typified by round sung as accompaniment to mystico-religious or ritualistic dances, and the use of drums, khenes, castanets and cymbals.

From the second to the 10th centuries, Vietnamese music had an almost exclusively Chinese influence. The five tone musical scale of Chinese music was adopted and utilized without innovation.

From the 11th to the 14th centuries, with the advance of the Viet toward the South, contacts with the Champa, introduced new elements into Vietnamese music which resulted in the development of the southern laments and the enriching of the five tone scale with 2 supplementary notes.

From the 15th to the 18th centuries, great developments were marked in the art of music, with innovations on the styles of the Chinese and Cham. It was during this era that songs accompanied by castanets first became popular. The words of these songs came from the works of eminent literary men.

After the "Haùt AÛ Ñaøo" came Hueá songs, boat songs from the Parfume River, and guessing game songs or mirador games, first came into vogue, along with songs from the southern part of the demarcation river.

The contemporary period is notable first for the codification, then modernization of Vietnamese music under the influence of Occidental traditions. More recently, composers trained in European schools have produced many works which have enjoyed great popularity. Most of these tunes are based on Western rhythms.

The classic Repertoire

The classical Vietnamese music includes 2 principal types: the Northern tunes and the Southern tunes. Concerning the origins of the Northern tunes, the Annals relate that in 1285, on the occasion of Traàn Höng Ñaïo’s great victory over the Mongol invaders, a theater troup which accompanied the agressive forces was captured along with its entire orchestra. The troup was immediately incorporated into that of the Imperial Court, and its performances reached a large segment of the popular audience.

Later, in 1470 during the reign of Le Thanh Ton, 3 members of the National Academy, Traàn Nhaân Trung, Löông Theá Vinh and Ñoã Nhuaän were sent to China to study Chinese music, and its methods to adapt it to the Vietnamese. Three committees were thus created: the first for symphonic music, the 2nd for music education, and the 3rd for the popularization of music arts.

In the middle of the 15th century, following a victorious campaign against the Champa, the favorite song the Cham King was introduced to the Imperial Court. 150 years later, King Lyù Cao Toâng commissioned the composition of Chiêm Thành Aâm (Chăm Melody) whose name indicates its source of inspiration.

The Southern tunes, bore the imprint of contacts with the Champa, are characterized by nostalgic plaints, moody and melancoly, which are particularly expressive of the spirit of Hue, a city dominated by the influence of the langourous Parfume River. As for the Northern tunes express optimism and liveliness.