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The Culture Of Vietnam English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 4276 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Culture of Vietnam which is the agricultural civilization based on the wet rice cultivating is one of the oldest of such in the Asia Pacific region. In terms of prehistory, most Vietnamese historians consider the ancient Dong Son culture to be one of the defining aspects of early Vietnamese civilization. There are some other characteristics that comprise Vietnamese culture: betel- areca nut chewing, teeth darkening, bamboo, respect for community and family value, hardworking and devotion to study.

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Long periods of domination and interaction with its northern neighbor, China, has resulted in Vietnam’s historic inclusion as part of the East Asian Cultural Sphere, known widely as Chinese Cultural Sphere with the accepting Confucianism as the philosophy of Mandarin class. However, the major stimulation of Vietnamese culture’s development comes from indigenous factors. That is, Vietnamese culture with village culture as its representation is foundation that belongs to Austro-Asiatic culture and Chinese influence and Indian have just only been enrichment.

Following independence from China in the 10th century AD, Vietnam began a southward expansion that saw the annexation of territories formerly belonging to the Chapman civilization (now Central Vietnam) and parts of the Khmer empire (today southern Vietnam) which resulted in minor regional variances in Vietnam’s culture due to exposure to these different groups.

During French colonial period, Vietnamese culture received merchant influences from the Europeans, including the spread of Catholicism and the adoption of Latin alphabet-to this day, Vietnam is the only non-island nation of Indochina which uses the Latin alphabet to write the national language.

In the socialist era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and the cultural influences of socialist programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences were shunned and emphasis placed on appreciating and sharing the culture of communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and others. Since the 1990s, Vietnam has seen a greater re-exposure to Asian, European and American culture and media.

Pod dwellers accounted for 29.6% of the population, their numbers rising 3.4% a year on average, while the head count of rural folks edged up by only 0.4% a year. About 70.4% of Vietnamese citizens currently live in bad areas, and although many are being influenced by the process of a growing economy, rural tradition and customs still play a vital role in shaping the stomping culture. Vietnamese give much to protecting their money, such that traveling to Vietnam means going to an older world for all Asian tourists

In terms of societal levels of organization, the two most important units are làng (village) and nu?c (country). Vietnamese people usually say that “làng goes hand in hand with nu?c”. Intermediate organizational units like the huy?n (district) and t?nh (province) are not as important. The culture is like a vast ocean of people

In rural Vietnam, kinship plays an important role. If it can be said that Western cultures value individualism, then it can also be said that Eastern cultures value the roles of family and clan. Comparing with Eastern cultures, Chinese culture values family over clan while Vietnamese culture values clan over family. Each clan has a patriarch, clan altar, and death commemorations attended by the whole clan.

Most inhabitants are related by blood. That fact is still seen in village names such as Ð?ng Xá (place for the Ð?ng clan), Châu Xá, Lê Xá, and so on so forth. In the Western highlands the tradition of many families in a clan residing in a longhouse is still popular. In the majority of rural Vietnam today one can still see three or four generations living under one roof.

Because kinship has an important role in society, there is a complex hierarchy of relationships. In Vietnamese society, there are nine distinct generations. Virtually all commemorations and celebrations within a clan follow the principles of these nine generations. Younger persons might have a higher position in the family hierarchy than an older person and still must be respected as an elder.

This complex system of relationships, a result of both Confucianism and societal norms is conveyed particularly through the extensive use of varying pronouns in Vietnamese language, which has an extensive array of honorifics to signify the status of the speaker in regards to the person they are speaking to.

In the past, both men and women were expected to be married at quite young ages (by today’s standards). Marriages were generally arranged by the parents and extended family, with the children having limited right to say no in the matter.

In modern Vietnam, this has changed completely as people choose their own marriage-partners based on love, and in consideration primarily to their own needs and wants.

The traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important of traditional Vietnamese occasions. Regardless of Westernization, many of the age-old customs practiced in a traditional Vietnamese wedding continue to be celebrated by both Vietnamese in Vietnam and overseas, often combining both Western and Eastern elements.

Depending on habits of specific ethnic groups, marriage includes various steps and related procedures, but generally there are two main ceremonies:

Le an hoi (betrothal ceremony): Some time before the wedding, the groom and his family visit the bride and her family with round lacquered boxes known as betrothal presents composed of gifts of areca nuts and betel leaves, tea, cake, fruits, wines and other delicacies covered with red cloth and carried by unmarried girls or boys. Both families agree to pick a good day for wedding.

Wedding ceremony: Guests would be invited to come to join a party and celebrate the couple’s happiness. The couple should pray before the altar asking their ancestors for permission for their marriage, then to express their gratitude to both groom’s and bride’s parents for raising and protecting them. Guests will share their joy at a party later

Formerly funeral ceremonies went as following: the body was washed and dressed; chopstick was laid between the teeth and a pinch of rice and three coins were dropped in the mouth. Then the body was put on a grass mat laid on the ground according to the saying “being born from the earth, one must return back to the earth.” The dead body was enveloped with white cloth, and put into the coffin. Finally, the funeral ceremony was officially performed.

The deceased person’s sons, daughters, and daughters-in-law had to wear coarse gauze turbans and tunics, and hats made of straw or of dry banana fiber. The deceased person’s grandchildren and relatives also had to wear mourning turbans. During the days when the dead were still laid out at home, the mourning went on with worshipping meals and mourning music. Relatives, neighbors, and friends came to offer their condolences.

The date and time for the funeral processio, must be carefully selected. Relatives, friends, and descendants take part in the funeral procession to accompany the dead along the way to the burial ground. Votive papers were dropped along the way. At the grave site, the coffin is buried and covered. After three days of mourning, the family visits the tomb again, or worship the opening the grave; after 49 days, the family stops bringing rice for the dead to the altar. And finally, after 100 days, the family celebrates the end of the tears. After one year is the ceremony of the first anniversary of the relative’s death and after two years is the ceremony of the end of mourning.

Nowadays, mourning ceremonies follow new rituals which are simplified; they consist of covering and putting the dead body into the coffin, the funeral procession, the burial of the coffin into the grave, and the visits to the tomb. The deceased person’s family members wear a white turban or a black mourning band

Religion in Vietnam has historically been largely defined by the East Asian mix of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, the so-called Tam Giáo, or “triple religion”, but today it has become more diverse including other religions such as cat holism, etc. Vietnamese Buddhism has typically been the most popular. The country also has a strong cultural norm of ancestor worship as well as animism. This fits perfectly with the triple religion, making it difficult for many Vietnamese to express exactly which religion they practice.[1] Of the three, Vietnamese Buddhism has always been the most popular with commoners

Buddhism came to Vietnam as early as the second century CE through the North from central Asia and via Southern routes from India. Buddhism in Vietnam as practiced by the ethnic Vietnamese is mainly of the Mahayana school, although some ethnic minorities (such as the Khmer Krum) adhere to the Theravada school. Buddhism in Vietnam has had a symbiotic relationship with Taoism, Chinese spirituality, and the indigenous Vietnamese religion. The majority of Buddhist practitioners focus on devotional rituals rather than meditation.

Buddhism is not practiced the same as in other Asian countries and does not contain the institutional structures, hierarchy, or sang has that exist in other traditional Buddhist settings. Due to this observation the estimate that 80% of the Vietnamese population is Buddhist is questionable, but does however show that many Vietnamese define their spiritual needs using a Buddhist worldview

Besides the “triple religion”, Vietnamese life was also profoundly influenced by the practice of ancestor worship as well as native animism. Most Vietnamese people, regardless of religious denomination, practice ancestor worship and have an ancestor altar at their home or business, a testament to the emphasis Vietnamese culture places on filial duty.

Along with obligations to clan and family, education has always played a vital role in Vietnamese culture. In the old days, scholars were placed at the top of society. Men not born of noble blood could only wish to elevate their status by means of studying for a rigorous Imperial examination which could potentially open doors to a position in the government, granting them power and prestige as Mandarin officials

Vietnamese cuisine is extremely diverse, often divided into three main categories, each pertaining to Vietnam’s three main regions (north, central and south). It uses very little oil and many vegetables, and is mainly based on rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (Serrano peppers), sour (lime), fish sauce, and flavored by a variety of mint and basil.

Vietnam also has a large variety of noodles and noodle soups. Different regions invented different types of noodles, varying in shapes, tastes, colors, etc. One of the nation’s most famous type of noodles is pronounced “fuh”, a type of noodle soup originating in North Vietnam, which consists of rice noodles and beef soup (sometimes chicken soup) with several other ingredients such as bean sprouts and scallions (spring onions). It is often eaten for breakfast, but also makes a satisfying lunch or light dinner. The boiling stock, fragrant with spices and sauces, is poured over the noodles and vegetables, poaching the paper-thin slices of raw beef just before serving. Ph? is meant to be savored, incorporating several different flavors: the sweet flavor of beef, sour lemons, salty fish sauce, and fresh vegetables.

In feudal Vietnam, clothing was one of the most important marks of social status and strict dress codes were enforced.

Commoners had a limited choice of similarly plain and simple clothes for every day use, as well as being limited in the colors they were allowed to use. For a period, commoners were not allowed to wear clothes with dyes other than black, brown or white (with the exception of special occasions such as festivals), but in actuality these rules could change often based upon the whims of the current ruler.

The Áo t? thân or “four-part dress” is one such example of an ancient dress widely worn by commoner women, along with the Áo y?m bodice which accompanied it. Peasants across the country also gradually came to wear silk pajama-like costumes, known as “Áo cánh” in the north and Áo bà ba in the south.

Monarchs had the exclusive right to wear the color gold, while nobles wore red or purple. Each member of the royal court had an assortment of different formal gowns they would wear at a particular ceremony, or for a particular occasion. The rules governing the fashion of the royal court could change dynasty by dynasty, thus Costumes of the Vietnamese court were quite diverse.

The most popular and widely-recognized Vietnamese national costume is the Áo Dài, which is worn nowadays mostly by women, although men do wear Áo dài on special occasions such as weddings and funerals. Áo dài is derived from the Chinese Xiao, although it consists of a long gown with a slit on both sides, worn over cotton or silk trousers. It is elegant in style and comfortable to wear, and likely derived in the 18th century or in the royal court of Hu?. White Áo dài is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across Vietnam. Some female office workers (e.g. receptionists, secretaries, tour guides) are also required to wear Áo dài. Áo dài was once worn by both genders but today it is worn mainly by females, except for certain important traditional culture-related occasions where some men do wear it.

In daily life, the traditional Vietnamese styles are now replaced by Western styles. Traditional clothing is worn instead on special occasions, with the exception of the white Áo dài commonly seen with high school girls in Vietnam

Traditional Vietnamese art is art practiced in Vietnam or by Vietnamese artists, from ancient times (including the elaborate Dong Son drums) to post-Chinese domination art which was strongly influenced by Chinese Buddhist art, among other philosophies such as Taoism and Confucianism. The art of Champ and France also played a smaller role later on.

The Chinese influence on Vietnamese art extends into Vietnamese pottery and ceramics, calligraphy, and traditional architecture. Currently, Vietnamese lacquer paintings have proven to be quite popular

Calligraphy has had a long history in Vietnam, previously using Chinese characters along with Ch? Nôm. However, most modern Vietnamese calligraphy instead uses the Roman-character based Qu?c Ng?, which has proven to be very popular.

In the past, with literacy in the old character-based writing systems of Vietnam being restricted to scholars and elites, calligraphy nevertheless still played an important part in Vietnamese life. On special occasions such as the Lunar New Year, people would go to the village teacher or scholar to make them a calligraphy hanging (often poetry, folk sayings or even single words). People who could not read or write also often commissioned scholars to write prayers which they would burn at temple shrines.

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Vietnamese music varies slightly in the three regions: B?c or North, Trung or Central, and Nam or South. Northern classical music is Vietnam’s oldest and is traditionally more formal. Vietnamese classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions, when the Vietnamese captured a Chinese opera troupe. Central classical music shows the influences of Champa culture with its melancholic melodies. Southern music exudes a lively laissez-faire attitude.

Vietnam has got some 50 national music instruments, in which the set of percussion instruments is the most popular, diverse and long-lasting such as copper drums, gongs, lithopone, Dan to rung… The set of blowing instruments is represented by flutes and pan-pipes, while the set of string instruments is specified.

The Vietnamese folksongs are rich in forms and melodies of regions across the country, ranging from reciting poems, lullaby, chantey

In the 20th century, in contact with the Western culture, especially after the national independence, many new categories of arts like plays, photography, cinemas, and modern art had taken shape and developed strongly, obtaining huge achievements with the contents reflecting the social and revolutionary realities. Up to 1997, there have been 44 people operating in cultural and artistic fields honored with the Ho Chi Minh Award, 130 others conferred with People’s Artist Honor, and 1011 people awarded with the Excellent Artist Honor. At the start of 1997, there were 191 professional artistic organizations and 26 film studios (including central and local ones). There have been 28 movies, 49 scientific and documentary films receiving international motion picture awards in many countries

Hát tu?ng (also known as Hát b?i): A theatre form strongly influenced by Chinese opera, it transitioned from being entertainment for the royal court to travelling troupes who performed for commoners and peasants, featuring many well-known stock characters.

C?i luong: A kind of modern folk opera originating in South Vietnam, which utilizes extensive vibrato techniques. It remains very popular in modern Vietnam when compared to other folk styles.

Hát chèo: The most mainstream of theatre/music forms in the past, enjoyed widely by the public rather than the more obscure Ca trù which was favored more by scholars and elites.

Water puppetry

Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi: Water is a distinct Vietnamese art which had its origins in the 10th century. In Water Puppetry a split-bamboo screen obscures puppets which stand in water, and are manipulated using long poles hidden beneath the water. Epic story lines are played out with many different puppets, often using traditional scenes of Vietnamese life. The puppets are made from quality wood, such as the South East Asian Jackfruit tree. Each puppet is carefully carved, and then painted with numerous successive layers of paint to protect the puppets.

Despite nearly dying out in the 20th century, Water Puppetry has been recognized by the Vietnamese Government as an important part of Vietnam’s cultural heritage. Today, puppetry is commonly performed by professional puppeteers, who typically are taught by their elders in rural areas of Vietnam. It is now extremely popular with tourists, and is performed at the National Museum in Ho Chi Minh city and in specialist theatres. In 2007 a Water Puppet troupe toured the USA to acclaim

Vietnam has 54 different ethnics, each with their own traditional dance. Among the ethnic Vietnamese majority, there are several traditional dances performed widely at festivals and other special occasions, such as the lion dance.

In the imperial court there also developed throughout the centuries a series of complex court dances which require great skill. Some of the more widely known are the imperial lantern dance, fan dance, and platter dance, among others

Vietnamese martial art is highly developed from the country’s long history of warfare and attempts to defend itself from foreign occupation. Although most heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts, it has developed its own characteristics throughout the millennia in combination with other influences from its neighbors. Vietnamese martial art is deeply spiritual due to the influence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, and is strongly reliant on the “Viet Vo Dao” (philosophy of Vietnamese martial arts). It is probably most famous for its scissor kicks.

The general Vietnamese term for martial arts is “Võ-Thu?t”, which encompasses all of the countless styles. Some of the more popular include:

  • Vovinam
  • Võ Bình Ð?nh
  • Quan Khi Dao

Vietnamese martial art remains relatively unknown in the world today when compared to its counterparts from China, Japan, Korea or Thailand. However, this is seeing a definite change as schools teaching various styles of Vietnamese martial arts are starting to pop up all over the world, notably in countries such as Spain

Vietnamese martial art is highly developed from the country’s long history of warfare and attempts to defend itself from foreign occupation. Although most heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts, it has developed its own characteristics throughout the millennia in combination with other influences from its neighbors. Vietnamese martial art is deeply spiritual due to the influence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, and is strongly reliant on the “Viet Vo Dao” (philosophy of Vietnamese martial arts). It is probably most famous for its scissor kicks.


Vietnamese literature includes two major components which have developed simultaneously and are profoundly interrelated: Folk literature and written literature.

Vietnamese folk literature came into being very early and had a profound effect on the spiritual life of the Viet. The folk literature always praised beauty, humanism, and the love of goodness, and contributed to the formation of a national sense. Legends, fairy tales, humorous stories, folk songs, epics and so on, have a tremendous vitality and have lived on until today.

Written literature was born roughly in the 10th century. Up to the 20th century, there had been two components existing at the same time: works written in the Han characters (with poems and prose demonstrating the Vietnamese soul and realities; thus, they were still regarded as Vietnamese literature) and works written in the Nom character (mostly poems; many great works were handed down to the later generations). Since the 1920s , written literature has been mainly composed in the National language with profound renovations in form and category such as novels, new-style poems, short stories and dramas, and with diversity in artistic tendency. Written literature attained speedy development after the August Revolution, when it was directed by the Vietnamese Communist Party’s guideline and focused on the people’s fighting and work life.

Modern Vietnamese literature has developed from romanticism to realism, from heroism in wartime to all aspects of life, and soared into ordinary life to discover the genuine values of the Vietnamese people.

Classical literature generated such masterpieces as Truyen Kieu (Nguyen Du), Cung oan ngam khuc (Nguyen Gia Thieu), Chinh phu ngam (Dang Tran Con), and Quoc am thi tap (Nguyen Trai). The Vietnamese had brilliant female poets such as: Ho Xuan Huong, Doan Thi Diem, and Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, centuries ago.

In Vietnamese modern prose, there were authors who could emulate whomever in the world, namely, Nguyen Cong Hoan, Vu Trong Phung, Ngo Tat To, Nguyen Hong, Nguyen Tuan, and Nam Cao. They were joined by excellent poets: Xuan Dieu, Huy Can, Han Mac Tu, and Nguyen Binh. Regrettably, their great works that faithfully reflected the country and the times have yet to appear

Vietnam has a number of UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites, as well as cultural relics deemed as Intangible heritage. These are split into specific categories:

Cultural heritage sites

  • Hoi An: An ancient city and trading center.
  • Imperial city of Hu?: Complex of monuments in the former imperial capital.
  • My Son: Ancient temple complex of the former Champa civilization in Quang Nam province.

Natural heritage sites

  • Phong Nha cave,
  • Quang Binh province.
  • Ha Long Bay

Intangible Cultural Heritage

  • Nhã nh?c: A form of Vietnamese court music.
  • Space of Gong culture in the Central Highlands of Vietnam
  • Ca trù
  • Quan h?

There are a number of other potential world heritage sites, as well as intangible cultural heritages which Vietnam has completed documents on for UNESCO’s recognition in the future.

Vietnam celebrates many holidays, including traditional holidays which have been celebrated in Vietnam for thousands of years, along with modern holidays imported predominantly from western countries.

Among the traditional holidays, the two most important and widely celebrated are the New Year although the latter has been losing ground in recent years

With the adoption of your child from Vietnam comes a whole new Vietnamese culture that you will want to share with your family. Our articles introduce you to Vietnam and to the Vietnamese culture, including Vietnamese holidays, Vietnamese cooking, Vietnamese names, Vietnamese culture camps, craft projects, humanitarian aid projects, and more

Vietnamese culture, including holidays and celebrations, Vietnamese names, Vietnamese food and recipes, Vietnamese language and more


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