Vietnamese Religion

Newly every religion can be found in Vietnam, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Animism, Christianity, Islam, and the unique fusion of the Cao Dai faith

When the government started relaxing its grip on organized religion in 1986 as part of the country’s DOI MOI (economic renovation) policy, It sparked a religious revival. Across the country, thousands of pagodas were resurrected as centres of spiritual life. Temples which had been closed or turned into schools or granaries returned to their original use. Rituals and festivals were revived, and congregations at Roman Catholic and Protestant masses were suddenly spilling out onto the street. Suppressed for decades, religion was back in vogue.

Organised religion in Vietnam has long been a thorn in the side of the Communist Party. Although the government’s decision to permit religion has filled a spiritual and ideological void, religious practice is still closely monitored.

Religious fusion

Vietnam is often regarded as a Buddhist country. The reality is rather more complex. Although up to 85 per cent of the population regularly visits.

Astrological charts are often consulted to select an auspicious date for ceremonies such as a wedding and other important events.

Buddhist pagodas, only 16 per cent would be considered strictly Buddhist if you go by the book.

Over the centuries, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism have become simplified, intertwined and Vietnamised to constitute – along with other indigenous animistic beliefs – a core religion the is shared to some extent by all Vietnamese. This religion is sometimes referred to as TAM GIAO (triple religion). There is no sense of contradiction for a Vietnamese person to make offerings to Buddha at a pagoda, a national saint at a temple and a deceased grandparent at the family altar. Even some church-going Christians practice ancestor worship at home, while Vietnamese who regard themselves as non-religious routinely visit temples on festival days. The everyday behaviour and attitude of the typical Vietnamese are shaped by a complex synthesis of Asian religious traditions.


To complicate matters, Vietnam also has its own indigenous spirituality. Together, the gods of the earth, water and mountains define and transform the geomantic structures and rules that determine – in the same way that the Chinese use FENG SHUI – the orientation of houses, business, cities, graves and temples, and configure the good and bad luck of families, communities and nations. Between heaven and earth, but never separate from them, are humans, both male and female, the dead and the living, the ancestor and the descendants.

Each of the realms – heaven, earth and human – has its own rules. Regulations, elements of good, bad, ugly and beautiful, and above all, its own deities. Their deities are found everywhere – in stones, trees, lake and animals – and they are praised, fed, housed and revered with ritual offerings and prescribed modes of behaviour