Beliefs and religions of Vietnam

Since ancient times, Vietnamese worshiped the natural elements.

The ornamental figures on Dong Son's bronze drums (700 BC-100) reflect the religious rituals of this period and often represent the image of the birds Lac, a venerated image according to historians. The dragon, present in many classic works of art, stemming from the worship of Lac Long Quan, is considered, according to a legend, as the ancestor of the Vietnamese. In addition, other natural symbols such as animals, mountains, rivers, sea ... are also worshiped and likened to protective gods of human beings.

During the time of kings, Confucianism was promoted by the government. Its principle profoundly influenced the family structure and thus created a well-defined social hierarchy. However, in some dynasties (Ly and Tran for example), Buddhism also played a very important role and was encouraged by feudal governments. These two religions harmonize and complement each other in responding to two human needs: Confucianism is centered on social and reason, Buddhism on the individual and feeling.

In general, Vietnamese religions were influenced by Chinese and Indian civilization, but Vietnamese modified them by incorporating local elements to form their own cult.

Main religions and beliefs in Vietnam

Popular beliefs

The most popular custom of Vietnamese and some ethnic minorities is ancestor worship. This is the oldest religious practice in Vietnam. According to this belief, the souls of the deceased can return to visit the living to protect them: many Vietnamese families have an altar of ancestors. These are venerated and receive offerings: votive papers representing money and clothing, alcohol, fruit, etc ... It is thus to keep in touch between the living and the dead.

In addition to ancestor worship in each family, Vietnamese venerate the tutelary spirits of their village in the temples. These geniuses can be mythical or historical characters.

The cult of Mau (Mother Goddess) is a form of popular belief that has its origin in that of deities of the ancient times, the goddesses of the mountain, the forest, the water. Afterwards, Mau is venerated in the temples where she occupies the most honorable place. This cult is native to the North. Spread in the South, it is mixed with that of other local goddesses. Today, as popular belief is taken into consideration, several temples and palaces have been and continue to be restored with lively activities.


Buddhism remains the most practiced religion with about 10 million worshipers, 20,000 pagodas and more than 38,000 monks.

This religious movement was founded in India in the 5th century BC. J.-C and appeared for the first time in Vietnam in the 3rd century. Since the 10th century, Buddhism has developed rapidly and is considered the national religion in the period of the Ly and Tran dynasties (11-15th century). Buddhism has spread widely among the population and has had a profound influence on social life, leaving many imprints in the cultural and architectural fields.

At the end of the 14th century, Buddhism has, to a certain extent, faded, but its thoughts still have a lasting influence on social life and daily activities.

Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism)

It appeared in Vietnam around the 15th century with the arrival of European missionaries. At first, it was popular among people in the coastal provinces of Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, where it arrived by river, using the Red River Delta. This religion now has 7 million followers, 6,500 churches and 15,000 dignitaries.


Born in 1926 in Tay Ninh (south of the country), it is inspired by the philosophies of other religious movements, while seeing in key figures of world history (Victor Hugo, Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, Ho Chi Minh , etc.) spiritual guides. There are approximately 2.3 million worshipers, 7,100 dignitaries and 6,000 temples.

Hoa Hao Buddhism

With Caodaism, Hoa Hao Buddhism is a native religion that was founded in 1939 in the village of Hoa Hao, An Giang province. This religion has about 1.2 million followers in the southwest.


Introduced in Vietnam by the Cham community in the 10th and 11th centuries, Islam has about 100 mosques, 70,000 worshipers and 700 dignitaries, concentrated in Ho Chi Minh City and in the southern provinces.


Among ethnic minorities, each group has its own form of belief, but the general characteristic is animism. The idea is that every object has a soul. The faithful adore many gods, especially those related to agriculture and nature: the sky, the moon, the land, forests, rivers, mountains...