Geography and topography

Lying on the eastern part of the Indochinese peninsula, Vietnam is a strip of land shaped like the letter “S”. China borders it to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, the East Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the east and south.

The country’s total length from north to south is 1,650km. Its width, stretching from east to west, is 600km at the widest point in the north, 400km in the south, and 50km at the narrowest part, in the centre, in Quang Binh Province. The coastline is 3,260km long and the inland border is 4,510km.

Latitude: 102º 08' - 109º 28'  eastVietnam Natural Beauty

Longitude:  8º 02' - 23º 23'  north

 Vietnam is also a transport junction from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.More than three quarters of Vi?t Nam's territory comprises mountains and hills. Four distinct mountainous zones may be identified - the Tây B?c (north west), the ?ông B?c or Vi?t B?c (north east), the northern Tr??ng S?n zone in north-central Vi?t Nam and the southern Tr??ng S?n zone in the south-central region. The country has two major river deltas - the Red River Delta (??ng b?ng Châu th? Sông H?ng) in the north and the Mekong Delta (??ng b?ng Châu th? Sông C?u Long) in the south.


 Vietnam is located in both a tropical and a temperate zone. It is characterized by strong monsoon influences, but has a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity. Regions located near the tropics and in the mountainous regions are endowed with a temperate climate.

 In general, in Vietnam there are two seasons, the cold season occurs from November to April and the hot season from May to October. The difference in temperature between the two seasons in southern is almost unnoticeable, averaging 3ºC. The most noticeable variations are found in the northern where differences of 12ºC have been observed. There are essentially four distinct seasons, which are most evident in the northern provinces(from Hai Van Pass toward to the north): Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.


Recent archaeological finds indicate the presence of early man throughout the wider region from at least the late Paleolithic Era. However, a discernible link between prehistoric settlement and the peoples of modern Vi?t Nam cannot be established until the emergence of the sophisticated ?ông S?n culture in the north between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE. It was in the twilight of this period that the L?c Vi?t, Austro-Asian ancestors of the Vi?t or Kinh people, established a prosperous agrarian kingdom known as V?n Lang, governed from a citadel near Vi?t Trì by the kings of the Hùng dynasty.

 In 258 BCE this kingdom of V?n Lang was conquered and annexed by the Tày Âu, ancestors of modern Vi?t Nam's Tày and Nùng peoples, who built a new capital at C? Loa, north of present-day Hà N?i, naming their new united state the kingdom of Âu L?c. However, notwithstanding this Tày Âu annexation of V?n Lang, it was the culture of the L?c Vi?ts rather than that of the Tày Âu which subsequently became dominant in the Red River Delta area.dienbienphu victory

Two other significant maritime civilisations also emerged contemporaneously with the ?ông S?n in the region known today as Vi?t Nam - the Sa Hu?nh culture flourished in the coastal region south of H?i An between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE and is believed to have been an important precursor to the later Ch?m culture, while in the south the Óc Eo civilisation, focused on modern Kiên Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, provided the cultural foundation on which the proto-Khmer kingdom of Funan (1st-6th centuries CE) subsequently developed.

Following the collapse of the Qin dynasty in 208 BCE, Tri?u ?à, the Chinese military commander of Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces, seized the northern kingdom of Âu L?c and incorporated it into an independent kingdom known as Nam Vi?t. However, following the rise of the Han dynasty in China an expeditionary force was dispatched south in 111 BCE and proceeded to conquer Nam Vi?t, incorporating it into the newly-constituted Chinese empire. Thus began a millennium of Chinese political and cultural dominance over what is now northern Vi?t Nam.

During this period of Chinese dominance the Vi?t kingdom grew steadily in power and prestige, profiting from maritime trade between India and China. Mahayana Buddhism was introduced from China and Therevada (Hinayana) Buddhism from India, whilst the introduction of Confucianism led to the growth of a rigid feudalistic hierarchy dominated by a mandarin class. The first millennium CE also witnessed important technological advances such as the evolution of writing, the manufacture of paper and glass, the development of sericulture and the construction of dykes and irrigation works. However, efforts by the Chinese to assimilate the Vi?ts were always strenuously resisted and the period was marked by frequent rebellions which played an important role in shaping Vietnamese national identity. These included the uprisings of the Tr?ng sisters (Hai Bà Tr?ng, 40-43 CE), Lady Tri?u (Bà Tri?u, 248 CE), Mai Thúc Loan (722 CE) and Phùng H?ng (766-791 CE).

The historic victory of the B?ch ??ng River, secured in 938 under the leadership of Vi?t king Ngô Quy?n, brought to an end almost 1,000 years of Chinese suzerainty over what is now northern Vi?t Nam and led to the establishment of the first truly independent Vietnamese state. Anarchy followed Ngô Quy?n's death in 944, but in 967 the kingdom was reunified under the name ??i C? Vi?t by ?inh Tiên Hoàng (?inh B? L?nh), who established a new capital at Hoa L? (modern Ninh Bình Province) and reached an accommodation with the Chinese. ?inh Tiên Hoàng survived only until 980, when his government was overthrown by the short-lived Early Lê (980-1009), but ?inh Tiên Hoàng's legacy survived and was consolidated by Lý Thái T?, founder and first king of the Lý dynasty, who in 1010 established the kingdom of ??i Vi?t (literally 'great Vi?t'), moving the royal capital to Th?ng Long (now Hà N?i). Henceforward, thanks largely to the success of such illustrious kings as Lý Th??ng Ki?t (1030-1105), Tr?n H?ng ??o (1226-1300) and Lê Thái T? (Lê L?i, 1385-1433) in repulsing successive invasions from China and Mongolia, the north was to enjoy a more or less unbroken period of independence lasting until well into the 19th century.

However, notwithstanding their newfound autonomy, successive rulers of ??i Vi?t continued to model their courts and system of government on the Chinese pattern. Indeed, under the patronage of successive kings of the Lý dynasty (1010-1225) Th?ng Long's Temple of Literature-Royal College (V?n mi?u-Qu?c t? giám, established in 1070) became the intellectual and spiritual centre of the kingdom's growing mandarin class.Halong bay

As soon as it had thrown off the Chinese yoke, ??i Vi?t began to expand at the expense of its neighbours. As early as 1000 King Lê ??i Hành seized and ransacked the Ch?m citadel of ??ng D??ng (Indrapura), obliging Ch?m King Sri Yangpuku Vijaya to retreat southwards and establish a new capital at ?? Bàn near Quy Nh?n. Thereafter the combined effects of destructive wars with the Khmers and the Vi?ts and power struggles within the Ch?m royal family fatally undermined the Ch?m kingdom, leading to the destruction of ?? Bàn in 1471 by the armies of Vi?t King Lê Thánh Tông (1460-1497). In the centuries which followed this catastrophy, Champa shrank to a small vassal territory in the vicinity of Nha Trang, finally disappearing altogether during the early 18th century.

Taking advantage of weak central authority during the sixteenth century under the Posterior Lê kings, two powerful aristocratic families, the Tr?nh and the Nguy?n, became locked in a bitter power struggle. Following a sporadic civil war ??i Vi?t was eventually partitioned in 1674, with the Tr?nh lords controlling the north from Th?ng Long under the titular kingship of the Lê and the Nguy?n lords (who also nominally recognised the Lê kings) controlling the south from their stronghold at Hu?. As early as 1623 the Nguy?n had married into the Khmer royal family, enabling them to establish a customs house at Prei Nokor (later Gia ??nh-Sài Gòn). Thereafter they brought increasing military pressure to bear on the Khmers, leading in 1749 to the cession of the lower Mekong Delta (Kampuchea Krom) to Vi?t Nam.

After the failure of the Tây S?n Uprising (1771-1802), a popular revolt against misgovernment by the Nguy?n lords which overthrew the Lê dynasty, Nguy?n Ánh succeeded in restoring central authority with military assistance from the French. Unifying virtually the entire territory now embraced by the modern Vietnamese state, he took the throne as King Gia Long (1802-1819), moved the capital from Th?ng Long to Hu? and changed his country's name to Vi?t Nam (literally 'the Vi?ts of the south').

The colonial era began in the 1860s. Eager to control trade in this important gateway to China, the French captured Sài Gòn in 1859 and three years later forced King T? ??c to cede control of the south, establishing the Protectorate of 'Cochinchina'. By the late 1880s the Protectorates of 'Annam' (central Vi?t Nam) and 'Tonkin' (north Vi?t Nam) had also been created. The legacy of the French colonial period is clearly perceptible today in many aspects of Vietnamese society, including its language, its arts, its architecture and even its culinary traditions.

The struggle for independence began in earnest during the 1930s with the establishment of the Indochina Communist Party, turning into armed struggle following the French Vichy government's pact with the Japanese. The Vi?t Minh were established to fight for liberation from French and Japanese control, and the First Indochina War (1945-1954) which followed led ultimately to the defeat of the French at ?i?n Biên Ph? and the division of the country along the 17th parallel.

Within a few years armed conflict had escalated between North and South Vi?t Nam, taking on a new and dangerous dimension with the entry of the United States of America into the war on the side of the South. The Second Indochina War (1954-1975), known in America as the Vi?t Nam War and in Vi?t Nam as the American War, cost 57,000 American and nearly two million Vietnamese lives, leading ultimately to victory by the north and the Reunification of the country as the Socialist Republic of Vi?t Nam.

In 1986 the 6th Party Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vi?t Nam launched an ambitious economic reform programme known as ??i m?i ('renovation', the equivalent to the former USSR's perestroika), opening the doors to foreign investment and tourism and setting Vi?t Nam firmly on the path of free-market reform. In 1995 diplomatic ties with the United States of America were normalised and Vi?t Nam became a full member of ASEAN. Vi?t Nam was accepted into membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2006.

 PopulationVietnam people

Vi?t Nam is the world's thirteenth most populous country, with in excess of 82 million people, 23.1 per cent of whom reside in urban areas. Population density currently stands at approximately 267 persons per square kilometre. The largest centres of population are the southern capital of H? Chí Minh City (5.3 million), Hà N?i (3.1 million), and the cities of H?i Phòng (1.6 million) and ?à N?ng (0.6 million). The former royal capital of Hu? and the southern resort town of V?ng Tàu also support large growing urban communities.


The official language of Vi?t Nam is Vietnamese. A tonal, monosyllabic language, Vietnamese is written using a Roman script with added diacritical markings which was originally devised by French Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes (1591-1660). Many of the country's 54 ethnic groups have their own distinct languages, though only a few of the ethnic minority languages have their own script.

The use of English is rapidly becoming widespread throughout the country and is expected to increase because it is the language employed within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). French and Chinese are currently enjoying something of a revival, while some Russian and other East European languages are still spoken amongst the older generation.


Vietnamese are essentially polytheistic in their religious beliefs. Mahayana Buddhism is practised widely throughout the country, and Therevada Buddhism may also be found in isolated pockets. Underlying and co-existing with the Buddhist religion are the deeply ingrained practices of ancestor worship and animism and the moral and philosophical principles of Confucianism, both of which continue to dictate everyday personal conduct.

There is a sizeable Catholic population, concentrated mainly in the south of the country but with isolated communities in other regions such as Ninh Bình, 130 kilometres south of Hà N?i. Both Islam and Hinduism are practised by the Ch?m communities of the central coastal plain and the Mekong Delta and by Indian communities in H? Chí Minh City. The relatively new indigenous religions of Cao ?ài Chi?u Minh and Hòa H?o are also firmly rooted in southern Vi?t Nam. Most of the ethnic minority communities practise a combination of animism and ancestor worship, but some of the Central Highland groups (Xtiêng, Ba-na, Ê-?ê, C?-ho) and one or two H'mông and Dao communities in the north west hold Christian beliefs.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by Vi?t Nam's constitution. In 2004 the government introduced a new State Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions which sets out procedures for the registration of religious organisations, activities and festivals.


The majority Kinh (or Vi?t) people account for some 69.6 million or 89 per cent of the total population of Vi?t Nam. The remaining 8.4 million is made up of 53 culturally distinct ethnic minorities.vietnamese lady

Both the majority Kinh people and the country's 53 ethnic minority groups derive from three great language families - the Austro-Asiatic, the Austronesian and the Sino-Tibetan.

The majority Vi?t language (ti?ng Vi?t) is one of approximately 150 languages belonging to the Austro-Asian language family. However, the classification of ti?ng Vi?t and its upland counterpart M??ng within that language family is still the subject of academic debate - some scholars argue that it should be classified as part of the Mon-Khmer language group, while others (including most Vietnamese linguists) maintain that it should be categorised as a separate language group within the Austro-Asian language family, on the same level as Mon-Khmer, Asli, Munda and Nicobar.

The Vi?t-M??ng language group/branch is dominated by the Vi?t (or Kinh), who constitute Vi?t Nam's ethnic majority, and their upland cousins the M??ng, Vi?t Nam's fourth largest ethnicity, who reside mainly in Hòa Bình and Hà Tây provinces to the north and west of Hà N?i. The Th? of Ngh? An and Thanh Hóa provinces south of Hà N?i and the Ch?t of Qu?ng Bình province in central Vi?t Nam also hail from this ethnicity.

Branches of the Mon-Khmer language group represented in Vi?t Nam include Eastern Mon-Khmer (Kh?-me), Bahnar (Ba-na, Brâu, Gié-Triêng, Ch?-ro, C?-ho, Hrê, M?, Sre-M'nông, R?-m?m, X?-??ng and Xtiêng), Katu (Bru-Vân Ki?u, Ca-tu, Ta-ôi), Khmu (Kháng, Kh?-mú, ?-?u, Xinh-mun) and Mang (M?ng). The Kh?-me (equivalent to the Khmer of Cambodia) constitute the sixth largest ethnic people in the country and are widely settled throughout the Mekong Delta provinces of the south. The great majority of the other Môn-Khmer ethnicities are settled in the central and southern-central highlands region bordering Cambodia and southern Laos; notable exceptions to this rule are the Kh?-mú, Kháng, M?ng and Xinh-mun, all of whom reside in the mountainous north west.kinh people

Three branches of the Austro-Thai linguistic family are represented in Vi?t Nam - Austronesian (Malay-Polynesian), Hmong-Mien and Tai-Kadai.

The Austronesian or Malay-Polynesian language family is represented by five of Vi?t Nam's ethnic minority groups – the Ch?m, the Chu-ru, the Ê-?ê, the Gia-rai and the Ra-glai – all of whom hail from an Achinese-Chamic sub-sub-branch of Sundic and are to be found in south-central Vi?t Nam. Perhaps best-known of these are the Ch?m (or Chàm), now settled in the southern coastal provinces of Bình Thu?n, Ninh Thu?n, Khánh Hòa, Phú Yên and Bình ??nh, whose ancestors founded the ancient kingdom of Champa. However, more numerous today are their neighbours the Ra-glai and the Chu-ru, and their central highland cousins the Ê-?ê of ??c L?c province and the Gia-rai of Gia Lai and Kon Tum provinces.

The Hmong-Mien group is believed to have migrated from southern China into Vi?t Nam, Laos and northern Thailand only over the last 300 years, and all representatives in Vi?t Nam of its two constituent branches, the Hmong and the Mien, are settled exclusively in the north of the country. Of the four Hmong language branches found throughout the wider region, three are represented in Vi?t Nam. The White H'mông (H'mông tr?ng), the Flower or Variegated H'mông (H'mông hoa) and the Blue or Green H’mông (H’mông xanh) hail from the Chuanqiandian language group, the Black H'mông (H'mông ?en) from the Qiandong language group and the Red H'mông (H'mông ??) from the Xiangxi language group. The Mien group is represented in Viet Nam by the Dao (Yao), all of whom are classified (like their cousins in neighbouring Thailand and Laos) as part of the Iu Mien language group. However, significant dialectical differences exist between major Dao sub-groups such as the Black Dao (Dao ?en), the Coin Dao (Dai ti?n), the Red Dao (Dao ??), the Tight-trousered Dao (Dao qu?n ch?t) and the White-trousered Dao (Dao qu?n tr?ng).

The H'mông and the Dao are Vi?t Nam's eighth and ninth largest ethnic group respectively. The H'mông are settled widely across the north of the country but particularly in S?n La, ?i?n Biên, Lai Châu, Lào Cai, Tuyên Quang, Yên Bái, Hà Giang and Cao B?ng Provinces. The Dao are also found widely throughout the mountainous north of Viet Nam, with major pockets of settlement in Hòa Bình, S?n La, ?i?n Biên, Lai Châu, Lào Cai, Tuyên Quang, Thái Nguyên, Yên Bái, Hà Giang, B?c C?n, Cao B?ng and L?ng S?n Provinces.

The Tai-Kadai group comprises two branches – Kadai or Kam-Tai (C? Lao, La Chí, La Ha and Pu Péo) and Tày-Thái (B? Y, Giáy, Lào, L?, Nùng, Sán Chay, Tày and Black/White Thai). Common ancestors of both branches are known to have migrated from southern China in large numbers during the first millennium CE. Some travelled as far as modern-day Laos and Thailand where they went on to lay the foundations for the powerful kingdoms of Lan Xang (Tày-Thái) and Sukhothai (Kadai), while others chose to settle en route in the northern mountains of Vi?t Nam. Today the Tày (north east Vi?t Nam), the Black and White Thái (north-west Vi?t Nam) and the Nùng (north east Vi?t Nam) constitute respectively the second, third and seventh largest ethnic groups in the country after the Kinh.

The Sino-Tibetan linguistic family is represented in Vi?t Nam by two groups. The Hán (Sinitic) language group incorporates the Yunnanese or south west Mandarin-speaking Hoa, Ngái and Sán Dìu ethnicities; and the Lolo-Burmish language group incorporates the Lolo-speaking C?ng, Hà Nhì, La H?, Lô Lô, Phù Lá and Si La ethnicities. The Hoa or ethnic Chinese constitute Vi?t Nam's fifth largest ethnic group, who are nowadays found mainly in H? Chí Minh City and the surrounding Mekong Delta provinces, though scattered rural Hoa settlements may also be found in many other parts of the country. All other Sino-Tibetan ethnicities are settled exclusively in the north of Vi?t Nam.

Other ethnic groups in Vi?t Nam include a tiny Indian community in H? Chí Minh City and a small but growing western expatriate population, particularly in H? Chí Minh City.



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