6 biggest religions in Vietnam to explore

Vietnam is a country with many religions and beliefs that contribute to the formation of Vietnamese cultural characteristics.

Religion is a feature that many visitors to Vietnam want to explore and experience. So Vietnamdrive would like to introduce 6 major religions in Vietnam to all of you.

religions in Vietnam
Explore religions in Vietnam is to study the culture. ©JillWellington/pixabay

The source of information mainly bases on the page of the ASEAN National Committee 2020 – Subcommittee on Cultural Propaganda and Culture at https://asean2020.vn.

Besides, we will add some comments at the end of the article to guide visitors more clearly about the ways to study these religions.

What are the major religions in Vietnam?

In Vietnam, there are 6 major religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao.

Buddhism

buddhist monk in Vietnam
Buddhism in Vietnam | ©Vietnamdrive

Buddhism was introduced into Vietnam from the early years of the AD.

From the tenth century to the fifteenth century, Vietnamese Buddhism had a new development stepping along with the independence of the nation.

The Ly-Tran period, from the beginning 11th to the end 14th centuries, was the peak period of Buddhism in Vietnam.

King Tran Nhan Tong (1258 – 1308) is the founder of the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect with Vietnamese identity with the spirit of creativity, integration and contemplation. And now another famous Zen abbey becomes is Truc Lam Bach Ma Zen Monastery, which tourists can visit when traveling to Vietnam.

Theravada Buddhism (Nam Tong) was introduced to the south of Vietnam from the 4th century AD. Nam Tong Buddhists are mainly Khmer people, concentrated in the Mekong Delta, so they are called Nam Tong Khmer Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism (Bac Tong) came from China to North Vietnam, and extended to other regions. Bac Tong has more followers and is more popular than Nam Tong.

Buddhism in Vietnam today has more than 11 million followers, over 17,000 worshiping facilities, nearly 47,000 dignitaries, 04 Buddhist institutes, 09 Buddhist College classes, 31 Intermediate schools.

Catholicism

Praying in a church
Praying in a church | ©nickelbabe/pixabay

Many historians of Catholicism chose the year 1533 as a milestone marking the Catholic missionary enter into Vietnam.

From 1533 to 1614, mainly Portuguese Franciscan and Spanish Dominican clergy (dòng Đa Minh) followed merchant ships into Vietnam.

From 1615 to 1665, Portuguese from Macau (Macau, China) came to Vietnam to operate in both Dang Trong (south of the Gianh river) and Dang Ngoai (north of the Gianh river).

Currently, there are about 6.5 million Catholics, 42 bishops, about 4,000 priests, more than 100 religious orders, congregations with more than 17,000 monks. And there are 26 dioceses and 07 major seminaries.

Protestantism

Sunlight for praying
Praying for good things | ©geralt/pixabay

Protestantism appeared in Vietnam later than other religions introduced from outside the country, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, organized by The Christian and Missionary Alliance -CMA.

The year 1911 was seen as a milestone to confirm the evangelization of Vietnam.

Currently, Protestantism has about 1.5 million followers from 10 organizations and denominations; about 3,000 dignitaries; nearly 400 worship facilities; 01 Institute of The Bible and Theology (district 2, HCMC).

Islam

Muslim Cham in Ninh Thuan
A Cham person in Ninh Thuan is praying. @junichiusui

Muslims in Vietnam are mainly Cham people.

According to historical documents, the Cham have known Islam since the X – XI century.

There are two groups of Cham Muslim: 

  • the Cham Muslim group in Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan provinces is the old Muslim style, also known as Cham Ba-ni; 
  • Secondly, the Cham Muslim group in Chau Doc (An Giang), Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh, Dong Nai Provinces is a new Muslim style or also known as Cham Islam.

At present, Islam in Vietnam has about 80,000 followers, 89 worshiping facilities, 1,062 dignitaries, and 07 Islamic organizations recognized by the authority.

Cao Dai

Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh
Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh | @nyhbron

Cao Dai is an indigenous religion in Vietnam. In mid-November 1926 (October 15, the year of the Tiger), the first leaders of the Cao Dai religion held an initiation ceremony at Go Ken Pagoda in Tay Ninh Province, officially launched the Cao Dai religion.

Nowadays, Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh, around 90 km from Ho Chi Minh City, has become a very famous tourist destination for many foreign guests. Most visitors try to come there at midday to see the worshipping ceremony in the temple.

Currently, the Cao Dai religion has about 2.5 million followers of 10 denominations, one temple for spiritual practice, over 10,000 dignitaries, more than 1,200 worshiping establishments operating in 37 provinces and cities.

Hoa Hao Buddhism

hoa hao buddhism
Hoa Hao Buddism | @thao_sammie_

Hoa Hao Buddhism is also an indigenous religion initiated by Mr. Huynh Phu So on July 4, 1939 (the eighteenth of the fifth lunar month of the Rabbit year) in Hoa Hao village, An Giang province, South Vietnam.

Currently, Hoa Hao Buddhism has about 1.3 million followers, including 2,528 jobs, 94 pagodas in 20 provinces and cities.

Other religions in Vietnam include the Vietnamese Pure Land of Buddhist Association (Tịnh độ Cư sĩ Phật hội Việt Nam), Baha’i Vietnamese Religious Community, Buu Son Ky Huong, Tu An Hieu Nghia, Minh Su Dao, Minh Ly Dao, and Balamon. All these religions have a total of nearly 1.3 million followers.

In addition, there are about 20 independent Cao Dai organizations and about 40 groups of Protestant denominations.

Vietnam is to respect and create favorable conditions for all people to exercise their right to freedom of religion and belief; attaches great importance to the policy of unity and harmony between religions; ensures equality; does not discriminate against reasons of religion and belief; protects the activities of religious organizations by law; and the good cultural and ethical values of the religions being promoted.


Vietnamdrive’s thoughts

Exploring and learning about religions is one of the interesting experiences when visiting Vietnam. It is also a good way of discovering the culture of indigenous people.

In particular, Buddhism has a lot of attention from foreign tourists. Plenty of temples in Vietnam from the north to south always attract many visitors to pray and visit.

In Hanoi, you can explore Tran Quoc Pagoda, one of the prominent temples in the North. Coming to Hue City, you can visit more temples like Thien Mu Pagoda, Tu Hieu temple, etc. And in Ho Chi Minh City, you can spend time in Vinh Nghiem and Giac Lam pagodas.

If you have a longer time and want to learn deeply about Buddhism in Vietnam, some temples in Hue City or HCMC will be convenient places, where you can find a few lessons to study and experience.

Typically, Hue has many ancient temples and is considered the center of Buddhism in Vietnam.

For Christians, in addition to Saigon otre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, two great churches in Hue City, Phu Cam Church and Redemptorist Church, are also attracting many believers.

Despite that, many people believe that the holy place, where the mother Maria appeared in Vietnam, is the Holy Land of La Vang (Thanh Dia La Vang) in Quang Tri province.

In general, each religion has its own beauty and charm. Studying it can help you to understand more about the culture in Vietnamese life and thoughts.

About the author

The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.