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About Vietnam

Natural conditions | Aspects of National development | Festival | Vietnam Travel Tips

Culture & Religion | Philosophy and ideologies | Customs and practices

Natural conditions

Geographical location: Viet Nam is located in the Eastern part of the Indochina peninsula, bordering China to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the West with a long land border of 4,550 km, and facing the Eastern Sea (South China Sea) and the Pacific to the East and the South. On the map, Viet Nam is an S-shaped long strip of land, stretching from 23°23’ to 8°27’ North latitude. The country’s total length is 1,650 km from the Northernmost point to the Southernmost point. Its width, stretching from the Eastern coast to the Western border, is 500 km at the widest part and 50 km at the narrowest part.

Viet Nam has a diverse topography. The country’s territory is made up of hills, mountains, deltas, coastal lines and continental shelf, reflecting the long history of geology and topography formation in a monsoon, humid climate and a strongly weathered environment. The topography is lower from the Northwest to the Southeast, which is clearly shown in the flows of major rivers.

Three quarters of Viet Nam’s territory are made up of low mountains and hilly regions. Regions with elevations less than 1,000 metres above sea level make up 85% of the territory. Mountainous regions over 2,000 metres above sea level only account for 1%. Mountain ranges and hills form a large bow facing the Eastern Sea with 1,400 km length from the Northwest to the Southeast. The highest mountain ranges are all located in the West and Northwest. Fan Xi Pan peak, with a height of 3,143 metres, is considered the roof of Indochina. Nearer to the Eastern Sea the mountain range is lower and ends with a coastal strip of lowland. From Hai Van pass to the South, the topography is less complex. A long limestone mountain range is replaced by large granite mountains followed by a vast plateau known as the Central Highlands behind Truong Son range to the East.

Only one fourth of the Vietnamese territory is covered by deltas separated in many regions by mountains and hills. There are two major deltas with fertile arable land in Viet Nam, which are the Red River delta, locally known as the Northern delta of 16,700 sq km, and the Mekong River delta or the Southern delta of 40,000 sq km. Between these two major deltas is a chain of small deltas located along the Central coast from the Ma River basin in Thanh Hoa province to Phan Thiet with a total area of 15,000 sq km.

Viet Nam faces the Eastern Sea to the East and the Gulf of Thailand to the South and Southwest. The country has a long coastline of 3,260 km running from Mong Cai in the North to Ha Tien in the Southwest. Viet Nam’s territorial waters in the Eastern Sea extend to the East and Southeast, including the continental shelf and many islands and archipelagoes. There is a group of 3,000 islands belonging to Viet Nam in the Tonkin Gulf, including Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long, Cat Hai, Cat Ba, Bach Long Vi, the Paracel and Spratley Islands. To the East and Southeast, there are groups of islands including Con Son, Phu Quoc and Tho Chu.

Climate: Viet Nam is located in the tropical and temperate zone. Viet Nam’s climate is characterized by high temperature and humidity all year round. North Viet Nam, under the impact of the Chinese mainland, has more or less mainland climate. In addition, the Eastern Sea also affects Viet Nam’s tropical monsoon climate. The monsoon climate does not spread evenly all over the Vietnamese territory, where there are different regions with different climates. Viet Nam’s climate changes by seasons and by regions from the lowland to highland, from North to South and from East to West. Given the strong influence of the Northwest monsoon, the average temperature in Viet Nam is lower than many Asian countries located at the same latitude.

There are two major climate regions in Viet Nam. Northern Viet Nam (from Mong Cai to Hai Van pass) has a tropical monsoon climate with four distinguishable seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) and is influenced by the highly-humid Northwest monsoon from the Asian mainland and Southeast monsoon from Thailand and Laos and the Eastern Sea. Southern Viet Nam (from Hai Van pass to Ha Tien) has arather moderate tropical climate given the weak influence of monsoons and is characterized by dry and rainy seasons and warm weather all year round. In addition, given the topographical structure, there are some sub-climate regions in Viet Nam including regions with temperate climate, such as Sa Pa (Lao Cai province), Da Lat (Lam Dong province) and regions with mainland climate such as Lai Chau, Son La, all of which are ideal places for tourism. The average temperature in Viet Nam varies between 21°C and 27°C and increases from the North to the South. In summer, the average temperature is 25°C (Ha Noi 23°C, Hue 25°C, Ho Chi Minh City 26°C). In winter, temperature in the North reaches the lowest in December and January. In Northern mountainous regions such as Sa Pa, Tam Dao and Hoang Lien Son, the temperature is sometimes down to 0°C with snow. Viet Nam’s climate is also characterized by a considerable amount of sunshine with the number of sunny hours varying between 1,400 and 3,000 per year. The average rainfall each year stands between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm. Air humidity is 80%. Given the influence of monsoon and complex topography, Viet Nam is often prone to natural disasters such as storms, floods and droughts (each year, the country suffers from 6 to 10 tropical storms).

Rivers: Viet Nam has a dense network of rivers and streams (2,360 rivers of more than 10 km in length), flowing in two main directions of Northwest and Southeast in a bow shape. The Red River and the Mekong River, the two largest rivers in Viet Nam, create two vast and fertile deltas. Each year, the river and stream network is supplied with 310 billion cubic metres of water. The water supply for rivers and streams depends on the flood and drought seasons. 70%-80% of the annual water volume is provided in the flood season.

Land, flora and fauna: Vietnam’s soil is diverse with high fertility, thus providing very favourable conditions for the development of agriculture and forestry. Viet Nam is also endowed with abundant and diverse flora, including 14,600 species of vegetation. Viet Nam’s flora is mainly covered by tropical forests with plants and trees adapted to much sunshine, high temperature and high humidity. The fauna in Viet Nam is as abundant and diverse as the flora. There exists a variety of precious species listed in the World Red Book. At present, there are 275 species of mammals, 800 species of birds, 180 species of reptiles, 80 species of amphibians, 2,400 species of fish and 5,000 species of insects. Dense forests, limestone mountain forests, and multi-canopied forests provide habitats of different species of monkeys, languors, gibbons and wild cats. Vietnamese forests have typical monkey species such as white-headed languors, delacours languors and black languors. Likewise, there are valuable species of birds such as pheasants and pheinardia ocellata. The high mountains in the North have many furred wild animals like selenartos, small bears, big black squirrels, foxes, otters and civet cats.

Viet Nam preserves some precious national parks of high biodiversity, such as Hoang Lien Son National Park (in Fan Xi Pan mountain, Lao Cai Province), Cat Ba National Park (Quang Ninh Province), Cuc Phuong National Park (Ninh Binh Province), Pu Mat National Park (Quang Binh Province), Bach Ma National Park (Thua Thien Hue), Con Dao National Park (Ba Ria Vung Tau), and Cat Tien National Park (Dong Nai Province), etc. While remaining eco-tourism attractions, these national parks are ideal places for Vietnamese and foreign scientists to conduct research.

Aspects of National development

Viet Nam is located in a region considered a cradle of mankind, one of the earliest agricultural centres practicing wet rice farming, where the stone and metallurgical revolutions took place. On the basis of socio-economic development in the time of the Dong Son culture and given the struggle with nature and against aggression, Van Lang State, the first State in Viet Nam was established in the 7th century B.C. Thanks to their hard work and creativeness, Van Lang (and then Au Lac) residents created a civilization that influenced the entire Southeast Asian region. Together with the formation of the first State in Viet Nam’s history was the evolution of a diverse economy and advanced culture known as the Red River civilization (or Dong Son civilization) symbolized by Dong Son bronze drum, a heritage reflecting the quintessence of the lifestyle, traditions and culture of the ancient Vietnamese.

In the cause of national building, the Vietnamese also had to cope with the foreign aggression. During 12 centuries from the resistance against the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century B.C until late 20th century, the Vietnamese had to endure hundreds of wars and uprisings against foreign aggression. The tactic, as stated in the Proclamation of Victory over the Wu “Binh Ngo Dai Cao,”... Relying on surprises, we placed our weak forces before much stronger ones; In skillful ambushes, our few troops destroyed large units,” has become the rule of thumb for the wars to safeguard the Fatherland of the Vietnamese.

Since the 2nd century B.C, Viet Nam had been dominated by different Chinese dynasties for more than a thousand years. During this period, the existence of the nation had been challenged which helped give rise to the spirit of indomitability and staunchness of the Vietnamese in the struggle to maintain the nation’s vitality, preserve and build on the quintessence of its culture and the determination to gain national independence.

Despite many vicissitudes, from Van Lang, Au Lac to Van Xuan, Dai Co Viet and Dai Viet, the Vietnamese nation continued to develop in all fields, reflecting its strong vitality and unceasing evolution.

A typical feature of Vietnamese culture is the village culture. It is Vietnamese villages that have nurtured and fostered the quintessence of the traditional culture, the spirit of unity among the Vietnamese in the struggle against the domination of the North and the policy of assimilation of Northern dynasties to gain national independence, maintaining the nation’s traditions and cultures.

The Bach Dang victory in 938 opened up a new era in Viet Nam’s history – the era of development of an independent feudal state, national construction and defense. As a result, the centralized-administration state was established under the Ngo (938-965), Dinh (969-979) and earlier Le (980 - 1009) dynasties.

Then, Viet Nam entered the period of renaissance and development under the Ly (1009-1226), Tran (1226-1400), Ho (1400-1407) and Le So (1428-1527) dynasties. Dai Viet, the name of the country under the Ly-Tran-Le So dynasties, was known as a prosperous country in Asia. This period marked the golden age of Viet Nam’s history. Economically, this period saw the development of agriculture, irrigation (with the construction of the Red River dike) and the formation of traditional handicrafts. In terms of religion, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism were considered the three co-existing official religions exerting great influence on people’s life. One important achievement in the Ly-Tran dynasties was the introduction of Nom scripts, Viet Nam’s own writing system based on the reform of Chinese Han scripts. In addition, this period also marked the splendid development of education, science, culture, art, history and law etc (such as the establishment of Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam– the first university of Viet Nam, the introduction of Hong Duc Code and Complete History of Dai Viet etc). This period was called the Civilized Age of Dai Viet. Thang Long (the old name of Ha Noi capital) was officially recognized as the imperial city of Dai Viet according to the Proclamation on the transfer of the capital to Hanoi in 1010 by Ly Thai To.

From the 16th century, the backwardness and weakness of the feudal regime under Confucius ideology were revealed, feudalism fell into a decline. While many nation states in Europe were moving to capitalism, Dai Viet was bogged down in internal wars and divisions, which heavily impeded the country’s evolution despite certain developments in the economy and culture, the establishment of towns and ports and the growth of trade and exchanges between the 16th and 18th century.

In the 19th century, Western capitalist countries entered the period of imperialism and colonialism. Through missionaries and trade, the French gradually dominated Viet Nam. For the first time in history, the Vietnamese nation had to cope with the invasion of a Western country. In that context, some Vietnamese intellectuals were aware of the need to carry out reforms in an effort to bring the country out of stagnation and save national independence. Many plans of reform were proposed, yet rejected by the Nguyen dynasty. Subsequently, the country was driven into backwardness and deadlock. Viet Nam became a semi-feudal colony for nearly 100 years from 1858 to 1945.

After setting up the colonist rule in Viet Nam, the French colonialists quickly began large-scale exploitation in the country. Capitalist production relations infiltrated in Viet Nam, stimulating the formation and evolution of internal capitalist factors, and as a result, narrowing and breaking up the existing feudal production relations. Viet Nam’s economy thus moved from a backward and self-sufficient economy to a colonized one totally controlled by the French capitalists. A new social structure evolved along the line of capitalism, and subsequently the division between landlords and farmers was deepened while new forces, such as the working class, the bourgeoisies and petit bourgeoisies gradually came into being. Eventually, the struggle against the French colonialists was initiated by two forces i.e. the bourgeoisies (represented by Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang and Yen Bai revolt in early 1930) and the proletarians led by the Communist Party of Viet Nam.

The formation of the Communist Party of Viet Nam marked the prevailing strength of the working class and revolutionary movements led by the proletarians. In August 1945, under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by Nguyen Ai Quoc (later known as President Ho Chi Minh), the Vietnamese people and the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation (now the People’s Army) successfully launched a general uprising to seize power. With the Proclamation of Independence on 2nd September 1945, the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam came into being.

The globe-shaking victory of Dien Bien Phu (May 1954) and the Geneva Accord (July 1954) put an end to the war of resistance against the French colonialists, opening up a new era of independence and freedom for the Vietnamese nation in which North Viet Nam embarked upon the transitional period towards socialism. According to the Geneva Agreement, South Viet Nam was under the temporary control of the French and the Americans in the run-up to the general elections. Nevertheless, the general elections could never be held due to the interference of the United States. The Republic of South Viet Nam headed by Ngo Dinh Diem was established by the United States. Viet Nam continued to be divided for more than 20 years.

Between 1954 and 1975, Viet Nam had to fight another war for national liberation and unification. With untold hardships, the war came to a successful end following the victory of the historic Ho Chi Minh Operation in 1975. Since then, the unified Viet Nam has ushered into a new era of peace, unification and national construction.

However, in the first ten years of this period, many socio-economic targets were not achieved due to both internal and external reasons. Viet Nam’s economy fell into crisis and stagnation and people’s lives were difficult.

At the 7th Congress of the Communist Party in 1986, the Doi Moi (reform) policy was launched with the focus on economic reform. This marked an important milestone in the new stage of development of the Vietnamese nation. The Doi Moi policy was consistently reaffirmed throughout the later Party Congresses. With the implementation of four five-year socio-economic development plans, Viet Nam, from a food importing country, has become the second largest rice exporter in the world. Viet Nam also exports a lot of other commodities with well-known brands. The economy attained high growth rate in the late 20th century and the early years of the 21st century, people’s lives have been significantly improved; social policy received greater attention, the legal system has become increasingly complete and social management based on the rule of law put into place.

Looking back on the formation and development of the Vietnamese nation, we can see that patriotism, self-reliance, tradition of unity and the willpower to fight for the righteous cause of the nation are the most important features and the moral standards of the Vietnamese. The tradition of industriousness, creativeness and patience originated from the life full of hardship of the Vietnamese people. The need to stand united to cope with difficulties and challenges has created close bonds between the people and the nature and among the people in the family and in the community in the family-village-nation relations. Throughout history, the Vietnamese people have been characterized by the traditions of mutual assistance, ethic-based lifestyle, benevolence, one-mindedness and sharing of hardships in needy times, flexible ways of behaviour, the tradition of eagerness to learn, respect for righteousness and tolerance. These are the powerful and endless endogenous strengths for the Vietnamese nation to embark on the cause of national construction towards the goals of strong country, prosperous people, just, democratic and advanced society.

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