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Viet Nam: Land of the Smaller Dragon

October 24, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Looking on a map of today’s Viet Nam, the shape of the country looks like a bamboo pole carrying two baskets. In the east it is open to the South China Sea, while in the north and south the rice paddy lowlands and deltas of rivers are located, fortified in the west by the Annamite Cordillera and the borders to Laos and Cambodia. For more than 3,000 kilometers of a rugged coastline, Viet Nam is a country too beautiful to describe being the smaller dragon compared to neighboring China as the bigger dragon. Bordered in the far north by China and the scenic Hoang Lien Mountains, the northern Red River Delta is home to the Vietnamese, who were for more than 1,000 years the masters in the country. Only in 938, The Vietnamese threw off the yoke of the Chinese and started their march to the south by conquering the principalities of the sea-faring Cham in the central part of the country and reaching the Mekong Delta of the Khmer.

Actually, the diversity of its peoples, cultures and influences created a complex structure that makes Viet Nam a country today. Strategically located between China and India, Viet Nam was visited by European and Japanese traders and then fell under the spell of French missionaries, who developed the phonetic writing system and brought Catholicism. Under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) in Hue, struggling Viet Nam was united, but came under French colonial rule in 1862. From their colony Cochin China, the French grabbed Annam in the center and Tonkin in the north until 1883 to establish the Indochinese Union, including Cambodia andLaos in 1887. Nationalistic resistance followed and after World War II the Vietnamese regained independence under its revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, who still had to fight the French until 1954 and the American War until 1975. In the meantime, Ho Chi Minh had died in 1969.

Though most Vietnamese seem to be Buddhist, their religion is a curious mix of animism, ancestor cult, Taoism and Confucianism. Mahayana Buddhism is predominant next to the other introduced religions of Hinduism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Caodaism and Hoa Hao. That is why religious festivals abound, while the New Year Festival or Tet is the most important and celebrated in the whole country.

Places to visit are the capital of Ha Noi with its Old Quarter, the port city Haiphong and Ha Long Bay in the north of the country. The imperial city of Hue, Da Nang with its Cham Museum and the sea side resort town of Nha Trang must be visited in the central part of the country, while apart from a mountainous hinterland Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon with Cholon and the provinces within the Mekong Delta are located in the south.

Recommended reading:

  1. Goodman, Jim (2015): Delta to Delta: The Vietnamese Move South. Ha Noi.
  2. Greene, Graham (1991): The Quiet American.Berlin.
  3. Lewis,Norman(1951): A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam. London.
  4. Taylor, K. W. (1983): The Birth ofVietnam.University of California Press, Berkeley.
  5. Woodside, Alexander B. (1971):Vietnamand the Chinese Model. Cambridge/Mass.

Written by : Reinhard Hohler

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