Overview of the religions in Vietnam


Because of historical and geographical conditions, besides indigenous religions, Vietnam got to receive many religions from other countries in the world, which made Vietnamese culture become richer.  This article helps you have an overview of the religions in Vietnam so that you can easily communicate Vietnamese people when coming to this S-shaped country.



Buddhism was founded by Shakyamuni in India in the 6th century BC. After the Buddha entered into nirvana for some hundred years, Buddhism was transmitted to other countries in the region through two paths: the south of India and the north of India. In Vietnam, there are 2 major branches of Buddhism existing, Theravāda and MahāyānaIn. According to ancient history books, Theravāda came to Vietnam from some countries of Southeast Asia, and the Mahāyāna came from China. Both branches came to Vietnam in the first centuries of AD. The majority of Buddhists belong to the Mahāyāna. Some Buddhists in the Mekong River Delta follow Theravāda. There are people who are not Buddhists, but on 3 big full moon days and major Buddhist holidays, they also go to pagoda. Most people follow the Buddha to have a good life in the present life or life after. Some people want, after death, to go to the West, where Buddha Amitabha control. Some want to go to the Nirvana. Depending on one’s wish, each person chooses a training path. The Buddhists training at the lowest level rely on 3 precious objects (Vietnamese: quy y Tam bảo): Buddha, Dharma, Sangha; must not do 5 things (Vietnamese: giử Ngủ giới cấm): killing animals, stealing and robbing, adultery, lying, drinking alcohol).

Budhism - religions in Vietnam

Van Phat Pagoda – a Buddhist pagoda in District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.


Hoà Hảo Buddhism was Founded in An Giang Province by Huỳnh Phú Sổ in 1939. Hòa Hảo Buddhism advocates training at home, reciting Buddha, and keep a vegetarian diet, doing charity. In the present, the movement doing charity in An Giang and other provinces in the Mekong River Delta is very outstanding, bringing many benefits to society.


Taoism is a philosophy school found out by Laozi (571 – 471 BC). Taoism’s philosophy shows in the Tao Te Ching Book of Laozi. About worldview, Taoism believes that Tao is the mother of all things and runs them by rules. Outlook on life, the human is an element of nature; therefore, people should live according to rules of Tao. People with Taoism thought are not afraid of death; they think that it is a rule of Tao. They do not do the things that are harmful to the mind and health. They train their mind to become as innocent as a child. They exercise with gentle movements. In their free time, they often find quiet places to relax and accumulate living energy.

in spite of not a religion, Taoism affects the worldview and outlook of life of the people in the Eastern Asia cultural sphere (consist of nations like China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam…). Taoism was introduced into Vietnam in first centuries of CD, influenced deeply and broadly from the intellectual class to the popular class, from a retired official, a woodcutter, a fisherman to an old boatman.

Ngoc Hoang Pagoda - a Taoist pagoda in Vietnam - religions in Vietnam

Ngoc Hoang Pagoda is a Taoist pagoda in Vietnam. President Barack Obama visited this place in 2016.


Confucianism is a philosophy school being founded by Confucius (551 – 479 BC, zhou Dynasty in China). Confucius has the will to restore social order for everyone to have a peaceful life. The main philosophy of Confucianism is Three main relationships in society (Tam cang): king- service, father-child, husband-wife; Five things should be practiced regularly (Ngủ thường): love, help, order, thinking, faith. Confucianism spread throughout Eastern Asia cultural sphere. It was introduced into Vietnam in the first centuries of CD. Confucianism philosophy was featured in feudal times in the Eastern Asia Cultural Region. Today, in democracy, people still select the positive points in Confucianism to apply in life.


Catholicism was founded by Jesus Christ in early AD in Israel, then spread to countries around the world. Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam in the 16th century. Although the evangelization at that time was difficult, in just the beginning, there were some people following. Since the late 19th century when colonists France completely invaded Vietnam, evangelization has got to be free and easy. The main Catholic doctrine is “Respect God, love human”.

Tan Dinh Church - pink church - religions in Vietnam

Tan Dinh Church is known as the pink church. It is the most romantic, photogenic building in Ho Chi Minh City.


Along with Catholicism, another sect of Christianity, Protestantism was introduced into Vietnam in the early 20th century. Protestantism was popularized in some places in Vietnam, especially Northwest, Central Highlands. Protestants do not smoke, do not drink alcohol, do not commit adultery, go to church every Sunday, have strong faith.


Caodaism was founded in Vietnam by God (Vietnamese: Thượng Đế) in 1926. Caodaism now presents in 3 regions of the nation and spread to some nations in the world. The Caodaism’s purpose is to unify three religions and five branches, practice merciful humane tenet (Vietnamese: “Quy Tam Giáo, hiệp ngủ chi, thực hành chủ nghĩa từ bi bác ái”). Every year there are 2 big holidays in Tay Ninh on January 8th and August 14th of the lunar calendar.

Saigon Cao Dai Temple.

Saigon Cao Dai Temple.


In Vietnam, Buddhism, Hòa Hảo Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Caodaism are religions having many believers. Taoism and Confucianism are schools of philosophy, not religion, but have a profound and broad impact on the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people as a religion. Besides those religions and schools of philosophy, Vietnam also has some other religions. Although the religions and the schools have different points, they have the same goal of helping people become less desirable and have a pervasive love heart, doing things that are beneficial to society. In Vietnam, religions get along very well; This religion calls another religion friend religion.

Read more about East Asian Cultural Sphere

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