Religion in Vietnam

Religion in Vietnam is closely related to the history of Vietnam and most importantly the culture of Vietnam. Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism were the first religions to be introduced in Vietnam. Together these three religions are called the “triple religion” or “tam giao”. The other prevalent religions in Vietnam are Roman Catholicism, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, Protestantism, Islam, and Theravada Buddhism.


Buddhism in Vietnam has a strong presence. Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada are the two types of Buddhist religious beliefs in Vietnam.

Mahayana Buddhism reached Vietnam’s Red River Delta region from China around second century AD and later spread throughout the country. It is the most prevalent religion in Vietnam, even found to be practiced amongst the minority Hao population.

Theravada Buddhism first spread from India around 300-600 AD to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region. But unlike Mahayana Buddhism it popularity is concentrated to the south delta region only and is followed mostly by the ethnic Khmer minority.

Before the advent of Communism, Buddhism enjoyed autonomous power from the state.
Due to constant prosecution by the rising communist regime Buddhism, as a Vietnam religion witnessed a decline in its rituals and practices, and lost most of its pagodas.

Roman Catholicism

The French introduced Roman Catholicism to Vietnam. To the French, Roman Catholicism brought about a balance between Buddhism and the Western culture. But Communism stopped the spread of this religion in Vietnam. The government allowed religious freedom for the Catholics by November 1977 with the condition that all Catholic organizations will be under the control of the communist government. To bring forth the support of the Vietnamese Catholics the communist government established the Unified Bishops’ Council of Vietnam and the Committee for Solidarity of Patriotic Catholics.

Cao Dai and Hoa Hao

The nineteenth century witnessed the foundation of two new religions in the Mekong River Delta. They were Cao Dai and Hoa Hao.

Cao Dai, a type of reformed Buddhism, became popular with the rural population of the southern delta. Hoa Hao, popular in the southern most delta region, is more bent towards traditional Buddhism. Both the organizations tried to save themselves during the rise of communism by remaining neutral but by 1975 they were being pressurized to join the communist cause.


Protestantism is found in Vietnam’s southern central highlands. It is a minority religion in Vietnam with 100,000 to 200,000 followers in the first half of 1980s. They have been the most prosecuted because of their close association of the religion to USA.


The Cham ethnic minority is associated with Islam in Vietnam. Islam is also present among the ethnic Vietnamese in the Mekong Delta region.

Leave a Comment