|c. 89 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States||2,162,610 (2018)|
|Japan||448,053[better source needed]|
|South Korea||224,518 (2020)|
|Mainland China||36,205 (2010)[b] /28,199 (2010)[c]|
|Netherlands||23,488 (2019)[better source needed]|
|United Arab Emirates||20,000|
|New Zealand||10,086 (2018)|
|Predominantly Vietnamese folk religion syncretized with Mahayana Buddhism. Minorities of Christians (mostly Roman Catholics) and other groups.|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Vietic ethnic groups|
(Gin, Muong, Chứt, Thổ peoples)
The Vietnamese people (Vietnamese: người Việt) or Kinh people (Vietnamese: người Kinh) are a Southeast Asian ethnic group originally native to modern-day Northern Vietnam and Southern China. The native language is Vietnamese, the most widely spoken Austroasiatic language. Its vocabulary was influenced by Chinese early on. During the French colonial era, French was an official language in Vietnam. Afterwards, the Vietnamese language codified in the Latin alphabet emerged.
Vietnamese Kinh people account for just over 85.32% of the population of Vietnam in the 2019 census, and are officially known as Kinh people (người Kinh) to distinguish them from the other minority groups residing in the country such as the Hmong, Cham or Muong. The earliest recorded name for the ancient Kinh people in Vietnamese history books is Lạc or Lạc Việt. The Vietnamese are one of the four main groups of Vietic speakers in Vietnam, the others being the Muong, Thổ and Chứt people. They are related to the Gin or the Jing people, a Vietnamese ethnic group in China.
The term "Việt" (Yue) (Chinese: 越; pinyin: Yuè; Cantonese Yale: Yuht; Wade–Giles: Yüeh4; Vietnamese: Việt) in Early Middle Chinese was first written using the logograph "戉" for an axe (a homophone), in oracle bone and bronze inscriptions of the late Shang dynasty (c. 1200 BC), and later as "越". At that time it referred to a people or chieftain to the northwest of the Shang. In the early 8th century BC, a tribe on the middle Yangtze were called the Yangyue, a term later used for peoples further south. Between the 7th and 4th centuries BC Yue/Việt referred to the State of Yue in the lower Yangtze basin and its people. From the 3rd century BC the term was used for the non-Chinese populations of south and southwest China and northern Vietnam, with particular ethnic groups called Minyue, Ouyue (Vietnamese: Âu Việt), Luoyue (Vietnamese: Lạc Việt), etc., collectively called the Baiyue (Bách Việt, Chinese: 百越; pinyin: Bǎiyuè; Cantonese Yale: Baak Yuet; Vietnamese: Bách Việt; "Hundred Yue/Viet"; ). The term Baiyue/Bách Việt first appeared in the book Lüshi Chunqiu compiled around 239 BC. By the 17th and 18th centuries AD, educated Vietnamese apparently referred to themselves as người Việt (Viet people) or người nam (southern people).
Beginning in the 10th and 11th centuries, a strand of Proto-Viet-Muong with influence from Annamese Middle Chinese started to become what is now the Vietnamese language. Its speakers called themselves the "Kinh" people, meaning people of the "metropolitan" centered around the Red River Delta with Hanoi as its capital. Historic and modern Chữ Nôm scripture classically uses the Han character '京', pronounced "Jīng" in Mandarin, and "Kinh" with Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation. Other variants of Proto-Viet-Muong were driven to the lowlands by the Kinh and were called Trại (寨 Mandarin: Zhài), or "outpost" people," by the 13th century. These became the modern Muong people. According to Victor Lieberman, người Kinh may be a colonial-era term for Vietnamese speakers inserted anachronistically into translations of pre-colonial documents, but literature on 18th century ethnic formation is lacking.
The forerunners of the ethnic Vietnamese were Proto-Vietic people who descended from Proto-Austroasiatic people who may have originated from somewhere in Southern China, Yunnan, the Lingnan, or the Yangtze River, together with the Monic, who settled further to the west and the Khmeric migrated further south. Most archaeologists and linguists, and other specialists like Sinologists and crop experts, believe that they arrived no later than 2000 BC bringing with them the practice of riverine agriculture and in particular the cultivation of wet rice. Some linguists (James Chamberlain, Joachim Schliesinger) suggested that the Vietic-speaking people migrated from North Central Region to the Red River Delta, which had originally been inhabited by Tai-speakers. However, Michael Churchman found no records of population shifts in Jiaozhi (centered around the Red River Delta) in Chinese sources, indicating that a fairly stable population of Austroasiatic speakers, ancestral to modern Vietnamese, inhabited in the delta during the Han-Tang periods.
Another theory, based on linguistic diversity, locates the most probable homeland of the Vietic languages in modern-day Bolikhamsai Province and Khammouane Province in Laos as well as parts of Nghệ An Province and Quảng Bình Province in Vietnam. In the 1930s, clusters of Vietic-speaking communities were discovered in the hills of eastern Laos, are believed to be the earliest inhabitants of that region. Archaeogenetics demonstrated that before the Dong Son period, the Red River Delta's inhabitants were predominantly Austroasiatic: genetic data from Phùng Nguyên culture's Mán Bạc burial site (dated 1,800 BC) have close proximity to modern Austroasiatic speakers; meanwhile, "mixed genetics" from Đông Sơn culture's Núi Nấp site showed affinity to "Dai from China, Tai-Kadai speakers from Thailand, and Austroasiatic speakers from Vietnam, including the Kinh".
According to Vietnamese legend The Tale the Hồng Bàng Clan written in the 15th century, the first Vietnamese descended from the dragon lord Lạc Long Quân and the fairy Âu Cơ. They married and had one hundred eggs, from which hatched one hundred children. Their eldest son ruled as the Hùng king. The Hùng kings were claimed to be descended from the mythical figure Shen Nong.
The earliest reference of the proto-Vietnamese or the Vietic in Chinese annals was the Lạc (Chinese: Luo), Lạc Việt, or the Dongsonian, an ancient ethnic group of Mon-Khmer (Austroasiatic) stock occupied the Red River Delta. The Lạc developed the sophisticated metal age Dong Son Culture and the Văn Lang chiefdom, ruled by the semi-mythical Hùng kings. To the south of the Dongsonians was the Sa Huynh Culture of the Austronesian proto-Cham people. Around 400–200 BC, the Lạc came to contact with the Âu Việt Tai people and the Sinitic people from the north. According to a late third or early fourth century AD Chinese chronicle, the leader of the Âu Việt, Thục Phán, conquered Văn Lang and deposed the last Hùng king. Having submissions of Lạc lords, Thục Phán proclaimed himself King An Dương of Âu Lạc kingdom.
In 179 BC, Zhao Tuo, a Chinese general who has established the Nanyue state in modern-day Southern China, annexed Âu Lạc, and began the Sino-Vietic interaction that lasted in a millennium. In 111 BC, the Han Empire conquered Nanyue, brought the Lac Viet region under Han rule. By 2 AD, nearly one million people lived in northern Vietnam and central Vietnam (981,735 people according to Han census). The Han Chinese began conducting their civilizing mission over the local people, which ultimately resulted in a violent uprising of the local Lac people led by Trung sisters in 40s AD. The sisters' stronghold was annihilated in 43 AD, the rebelled Lạc lords were butchered, five thousand people were decapitated, and some hundred families were deported to China. After 43 AD, the Han dynasty imposed direct imperial rule over the region. The Lạc Việt elites started adopting Chinese culture, techniques, and life style, while retaining their own customs. Mahayana Buddhism arrived from India via sea routes in the 1st and 2nd centuries, while Taoism and Confucianism made their ways to early Vietnamese society at the same time.
The Han empire declined in the late 2nd century and gave ways to the Three Kingdoms era. Chinese eyewitness reports in 231 stated that "In the two districts of Mê Linh in Jiaozhi and Do Long in Jiuzhen, it is usual for a younger brother to marry the widow of an older brother. Even the local officials cannot prevent it." By the 7th century to 9th century AD, as the Tang Empire ruled over the region, historians such as Henri Maspero proposed that ethnic Vietnamese became separated from other Vietic groups such as the Muong and Chut due to heavier Chinese influences on the Vietnamese. Other argue that a Vietic migration from north central Vietnam to the Red River Delta in the seventh century replaced the original Tai-speaking inhabitants. At least 6 monks from northern Vietnam traveled to China, Srivijaya, India and Sri Lanka during the Tang period. A bronze bell inscription dated 798 inscribes names of 100 female members of a local Buddhist sect that have the middle syllable thị (C. shi) that corresponding to the most common form of name for Vietnamese women. In 816, Liêu Hữu Phương, a native Vietnamese scholar, traveled to Chinese capital Chang'an and passed the Imperial examination. In the mid-9th century, local rebels aided by Nanzhao tore the Tang Chinese rule to nearly collapse. The Tang reconquered the region in 866, causing half of the local rebels to flee into the mountains, which historians believe that was the separation between the Muong and the Vietnamese took at the end of Tang rule in Vietnam. In 938, the Vietnamese leader Ngo Quyen who was a native of Thanh Hoa, led Viet forces defeated the Chinese Southern Han armada at Bạch Đằng River and proclaimed himself king, became the first Vietnamese king of the classical period.
Ngo Quyen died in 944 and his kingdom collapsed into chaos and disturbances between 12 Viet warlords and chiefs. In 968, the Việt leader Đinh Bộ Lĩnh united them and established the Đại Việt (Great Việt) kingdom. With assistance of powerful Buddhist monks, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh chose Hoa Lư in the southern edge of the Red River Delta as the capital instead of Tang-era Dai La, adopted Chinese-style imperial titles, coinage, and ceremonies and tried to preserve the T’ang administrative framework. In 979 Dinh Bo Linh was assassinated, and Queen Duong Van Nga married with Dinh's general Le Hoan, appointed him as king. Disturbances in Dai Viet attracted attentions from neighbouring Chinese Song dynasty and Champa Kingdom, but they were defeated by Le Hoan. In 982 the Vietnamese attacked and destroyed Champa's capital Indrapura and Đại Việt was recorded in Arab chronicle Al-Fihrist as the Luqin (Long Biên) kingdom. A Khmer inscription dated 987 records the arrival of Vietnamese merchants (Yawana) in Angkor. Chinese writers, Song Hao, Fan Chengda and Zhou Qufei, both reported that the Việt "tattooed their foreheads, crossed feet, black teeth, bare feet and blacken clothing."
Successive Vietnamese royal families from the Đinh, Lê, Lý dynasties and Hoa-Chinese ancestry Trần and Hồ dynasties ruled the kingdom peacefully from 968 to 1407. King Lý Thái Tổ (r. 1009–1028) relocated the Vietnamese capital from Hoa Lư to Hanoi, the center of the Red River Delta in 1010. They practiced elitist marriage alliances between clans and nobles in the country. Mahayana Buddhism became state religion, Vietnamese music instruments, dancing and religious worshipping were influenced by both Cham, Indian and Chinese styles, while Confucianism slowly gained attention and influence. The earliest surviving corpus and text in Vietnamese language dated early 12th century, and surviving chữ nôm script inscriptions dated early 13th century.
One of the earliest ethnic Vietnamese that migrated to Korea during this time was Lý Dương Côn (李陽焜), an adopted son of King Lý Nhân Tông; following a succession crisis, he fled to Goryeo (918-1392 Korean Dynasty). He is known in modern-day Korea as a Vietnamese member of the Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon-do bon-gwan of the Lee family. Later, a Vietnamese prince of the Lý Dynasty, Lý Long Tường (the seventh son of emperor Lý Anh Tông) and his crew of several thousand mandarins and servants escaped to Korea via Taiwan after hearing that the Lý Dynasty would be overthrown by the Trần Dynasty. Lý Long Tường and his crew sought refuge in the Goryeo Kingdom in 1226.
The Mongol Yuan dynasty unsuccessful invaded Dai Viet in the 1250s and 1280s, though they sacked Hanoi. The Ming dynasty of China conquered Dai Viet in 1406, brought the Vietnamese under Chinese rule for 20 years, before they were driven out by Vietnamese leader Lê Lợi. The Chinese brought several thousands of Vietnamese artisans, skilled workers to China, resettled them in Beijing. During the 15th century, Dai Viet's population skyrocketed from 1.9 million to 4.4 million. The fourth grandson of Lê Lợi, king Lê Thánh Tông (r. 1460–1497), is considered one of the greatest monarchs in Vietnamese history. His reign is recognized for the extensive administrative, military, education, and fiscal reforms he instituted, and a cultural revolution that replaced the old traditional aristocracy with a generation of literati scholars, adopted Confucianism, and transformed a Dai Viet from a Southeast Asian style polity to a bureaucratic state, and flourished. Thánh Tông's forces, armed with gunpowder, overwhelmed the long-term rival Champa in 1471, occupied the Laotian and Lan Na kingdoms in the 1480s.
With the death of Thánh Tông in 1497, the Dai Viet kingdom swiftly declined. Climate extremes, failing crops, regionalism and factionism tore the Vietnamese apart. From 1533 to 1790s, four powerful Vietnamese families: Mạc, Lê, Trịnh and Nguyễn, each ruled on their own domains. In northern Vietnam (Dang Ngoai–outer realm), the Lê kings barely sat on the throne while the Trịnh lords held power of the court. The Mạc controlled northeast Vietnam, Trà Kiệu and sometimes the Cambodian court. The Nguyễn lords ruled the southern polity of Dang Trong (inner realm). Thousands of ethnic Vietnamese migrated south, settled on the old Cham lands. European missionaries and traders from the sixteenth century brought new religion, ideas and crops to the Vietnamese (Annamites). By 1639, there were 82,500 Catholic converts throughout Vietnam. In 1651, Alexandre de Rhodes published a 300-pages catechism in Latin and romanized-Vietnamese (chu quoc ngu) or the Vietnamese alphabet.
The Vietnamese Fragmentation period ended in 1802 as Emperor Gia Long, who was aided by French, Siamese, Malays,... defeated the Tay Son regime and reunited Vietnam. By 1847, the Vietnamese state under Emperor Thieu Tri, ethnic Vietnamese accounted for nearly 80 percent of the country's population (6.3 million people out of 8 million), while rest were Chams, Chinese, and Khmers. This demographic model continues to persist through the French Indochina, Japanese occupation and modern day.
Between 1862 and 1867, the southern third of the country became the French colony of Cochinchina. By 1884, the entire country had come under French rule, with the central and northern parts of Vietnam separated into the two protectorates of Annam and Tonkin. The three Vietnamese entities were formally integrated into the union of French Indochina in 1887. The French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education introduced new humanist values into Vietnam.
The French developed a plantation economy to promote the export of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee. However, they largely ignored the increasing demands for civil rights and self-government. A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders like Phan Bội Châu, Phan Châu Trinh, Phan Đình Phùng, Emperor Hàm Nghi, and Hồ Chí Minh fighting or calling for independence. This resulted in the 1930 Yên Bái mutiny by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDĐ), which the French quashed. The mutiny caused an irreparable split in the independence movement that resulted in many leading members of the organisation becoming communist converts.
The French maintained full control over their colonies until World War II, when the war in the Pacific led to the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in 1940. Afterwards, the Japanese Empire was allowed to station its troops in Vietnam while permitting the pro-Vichy French colonial administration to continue. Japan exploited Vietnam's natural resources to support its military campaigns, culminating in a full-scale takeover of the country in March 1945. This led to the Vietnamese Famine of 1945, which resulted in up to two million deaths.
In 1941, the Việt Minh, a nationalist liberation movement based on a Communist Ideology, led by Hồ Chí Minh. The Việt Minh sought independence for Vietnam from France and the end of the Japanese occupation. Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its puppet Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, anarchy, rioting, and murder were widespread, as Saigon's administrative services had collapsed. The Việt Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted national independence on 2 September.
But as the French were weakened by the German occupation, British-Indian forces and the remaining Japanese Southern Expeditionary Army Group were used to maintain order and to help France reestablish control through the 1945–1946 War in Vietnam. Hồ initially chose to take a moderate stance to avoid military conflict with France, asking the French to withdraw their colonial administrators and for French professors and engineers to help build a modern independent Vietnam. But the Provisional Government of the French Republic did not act on these requests, including the idea of independence, and dispatched the French Far East Expeditionary Corps to restore colonial rule. This resulted in the Việt Minh launching a guerrilla campaign against the French in late 1946. The resulting First Indochina War lasted until July 1954. The defeat of French colonialists and Vietnamese loyalists in the 1954 battle of Điện Biên Phủ allowed Hồ to negotiate a ceasefire from a favourable position at the subsequent Geneva Conference.
The colonial administration was thereby ended and French Indochina was dissolved under the Geneva Accords of 1954. Vietnam was further divided into North and South administrative regions at the Demilitarised Zone, roughly along the 17th parallel north, pending elections scheduled for July 1956.[n 1] A 300-day period of free movement was permitted, during which almost a million northerners, mainly Catholics, moved south, fearing persecution by the communists. This migration was in large part aided by the United States military through Operation Passage to Freedom. The partition of Vietnam by the Geneva Accords was not intended to be permanent, and stipulated that Vietnam would be reunited after the elections. But in 1955, the southern State of Vietnam's prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, toppled Bảo Đại in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam. At that point the internationally recognised State of Vietnam effectively ceased to exist and was replaced by the Republic of Vietnam in the south—supported by the United States, France, Laos, Republic of China and Thailand—and Hồ's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north, supported by the Soviet Union, Sweden, Khmer Rouge, and the People's Republic of China.
On 2 July 1976, North and South Vietnam were merged to form the Socialist Republic of Việt Nam. The war left Vietnam devastated, with the total death toll between 966,000 and 3.8 million. In its aftermath, under Lê Duẩn's administration, there were no mass executions of South Vietnamese who had collaborated with the US or the defunct South Vietnamese government, confounding Western fears, but up to 300,000 South Vietnamese were sent to reeducation camps, where many endured torture, starvation, and disease while being forced to perform hard labour. The government embarked on a mass campaign of collectivisation of farms and factories. In 1978, in response to the Khmer Rouge government of Cambodia ordering massacres of Vietnamese residents in the border villages in the districts of An Giang and Kiên Giang, the Vietnamese military invaded Cambodia and removed them from power after occupying Phnom Penh. The intervention was a success, resulting in the establishment of a new, pro-Vietnam socialist government, the People's Republic of Kampuchea, which ruled until 1989.
At the Sixth National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in December 1986, reformist politicians replaced the "old guard" government with new leadership. The reformers were led by 71-year-old Nguyễn Văn Linh, who became the party's new general secretary. He and the reformers implemented a series of free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới ("Renovation") that carefully managed the transition from a planned economy to a "socialist-oriented market economy". Though the authority of the state remained unchallenged under Đổi Mới, the government encouraged private ownership of farms and factories, economic deregulation, and foreign investment, while maintaining control over strategic industries. The Vietnamese economy subsequently achieved strong growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction, exports, and foreign investment, although these reforms also caused a rise in income inequality and gender disparities.
Main article: Religion in Vietnam
According to the 2019 Census, the religious demographics of Vietnam are as follows:
It is worth noting here that the data is highly skewered, as a large majority of Vietnamese may declare themselves atheist, yet practice forms of traditional folk religion or Mahayana Buddhism.
Estimates for the year 2010 published by the Pew Research Center:
Main article: Overseas Vietnamese
Originally from northern Vietnam and southern China, the Vietnamese have conquered much of the land belonging to the former Champa Kingdom and Khmer Empire over the centuries. They are the dominant ethnic group in most provinces of Vietnam, and constitute a small percentage of the population in neighbouring Cambodia.
Beginning around the sixteenth century, groups of Vietnamese migrated to Cambodia and China for commerce and political purposes. Descendants of Vietnamese migrants in China form the Gin ethnic group in the country and primarily reside in and around Guangxi Province. Vietnamese form the largest ethnic minority group in Cambodia, at 5% of the population. Under the Khmer Rouge, they were heavily persecuted and survivors of the regime largely fled to Vietnam.
During French colonialism, Vietnam was regarded as the most important colony in Asia by the French colonial powers, and the Vietnamese had a higher social standing than other ethnic groups in French Indochina. As a result, educated Vietnamese were often trained to be placed in colonial government positions in the other Asian French colonies of Laos and Cambodia rather than locals of the respective colonies. There was also a significant representation of Vietnamese students in France during this period, primarily consisting of members of the elite class. A large number of Vietnamese also migrated to France as workers, especially during World War I and World War II, when France recruited soldiers and locals of its colonies to help with war efforts in Metropolitan France. The wave of migrants to France during World War I formed the first major presence of Vietnamese people in France and the Western world.
When Vietnam gained its independence from France in 1954, a number of Vietnamese loyal to the colonial government also migrated to France. During the partition of Vietnam into North and South, a number of South Vietnamese students also arrived to study in France, along with individuals involved in commerce for trade with France, which was a principal economic partner with South Vietnam.
Forced repatriation in 1970 and deaths during the Khmer Rouge era reduced the Vietnamese population in Cambodia from between 250,000 and 300,000 in 1969 to a reported 56,000 in 1984.
The Fall of Saigon and end of the Vietnam War prompted the start of the Vietnamese diaspora, which saw millions of Vietnamese fleeing the country from the new communist regime. Recognizing an international humanitarian crisis, many countries accepted Vietnamese refugees, primarily the United States, France, Australia and Canada. Meanwhile, under the new communist regime, tens of thousands of Vietnamese were sent to work or study in Eastern Bloc counties of Central and Eastern Europe as development aid to the Vietnamese government and for migrants to acquire skills that were to be brought home to help with development. However, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a vast majority of these overseas Vietnamese decided to remain in their host nations.
It is estimated that there are up to 150,000 Vietnamese migrants in Russia, but the vast majority of them are undocumented.
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