Vietnamese philosophy

Vietnamese philosophy includes both traditional Confucian philosophy, Vietnamese local religious traditions, and later philosophy introducing French, Marxist, Catholic and other influences.

Nguyen Trai
Nguyễn Trãi (1380–1442)

Confucianism in Vietnam

Confucianism entered Vietnam and was later reinforced in the four Bắc thuộc periods of Chinese domination, beginning with the first Chinese domination of Vietnam from 111 BCE.[1] This was also the beginning of Taoism in Vietnam and Buddhism in Vietnam. Confucianism was reinforced in government by the Confucian court examination system in Vietnam, as well as the way family raised and taught children toward filial piety, through absolute obedience.[2]

Study of Vietnamese philosophy

Most research on Vietnamese philosophy is conducted by modern Vietnamese scholars.[3] The traditional Vietnamese philosophy has been described by one biographer of Ho Chi Minh (Brocheux, 2007) as a "perennial Sino-Vietnamese philosophy" blending different strands of Confucianism with Buddhism and Taoism.[4] Some researchers have found the empirical evidence of this "blending" and defined the socio-cultural phenomenon as "cultural additivity".[5] Another, Catholic, writer (Vu, 1966)[6] has analysed Vietnamese philosophy as constituted of tam tài ("three body" Heaven, Man, Earth) philosophy, yin-yang metaphysics, and agricultural philosophy.[7] Tran Van Doan, professor of philosophy at National Taiwan University (1996)[8] considers that Vietnamese philosophy is humanistic but not anthropocentric.[9]

Notable philosophers

The confucian poet-philosopher-scholar is typified by Lê Quý Đôn. Other confucianists include Chu Văn An (1292–1370) mandarin, Lê Quát a 14th Century anti-Buddhist Confucian writer, Mạc Đĩnh Chi (1280–1350), Nguyễn Trãi (1380–1442) a famous Đại Việt Confucian scholar, Nguyễn Khuyến (1835-1909). Notable modern Vietnamese philosophers include Cao Xuân Huy (vi, 1900-1983), Nguyễn Duy Quý (vi, 1932-), Nguyễn Đức Bình (vi, 1927-), Nguyễn Đăng Thục (vi, 1909-1999), Phạm Công Thiện (vi, 1941-2011), Trần Văn Giàu (vi, 1911–2010), modern marxist philosopher Trần Đức Thảo (noted in Paris in the 1960s) and Vietnamese Catholic philosopher Lương Kim Định.


  1. ^ John R. Jones Guide to Vietnam 1994 - Page 29 "Confucianism. Confucianism entered Vietnam from China during the Bac Thuoc era (111 BC - AD 938) when the country was under the yoke.."
  2. ^ Napier, Nancy K.; Vuong, Quan Hoang. What we see, why we worry, why we hope: Vietnam going forward. Boise, ID: Boise State University CCI Press, October 2013. ISBN 978-0985530587.
  3. ^ Teaching and research in philosophy: Asia and the Pacific Unesco - 1986 Page 363 "On matters relating to national traditions in philosophy, the Vietnamese philosophers will continue to study the history of national philosophy, to write books on the history of Vietnamese philosophy, to do research on the typical characteristics ..."
  4. ^ Pierre Brocheux, Ho Chi Minh: A Biography 2007 - Pages 204,205 “Ho was also steeped in the perennial Sino-Vietnamese philosophy that blended Confucianism (in its plural form incorporating Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, and Wang Yang Ming)7 with Buddhism and Taoism."
  5. ^ "'Cultural additivity' and how the values and norms of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism co-exist, interact, and influence Vietnamese society: A Bayesian analysis of long-standing folktales, using R and Stan". CEB WP No.18/015 (Centre Emile Bernheim, Université Libre de Bruxelles). March 4, 2018. SSRN 3134541.
  6. ^ Vu Dinh Trac, "Triet ly truyen thong Viet Nam don duong cho Than Hoc Viet Nam," Dinh Huong 11 (1966)
  7. ^ Peter C. Phan Vietnamese-American Catholics 2005 Page 27 "Vu Dinh Trac believes that traditional Vietnamese philosophy is constituted by tam tai philosophy, yin-yang metaphysics, and agricultural philosophy. These three strands are illustrated by the various symbols on the upper surface of the Dong ..."
  8. ^ "Tu Viet triet toi Viet than," Dinh Huong 11 (1996)
  9. ^ Fumitaka Matsuoka, Eleazar S. Fernandez Realizing the America of Our Hearts: Theological Voices of Asian ... 2003 Page 178 "Another important contributor to the retrieval and elaboration of Vietnamese philosophy is Tran Van Doan, professor of ... For Tran Van Doan, Vietnamese philosophy is humanistic (vi nhan) but not anthropocentric (day nhan) in so far as ...

Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a way of life. Confucianism developed from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BCE), who considered himself a recodifier and retransmitter of the theology and values inherited from the Shang (c. 1600–1046 BCE) and Zhou dynasties (c. 1046–256 BCE). In the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), Confucian approaches edged out the "proto-Taoist" Huang–Lao as the official ideology, while the emperors mixed both with the realist techniques of Legalism.

A Confucian revival began during the Tang dynasty (618–907). In the late Tang, Confucianism developed in response to Buddhism and Taoism and was reformulated as Neo-Confucianism. This reinvigorated form was adopted as the basis of the imperial exams and the core philosophy of the scholar official class in the Song dynasty (960–1297). The abolition of the examination system in 1905 marked the end of official Confucianism. The intellectuals of the New Culture Movement of the early twentieth century blamed Confucianism for China's weaknesses. They searched for new doctrines to replace Confucian teachings; some of these new ideologies include the "Three Principles of the People" with the establishment of the Republic of China, and then Maoism under the People's Republic of China. In the late twentieth century Confucian work ethic has been credited with the rise of the East Asian economy.With particular emphasis on the importance of the family and social harmony, rather than on an otherworldly source of spiritual values, the core of Confucianism is humanistic. According to Herbert Fingarette's conceptualisation of Confucianism as a religion which regards "the secular as sacred", Confucianism transcends the dichotomy between religion and humanism, considering the ordinary activities of human life—and especially human relationships—as a manifestation of the sacred, because they are the expression of humanity's moral nature (xìng 性), which has a transcendent anchorage in Heaven (Tiān 天) and unfolds through an appropriate respect for the spirits or gods (shén) of the world. While Tiān has some characteristics that overlap the category of godhead, it is primarily an impersonal absolute principle, like the Dào (道) or the Brahman. Confucianism focuses on the practical order that is given by a this-worldly awareness of the Tiān. Confucian liturgy (called 儒 rú, or sometimes 正統/正统 zhèngtǒng, meaning 'orthoprax') led by Confucian priests or "sages of rites" (禮生/礼生 lǐshēng) to worship the gods in public and ancestral Chinese temples is preferred on certain occasions, by Confucian religious groups and for civil religious rites, over Taoist or popular ritual.The worldly concern of Confucianism rests upon the belief that human beings are fundamentally good, and teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor, especially self-cultivation and self-creation. Confucian thought focuses on the cultivation of virtue in a morally organised world. Some of the basic Confucian ethical concepts and practices include rén, yì, and lǐ, and zhì. Rén (仁, 'benevolence' or 'humaneness') is the essence of the human being which manifests as compassion. It is the virtue-form of Heaven. Yì (義/义) is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good. Lǐ (禮/礼) is a system of ritual norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act in everyday life in harmony with the law of Heaven. Zhì (智) is the ability to see what is right and fair, or the converse, in the behaviors exhibited by others. Confucianism holds one in contempt, either passively or actively, for failure to uphold the cardinal moral values of rén and yì.

Traditionally, cultures and countries in the Chinese cultural sphere are strongly influenced by Confucianism, including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. Today, it has been credited for shaping East Asian societies and Chinese communities, and to some extent, other parts of Asia. In the last decades there have been talks of a "Confucian Revival" in the academic and the scholarly community, and there has been a grassroots proliferation of various types of Confucian churches. In late 2015 many Confucian personalities formally established a national Holy Confucian Church (孔聖會/孔圣会 Kǒngshènghuì) in China to unify the many Confucian congregations and civil society organisations.


Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.

Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.

Religion in Vietnam

Long-established religions in Vietnam include the Vietnamese folk religion, which has been historically structured by the doctrines of Confucianism and Taoism from China, as well as a strong tradition of Buddhism (called the three teachings or tam giáo). According to official statistics from the government, as of 2014 there are 24 million people identified with one of the recognised organised religions, out of a population of 90 million. Of these, 11 million are Buddhists (12.2%), 6.2 million are Catholics (6.9%), 4.4 million are Caodaists (4.8%), 1.4 million are Protestants (1.6%), 1.3 million are Hoahaoists (1.4%), and there are 75,000 Muslims, 7,000 Bahá'ís, 1,500 Hindus and other smaller groups (<1%). Traditional folk religions (worship of gods, goddesses and ancestors) have experienced a rebirth since the 1980s.According to estimates by the Pew Research Center in 2010, most of the religious Vietnamese practiced folk religions (45.3%). 16.4% were Buddhists, 8.2% were Christians (mostly Catholics), and about 30% were unaffiliated to any religion. Officially, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an atheist state as declared by its communist government.

Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation

The Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation (Vietnamese: Hội Bảo Tồn Di Sản Chữ Nôm; Hán Nôm: 會保存遺産喃), shortened as the Nôm Foundation and abbreviated as VNPF, is an American nonprofit agency for language preservation headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, with an office in Hanoi, Vietnam. Established in 1999, it has been engaging in the preservation of Chữ Nôm script (an ancient, logographic, Chinese character-based script once used by the Vietnamese people to write their language) remained in manuscripts, inscriptions and woodblocks.

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