Vietnam Info

A country of southeast Asia in eastern Indochina of the South China Sea. Ruled by China from 221 B.C. to A.D. 939 and from 1407 to 1428, it was occupied by the French in the 19th century. After the fall of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, it was partitioned into North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam. The country was reunited in April 30, 1975 after the end of the Viet Nam War. Hanoi is the capital and Ho Chi Minh City is; the largest city.

Land & climate

Area: 329,566 sq km (128,527 sq mi)
Highest Point: Fan Si Pan; 3143 m (10,310 ft) above sea level
Lowest Point: Sea level along the coast
Average Temperatures:

  • Saigon:January 26° C 79° F; July 27° C 81° F
  • Hanoi: January 17° C 62° F; July 29° C 84° F

Average Annual Precipitation;

  • Hanoi: 1680 mm (66 in)
  • Saigon: 1980 mm (78 in)

Location: On the E coast of the Indochina Peninsula in SE Asia
Neighbors: China to the North. Laos, Cambodia to the West.

Viet Nam is long and narrow, with 1,400-mi. of coastline. About 24% of country is readily arable, including the densely settled Red River Valley in the North, narrow coastal plains of the Center and the wide, often marshy Mekong River Delta in the South. The rest of the country consists of semi-arid plateaus and barren mountains, with some stretches of tropical rain forest.

Land and Resources

Viet Nam occupies the easternmost part of the Indochina Peninsula. A rugged, elongated S-shaped strip of mountains, coastal plains, and river deltas.

Physiographic Regions 

Viet Nam may be divided into four major regions. In the northwest is the mountainous southern extension of China's Yunnan Plateau. The country's highest peak, Mount Fan Si Pan (3143 m/10,312 ft), is located close to the border with China.

To the east of the highlands is the Red River (also known as the Song Hong) Delta, a triangularly shaped lowland along the Gulf of Tonkin (an arm of the South China Sea).

To the south the Annamese Highlands, which run northwest / southeast, and an associated coastal plain form the backbone of central Viet Nam. The fourth and southernmost region, is the Mekong River Delta, a depositional area of flat land.


The soils of the Red River and Mekong River deltas, the two major Deltas of Viet Nam, are composed of rich alluvium except where damming for flood control has altered the stream flow. Soils in the uplands are poor as a result of leaching of nutrients from the ground by the abundant rainfall.


The Red River in the north and the Mekong River in the south are the two major freshwater streams. The Red River flows almost directly southeast from the northwestern highlands, whereas the Mekong follows an irregular path from Cambodia, crosses southernmost Viet Nam, and empties in the South China Sea through a complex network of distributaries. Both rivers have been leveed to prevent flood damage.


Three basic climate types are found in Viet Nam. In the north, especially in the interior, the temperatures are subtropical. Shifting seasonal wind patterns result in dry winters and wet summers. The central and southeastern areas typify the tropical monsoon climate, with high temperatures and abundant precipitation. In the southwest, distinct wet and dry periods are evident, but temperatures are higher than in the north.

Vegetation and Animal Life 

Abundant vegetation exists throughout Viet Nam except where the landscape has been denuded. Typical mixed stands in the rain forests contain a wide variety of pines, broadleaf trees, vines, and bamboos. Dense mangroves bordering the distributaries of the Deltas often hinder access to the water's edge. The tropical rain forests are inhabited by large mammals such as elephants, deer, bears, tigers, and leopards. Smaller animals, including monkeys, hares, squirrels, and otters, are found throughout the country. Reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes, and lizards, as well as many species of birds, are also indigenous.


Mineral Resources The northern highlands of Viet Nam contain valuable minerals, including iron, anthracite coal, phosphate, zinc, chromite, tin, and apatite. Petroleum and natural gas deposits lie offshore.



The Vietnamese, related to the southern Chinese, constitute the largest ethnic group in Viet Nam and account for about 88 percent of the total population; the remainder are members of various ethnic groups. The size of the Chinese population, while still the largest minority, has decreased sharply with emigration.

Population & Population Density

Approx: 81,000,0000 

245 persons/sq km (630 persons/sq mi)


Urban/Rural Breakdown & Largest Cities

20% Urban; 80% Rural (1995 estimate) 

Ho Chi Minh City: 6,924,435
Hanoi: 3,056,146
Haiphong: 1,447,523 (1989 census)

Principal Cities 

Most of the larger urban centers are located in southern Viet Nam. Of the major cities, only the capital city of Hanoi (population, 1989, 3,056,146) is not located on the coast. Other large cities are Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon (6,924,435); Haiphong (1,447,523), Hanoi's port; and Da Nang (369,734), near the ancient city of Hue (260,489). The government has attempted to reverse the rural-to-urban migration stream by establishing new economic zones in the countryside and encouraging city residents to relocate to them.


Vietnamese, the official language, is spoken by the majority of the population (see Austro-Asiatic Languages). The use of French, a remnant of colonial times, is declining. Some Vietnamese people who live in urban areas speak other languages, such as English and Russian. Khmer, Montagnard, and Cham are spoken primarily in the interior. With the exodus of the Chinese in the late 1980s, the once-common use of their language diminished.


Viet Nam contains a rich mixture of religions, reflecting the influences of many cultures. Traditional Vietnamese religion included elements from Indian beliefs and three Chinese religious systems: Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. A majority of adherents today follow Buddhism, including a wide variety of sects. Other religions include relatively new sects such as Hoa Hao, associated with Buddhism, and Caodaism, a synthesis of Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic church, claims as many as 6 million followers. Religious groups have often played important roles in the political development of Viet Nam.


55%: Buddhism
45%: Other including Roman Catholicism, Taoism, Confucianism, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai


The cultural life of Viet Nam was strongly influenced by that of China until French domination in the 19th century. At that time the traditional culture began to acquire an overlay of Western characteristics. The postwar government expressed its desire to rid Vietnamese life of Western influences.

The Viet Nam Museum of Fine Arts (1966) in Hanoi includes an exhibition of the tools and costumes of more than 60 ethnic groups in Viet Nam. The National Library was established in Hanoi in 1919; a counterpart was founded in Ho Chi Minh City in 1976