The Vietnamese value system is based on four basic tenets: allegiance to the family, yearning for a good name, love of learning, and respect for other people. These tenets are closely interrelated Allegiance to the family
The most important factor in the value system of the Vietnamese is, no doubt, the family. The family is the center of the Vietnamese common man's preoccupation and the backbone of Vietnamese society. By virtue of the principle of collective and mutual responsibility, each individual strives to be the pride of his family.
Misconduct of an individual is blamed not only on himself, but also on his parents, siblings, relatives, and ancestors. Likewise, any success or fame achieved by an individual brings honor and pride to all members of his family. The Vietnamese child is taught from early childhood to readily forget himself for the sake of his family's welfare and harmony. Central to the concept of family is the obligation of filial piety which is considered the most essential of all virtues in Vietnamese society. The child is expected to be grateful to his parents for the debt of birth, rearing and education. He is taught to to think of his parents and ancestors first, even at his own expense, to make sacrifices for his parents' sake, to love and care for them in their old age. The Vietnamese man who lacks filial piety is looked down upon and ostracized not only by his own family but also by the community.
The profound love for and attachment to the family is extended to the physical setting in which the family is located: the native village. The dearest wish of the Vietnamese common man is, as a proverb puts it, to die in his own native village and amidst his own folk "as a leaf which leaves the branch to fall down on the ground at the foot of the tree" (lá røng vŠ ci). The native village is not only the place where he was born and brought up and where his parents and family live but also a place where his ancestors are buried. Many Vietnamese, especially people in the rural areas, never move out of their native villages or provinces. This deep attachment to the native village explains the lack of horizontal mobility in Vietnamese society Concept of "good name"
The value that the Vietnamese placed on the concept of "good name," or more precisely "fragrant name" (danh thÖm), cannot be underestimated. To the Vietnamese, a good name is better than any material possession in this world. By securing a good name for himself, a man can command respect and admiration from his fellow countrymen. A rich and powerful person with a bad reputation is looked down upon, while a poor man with a good name is respected. It is believed that the best thing that a man can leave behind once he has departed from this world and by which he will be remembered is a good reputation. "After death, a tiger leaves behind his skin, a man his reputation," says a proverb. The desire to have a good name, not only in his life time but also after death, betrays the deep aspiration of the Vietnamese to survive the disintegration of his corporeal frame after death in the memory of his progeny and community.
A man with a bad name will be disclaimed by his fellow countrymen and become a disgrace to his family. He will lose face, which is a terrible thing in an immobile society where almost everybody knows everybody else in the community. To acquire a good name, a man must avoid all words and actions which damage his dignity and honor. There are three ways by which he can acquire a good name: either by heroic deeds; by intellectual achievements; or by moral virtues. Leading a virtuous life is the easiest and surest path to a good name for there are few opportunities in our everyday life to be heroic and few people are endowed with exceptional intellectual qualities. The virtues most cultivated are the sense of honor, honesty, righteousness, modesty, generosity, and disdain for material gains, virtues most extolled by the Confucian doctrine. In view of the strong solidarity of the Vietnamese family, it is not surprising to know that the Vietnamese strives for a good name not only for himself but also for his parents and children Love of learning
The Vietnamese common man seems to have a great love for knowledge and learning. He seems to have particular respect and admiration for learned people. Like the virtuous man, the learned man enjoys great prestige in Vietnamese society. Often, they are the one and same man. The Vietnamese conceives that knowledge and virtues are but the two complementary aspects of the ideal man.
Memorial of ancient scholars in Hanoi
People associated with knowledge and learning (scholars, writers and teachers) have always been highly respected, not only by the students but also by parents and people from all walks of life.
Learning is considered more valuable than wealth and material success. Rich people who are not educated are often looked down upon by other people and they themselves feel inferior to learned people who are poor. In the traditional social system the scholar ranked first, before the farmer, artisan, and tradesman. Even nowadays, the learned man is held in high esteem and respect. The love of learning does not spring from purely disinterested motives. The lure of prestige and the prospect of improved social status are among the strongest incentives to the pursuit of knowledge. Education represents the essential stepping stones to the social ladder and to good job opportunities . It is the prime force of vertical mobility in Vietnamese society Concept of respect
The Vietnamese common man is expected to show respect to people who are senior to him in age, status, or position. At home, he should show respect to his parents, older siblings, and older relatives. This is expressed by obedience in words and action. Respect is part of the concept of filial piety.
Outside the family, respect should be paid to elderly people, teachers, clergymen, supervisors and employers, and people in high positions. Learned and virtuous people enjoy special respect and admiration. But respect is not a one-way behavior. The Vietnamese common man also expects other people to show respect to him, by virtue of his age, status, or position. Special respect is gained by leading a virtuous life, by accomplishing certain heroic deeds or by achieving a high degree of intellectuality.
Respect is expressed by specific behaviors and linguistic devices inherent in the Vietnamese language. It is one of the essential factors in the value system of the Vietnamese people
Vietnamese Traditional Family Values
Traditional values of Vietnamese lifestyle were deeply affected by Confucian ethics. During thousand years the Chinese invaded and maintained control Vietnam, Vietnamese culture was permeated by their Confucian philosophical beliefs. This philosophy based for the existence of and extended family structure through 2,000 years of Vietnamese history (Lam).
It was believed that: ..."in order to achieve human perfection, one must follow the established codes of behavior of Confucianism which include reverence for ancestors and respect for elders...The importance is not upon the individual's accomplishments but upon his duty to family and society" (Muzny).
The Vietnamese household traditionally followed the extended multi-generational pattern. The parents, their sons and their wives, their children, and unmarried siblings usually constituted a Vietnamese household. In this structure, frequent contacts were maintained, and this constant closeness to family was emphasized from childhood and continued to be important to Vietnamese throughout their lifetime (Lynell).
"Most Vietnamese placed more emphasis on their roles, privileges and obligations within this group than on their own individual desires"(Muzny). In this extended family, the most important expectation was respect for the elders. The family decisions were made by the parents and grandparents. The traditional Vietnamese worshipped ancestors as a source of their lives, fortunes, and civilization. The spirits were honored on various holidays and the anniversary of their death (Tran).
For centuries in Vietnam, traditional family values were accomplished by the fulfillment of traditional roles: the role of man and woman as parents. Vietnamese valued their traditional ideal of male superiority. Since the highest status in Vietnamese families is given to the man (father), he had absolute authority in the household. His position as provider for the family was unchallenged. Because he provided the main source of income for the household, he was never expected to work in the kitchen or to cook. After work he returned home and relaxed. As a head of household he had the final decision in all matters, although he might consult his wife or children. In her report, Phung cited that the father, however, had the duty to exercise restraint and wisdom in running his family in order to deserve his respected position. Having a boy in family was a "must" because the eldest son would assume the duties of his father when he died. A family which had no son to continue the process was superstitiously thought to have disappeared forever.
In a patriarchal society, Vietnamese woman had limited rights and took a secondary place in family. Women were brought up according to a strict discipline, and have been traditionally less educated than men. They usually do not enter the job market outside the home. "Girls from birth were at a disadvantage". Daughter is not considered necessary in heritage. According to Lam, Vietnamese traditional viewpoint was "If you have a son, you can say you have a descendent. But you cannot say so even if you have ten daughters".
After marriage, woman became housewife and mother. She was expected to be dependent upon her husband, budgeted his income for the household, took care of children and even grandchildren, performed all household tasks. According to Muzny, divorce was legal but not common. A wife can be unhappy in her marriage; but rather than accepts divorce, the family encouraged her to sacrifice and to endure the difficulties of the marriage for the sake of her children.
Parental role in family was to define the law. Obedience and respect were the traditional virtues which Vietnamese children were taught to exhibit in the family. Discipline and physical punishment were acceptable remedies for disobedience in the Vietnamese tradition. "Harsh discipline and beatings did not constitute abuse of a child, but its reverse: loving care, concern and attention" (Breeman). When parents grew old, children were expected to take care of them to compensate for the gift of birth and upbringing. The elderly (parents) were supported by married or unmarried children until they die (John).
"Boys and girls are not free to do what they want. Girls are under strict supervision" (John). Western style courtship and romance were seen as inappropriate for unmarried children. "Virginity is cherished. Pregnancy out of wedlock is uncommon, and it is a grave disgrace to the family" (Muzny). For their children's marriage, parents generally made decision because they could judge better. Vietnamese parents had a high regard for education. It was considered a way for family advancement. Parents encouraged their children to study and excel in their education. Vietnamese placed a higher value on education rather than on material success. In brief, "Depending upon the family for financial support, requesting permissions for expenditures, and having parents make decisions for them characterized the traditional Vietnamese child"
Vietnamese Non-verbal Communication
As in most cultures, non-verbal communication plays an important role in Vietnamese society, sometimes to accompany and reinforce linguistic symbols, sometimes as a substitute for words.
In a previous article, it was pointed out that respect is the cornerstone of interpersonal relationships in Vietnamese society. Respect is conveyed by the use of special terms of address and certain stylistic devices. But respect is also expressed by nonverbal behavior. A Vietnamese student who sits quietly and listens attentively to the teacher wants to express respect to his teacher. This behavior has often been misinterpreted by the American teacher as passivity and non-responsiveness. It is also out of respect that the Vietnamese student avoids eye contact with the teacher when speaking or being spoken to. By American standards, a person acting in this way would appear suspicious, unreliable, or mischievous. In Vietnamese culture, however, looking into somebody's eyes, especially when this person is of a higher status (in age or in social or family hierarchy) or of a different gender, usually means a challenge or an expression of deep passion. The proper respectful behavior is to avoid eye contact in talking who is not an equal or the same sex.
The smile, which is sometimes enigmatic to the American observer, is another nonverbal symbol conveying the feeling of respect in Vietnamese culture. It is used as an expression of apology for a minor offense, for example for being tardy to class, or as an expression of embarrassment when committing an innocent blunder. For the Vietnamese, the smile is a proper response in most situations in which verbal expression is not needed or not appropriate. It is used as a substitute for "I'm sorry", "Thank you" or "Hi!" It is used instead of a ready yes to avoid appearing over-enthusiastic. A smile is also a proper response to scolding or harsh words that one does not harbor any ill feelings toward the interlocutor or that one sincerely acknowledges the mistake or fault committed.
It should be noted that for certain feelings, Vietnamese culture prefers non-verbal communication while American culture is more inclined to use verbal expression. For casual and informal circumstances, feelings of thankfulness or apology are not expressed by verbal expression such as "thank you" or "I'm sorry" but by non verbal, silence or a smile. Parents and teachers never say thanks to their students for a small service, such as closing the window or passing the books around. A smile will do in this case. The person who gives a compliment never expects a "thank you" in return. In Vietnamese culture, a verbal expression of thanks in this case amounts to a lack of modesty from the person who receives the compliment.
A smile or a blush in the face is the proper response to a compliment. If a verbal response is necessary, one would deny the compliment, saying that one does not deserve it. Because of difference in the mediums used to express the feelings of appreciation or apology in the two cultures, misunderstandings have occurred.
The Meaning of Some Patterns of Vietnamese Non-verbal Communication
Vietnamese Social Relationships
The desire to achieve harmony between the self and the non-self remains an essential preoccupation of the Vietnamese in interpersonal relations outside the family group. The basic principles underlying family relationships is extended to the relationships between members of wider social groups.
The concept of society as an extension of the family is evident in the transposition into social usage of a language originally intended for domeslic life. Vietnamese uses more than a score of kinship terms as personal pronouns. The choice of the appropriate word depends on the relative age, social status, gender, degree of acquaintance, respect, and affection between speakers and hearers who are not related to each other by blood or marriage.
In Vietnamese society, the predominant sentiment in the relation between members of a social group is respect. This is particularly evident in the attitude towards older people. Respect and consideration for old age no doubt derive from the obligation of filial piety that requires young people to respect and love their parents and parent-like members of the family. Vietnamese also recognize that a long life is a sign of kindness and regard on the part of the deity for virtuous people, and that the elders are the carriers of tradition and the embodiment of knowledge and wisdom. Old people enjoy high respect in Vietnamese society, irrespective of wealth, education, or social positinn. This respecl is expressed in both attitude and hehavior, particularly in the use of speicla terms of address and stylistic devices. Unlike Western societies that put a premium on youth, Vietnamese society is proud of its old members. Age is an asset, not a liability.
Teachers, even though they are young, enjoy great respect and prestige in Vietnamese society. In Vietnam the student-teacher relationship retains much of the quality of a son's respect for his father's wisdom and of father's concern for his son's welfare. The respect that students show to the teachers is also evident in linguistic behavior. The terms of address that students use in speaking to their teachers are the same as those they use in speaking to their parents.
Respect is expressed in the form of courtesy and in the effort to spare others from the humiliation of losing face. Face is extremely important for the Vietnamese. The individual who loses face will have to endure public ridicule and derision in the midst of his community. Furthermore, the family shares any social disgrace incurred by the individual.
Linguistic devices are one of the many ways that allow the Vietnamese speaker to save face and at the same time allow others to save face. Depreciatory terms are applied to oneself and complimentary terms are used for others. Ihe practice of "beating about the bush" to avoid answering a request in the negative, and the tendency of the Vietnamese student to say yes to questions asked by his teacher stem from this preoccupation with saving face.
"You and I" in Vietnamese
In America, people put emphasis on friendliness in interpersonal relationships while in Vietnamese society the emphasis is more on respect. We may say without fear of error that respect is the cornerstone of interpersonal relationship in Vietnamese society, whether in the family or in social circles, whether on the employment scene or between friends and lovers. This is reflected in the language used by Vietnamese in their daily life.
In making an utterance, Vietnamese simultaneously expresses ideas and concepts and an attitude of respect (or disrespect) towards the hearer. This expression is natural because it is inherent in the nature of the words used, and generally neither the speaker nor the hearer are conscious of it. But, if the speaker unintentionally (or purposedly) uses a word reflecting an attitude of disrespect, the hearer will instantly realize it and react to it accordingly.
American people use only word, the word yes, to express agreement and this word is neutral as to respect or disrspect. Of course, an answer with the mere word yes lacks the courtesy conveyed by a longer answer such as "Yes, I am"; "Yes, he did"; or "Yes, Mr. Brown". On the contrary, the Vietnamese speaker must choose between Da., Va^ng, Pha?i to express agreement. No well-bred Vietnamese would use ¯ as an answer in talking to his parents, older people, his teacher, his superior, or monks and priests. In Vietnamese, other people invite us to xo+i ("eat rice" or "take a meal"), but in replying, we must say that we have already or not yet æn (eat) and not xo+i. How complicated it is!
The difference between the linguistic behavior of American and Vietnamese people can be seen in the use of personal names. In writing a letter to a person who is not known, to ask for information or to apply for a job, example, Arnericans will usually use the term Dear followed by the person name (the last name, it should be noted); this shows courtesy and friendliness. Vietnamese people, by contrast, use only terms expressing respect such as kính, kínb tbÜa . . and never address the person by name, for this would convey an impolite, disrespectful attitude. Conseguently, "Dear Mr. Brown" is not "O^ng Brown than men" but simply "Thua o^ng" or "Kinh o^ng" ("respected gentleman").
In American society where almost nobody knows anybody else, even people living in the same apartment complex, mentioning the name of the interlocutor shows that one is interested in and friendly toward him/her, the evidence of which is to be found in the remembering of his/her name. Consequentiy to show that they are courteous and friendly, American people usually mention the name of the interlocutor in their greetings. (i.e. "good morning, Mr. Brown" or "good-bye, Miss Green" when speaking to people who are not close friends, and "good morning, Bill" or "goodbbye, Susie" when speaking to friends. In Vietnamese society, almost everybody knows the name of everybody else living in the same community. The neighbors (called "la'ng gie^`ng") are often considered as friends or relatives. In greeting, speakers avoid mentioning the name of the interlocutors, especially those who are senior in age or status
. They are called by name only when they are close friends or junior in age or status. It is easy to imagine the cultural misunderstandings that might arise from first encounters between Vietnamese and Americans.
In Vietnamese, special respect is conveyed by using function-words for respect when addressing persons such as parents, old people, teachers. monks and priests, and superiors. The verbal response begins with a function-word such as "da.", "thu+a", "da. tbu+a", "ki'nh tbu+a". Therefore the word "da.", often translated as yes, is actually a function-word showing respect and does not necessarily indicate agreement.
Personal pronouns are a word class in Vietnamese which best reflects this preoccupation with expressing respect or disrespect for other people in language. American people have one word for you to address parents, brothers and sisters, wife and children, friends and foes, and even animals. Likewise, they have only the word I (or its inflected form me) to refer to themselves when speaking. How converlient it is! But at the same time those words lack the ability to express feelings of respect or disrespect of tee Vietnames personal pronouns. People who are senior in age or status are usually referred towith such term of respect as cu., o^ng, ba'c, chu', anh, tha^`y, cha, ba`, co^. People younger than the speaker, or who have a lower status, are usually addressed or referred to with the terms anh, chi., chu', em, cha'u, con. To show anger and disdain, the terms ma`y, mi... might be used, and fawning is shown by the use of nga`i or cu. Io+'n.
By observing the use of the terms of respect in Vietnamese, people can guess, to a certain extent, the personality and good manners of the speaker as well as the relationship between speaker and hearer. The use of these words which function as personal pronouns is a very delicate matter that depends on the speaker correctly assessing the relative age, status, and degree of intimacy between speaker and hearer. A man and a woman, at their first acquaintance, will call each other o^ng and to^i (or co^ and to^i). But as the degree of intimacy reaches the level of love, the term o^ng is replaced by anh and the term tp^i will become em. When love is lost, they will revert to the initial ông and tôi. In some cases where anger, hatred, and lack of self-control prevail, o^ng may become ma`y and to^i may become tao. The terms anh/em and ma`y/tao are separated by a Great Wall of feelings and emotions.
Terms of address such as bác, cbú, and anh are perhaps the most difficult to use in Vietnamese because they can express opposing feelings and sentiments. According to the context, they may express respect or disdain, familiarity or contempt. Perhaps they are much more difficult to use than the French words tu/toi which also can express either intimacy or contempt. When we address a stranger tu/toi, the only feeling conveyed is obviously contempt. But a Vietnamese addressing a stranger as bác may mean respect (considering him on the same footing as our father's elder brother), familiarity and affection (regarding him as his uncle), or outright contempt (looking down on him as having a low social status).
The expression of respect (or contempt) is inherent in the structure of Vietnamese. In using Vietnamese, we cannot overlook this essential feature of Vietnamese culture which is the expression of respect in language
Communicating with Vietnamese
Many languages and dialects are spoken in Vietnam, but Vietnamese is the official language and the language of most people. Many older Vietnamese are familiar with French or English. Interest in English has been rising, with language schools opening throughout the country.
Like English, Vietnamese uses the Roman alphabet, but otherwise the languages are very different. Every word in Vietnamese has only one syllable, and the language is based on tone. There are up to six tones, and what looks like the same word can have different meanings according to the tone used by the speaker. Tones are high, low, falling or wavering, like notes on a scale. For example, the word ma has six different meanings: "mother" with a high falling tone, "ghost" with a high flat tone, "grave" with a low to rising tone, and so on. In writing, one of five accents (or none) is placed above or below a word's vowel to indicate the tone.
The Vietnamese value modesty and humility about one's accomplishments, and harmonious relations with others. Seeking to avoid conflict in relationships, they often prefer to speak about sensitive subjects indirectly. Outside of large cities, making direct eye contact when talking to someone is considered impolite; similarly, Vietnamese usually speak in a low tone. Although when shopping the Vietnamese barter over prices, this process is done politely; aggression is considered rude.
The Vietnamese sometimes appear to answer "yes" (d?) to all questions. However, this yes may be a polite way of saying "Yes, I am listening," or "Yes, I am confused," or "Yes, I do not want to offend." Similarly, the Vietnamese smile can be used to show all sorts of emotions, from happiness to anger or even grief. Strong emotions are shared only with family or close friends. Humour, however, is freely expressed.
Traditionally, Vietnamese greet each other by joining hands and bowing slightly; however, in cities some men have adopted the Western practice of shaking hands. In public, men often hold hands as an expression of friendship. Hugging, however, is reserved for relatives
Vietnamese Family Life
Vietnamese life is profoundly influenced by ancestor worship. Children learn at a very early age that they owe everything to their parents and their ancestors. Doing well in school and working hard honours one's parents and the family name. Respect for parents and ancestors is extended to all elders, whose life experiences are valued.
Marriage and family are very important in Vietnam. In the countryside, parents often arrange marriages; divorce remains uncommon, though is more frequent in cities. In traditional Vietnamese families, roles are rigid. The man of the house is primarily responsible for the family's economic well-being and takes pride in his role as provider. Women are expected to submit to their husbands or to their eldest sons when widowed, and girls to their fathers. Older children help to look after younger siblings. Discipline is viewed as a parental duty, and spanking is common once children are past early childhood.
The woman of the house is referred to as nôi tuong, "General of the Interior." She looks after her in-laws as well as her parents, husband and children. In rural areas, women also do much agricultural work. Vietnamese women live by the "four virtues": hard work, beauty, refined speech and excellent conduct.
Communism in the 1960's brought big changes for women, who were suddenly given equal economic and political rights, as well as the right to choose their own husband. Years of warfare and dislocation in camps have also altered family roles. With so many men away at war, women took on many traditionally male duties, including managing factories and co-operatives.
More people are moving to cities, but most Vietnamese are still farmers. Houses are sometimes built on stilts to avoid flooding. Materials such as earth, straw and bamboo may be used for walls, and red clay tiles or sheets of corrugated metal for roofs. City homes are often made with brick, wood and/or tile
Family and Social Culture
Before the late 1980s, nearly all Vietnamese people lived in villages, and the cultivation of wet rice was the principal economic activity. The basic component of rural society was the nuclear family, composed of parents and unwed children.
Respect for parents and ancestors is a key virtue in Vietnam. The oldest male in the family is the head of the family and the most important family member. His oldest son is the second leader of the family. Sometimes, related families live together in a big house and help each other. The parents chose their children's marriage partners based on who they think is best suited for their child. When people die, their families honor their ancestors on the day of their death by performing special ceremonies at home or at temples and by burning incense and fake money for the one who died.
The Vietnamese believed that by burning incense, their ancestors could protect them and their family from danger and harm. Days before the ceremony starts, the family has to get ready, because they won't have enough time to get ready when the guests arrive and the ceremony starts. Usually the women cook and prepare many special kinds of food, like chicken, ham, pork, rice, and many more including desserts.
While the women are busy cooking, the men are busy fixing up and cleaning up the house, so it won't be messy and dirty because of all the relatives of the person that died will come for the ceremony and show honor and respect to that person. Families venerated their ancestors with special religious rituals. The houses of the wealthy were constructed of brick, with tile roofs. Those of the poor were bamboo and thatch. Rice was staple food for the vast majority, garnished with vegetables and, for those who could afford it, meat and fish.
The French introduced Western values of individual freedom and sexual quality, which undermined and the traditional Vietnamese social system. In urban areas, Western patterns of social behavior became increasingly common, especially among educated and wealthy Vietnamese attended French schools, read French books, replaced traditional attire with Western-style clothing, and drank French wines instead of the traditional wine distilled from rice. Adolescents began to resist the tradition of arranged marriages, and women chafed under social mores that demanded obedience to their fathers and husbands. In the countryside, however, traditional Vietnamese family values remained strong.
The trend toward adopting Western values continues in South Vietnam after the division of the country in 1954. Many young people embraced sexual freedom and the movies, clothing styles, and rock music from Western cultures became popular. But in the North, social ethnics were defined by Vietnam Communist Party’s principles. The government officially recognized equality of the sexes, and women began to obtain employment in professions previously dominated by men. At the same time, the government began enforcing a more puritanical lifestyle as a means to counter the so-called decadent practices of Western society. Traditional values continued to hold sway in rural areas and countryside, where the concept of male superiority remained common.
In the 1980s, the Vietnamese government adopted an economic reform program that freely from free market principles and encouraged foreign investment and tourism development. As a result, the Vietnamese people have become increasingly acquainted with and influenced by the lifestyles in developed countries of South East Asia and the West
Educational system of Viet Nam in the past
Because of 1000 years under the cruel domination of Chinese, there are no records which indicate that a formal education system in Viet Nam was established Before Christ or even under the Chinese conquers years from 207 BC to 939 AD.
However, Chinese historical documents recorded many excellent Vietnamese scholars who graduated in China with a doctoral degree and worked for Chinese Royalty, such as Ly Cam, Ly Tien, Truong Trong etc…
In 939 Emperor Ngo Quyen expelled the Chinese invaders and declared Vietnamese independence. But the first two dynasties Ngo and Dinh were not on thrown so long, and were busy with the national defense, the education was just in pagodas. Ly Cong Uan, the founder king of the Ly dynasty had been educated in a pagoda.
To the Ly dynasty, the fundamental educational system was officially improved. King Ly Thanh Ton was credited for the Temple of Literatures at the ancient Capital of Thang Long to encourage people to appreciate the education. In 1075 the first exam was done by the order of King Ly Nhan Ton to select scholars for the office and the later year, 1076, Quoc Tu Giam, was the first university built in Viet Nam’s history. There were also many private schools taught by prominent professors such as Chu Van An, Le Quy Don, Nguyen Binh Khiem, Phung Khac Khoan, Vo Truong Toan… The students would only study literature and ancient history of China, of Viet Nam for entirety of their schooling. Later on, the Public Administration curriculum was finally added to the program. When the Ho Royal family ruled the country, students were taught simple mathematics.
From 1918 until now, Vietnam’s education program has adopted the western educational system with three levels: elementary, high school, and college. At all levels, the Vietnamese National Writing (Qu?c Ng?) is officially used. Students had (and still do have) the opportunity to learn literature, history, philosophy, law, science, math, medicine and as well as other languages. The first university that applied the western educational system was built in Northern Viet Nam, Ha Noi, in 1919 (medicine school) and 1933 (law school). Toward 1975, the estimated population in Southern Viet Nam was 25 million people, but there were 3 state universities built in cities of Hue, Saigon, Can Tho. In parallel with the state universities, four private universities were also built: Three in Saigon were Van Hanh, Minh Duc, Tri Hanh Universities. One in Dalat was named after the city. They all offered various choices in curriculum similar to most modern universities around the world. In addition, each year thousands of Vietnamese students studied abroad in countries such as the United States, France, Germany and Australia
Vietnamese Spiritual Life
Spiritual life is a belief or practice irrationally maintained by ignorance or by faith in magic or chance. It is totally unscientific; however, there is a lot superstitious culture on over the world. Different spiritual life will be found in different countries. Asia which is a cradle of the world’s culture has a lot of mystery, legend of super natural power. Vietnam is one of Asian countries; so there are many superstitious people and culture in my country Vietnam.
In Asian societies, particularly Vietnamese society, people have a habit of being superstitious and this has been part of their daily life. On such occasions as marriages, funerals and open new house, people will try to choose a propitious date Geomacy in building a new house
On the Vietnamese New Year, people believe that the first person who visits their home during Tet holiday has a bearing on their welfare for the whole year. In contrast, the person who sweeps the floor on the first three days of this festive occasion might sweep away the wealth. As for other things, such as setting out for an examination, embarking on a business venture or planning an escape from Communist Vietnam, people will try to avoid "crossing the path of a woman", in much the same way as Western people would try to avoid "crossing the path of a black cat" when undertaking something important.
The Vietnamese attach great importance to two traditional family obligations: to care for their parents in their old age and to worship them after death. In each Vietnamese family has at least one altar on which there are the pictures of their ancestors. Family members worship their ancestor because they think parents after death will go to live in another world and this altar is the place where the ancestors’ soul live in. As a result, every day, Vietnamese people not only lay the table for meal but they also lay the food on the altar for the belief that those ancestors will have a meal with them.
Spiritual life, sometimes, plays more than a passing role in Vietnamese society. By the time a boy is old enough to marry, for example, he may not be able to wed the girl he loves because she was born in the wrong year. On the 12-year lunar calendar commonly used throughout Asia, many of the years are considered incompatible. Such years are thought to bring misfortune if they are improperly matched with other years. Thus, a young man born in "the Year of the Tiger," cannot marry his beloved from "the Year of the Horse" unless he wants to risk a break in family ties with his parents and elder relatives. To the conservative relatives, the Tiger and Horse are incompatible and sure to bring bad luck to such a marriage. Besides, the hoot of an owl is regarded as a bad omen announcing death or illness. According to ancient tradition, the bird must be chased away and those who heard his cry should be extremely cautious about their personal safety.
What is the best way to keep a child healthy? An old Vietnamese grandfather believes the charm of a certain necklace wards off evil spirits and he may give it to his grandson to protect the boy. An employee fails to show up for work on the third day of the lunar month because he believes that particular date brings him bad luck. A student tries to borrow money to buy lottery tickets because he dreamed of a special event or number one night before. These are some examples of spiritual life which may baffle the foreign visitor to this country. Yet, in Vietnam, it is part of tradition and customs passed down from one generation to the next. Ignorance, of course, plays some roles in the traditional acceptance of spiritual life. Not having sufficient knowledge, faith or trust in scientific methods, a Vietnamese often relies on his prejudices, emotions and the word of his forefathers to guide his daily life.
A large number of fortune-tellers, astrologers and palm-readers owe their living to Vietnamese spiritual life and often made a small fortune from their clients. That the reason why, in Vietnam, even the poor save money for occasional visits to well-known soothsayers. Spiritual life has been known to determine the conduct of the war in this ravaged country. A friendly or enemy commander may refuse to attack or may alter his strategy if the stars are not in his favor.
One story has it that, an American commander always consulted a Vietnamese astrologer before planning the deployment of his troops. When questioned by his incredulous superiors, he explained that, according to his theory, he could depend on the enemy to base his attacks on the positions of the stars. Therefore, he consulted a stargazer himself for intelligence on the enemy's movements.
Another story passed down through history is about of the two famous Vietnamese generals, Le Loi and Nguyen Trai. Several years ago, the pair was leading a war against Chinese invaders. Nguyen Trai decided to turn spiritual life to his advantage and used grease to write the phrases "Le Loi vi Quan; Nguyen Trai vi Than," (Le Loi for King; Nguyen Trai for Minister of State) on the large leaves of forest trees. Ants later consumed the grease absorbed in the leaf tissue and left the prophecy clearly engraved. People living nearby noticed the perforated leaves and interpreted them as a "divine message." Inspired by this, they wholeheartedly supported the war which eventually led to the defeat of the Chinese and the enthronement of Emperor Le Loi.
There are some social reformers in my country who believe that, spiritual life is a problem and should be eradicated as Vietnam is now becoming a truly progressive as well as modern nation. Personally, how dull life would be if all our soothsayers, fortune tellers, palm-readers and astrologers were pensioned off and retired! I promptly took this bad proposition to my favorite soothsayer who solemnly assured me that this is not in the stars