Buddhism in Vietnam

Elise Anne DeVido

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Buddhism in Vietnam

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While the precise details about the origins of Buddhism in Vietnam are still unclear, presumably coming to that country from India and Central Asia, textual and archaeological evidence suggests the presence of a Buddhist center in northern Vietnam (Red River Delta) by the 2nd century ce. In the centuries that followed, Buddhism in Vietnam remained predominantly Mahayana, but of Chinese provenance, including various traditions of Pure Land, Chan, and Tantric Buddhism. This was not only because China directly ruled Vietnam until the 10th century ce, when the kings of the Ly dynasty gained independence for Vietnam, but also due to the lasting Chinese cultural influence upon Vietnam. Even today, the predominant Mahayana tradition in Vietnam has been one form or another of a Chan-Pure Land practice, introduced from China in the 11th century, though long since evolved into distinctive Vietnamese varieties. However, it is important to note that King Tran Nhan Tong in the 13th century founded an indigenous school of Chan Buddhism called Truc Lam, which was also infused with Daoist and Confucian philosophy. Moreover, forms of Theravada Buddhism are practiced by many ethnic Khmers in the Mekong Delta and, since the mid-20th century, by some ethnic Vietnamese, while followers of the “new” Mendicant sect blend aspects of Mahayana and Theravada. Finally, there have been numerous popular sects informed by Buddhism, such as Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, and Tinh Do Cu Si. During the French colonial era, Buddhists and Buddhist institutions experienced both violent repression and patronage, while throughout the 20th century of war and revolution, Buddhists in Vietnam ceaselessly worked to save their religion and their nation. Since 1981, the various Buddhist traditions and organizations in Vietnam have joined the state-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. Academic study of Buddhism in Vietnam has been difficult because of the necessity to know the languages of premodern texts: classical Chinese (Han) and the Vietnamese Demotic script called Nôm, in addition to Pali and Sanskrit, but scholars in Vietnam and around the world are collecting, preserving, and deciphering the Han-Nôm texts. With increased fieldwork opportunities, improved information systems and technology, and growing international academic collaborative efforts, the study of Buddhism in Vietnam is entering a new stage.

Article.  9337 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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