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Religions include Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Roman Catholicism, Cao Dai (a mixture of aspects of Roman Catholicism and various Asian religions), Hoa Hao (a Vietnamese offshoot of Buddhism), Islam, Protestantism, and animism.

The first known historical records of the Viets in the Red River Delta of what is now northern Vietnam were written by the Chinese in the second century While the village constituted the basis of rural Vietnamese folk culture, many of the nation's formal institutions were introduced from the great neighbor to the north, China.

Even the name of the country is derived from Chinese: " Viet " is a variant pronunciation of the Chinese word " Yueh ", which designates the "hundred" tribes that populated the southern region of China, and " Nam, " which is the same as " nan " in Chinese and means "south." Vietnam's close but troubled relations with its huge northern neighbor have shaped many of its political and social structures and have, in recent years, played a crucial role in the creation of a refugee crisis.

As the Chinese empire of the Han dynasty extended its control over the area to the south, the Viets accepted Chinese administrative designations for their territory and the local rulers were redefined as prefectural and district officers.

Despite some early rebellions against Chinese rule (one in particular was instigated by the Trung sisters, who remain Vietnamese national heroes for their struggles against the Chinese in the first century ), Vietnam was a part of the Chinese empire until the successful war for independence in the tenth century.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a long, narrow, "S"-shaped country of 127,243 square miles (329,556 square kilometers).