Vietnam/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.2 National definition of culture

The Vietnamese view culture as a broad concept relevant to human life and civilisation. Thus, the Vietnamese usually use “culture” in phrases such as “cultural person” (meaning “a civilised person”) and “cultural level” (referring to their education level).

In daily life, culture is understood as literature and the arts, such as poetry, fine arts, theatre, films, etc.

In some Vietnamese dictionaries, “culture”is explained as follows:

  • Culture refers to the material and mental values that were created by humans in history (Great Vietnamese Dictionary, published by the Ministry of Education and Training, 1998).
  • Culture refers to human activities that satisfy the needs of mental life.
  • Culture is scientific knowledge.
  • Culture refers to a high level in social life, an expression of civilisation
  • Culture is a term to refer to a period of ancient history, for example Hoa Binh culture, Dong Son culture (Vietnamese Dictionary, Institute of Linguistic Studies, 2004).

One of the most common definitions of culture is the way it was understood by the late President Hồ Chí Minh: “…human created and invented language, script, morals, laws, science, religions, culture and arts and daily tools for clothing, eating, accommodation … using methods. All these creativenesses and inventions are culture.”

Vietnam has no proper national definition of culture. However, in a broad sense, culture is seen to be included in eight domains, namely ideology, morals and ways of life; heritage; education and training; science and technology; culture and arts; mass media; international exchange on culture; and cultural institutions.

In a narrow sense, culture is seen to refer to some domains that belong to the sphere of state management under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism such as performing arts; cinema; fine arts and photography; library; heritage; grassroots culture; and ethnic culture.

Chapter published: 30-11-2013