Buddhism and sustainable development of Kien Giang province, Vietnam - Do Thi Hoa Hoi, Le To Nam

Thông tin trích dẫn:
Do Thi Hoa Hoi, Le To Nam (2022), Buddhism and sustainable development of Kien Giang province, Vietnam, Universum: Social Sciences,  № 8(87), pp. 17-21, DOI: 10.32743/UniSoc.2022.87.8.14197, ISSN 2311-5327.


The archeological site Nen Chua in Kien Giang Province offered evidence that Buddhism was brought to this area through trade in the first centuries AD. Buddhism has made a steady effort to advance sustainably and integrate into local citizens’ spiritual lives throughout its formation and development. In this article, the author presents some aspects of Buddhism in Kien Giang Province and its contribution to the sustainable development of this province.


Археологические раскопки Нен-Чуа в провинции Кьензянг свидетельствуют о том, что буддизм распространялся в этом районе благодаря торговле в первые века нашей эры. Буддизм способствовал стремительному росту и интегрировал в духовную жизнь местных граждан на протяжении всего своего становления и развития. В этой статье автор представляет некоторые аспекты буддизма в провинции Кьензянг и отмечает его вклад в устойчивое развитие этого района.

Keywords: Buddhism, Vietnamese Buddhism, Sustainable Development, Kien Giang Province.

Ключевые слова: буддизм; Вьетнамский буддизм; устойчивое развитие; провинция Кьензянг.

1. About Buddhism and Kien Giang Province

Kien Giang Province is located in Southwest Vietnam. It has drawn many ethnic groups to relocate because of its picturesque landscape, which includes curving beaches, numerous hills, and large rice fields. According to documents and antiquities, the Funan Empire emerged in the early first century AD and was Southeast Asia’s first civilization. Nguyen Lang’s book (Full volume) writes: “At that time (at the beginning of the era), India had direct trade relations with the Middle East and indirectly with the countries of the Great Mediterranean. The Roman Empire consumed a lot of gold, silk, spices, Agarwood, cinnamon, pepper, ivory, and jewels. To have enough goods to supply that market, Indian merchants sailed to the Far East. These merchant ships followed the southwest monsoon to Southeast Asia and reached the coasts of Malaysia, Funan, and Giao Chi. The Indian merchants had to stay there until the next year and waited for the northeast monsoon to return to India. During this time, they stayed with the natives, and their living and civilization had a great impact on the local people. Thanks to the presence of Indian merchants, people knew about Indian farming techniques, medicine, and religion. It could be said that the Indian merchants were the first ones who brought Buddhism into our country” [4, p. 25].

The archaeological findings appeared from 1978 to 1983 urged the Kien Giang Province’s Museum to cooperate with the Institute of Social Sciences in Ho Chi Minh City to verify and search for relics at Funan, chart, and publish ancient waterways, settlement traces, stilt houses, ancient boats, and tombs belonging to the Nen Chua. The Funan site belonging to the Oc Eo culture has traces in Nen Chua (Tan Hoi Commune, Tan Hiep District), Da Noi (Tan Dinh Commune, Giong Rieng District), Giong Da (Giuc Tuong Commune, Chau Thanh District), Canh Den (Vinh Phong Commune, Vinh Thuan District), Mop Van (My Lam Commune, Hon Dat District), Xeo La (Dong Thanh Commune, An Bien District), and Tien Trung (Hoa Tien Commune, Vinh Thuan District) [1].

The first sandstone Buddha statue was discovered in 1994 by a farmer in Tram Duong Hamlet, My Lam Commune, Hon Dat District. While digging a hole to plant trees, he found the Buddha statue and pieces of pottery scattered at a depth of 1.50 meters. The statue of the standing Buddha at Nen Chua archaeological site “... could only appear in the 6th century, not earlier than the statue in the Madras Museum. The latest time was only the end of the 6th century. This time was also the heyday of Funan and the limit of time and space for Funan” [3, p. 123]. “It was a standing Buddha statue on a stylized lotus pedestal carved out of a hard and smooth sandstone block. Its body was so glossy, dark gray, and was carved clearly and delicately. However, it was relatively small. The body was 49cm high, and the pedestal was 9.5cm high, including two floors: a circle above and a rectangle below” [3, p. 119]. This statue is being displayed at the Kien Giang Province’s Museum. Buddha statues and works related to Buddhism appear more and more.

Nowadays, some relics from the 15th century are still preserved. The first was the Lang Cat pagoda of Theravada Buddhism, established in 1412 in Rach Gia City, the oldest city in Kien Giang Province. The 16th-18th centuries were considered the period of Buddhism in Kien Giang Province under feudalism. Five pagodas were established in the 16th century. Ten pagodas were built in the 17th century, and ten formed in the 18th century. Their appearance confirmed the strong belief in Buddhism of people living in this coastal land. Mahayana Buddhism also began to develop monasteries, most concentrated in Ha Tien City with pagodas such as Tam Bao, Phu Dung, and Tien Son. In the 19th century, out of a total of 18 pagodas, 6 belonged to Mahayana Buddhism and the Zen sect. This number proved the evolution of Buddhism. After 34 years, Ke Mot Pagoda was built in Binh Hoa Hamlet, Vinh Thuan District, in 1836. In the French colonial period (1858-1945), 16 pagodas were established, concentrated in Ha Tien, Giang Thanh, Kien Luong, Rach Gia, Chau Thanh, and Go Quao Districts. These pagodas played a vital role in the fight against the enemy. They contributed to the battle against the French colonialists, Japanese fascists, US imperialists, and the henchmen (1946-1975). In this period, 29 pagodas had appeared, including 7 monasteries of the mendicant monks, concentrated in Ha Tien and Rach Gia. After 1975, people did not build pagodas due to various reasons. It was not until 2001 that new temples and pagodas reappeared. From 2002 to 2016, more than 35 pagodas were built [2, p. 174].

Buddhism was present the earliest in Kien Giang. In the 17th century, there was a Catholic priest here, but no one knew what he did, and no trace was left. Catholicism only flourished in the 1960s. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were endogenous religions such as Hoa Hao Buddhism, Caodaism, Theravada Buddhism, and Pure Land Buddhism.

The teachings, precepts, and rituals are all practiced according to the principles, purposes, and regulations of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. The architecture of Buddhist worship in Kien Giang is incredibly diverse because each sect has a different architectural style. The Theravada Buddhist pagodas’ main hall is considered the primary architectural complex, so it is usually 1 meter higher than a monastery or lecture hall. The head and tail of the Naga snake, which stands for the connection between the material world and Nirvana, are frequently decorated at the corners of the main hall’s roof, on railings, and in corridors. The supporting parts of the pillars are the Keynors shaped like the beautiful fairies of Absara with a half human, half bird, who are symbols of singing, beauty, and talent. For the Mahayana Buddhist pagodas, their outside looks like the church buildings of Caodaism. Some have the architecture of traditional Southern houses. A few rely on caves to build houses and erect statues to worship Buddha. Lastly, the pagodas of the Mendicant Buddhist Sect follow the hexagonal architecture in the main hall. Six sides reach out in six directions, and there is one floor. They look like Gazebos.

The pagodas have ancillary buildings, including a Buddha scene, meditation house, canteen, kitchen, toilet, gate, and fence. The main materials used to build works and ancient statues of Buddha are gravel mixed with lime, sand, jaggery, and resin of Lindera Myrrha Merr. Currently, the primary construction materials are steel and cement mixed with sand, stone, and fresh water.

The pagodas are usually built on a large area of land with many tall trees and in a quiet and airy space. Some of them are built on the mountainside, at the foot of the mountain, or in deserted places. However, due to the fast speed of social development, most of them are located in densely populated areas and are directly affected by social life, which significantly influences the practice space.

2. Buddhism contributes to sustainable development in Kien Giang Province

The 10th Buddhist Congress of Kien Giang Province took place on May 23 and 24, 2022, and elected a Proving Council consisting of 4 monks, a Standing Committee with 63 official members, and five alternate members (including one chief nun, six old nuns, and four young nuns). In addition, 12 boards and 3 divisions were established. There were from 15 to 25 members in each department. Personel was arranged in a scientific and unified manner, showing equality for the mutual benefit and had the participant of all Vietnamese Buddhist schools. In the district-level administrative agencies, the Buddhist Parochial Boards were formed, consisting of 15-26 members who represented, cared for, and guided the monasteries [5, appendix].

The boards and divisions are arranged under Buddhist schools, monks and nuns, and ages, creating high consensus in the organization. Since then, Buddhist activities have achieved high efficiency with a wide scale of activities. The implementation is diverse and consistent with the legitimate aspirations of the Buddhist schools, ensuring high sustainability.

2.1. Building a strong Buddhist organization, meeting the requirements of society in the new situation

The boards and divisions have inherited the accomplishment of the previous term, implemented tasks, and reached many good results. Here are some typical departments.

In the 10th term, the Board of Sangha asked the Central Committee of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha to grant certificates and books to over 200 monks and nuns, handle cases of begging for alms illegally and let 63 people leave home and become monks or nuns. 345 novice monks reached full commands for Sangha, and 204 people returned to the world from the order. 8 zen masters opened more than 50 courses with 1,485 students.

The Board of Buddhist Education created favorable conditions for those on the priority list to attend school. Up to now, there are 2 doctors, 12 masters, 8 senior lecturers, 73 bachelors of Buddhism and world studies, 4 doctoral students, and 21 people studying in college and intermediate classes. 46 classes of Sutras-Vinayas-Sastras have been opened for 897 students and 9 Pali classes for 431 students. There are 1,171 literacy classes for 29,487 children belonging to Khmer ethnic minorities.

The Buddhist Parochial Board appointed a person in charge of Buddhist Families and the Division of Buddhist Laymen. In addition to being guided to practice and study Buddhism, students and Buddhists have been oriented to live with ambition and ideal to become good people and be helpful to family and society. Currently, Kien Giang Province has 475 student groups in 12 Buddhist families, with 93 elders directly guiding Buddhist activities. There are 87 places for teaching, learning, or practicing religion, with more than 8,000 Buddhists belonging to many Gates of the Dharma.

The Charity Board gained outstanding results in activities such as creating the Fund for the Poor, giving annual gifts to families under preferential treatment policy and revolutionary contributors, distributing mid-autumn gifts to children, supporting the national high school exams, building soup kitchens, and giving free medical examination and treatment. The Provincial Buddhist of Kien Giang raised VND 370,207,470,000 (USD 16,095,976) in five years serving social charity projects.

When the epidemic broke out, to take part in the Government’s movement: “People unites and joins hands in the prevention, control, and victory of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Buddhist Parochial Board sent 20 monks and nuns to join the frontline force against the pandemic and take samples for testing. Moreover, monks and nuns were mobilized to contribute funds to buy vaccines, support vegetables and fruits for isolation areas and people self-isolating at home, provide meals for quarantine checkpoints and poor families, help to consume agricultural products, and cremate the dead. The amount contributed to the Covid-19 prevention fund reached VND 18,780,388,000.

Phat Quang Social Charity Center has been maintained by the Provincial Buddhist for more than 20 years with the main task of raising free boarding children. Up to now, the Center has taken care of more than 1,500 boarding orphans and children with extremely difficult circumstances, taught the native language to students from grade 1 to 12, and supported over 100 students attending colleges and universities in Vietnam.

To help low-income families feel secure to work and be out of poverty, the Center has established Phat Quang Kindergarten, which opens from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and looks after children aged 13 months to 5 years old. In the past 5 years, this kindergarten has accepted 120 children. The money mobilized to support these children reached more than 11,000,000,000 VND [5].

These achievements are due to the continuous contributions of the Buddhist Parochial Board and sponsors. The monks and nuns always worry and wish to contribute to the cause of sustainable development by helping the disadvantaged in society. They boldly express their aspirations in sermons, lectures, religious activities, etc., to attract “hearts of gold” to participate. Many people are ready to spend money to build funds and charity campaigns following the Vietnamese tradition of “Do unto others as you would have them done unto you,” “The good leaves protect the worn-out leaves,” or “Better to save one life than build a seven-storied pagoda.” Up to now, over 500 sponsors across Vietnam have contributed money regularly to charity work.

2.2. Participating in building the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha and the government of Kien Giang Province to be stronger

Following the campaigns of the State and the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, the Provincial Buddhist has mobilized monks, nuns, and Buddhists to “actively participate in movements for the benefit of the country and the people, social welfare, environmental protection, build a civilized urban lifestyle in residential areas, build pagodas, and protect beloved Vietnam” [5, p. 12].

Buddhists, monks, and nuns of Kien Giang Province always uphold their beliefs, foster the solidarity tradition, and work to create a civilized, forward-thinking society. In addition, the Provincial Buddhist agreed to collaborate with the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment on the program “Environmental protection and response to climate change” and the Kien Giang Provincial Police Department on the program “All people’s movement to protect national security.” Moreover, they encouraged abbots of pagodas to fly the national flag, reaching 100% of the province.

In general, the Provincial Buddhist has shown its sense of responsibility, represents monks, nuns, and Buddhists, and acts as a bridge between its divisions at all levels and the Party as well as State. It also fully attended meetings and conferences organized by ministries and relevant agencies and organizations, expressed opinions, and made practical contributions, creating high efficiency in religious and ethnic affairs.

2.3. Participating in elected bodies, the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, and mass organizations and implementing the Great National Solidarity bloc

To promote the role in the Great National Solidarity bloc and exercise the rights and obligations of citizens, the Provincial Buddhist of Kien Giang has introduced excellent, prestigious, and qualified monks and nuns to run for the People’s Council, including 2 people at the provincial level and 53 people at the district level. Three members are working in the Committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front of Kien Giang Province, and 23 members are working at the district level. Besides, monks and nuns have been introduced to join other political and social organizations, such as the Red Cross, Vietnam Women’s Union, Vietnam Youth Federation, Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations, Vietnam Association for Promoting Education, and Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients. On average, there are one or two people in each organization.

They have performed their roles and duties well, protected voters’ legitimate interests, built a cultural life in residential areas, and strictly followed the motto: “Dharma - People - Socialism,” which helps them fulfill the obligations of the Buddha’s son and responsibilities of a citizen.

2.4. Actively participating in sustainable economic and social development

Since 2018, Phat Quang Social Charity Center has adopted 120 boarders who are orphans and children with extremely difficult circumstances. Although this number did not match the actual number of children, it reflected the number of divorce cases of the young. The divorce rate is increasing rapidly, which has created a burden on society, posing a high risk of crime and social evils. Therefore, the Provincial Buddhist has attempted to reduce the burden on society. The Sutra To Sunakkhatta and the Maha Mangala Sutta about Siddhārtha Gautama (Shakyamuni) have shown the respect and equality between husband and wife and between children and parents. According to the Buddhist Sutras, if we behave properly, respect each other, and have a healthy lifestyle, happiness and love will come and last for a long time.

Nowadays, many families are interested in holding the “Buddism Wedding Ceremony” (or Lễ Hằng Thuận) in the pagodas. In addition to the traditional wedding ceremonies, Buddhists want to have a lasting bond through the witness of spiritual patrons, that are, noble monks and nuns. It can be said that the Buddism Wedding Ceremony is considered a guarantee of marriage. This Buddhist ritual is humane and practical and needs to be replicated to help marriages last longer.

In addition, enterprises investing in Kien Giang Province focus on the ecological environment. When people build projects, they avoid civil and religious works to preserve the pristine ecology and not disrupt regional planning. There is a robust regeneration of the U Minh forest ecosystem (in U Minh Thuong District and Vinh Thuan District). Sea encroachment (in Rach Gia City and Ha Tien City) and the construction of complex and urban areas always follow the rules to preserve the marine environment and coastal ecosystems. The coastal corridor that is about to be built is also planned to be located inland not to disrupt the coastal environment. Furthermore, the caves, limestone mountains, and all islands are kept intact to attract tourists. The fields of Lepironia Articulata grass are protected to serve the handicraft industry using Lepironia Articulata grass and contribute to the conservation of the Grus Antigone, a bird species listed on the IUCN Red List.

With the policy of entering the world, monks and nuns of pagodas have promoted the dogmas by educating people to work hard, follow the social norms and ethical codes, and toward a fulfilling life with “The truth, the good, the beautiful,” contributing to the sustainable economic development of the province. Most notably, spiritual economics has been blooming recently, promising to bring a prosperous and stable life.

The Provincial Buddhist has prepared and ready to serve whenever the Vietnamese government addresses the issue of environmentally sustainable development and response to climate change. Monks and nuns have constantly encouraged people to participate in preserving the living environment, living in harmony with nature, and respecting it. Moreover, they promote actions that help to minimize adverse environmental impacts and actively propagate that we shouldn’t exploit natural resources indiscriminately because this action will cause natural disasters and be detrimental to us.

Science and technology have entered modern life with billions of devices serving people. However, they also have adverse effects on humanity, especially the young. They can cause many diseases such as stress, depression, addiction to games, virtual living, etc. With a practical life philosophy that has existed for more than 2000 years, Buddhists are not dependent on science and technology too much but own an ahead-of-time mindset even though human beings are in the time of Industry 4.0. Buddhism clearly stated that science could create instinct through artificial intelligence but couldn’t create consciousness. There has been a clear division between instinct and consciousness in Buddhism since Siddhārtha Gautama enlightened Buddhism. Science and technology can’t play any vital part in people’s relationships. They can’t profoundly feel the love between boys and girls, parents and children, individuals and the Fatherland. Moreover, they don’t create empathy for humans to overcome wars, epidemics, and natural disasters because they do not have affection, softness in thinking, especially forgiveness. In the new era, it is crucial to choose positive research directions wisely and avoid using or replicating immoral initiatives that make people face many difficulties.

Through many communication channels, the Provincial Buddhist of Kien Giang has timely grasped the social situation as well as religious activities in the world. Thereby, promoting the image of Kien Giang Province and local people to other countries was performed well via meditation sessions, lessons, and Buddhist festivals around the world. The Provincial Buddhist warmly welcomed and worked with the international research and survey teams. Moreover, dozens of monks and nuns were sent to study abroad and participate in international and regional Buddhist activities. The most important thing was that the Provincial Buddhist organized the United Nations Day of Vesak Celebrations in 2008. This was the first year it carried out the direction of Buddhist activities in the 7th term (2007-2012). It breathed new life into the social life of Kien Giang Province by holding activities to celebrate the United Nations Day of Vesak Celebrations 2008. The ceremony took place for three days, from May 6th to May 8th, 2008, at An Hoa Cultural Park and the Cultural Center of Kien Giang Province. This great event attracted more than 30,000 people while being expected only to be about 6,000 people.

In a short time, the Provincial Buddhist of Kien Giang has implemented many tasks, coped with the adverse impact on the environment, and participated in the prevention of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the teachings and ethics, the Provincial Buddhist has actively joined in the propaganda and mobilization of people and made a significant contribution to many local action programs, including strengthening the organization, coordinating with government agencies, and doing charity work.


An Giang Department of Culture and Information. Oc Eo Culture and Ancient Cultures in the Mekong Delta, 1984.
Bach Thanh Sang, Association for Solidarity of Patriotic Buddhist Monks in the Southwest, appendix attached to the doctoral thesis, 2020.
Luong Ninh. Funan CounCou, Ho Chi Minh: Ho Chi Minh City National University Publishing House, 2006.
Nguyen Lang. A Short History of Buddhism, Complete Volume. Hanoi: Literature Publishing House, 2014.
Provincial Buddhist of Kien Giang. Document of The 10th Buddhist Congress for tenure 2022-2027, Kien Giang province, 2022.

Информация об авторах / Information about the authors:

Assoc. Prof. Ph.D. philosophy, lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, VNU University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam, Hanoi

доцент, профессор, доктор философских наук, преподаватель, кафедра религиоведения, Вьетнамский национальный университет социальных и гуманитарных наук, Вьетнам, г. Ханой

PhD student, VNU University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam, Hanoi Humanities, Vietnam, Hanoi

аспирант, Вьетнамский национальный университет социальных и гуманитарных наук, Вьетнам, г. Ханой

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