Vietnam is on the east coast of a peninsula in Asia. It is 127,243 square miles which is about the size of New Mexico. Unlike New Mexico, however, Vietnam is a long, skinny country. It stretches 1,027 miles from north to south and on average about 380 miles east to west, although in some places the land is as narrow as 30 miles! Off the Southern tip of Vietnam is the Gulf of Thailand. To the east is the South China Sea. Off of the northern coast is The Gulf of Tonkin.
ACTIVITY: On a world map, mark and label the location of Vietnam.
Two important rivers, the Mekong and Red River, flow through Vietnam. Their river deltas make up a fourth of the land and yield enormous quantities of rice. In fact, much of the land is flat with good, rich soil for farming. The northern part of Vietnam has some mountains. The tallest peak in Vietnam is called Fen Si Pen at 10,036 feet. Because of the varying latitudes and topography, the weather in Vietnam is diverse. South Vietnam is only 8 degrees North of the Equator so it is approximately 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit all year, with a rainy season from May to November and and dry season from February to March. In the winter (November thru March), temperatures over much of Vietnam hover around 60 degrees, but you will find much cooler temperatures in the Northern regions.
In addition to the two major rivers, Vietnam has more than 1,800 miles of canals and dikes. What do you think is the main mode of transportation in Vietnam?
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Make and race a Vietnamese Dragon Boat!
Approximately 90 million people live in Vietnam, making it one of the most populated countries. About 87 percent of the population is ethnic Vietnamese and approximately 50 minority groups live in the remote mountain regions. Vietnam has a history of invasions and war, which has greatly influenced their culture. The Chinese occupied the north country for over 1,000 years, shaping Vietnam's pottery, painting, opera, silk weaving, and musical styles. The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese which uses Chinese characters.
ACTIVITY: Can you say some basic Vietnamese words?
Can you introduce yourself in Veitnamese?
China also influenced the Vietnamese folk religion which is structured by the doctrines of Confucianism and Taoism. There is also a strong tradition of Buddhism.
DISCUSSION: How do these religions differ from Christianity?
The Vietnam flag has a red background with a 5-pointed golden-yellow. The five points of the star stand for farmers, workers, intellectuals, soldiers, and youth all united under Communist leadership.
ACTIVITY: Draw (using a stencil of a 5-pointed star if necessary) a Vietnam flag. While coloring the flag discuss the difference between Communist leadership and Democratic leadership.
One of the points on the star represent the youth of the country. What are some things youth in our country enjoy doing? Vietnamese children like to tell stories, play games, and have fun just like you do!
GAME: Rong Ran Len May is a popular game in Vietnam. The "doctor" reads aloud a folk poem. The rest of the children stand in a line holding onto the hip of the person in front of them. The "doctor" then tries to tag one of the children. He cannot tag the first person in line, so the first person in line should help block the "doctor". Watch the YouTube video for a demonstration of this game.
The game is best played with a large group and wide open space. This was something the children really enjoyed. I read "Food for the Emperor" (a story from Vietnam) out of the book Around the World in 80 Tales by Saviour Pirotta. You can find other legends and folk lore on Viet-American Foundation.
In North Vietnam, the folk performing art of Vietnamese traditional theater "Cheo". Cheo tells tales of chiefs, heroes, and lovely maidens in a mix of romance, tragedy, and comedy. The characters are the soul of the play. Vietnamese masks, painted on bamboo, reflect the emotions of the characters of Cheo. Vietnamese masks are easily found in Old Quarter, Hanoi city.
CRAFT: Cut out a cardboard circle and draw a Vietnamese inspired mask that reflects an emotion. Alternatively, you may paint the back of a bamboo basket to more accurately reflect the Vietnamese masks.
When you are done with your lesson, celebrate with a traditional Vietnamese recipe. Here are some you might want to try:
Don't forget to celebrate Treemngay (Children's Day) on June 1st. It is a day where children in Vietnam are recognized and celebrated with special trips, gifts, and fun to prove they are loved and cherished!
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