Along its eastern edge, Vietnam's landscape is rugged and mountainous. Flowing out of these mountains is a number of rivers that over time have created fertile valleys and deltas, such as the Mekong River delta in the south and the Red River valley in the north. Historically, this landscape allowed for the development of a Vietnamese population center in the north that became the base of later expansion into the rest of the current land area of Vietnam. This early Vietnamese population was heavily influenced by their large northern neighbors, the Chinese, who ruled over them for around one-thousand years. Before the Vietnamese expansion out of the Red River valley, the area was divided into many groups of people. Smaller groups lived scattered throughout the mountainous regions while the Chams in central Vietnam built a large and centralized kingdom. Over time the Vietnamese population gained its independence from China and expanded to the south. They eventually destroyed the Cham kingdom in the central part of the country and settled in the Khmer areas in the southern Mekong Delta. While many other ethnic groups still reside in Vietnam, the overwhelming majority of the population is now Vietnamese. The current population, numbering around eighty-five million, lives mostly in rural farmland, though several cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are very large and ever expanding. The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, though there are also dozens of other languages spoken by the various ethnic groups.
Written literature in Vietnam was originally based on and borrowed directly from the Chinese. After the Chinese period the Vietnamese continued to use Chinese for written communication, however they also began to develop a writing system for Vietnamese based on the Chinese characters. This system existed up until the early 1900's when it was replaced by the Latin based alphabet developed by European missionaries several hundred years earlier. When France took control of the area in the 1800's they insured the success of the new alphabet at the expense of the old Chinese based system. Printing in Vietnamese before the French period consisted mostly of woodblocks and paper to reproduce Chinese classics and a growing number of original Vietnamese works. During the French period printing expanded, especially when the new alphabet system became more widely used. After 1954, during the war years and a divided Vietnam printing continued on in both the north and south with a large portion of printed material dedicated to wartime issues. The number of books produced in Vietnam has rapidly increased over time and the current publishing industry is thriving. Along with information in printed formats, electronic information is also available and electronic documents are now being produced in the country at an increasing rate each year.