Why did the Vietnamese traditionally walk barefoot?

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Why did the Vietnamese traditionally walk barefoot?

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12 Answers

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I think / I’m certain a lot of people traditionally walked barefoot.

I don’t think one should engage in such self-hate attitude.

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Climate in Vietnam: Everything You Need to Know - LIOS

The climate in Vietnam is warm and humid, generally above the freezing point. It can get quite damp in summer season.

A monsoon rain is like a warm shower, it will make you completely wet. Wet feet are no problem at all, wet shoes are another story. It would be hard to design shoes that hold up in the rain and work well, without being too hot and sweaty.

So the question would be: Are shoes even necessary? Do they bring a practical advantage? Walking barefoot in daily life will condition your feet to the point where you can walk on practically any surface without discomfort as fast and easy as a person wearing shoes.

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Bare feet were associated with the working class, serving staff, including imperial palace guards and servants, as seen in this photo of 1926. In the colonial era it was the colonists who wore shoes and their indigenous staff who didn’t. In the palace the emperor and high ranking officials wore shoes as part of their ornate outfit designating their status, served by hundreds dressed in fine robes quietly padding around the marble floors on bare soles.

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People living in villages (photo before 1906) obviously didn’t need shoes because it never got too cold and they didn’t have any adverse conditions forcing them to cover their feet.

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Because of economic reason. Shoes requires lot of money to buy.

Besides, to prevent bacteria eating old skin in feet, that gives out bad smell.

I, personally wear no shoes, for I was very active boy, who lost shoes very often.

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Beside the other excellent answer to this question, i would like to provide some piece of information to why Vietnamese usually walk barefoot in medieval time. Namely road and bridge network.

The corner stone of Vietnamese social and government was not household nor individual, but it was village. The emperor would rule the government make up of royalty family member, noble and talented people who pass the Imperial exam, then the government would pass policy, ruling, drafting and collect tax to the village. It is through a village council make up of the most respected and advance in age villager that those policy, ruling, request and tax would be applied. There is a saying that the power of the king stop at the entrance to the village. Anyway, what does that mean was that even though the emperor would rule the country in the big picture, lots of “daily task” to keep the country running is up to the local authority/ village, which is also including building and maintain the road system between villages.

As there was no organization dedicate to govern, build and maintain the road system, except a few stone road in capital and royal palace, most of the road back in Vietnam medieval time would be dirt road with width vary depend on the traffic, with the minimum width enough for 1 person to walk normally to the maximum width about the size of nowadays 4 lane road, enough space for people, cart and animal such as horse and cow to travel with ease.

So to travel from 1 village to next village, you travel on dirt road. To travel from your house to your rice field, you travel on dirt road. To travel to the big town, you travel on, guess what, dirt road. And dirt road is all fine and dandy, that is until rain season, or a simple flood would do. Dirt road turn into muddy road, and mud is slipper, especially if you use the footwear that was excellent portrayed and described in other answer. So the answer become rather simple, go barefoot. That is it about the road system, now if you kindly look at Vietnam map, you can see that except the Central part of Vietnam, both North and South Vietnam, with Red River Delta and Mekong delta respective, are mostly flat flood plain divided by countless big and small river, some of the small river are man-made with the purpose of control the flood, changing the direction of river or to lead water to the rice field. The width of those river can range from as small as a few meters to a few hundred meters. So to cross those bodies of water, there are a few option come to mind. For the less travel road that goes across small river that a few meters wide, a simple bridge made from several bamboo tree or wood will do the trick, namely Monkey bridge.

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Guess what kind of footwear is best when travel across this kind of bridge? That right, sandal, and if you don’t have sandal, barefoot.

For the more travel road, you can expect more stable and less challenge kind of bridge, such as wooden and stone bridge big enough for horse cart.

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Leaving small river, for big river, it is more troublesome. As big river tend to have violent flood yearly, rather than building bridge ancient Vietnam people relied on a simple type of ferry, employing small boat that can transport dozen of people at a time to cross the river. Again, guess what kind of footwear is best to get on/ off the boat, knowing that the river bank is pretty muddy and thus slippery? Barefoot is the oblivious answer.

So, in conclusion, Vietnamese didn’t walking barefoot because it is traditionally, rather it was a cheap and simple solution to a slippery living environment.

If you somehow find out a way to travel to ancient Vietnam, there are 2 advice i can give you: get as many writing document as you can, those are priceless to modern Vietnamese historian, and leave your favorite footwear at home, because ya know… mud.

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I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but the majority of Asian, East Asian, Indian and African folks who live on a subsistence income ( . . . if even that ) have walked barefoot for thousands of years.

People in the West don’t have the vaguest clue what life is like for, literally, billions of people in this world.

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Giao Chau diary/交州記 (Chinese book) wrote: that Bà Triệu (The first Vietnamese female King in 3rd century) wore ivory clogs. Rural people often walk on barefoot. When there were important occasions, they should put on wooden or bamboo clogs, tie the straps along the braids with rattan, then use leather straps. Women's clogs are tapered, painted with black pattern, and men's shoes are big, customarily called canoe-clogs. The wood is often left untouched, so it is called wooden clogs. In urban areas, both men and women still use sandals/lý/履 (the simplest sandals are just a layer of buffalo skin, sometimes woven with coconut or sedge, without soles). On the instep there is an extra straight straps, so it is called a sandals. On the other hand, the women pack four years of buffalo skin. The tip of the bow is sharpened and the tip of the toe is covered completely with a bamboo stick, and the second toe is inserted into the leather ring at the side of the nose.

The poor Vietnamese used to wear wood clogs (so cheap, easy to made) but used in important occasions, usually on barefoot and their house. it was quite simple and they were able to do it themselves.

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Canvas shoes have also been widely used and any unmarried girl must be learned to do it.

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The rich people and the mandarins and higher used to wear boots:

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But most normal Việtnamese (except nobility class) used to go on barefoot because comfortable for work in fields, walk-on clay roads and suitable for the Vietnamese climate.

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Chinese sources had described Le Hoan (941–1005) as a “barbarian king, walks by bare foots, rowing his canoe and catching fishes in front of his people during the festival.”

The ancient Vietnamese were tribal people in the Red river delta.They lived dependent on water, dikes and rice crops. The Lạc (rak, nak in proto-Austroasiatic which mean water, to modern Vietnamese (18th century and today) “nước” and Middle Vietnamese (13th century) “nác”, perspective) in Sima Qian’s Grand Historian, Han shu and Li Daoguan's Shui jingshu pronounced “Nak*luk” water.

Tribal Lac people tattooed and teeth blackened themselves, and walking by bare foots. Marco Polo during 13th century visit, detailed describing the old Vietnamese custom of tattooing which was banned and later forbidden by the Ming Chinese occupation and succeed Neo-Confucianist monarchs, which they saw tattoo and walking bare foots are “unorthodox” and “ugly”. During 15th to 19th century, there were royals, nobles, high-rank officials, rich landowners, rich merchants wore shoes, and the commons to show their higher positions in the society among the peasant-labour class and common people who walking with bare foots.

I recommend people to read Views of Seventeenth-Century Vietnam: Christoforo Borri on Cochinchina and Samuel Baron on Tonkin.

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idk maybe because since people didn’t have the money to afford shoes and they couldn’t make it themselves they went barefoot

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Vietnamese rural people as much as others in similar countries such as Indonesia. Thailand .Laos. Myanmar, Cambodia , Bangladesh, India .Pakistan and most of the countries in Africa and Latin America DO NOT WEAR SHOES OR SANDALS when they are at home or in the field etc..So they all are barefoot. Vietnamese are no EXCEPTION

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This was true about 100 years ago. The cause is:

Vietnam is a tropical country, no snow, walking barefoot in winter is fine.

Vietnam has many rivers, streams and swamps, walking barefoot would be very convenient.

99% of Vietnamese people are farmers, they grow wet rice and walk barefoot to help their hardened feet from a protective layer against cold.

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Anyone who wants a footwear business will go bankrupt because the buyers are very few. Mainly aristocracy.

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Civilization is in human behavior, not in appearance. Do you understand what I mean?

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