Asian Feet Cultures

For Asians, feet are made for more than just walking. In India, the act of touching the feet of their parents, teachers and other elders denotes respect and recognition of the elders’ knowledge and experience.

Both Hindu and Muslim women paint henna tattoos on their feet in the days leading up to their wedding. In addition, Hindu women signify their married status by wearing toe rings just like most of us wear a wedding ring on our hands.

In Thailand, they consider the act of pointing one’s feet at their elders as disrespectful. Raising one’s feet on the table or stepping on a book is also considered bad-mannered and impolite, according to Suchitra Chongstitvatana of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “It’s been a taboo in Thailand for a long time and it still is. It shows the delicacy of Thai people.”

Japanese folks customarily remove their shoes in their homes. According to experts, most homes use tatami floor mats, which are considered sacred and valuable under their tradition. However, practicality may also be a factor. Humidity is relatively high in Japan. Removing one’s shoes help keep the feet dry.

A couple of centuries ago, Chinese women were subjected to foot binding—a barbaric and painful practice of binding their feet to make them smaller, resulting in deformity. According to Chinese tradition, having small feet is among the many criteria for marriageability and beauty. This cruel ritual was abolished when Communism took power in China. Today, China thrives in the foot massage business. Virtually every major city in China is crowded with foot massage outlets.

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