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  • 1 Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, B9000 Ghent, Belgium
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One of the most visible identity markers of Buddhist monasticism is clothing. The robes of monks and nuns have been paid considerable attention by researchers. By contrast, other pieces of monastic clothing have attracted far less attention, and this is particularly the case with footwear. Although shoes certainly play a secondary role compared to robes, they still present the monastic community with a number of complex issues. Shoes touch the ground, so they inevitably get dirty. Hence, wearing shoes could be considered disrespectful when meeting someone or paying homage, but so could showing one’s naked feet. Meanwhile, shoes protect the feet from dirt and injury on difficult roads, so they may be viewed as essential attire. Additional issues relate to the material and the shape of the footwear, and which shoes are the most appropriate in various situations. This study discusses early Buddhist disciplinary (vinaya) texts’ guidelines on issues relating to footwear, and explores how these guidelines were later received within China. It also provides a detailed picture of early Indian and Chinese Buddhist communities’ attitudes to shoes, a problematic element of monastic clothing.

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