In this paper, the concept of “people as the roots” (of the state) is explored through its myriad expressions in Vietnamese history: the emphasis of Vietnamese feudal rulers on fulfilling the people’s will, loving the people, and ensuring peace for the people. From these historical examples, the authors argue that in the politics of Vietnamese traditional Confucianism, there has been the presence of democratic elements. Yet, they do not reflect a full-fledged democracy and should be seen only as signs of village democracy. This view holds an important implication for the process of democratization of modern Vietnamese society: while the concept of “people as the roots” is essential for a village democracy and is valuable for building a democracy, it does not necessarily mean a straightforward translation to a modern democracy. Here, the authors suggest that civil society will play an important role in making this transition smoother.