The beauty of Vietnamese Conical Hat
- on Apr 16, 2018       By: Hai Anh
Take with you a peasant’s common conical hat, but not quite an authentic Non Bai Tho or “Poetical Leaf” from Central Vietnam, add a touch of this and a little of that, and you will have the idea. Just a few simple arrangements added to the conical form are enough to make the Vietnamese leaf-covered hat unique features found nowhere else among Asia’s various types of conical hats.
Palm-leaf conical hat or Nón lá is a traditional symbol of Vietnamese people without age, sex or racial distinctions
History of Vietnamese conical hat
Similar to many other traditional costumes of Vietnam, Nón lá has its own origin, coming from a legend related to the history of rice growing in Vietnam. Once upon a time, the legend says, when a deluge of rain was pouring there descended from the sky a giant woman wearing on her head four huge round leaves as large as the sky itself and stitched together by bamboo sticks. The leaves protected humankind, then still naked, from the rain. The giant messenger from the sky twirled around the leaves on her head to dispel clouds and rains. Those who followed her were taught by her how to grow crops. Oneday mankind dozed off as they listened to stories narrated by her. When they woke up the goddess was gone. The Vietnamese built a temple in her memory and honored her as the Rain-shielding Goddess. Following her example, people went into the forests to fetch broad and round leaves (palm) which they stitched together on a bamboo frame. This was to become an indispensable headwear for the farmers on the fields, boat-women carrying passengers across rivers, travelers under the blazing sun…
Non Lá was born since Vietnamese people stitch palm leaves together to make a hat modelling after the Goddess. The image of Nón lá has become strongly associated with peasant lives from the paddy field to boat men and women. This conical hat is made out of such simple and available materials as palm leaves, bark of Moc tree and bamboo. Nón lá is abundantly sold and there are many traditional villages where tourists can get high quality conical hats. For example, the Chuong village – 30km South West of Hanoi, is best-known for its handmade palm-leaf conical hats for centuries. Especially, ‘Non bai tho’ (poem hat) – a famous Non of Hue, has a picture of bamboo or even lyric lines of verse under the leaf-layer sunk designs, which is only seen under the sunlight.
‘Non bai tho’ (poem hat) – a famous Non of Hue
Nón lá has many variations sinc its original version thousands of years ago after making first appearance over 3000 years ago. According to the old, in the past, people divided Non la into three main types: Non muoi (or ‘Non ba tam’, ‘Non quai thao’), medium-sized hat and head-hat. Non la used to be flat and round, about 1 metre in diameter, with a chin-strap in rattan (Non quai thao). Non quai thao is a crucial accessory of countryside women when they go to festivities or pagodas and as well as female singers in Lim festival. Head-hat is the smallest one with lowest selvage. At that time, people also classified the hats according to the owners’ levels. Some kinds were for the old; some were for the rich and mandarins; Non for kids, troops and monks. Each kind has its own shape and special manner; sometimes it differs regionally from each other.
Nón lá can serve numerous uses such as a personal sun proof, a basket for women going to market, a fan of a ploughman in hot summer days, or even a keepsake to memorize. The image of a young lady wearing conical hat and the Ao dai is a beautiful symbol of Vietnam; Nón lá is also an object which, as part of the national spirit, closely links Vietnamese people, so many travellers enjoy taking a Nón lá as a special souvenir from Vietnam.
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