Every country has its national symbol that stands as its identity, fashion, and tradition. The United States has the baseball cap, while the Indian Punjabi people have unified turbans. Also, Israelis use yarmulke. In Vietnam, there are the Vietnamese Conical Hats. Have you ever wondered why do people wear them? The 'Non la' or the conical hat stands as one of the national specialties of the native people of Vietnam, handcrafted traditionally and uniquely. Learn more about this in today's post!
While Vietnam has its graceful and elegant silk 'ao dai', the conical hat is another attractive piece of Vietnam that every Vietnamese holds dear to their culture. This blog has you covered if you wish to learn Vietnamese culture and its relation to the conical hat. Please keep reading and discover the wonder behind the traditional Vietnamese hat and its evolution.
As far as the Vietnamese history of the conical hats goes, there is a story tied sacredly to the beliefs of the Vietnamese people and their culture of rice fields. It is a belief that began once upon a time when a downpour of heavy torrential rain lasted for several weeks in Vietnam, damaging rural life with tremendous flooding, disasters, and severe disturbances. Under such a scenario, an elegant goddess descended to earth from heaven above.
She was rumored to be a giant woman belonging to the sky wearing a humungous hat curated with four large leaves, stitched and attached one above another with bamboo sticks. The hat frame was so big that it could protect and guard all the people suffering from the life-taking obstacles of the rain pour. She then dispelled all the clouds and rain, ensuring safety to the Vietnamese people, who could return to their normal lives.
She also taught the people to grow crops and gave educational lessons to the locals regarding livelihood. During one of her storytelling, mankind fell asleep listening to her benevolent voice, and the next thing the Vietnamese people discovered was her disappearance.
Ever since the origin and discovery of such a faithful object, the locals started making efforts to mimic the conical hat using palm leaves, and they even built a temple on her account. Locals began looking for leaves and stitching them into bamboo frames to honor her lessons and use the hat for good deeds. Later on, the conical hat became a daily essential of Vietnamese people, such as farmers on paddy fields, Vietnamese women who walk long distances under the hot sun, Boat-man of the village, and many more. After the great recognition, the indispensable item, the Vietnamese conical hat, has become a symbol of Vietnam.
Ever since the discovery of the Vietnamese conical hats or the non la a thousand years ago, it has undergone several changes pertaining to different states of affairs. Precisely, it has evolved, and today, it has many variations.
Usually, women wear Asian conical hats with a broad-rimmed frame, and men wear those with higher cones and smaller brims. Different hats exist depending on the various categories in society, from the upper class, working class, army troops, children or young people, to religious Buddhist monks. Also, the material can change from place to place. Usually, the region and the availability of the source leaves determine the hat structure.
Amongst the various leaf hats, the two most popular ones are Chuong village's conical hat, Non la, and Bai Tho hat of Hue city. The Nón Bai Tho is amongst the most known and attractive hats, also famous as the poem hat, as they have poetic verses inscribed under the leaf layers. The fascinating part of the Non Bai Tho hat is that the verses can be seen only under the sun, giving a mesmerizing beauty to the already graceful conical hat.
While the conical poem hats are used as an elegant Vietnamese symbol, they have an actual purpose behind their creation. When you visit Vietnam, you will see these unique conical hats being used as protection under the sun, a basket to carry fruits and vegetables; sometimes, the conical hats are used as a bowl to save one from thirst. Not to mention, the hats make a great souvenir.
Other than the poem conical hat, there are many others like the pineapple leaf hat, straw hat, Lotus-leaf hat, Chảo hat, Cặp hat, etc., made of various coconut or palm leaves and bamboo sticks. But mostly, the beauty lies in the magic of the palm leaf.
In Vietnam, making hats has become a tradition of the Vietnamese culture, and many traditional villages are solely entitled to making conical hats. The Chuong village in the Thanh Oai district, Hanoi city, is the most popular crafts village known for its glory of making beautiful Non La hats. Others such as Dong ba market and Thua Thien Hue city are also known for their imperial craftsmen and hats business. Since ancient times, a hat maker has secured a very exalted position in Vietnamese society.
There is a special feature of the old imperial capital, Hue, and the conical hat they make. They create special hats where the image of the Huong River and the Ngu mountain is imprinted in the conical hats. Unlike normal bamboo hats, they even have poems between the palm leaf layers, and the hats are very thin and detailed with precision and delicacy.
It is not easy to make the traditional Vietnamese Non La. However, to satisfy your curiosity, we are here to give a small tour of making a Vietnamese hat.
The first step is to collect either coconut leaves or palm leaves. After gathering the shiny green ones, hat makers usually dry them for 2-5 hours. Along with leaves, the search for bamboo sticks that are flexible and malleable is an important prerequisite.
The next step is to make the brim of the hat. It is an important step that one needs to be very careful about. Hat makers take proper care while bending the bamboo, depending on the required diametre.
Craftsmen of Vietnam use a special thread of Nylon to sew the hats as they are tough and transparent. One has to cautiously sew the layers of the hat and connect the brim circles to form a cone shape. This is the ultimate step where the hat takes the form of a cone.
Once done, it is time to make the hat attractive. This step is open to ideas and one's choice. The Vietnamese woman who loves designs goes for poem leaf hat features, some who like oriental hat goes for traditional ones, and some try to match their traditional dress.
Being a tropical country, every person has their own desired needs. The conical hats take different shapes and forms considering one's choice; one set is always unique from the other.
Well, this was a brief of the origin and beauty of the Vietnamese conical hat. Apart from the conical hat, you might as well want to learn about Vietnamese alphabets, their literature, and more about the Vietnamese people before landing in Vietnam. Acquiring such knowledge will help you gain a better experience in the country.
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