CONICAL HAT (NON LA) IN VIETNAM
For centuries, Vietnamese and poets, writers and musicians have mentioned Non La in their poems, novels and songs as Vietnam’s beauty, romance and charm. Non La or Bamboo Palm-Leaf Conical Hat is one of the most popular traditional carried accessories of Vietnamese women in the past and recent. Today, the conical hat becomes the symbol of Vietnam and are well-known by most of tourists.
Up to now, the exact origin of Non La is still a mystery and no one seems to know for sure. However, it has been said that Non La was carved on Ngoc Lu bronze drums dating 2500 – 3000 years ago. It indicates that Non La had been already popular during this period, and perhaps even earlier. But one thing we can say that Conical Hat came from the countryside. Most of Vietnamese people make their living in agriculture. They have to work on rice fields, orchards or go fishing on boat and rowing sampan under the sunshine and the rain all the time. Something used to cover the head effectively is a must, so our ancestors has created the unique Non La which not only beautiful but also useful.
Non La has conical shape and that’s reason why we call it Conical Hat. The diameter of bottom surface is 40cm and the height is 20cm. Outside part of the hat is made from bamboo palm leaves which is arranged continuously. Inside part of Non La is 16 small bamboo circles arranged from large to narrow with equal distance. The most famous Conical Hat is Non Bai Tho (Poem Conical Hat). Vietnamese people call it Non Bai Tho because there are poem lines hidden on it. The poem lines are also put between two thin layers of leaves and only seen when we put Non La surface in front of the sunlight.
To have a nice hat, the craft man has to lose a lot of labor. Firstly, he chooses the leaves neither young nor old and having green white color, ties them into clusters, dries them in the sun and presses iron them flatly. Then the craftman divides bambooes into small pieces, polishes them into round shaped sticks, bends them into circles. Nextly, he put the circles on the fixed frame. After that, he cover the leaves evenly on the fame, sews the leaves to stick into the circles. Finally, he paints a thin layer of shining oil outside of Non La.There are many places making Non La in Vietnam, especially An Giang, TayNinh, Hue, Ha Noi. Visiting the craft villages and witneesing the sight making the hats, we will recognize the patience and the Job loving heart of the workers.
The image of Non La has been in hearts of Vietnamese people. Any Vietnamese people far from their country seeing Non La also misses home.
Reminding Non La, people remember the image of a farmer old man in Non La ploughing on a paddy field. People remember the image of women in Non La bending the back transplanting rice. Sometimes, they sit on the bank fanning themselves cool or use Non La to ladle water to wash the faces.
Remiding Non La, people remember the woman in Non La shouldering rice or vegetables on the village road.
Especially, the girld with Ao dai and Non La sitting on the bicycle going to school used to make every hearts of boys shake.
It has gone into Vietnamese poetry.
This is the image of the mother with Non La:
Quê hương là cầu tre nhỏ,
Mẹ về nón lá nghiêng che.
Hometown is a small bamboo bridge,
The mother is coming back in Non La covering askew.
This is the image of the young girl with Non La:
Sao em biết anh nhìn mà nghiêng nón,
Chiều mùa thu mây che có nắng đâu.
Why darling knows me looking at, but askew hat,
Autumn afternoon, the cloud is covering, not having sunshine.
Since 1986, Vietnamese economics has gradually developed. Most of roads have been covered with pitch or beton. The living of people is also better. Therefor, a number of people going by cars or motorcycle are more and more.The people going on food and by bicycle redue, so Non La appears less before. However, in market areas and in rural areas Non La is still popular. Especialy, Non La is present at many international conferences and loved by lots of friends in the world.
Generally, because of its convenience and slender form, Non La has been used by many Vietnamese people, especially women for thousands of years. It will live forever with Vietnamese people.