Non La Viet Nam: Timeless Charm of the Iconic Hat
Non-La Viet Nam, or the Vietnamese conical hat, is not only a cultural symbol but also a source of pride for the Vietnamese people. Its unique design and practicality have made it a ubiquitous sight in Vietnam, from bustling cities to rural villages. The hat’s origins can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient Dong Son culture, where it was used as protection from the sun and rain. Today, the Non-La continues to hold a special place in Vietnamese culture, serving as a symbol of beauty, elegance, and resilience. In this article, we will delve deeper into the timeless charm of this iconic hat and explore its significance in Vietnamese society.
What is Non-La Viet Nam?
Non-La is the traditional Vietnamese conical hat that is made of woven palm leaves and features a distinctive conical shape. It is worn by both men and women and is primarily used as protection from the sun and rain. Non-La is an iconic symbol of Vietnamese culture and can be seen being worn by farmers, fishermen, street vendors, and even people in urban areas. The hat is lightweight, durable, and provides excellent ventilation, making it an ideal accessory for Vietnam’s tropical climate. Its unique design has inspired many artists and designers and has become a popular souvenir for visitors to Vietnam.
How is it made?
Nón lá is made by skilled artisans using traditional techniques that have been passed down through generations. The process begins with selecting the right type of palm leaves, which are harvested and then left to dry in the sun. Once the leaves are dry, they are carefully sorted and cut into uniform sizes. The next step involves weaving the leaves together using a needle and thread made from bamboo. This is a meticulous process that requires precision and skill to achieve the desired shape and size of the hat. Once the weaving is complete, the edges of the hat are trimmed and reinforced with a circular piece of bamboo or rattan. The final step involves adding a chin strap made from the same material as the hat. The end result is a beautiful and functional piece of headwear that is both stylish and practical.
How to preserve Non-La
To keep the Non-La hat durable, it should be worn during sunny weather and avoided during rain. It should be protected from strong impacts that can deform the hat. After use, it should be stored in a shaded area. Exposing it to direct sunlight can cause the brim and leaves to warp, become brittle, and turn yellow, which can reduce its aesthetic appeal and shorten its lifespan. When wearing the hat, it should be handled gently to avoid damaging the straps. When not in use, it should be hung in a dry place and wiped dry if it gets wet. It should not be sat on, pressed down on, or twisted.
>> Banh Chung (Chung Cake): A traditional Tet Vietnamese symbol
Origin and significance of Non-La Viet Nam
The conical hat originated 2500-3000 years BC, as depicted on the Ngoc Lu bronze drum and the Dao Thinh bronze jar. In the past, to find a tool that could protect them from rain and sun and withstand harsh weather, people used the most basic materials to create a wide-brimmed hat that served many useful purposes for farmers.
Over time, the conical hat became familiar and widely used in people’s daily lives, making it an essential item.
According to another legend, the conical hat was created to commemorate a tall woman. It is always worn on the head and made of four round-shaped leaves, and wherever this woman went, she helped make the weather more favorable. She taught farmers how to plant rice before she disappeared. To show gratitude for her great contributions, people made the conical hat by interweaving palm leaves. From then on, the Vietnamese conical hat was born.
The conical hat has both material and spiritual significance. Particularly, the cultural image of Vietnam is known worldwide every time the conical hat is present.
Significance of Non-La
The conical hat holds great material value, despite not being an expensive item. Its simplicity and modesty represent the soul of the Vietnamese people. For farmers, the hat is an indispensable tool, used every day to protect them from rain and sun.
Vietnamese women often use conical hats as handheld fans while working in the fields, and it adds a touch of modesty and elegance when paired with the traditional long dress.
The conical hat is also a popular souvenir that anyone can purchase to give as a special gift to their international friends and family. It is not just in Vietnam where we can see the conical hat appearing; it is prevalent all over the world. Almost everyone who has used a conical hat once would like to keep it as a precious souvenir.
In addition to its material value, the conical hat holds great spiritual significance. For centuries, the Vietnamese conical hat has been depicted and ingrained in the country’s history. It is portrayed in poetry, music, and art, painted by poets and artists, which has helped to strengthen its symbolic association with the Vietnamese people.
Not only in poetry but the Non-La Viet Nam is also depicted in oil paintings in a magical way. The Non-La is elegantly combined with the ao dai, with lotus flowers, and with the countryside of the country. All of them are very familiar, and when we admire these special paintings from afar, we will remember the Vietnamese people, remember the cultural identity of the Orient.
Overall, the non-la has played a significant role in Vietnamese culture and society, reflecting the country’s history, traditions, and creativity. It is a source of pride and identity for the Vietnamese people and a symbol of their resilience and resourcefulness.
Famous Non-La Viet Nam making villages
Depending on the preferences and available materials, each region has different types of Non-La with different materials and patterns. Let’s join VIETNAM MORNING to visit traditional Non-La-making villages that have been famous for hundreds of years in all three regions.
Non- La Chuong Village – Ha Noi
Nestled by the Da River, Chuong Village (Thanh Oai district, Hanoi) is famous for its traditional craft of making non la, which has a history of more than three centuries.
In the past, Chuong Village produced many types of non la such as three-tiled hats, conical hats with high peaks, long hats, marked hats, and pointed hats… From 1940 until now, the craftsmen in Chuong Village only make one type of non la which is the pointed conical hat – the traditional design.
When visiting Chuong village, tourists often choose days when the hat market and materials such as leaves, frames, and bamboo slivers are sold. Every lunar month, there are six markets (on the 4th, 10th, 14th, 20th, 24th, and 30th). The Chuong market is bustling with buyers and sellers, usually ending around 8 am.
The Chuong hat market is known for vendors carrying stacks of 10 to 20 hats on their heads or shoulders. They often walk around the market to find potential buyers. Buyers can sit in one place, wait for the hat to arrive, check the quality, and negotiate the price. A hat is sold for around 30,000 to 40,000 VND, and those with intricate patterns are much more expensive.
Non Ngua – Phu Gia Binh Dinh
The over 300-year-old Non-Ngua is made in Phu Gia hat village and is a symbol of strength and courage. It is covered in silver and engraved with flower motifs that reflect the martial identity of Binh Dinh. In contrast to the delicate and graceful poem hat from Hue, the Non-Ngua represents a different character.
Each Non-Ngua is woven with small, thin bamboo frames and woven into three layers of rib shapes. The outside is covered with green leaves, sewn tightly with white and even stitches. The hat strap is made of red or blue silk, with a curved shape under the chin. Making a Non-Ngua requires a lot of effort. The cost is high, ranging from 400,000 to 500,000 dong per hat, sometimes several million dongs. Horse hat consumption has been strong. Most are made to order. Mainly with the cheaper “flipped” version, priced from 80,000 to 150,000 dong per hat.
Non Thoi Tan – Can Tho
The traditional village of making leaf hats is located at Thoi Tan A hamlet, Thoi Lai district, Can Tho. The older craftsmen say that this craft has been around for over 70 years.
Thoi Tan hats are made from mat cat leaves and bamboo. Mat cat is a type of plant with wide leaves like palm leaves, grown abundantly in Phu Quoc, Ca Mau, and Tay Ninh… Each mat cat plant only has one young leaf selected to make hats. To create a hat, the craftsman needs a pyramid-shaped frame with the same dimensions as the hat.
In the 80s and earlier, the traditional palm-leaf hat was made with 15 leaves. In the 80s, Southerners shifted their preference to the 16-leaved Huế-style hat, which is decorated with unique patterns and embroidered with poems, landscapes, and flowers.
One of the reasons the Can Tho palm-leaf hat is popular is its smoothness and durability. There are two types of hats: those for working in the fields and those for going to the market. The ones for working in the fields are thicker and more robust, with wider brims. The ones for going to the market are more meticulously made with carefully selected leaves.
Depending on the distance between each stitch, the hats are classified into thin and thick. Buyers choose a beautiful hat based on its durability, thickness, and brim size. A hat made by a skilled craftsman can be sold for 3 to 5 times the price of a regular hat (about 60,000 to 70,000 VND/piece).
In conclusion, Non-La is a traditional Vietnamese conical hat that has become an iconic symbol of Vietnamese culture. Despite the challenges posed by modernization and globalization, Non-La continues to hold a special place in the hearts of Vietnamese people and is increasingly recognized and appreciated by people around the world. Non-La Viet Nam is not just a hat but a symbol of Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage and its people’s resilience, creativity, and ingenuity.