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Charming with Hue conical hat

2009-12-21 (GMT + 7)

Strolling around Hue City in peace and stillness, tourists will catch the images of local ladies in white ao dai (Vietnamese long dress) and non la (conical hats) on their heads walking gently under green trees along the streets. It is no doubt that if the ao dai is the traditional dress for Vietnamese women which firstly reveals hidden charms of Vietnamese women in tourists’ eyes, the conical hat is the second thing to make a strong impression on tourists to Vietnam by its charm and romance.

Traditionally, the conical hat is a sun safe device protecting people from the scorching heat or the tropical rains that often occur in Vietnam, so it often appears on heads of cyclists, people working the rice fields or rowing a boat, sweating vendors selling fruit on the street or dancers on stage. They are extremely lightweight, resistant and plaited with palm leaves.

However, in Hue, the conical hat has existed for a long time not only as a sun safe device but also as traditional jewelry depicting hidden charms and simplicity of Vietnamese women. Therefore, they are made a bit differently than regional conical hats, thinner and lighter and more artistic. “Hue conical hat is also plaited with palm leaves but thinner and its stitches are tinier and more gentle. Especially, artisans weave typical images of Hue such as Thien Mu Pagoda, Trang Tien Bridge or even poems into the hat and make it distinct,” said a local artisan identified as Quyt. As decorated with poems, Hue’s non la is also called non bai tho.

However, those poems and other images of ancient pagodas or bridges are not being seen clearly, but fancifully under the sunlight. And those vague images are meant to present shyness and profoundness of Hue ladies.

Today, in the modern society, the conical hat is not used as widely as before. However, Hue locals still preserve the traditional craft as an indigenous cultural feature at Huong Village on Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street, near Tu Duc Momentum.

Recently, many souvenir shops have grown up at the village.

Coming here, tourists not only can contemplate Hue’s conical hat but can also witness the progress of making a non la.

Quyt has to find and cut palm leaves and spread them onto the ground to dry. She wakes early to make the leaves straight in the dry season when the temperature can make the leaves curved. The next step for the artisan is to whittle bamboo sticks into rounds and then plait the leaves as the shape of the bamboo frame and weave them together. So, to make a conical cat, an artisan needs about three days.

Each conical hat is a work of arts, requiring perseverance, dexterity and diligence.

Source: VietNamNet/SGT

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