Nón lá (palm-leaf conical hat) is a traditional symbol of Vietnamese people without age, sex or racial distinctions.

nón lá
Nón lá

Like 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. The story is about a giant woman from the sky who has protected humankind from a deluge of rain. She wore a hat made of four round shaped leaves to guard against all the rain. After the Goddess was gone, Vietnamese built a temple to commemorate her as the Rain-shielding Goddess.

Vietnamese tried to make a hat modelling after the Goddess’ by stitching together palm leaves, which is now known as Nón lá. The image of Non la has become strongly associated with peasant lives from the paddy field to boat men and women.

Nón lá 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, ‘Nón bài thơ’ (poem hat) – a famous Nón 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.

Nón lá has many variations since 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: ‘Nón ba tầm’ or ‘Nón quai thao’), medium-sized hat and head-hat. Nón ba tầm which is made of 3 layers of dry leaves, is for daily used whereas nón quai thao is used for festivals only.  Nón lá used to be flat and round, about 1 metre in diameter, with a chin-strap in rattan (Nón quai thao). Nón 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; Nón for kids, troops and monks. Each kind has its own shape and special manner; sometimes it differs regionally from each other.

Nón qua thao
Nón quai thao

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 Nón lá and Áo dài 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 souvenirs from Vietnam.

Nguồn: Vietnamonline.com