Symbol of Vietnam: Non La
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Every country has their own hat styles, in the United States the baseball cap, in England the London bobby’s helmet, in Greece the fisherman’s hat, in France the beret and so on. In Vietnam, the conical pleasant hat, or non la, serves as a very important tool used by everyone. The non la, translates “leaf hat,” because it is made out of leaves and is also very light and thin. The non la is used by villagers for protection from the sun, and it is also used as a fan in the hot and dry weather. The non la is also a symbol of beauty because it shows the very poor, simple life of a Vietnamese farmer.
The non la dates back to the earliest civilizations thousands of years ago. It was used in the rice fields by farmers because Vietnam is very hot almost year-round. In Vietnam, the farmers of rice and other vegetables usually do it by hand. They would go in the scorching hot sun and plant these plants by hand; this could be very dangerous because they could get sun burned. The non la would be used to protect them, covering most of the sun rays from their head.
The non la symbolizes the Vietnamese beauty. The hat is used usually by the women from the fields working on the rice patty to doing plays at a theater. When used by the women, the size makes the girls look attractive because they’re mysteriously hidden; only her shy cheeks and long hair beneath the rims of the non la are seen. The women would ride their bike wearing the ao dai, a long flowing dress worn over loose-fitting trouser, and also a national dress of the women. It is a lasting impression for everyone visiting Vietnam; they would see Vietnamese women wearing white ao dai wearing a non la walking down the tree shaded streets of Saigon or somewhere else.
The non la symbolizes simplicity of a very original Vietnamese farmer. The hat is a simple material of nature, the leaves, are taken from the softest trees and put in the dew one night to be dried, but still soft enough to be flattened. The hat usually consists of 16 to 18 rims made from a special kind of bamboo. These rims are shaped into a conical-form and sewn into and the leaves are sewn into all rims by hand. Finally, the hat is trimmed and painted with a coat of attar to keep it clean, smooth, and water-proof. The simplicity of a Vietnamese farmer is present when he sits down resting after long hard work. They would use the non la to cool themselves by fanning. Their hat is their companion; they go with them everywhere they travel.
The non la is not only a symbol of Vietnamese girls, but has also become part of the spirit of Vietnam, the nation. You would never forget the image of a girl wearing the white ao dai with a non la walking down the street because it has been the original, elegant, and sexy thing that the Vietnamese women do.
The non la is a national symbol because it is used by everyone in the country. They are used by the workers in the sunny fields, and used as a fan under a shade resting. It is used during shows because it represents the Vietnamese people, the poor and simple people of Asia. The women use the non la as a part of their daily Vietnamese life, they need it for protection from the sun rays. It dates back to the earliest days, and seeing the non la today is like seeing a piece of Vietnam.