Vietnamese Culture - A 1970's Perspective Copyright 1996 Vn-families Issue #20. "Non Bai Tho" or the "poetical Leaf", Vietnam Bulletin, November 1970. Vietnam Bulletin was a weekly publication of the Embassy of the Republic of Viet Nam in Washington, DC, in the 60-70's. We will run this column weekly until we run out of interesting cultural articles. Please direct all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org ==================================================================== Here is the proposed schedule of this column. Issue #1: Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118 Issue #2: The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118. Issue #3: The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by George F. Schultz, VB710118. Issue #4: 1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118. Issue #5 The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc, VB710208. Issue #6: Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208 Issue #7: The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 Issue #8: The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222 Issue #9: The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301 Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308 Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, TAS720506. Issue #12: The legend of Chu Van Dich, George F Schutlz, VB701221 Issue #13: The sandalwood maiden, George F. Schultz, VB7010?? Issue #14: Legend about Emperor Ly Thai-To, George F Schultz, VB7010?? Issue #15. Chu Dong-Tu and Princess Tien Dung, George F. Schultz, VB701005 Issue #16. The husband's most difficult task: teaching his wife, Van Ngan, VB 691216 Issue #17: Superstition in Viet Nam, Van Ngan, VB6911?? Issue #18: Hair: VN style, VB7007?? Issue #19: Funeral rites in Viet-Nam, Van Ngan, VB7006?? Issue #20: "Non Bai Tho" or the "Poetical Leaf", ???, VB7011?? - May 29, 1996. Issue #21: The different systems of writings in Viet-Nam, ???, VB710201 - June 5, 1996. Issue #22: Vietnamese literature in "Chu Nom", ???, VB710201 - June 12, 1996. Issue #23: The boat of illusion, Nguyet Cam, Heritage Sept/Oct 1995 - June 19, 1996. Issue #24: Tran Hung Dao's proclamation to his officers, George F. Schultz, VB 710201 - June 26, 1996. =================================================================== "Non Bai Tho" or "Poetical Leaf" ??? Take a peasant's common conical hat, add a touch of this and a little of that, and you will have the idea, but not quite an authentic Non Bai Tho or "Poetical Leaf" from Central Viet Nam. Just a few simple arrangements added to the conical form are enough to give the Vietnamese leaf-covered hat unique features found nowhere else among Asia’s various types of conical hats. vietnamese girls become milder, more elegant and more delicate when once they put on a hat which gives shelter to their blushing cheeks like a crowing bud protected from sun, rain or rough wind. Now, Vietnamese girls do not like just any conical hat they come upon. The dearest to them is inevitably the one called the "Poetical Leaf ". Looking at the inside of the hat, when held ,against the light, one finds widely popular, romantic poems, proverbs and old sayings; sometimes there is the image of a temple, palace or tomb. The hat originated in Hue, the ancient cultural capital of Viet-Nam, and the birthplace of many eminent literary men. It is true that the place where the hat comes from has been romantically famous with its peaceful Huong (Perfume) River and its majestic Ngu Binh (Peace) mountain. Moreover, Hue has been famous for her attractively sentimental, soft-voiced and long-haired girls who often gave inspiration to poets whose creative works have been handed down to the present day. And the "Poetical Leaf" has a prominent place in all that poetical, dreamy and yet scholarly diet of the ancient city. The hat is meticulously and creatively made from simple materials of nature. Thin wooden pieces with notches are used as a frame to shape the conical form and to hold the hat rims together. All this is done solely by hand, for no machine ever touches a " Poetical Leaf ". The leaves used to cover the hat are brought from the forest. Then they are exposed to the dew for one night to soften them. When the leaves become dry but still soft they are flattened either by hand or by ironing. Only young leaves are selected. Old or dark ones are discarded. A hat usually consists of 16 to 18 rims made from a special kind of bamboo. The poem and picture frames are made in advance and then attached to the hat between the leaves. 1n order to have a well-made hat, it must be knitted together with a peculiar kind of thread called "doac" made from the ]eaves of a special kind of reed. Finally, the hat is trimmed and painted with a coat of attar oil to keep it clean and smooth. All the attraction and unique value of the hat depends upon the arrangements of the dextrous craftsman. The "Poetical Leaf" is not only a symbol of the mysterious dreamlike beauty of the girls in Central Viet-Nam, but has also become part of the national cultural spirit.