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 trant@teleport.com
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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.
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                  "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.