Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chuông village and conical hats

Chuông village, in Phương Trung commune, Thanh Oai district, Hà Tây province, is about 30km from Hà Nội. For centuries now, the village is well-known for its traditional craft: hat-making. In old times, conical hats were made to offer to princesses and royal ladies only as their decoratives. The village nowadays is frequented by visitors not only to buy hats but to see how the hats are made.
On overage, everyday, about 7,000 hats are finished and they are not only sold at home but exported to overseas (mostly China, Japan and some European countries, that why 90% of the households get busy hat-making.

It takes time and efforts, even patience to make hats. Materials are green leaves brought from Thanh Hóa – Nghệ An. Leaves need processing then put to dry in the sunshine, then indirectly smoked and put under dew-drops (so that the leaves get toughened and whitened and softened). Needling is an art and only well-experienced can do it. Each hat needs 15 rounds of needling, then it has to make the frame balanced. The product is finished, the hat-maker tie 10 or 20 hats in a string for sales. The village has 6 market days. Since early morning, under the old banyan tree, white hats can be seen everywhere, there are also materials to make hats on sale.
Conical hat dance in "APEC photography on display at cultural heritage"Photo: Văn Chương

Traditionally, conical hats have same size. But presently, due to flow of tourists and different requirement, hats are made in various sizes, from very small ones (for souvenirs).

Recently, in order to welcome APEC 14 Việt Nam, a colossal conical hat was made (ordered by Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism), it’s 1,5m high, the largest diameter is 3,6m, the slope is 2,3m and 15kg heavy. The colossal hat was on display at exhibition “APEC photography on display at cultural heritage” during APEC week. It’s present in the dance to promote Việt Nam culture.

During APEC days, the image of conical hat and áo dài (long robe) become the symbol of Vietnamese women’s beauty. The colossal conical hat by Chuông artisans helped to beautify Việt Nam and the culture of Vietnamese on international arena.

96-year-old, Mrs. Phạm Thị Tuệ, as all artisans of Chuông village have a common wish: how to preserve and develop the ancestors’ traditional craft: hat-making.

                                                                      HIỀN THANH

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