What Is A Asian Conical Hat?

The Asian conical hat, commonly known as an Asian rice hat, or just rice hat (particularly in the US), coolie hat or Chinese hat (in the UK), oriental hat, or farmer’s hat, is a simple style of conical hat originating in East, South and Southeast Asia; and notable in modern-day nations and regions of Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, parts of Outer Manchuria, Taiwan, Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It is kept on the head by a cloth (often silk) or fiber chin strap.

Use

Asian conical hats are, throughout Asia, primarily used as a form of protection from the sun and rain. When made of straw or other woven materials, it can be dipped in water and worn as an impromptu evaporative cooling device. It is also widely understood in East Asia, most notably Japan, as a symbol of Buddhism, as it is traditionally worn by pilgrims and Buddhist monks in search of alms. They were also worn by the samurai of Japan, where they were known as jingasa (traveling hat) or Kasa.

Spanish military uniforms in the Philippines in 1862 showed the salakot (right) worn as part of the traje de campaña (campaign uniform) and Rayadillo. This later evolved into a pith helmet in British India.

Rice farmer in northern Cambodia wearing a do’un
In the Philippines, the salakot is more commonly a pointed dome-shape, rather than conical, with a spike or knob finial. Unlike most other mainland Asian conical hats, it is characterized by an inner headband in addition to a chinstrap. It can be made from various materials including bamboo, rattan, nito, bottle gourd, buri straw, nipa leaves, pandan leaves, and carabao horn. The plain type is typically worn by farmers, but nobles in the pre-colonial period (and later principalia in the Spanish period) crafted ornate variations with jewels, precious metals, or tortoiseshell. These are considered heirloom objects passed down from generation to generation within families.

The salakot was also commonly worn by native soldiers in the Spanish colonial army. It was adopted by Spanish troops in the early 18th century as part of their campaign uniform. In doing so, it became the direct precursor of the pith helmet (still called salacot or salacco in Spanish and French).

A decorative Assamese jaapi constructed primarily out of bamboo and leaf while the decorations are felt, threads, and tin glitter
In Vietnam, the nón tơi (“hats”), nón gạo (“rice hat”), nón dang (“conical hat”) or nón trúc (“bamboo hat”) forms a perfect right circular cone which tapers smoothly from the base to the apex. Special conical hats in Viet Nam contain colorful hand-stitch depictions or words while the Huế varieties are famous for their nón bài thơ (lit. poem conical hats). These contain random poetic verses and Hán tự which can be revealed when the hat is directed above one’s head in the sunlight. In modernity, they have become part of Viet Nam’s national costume.

In China, it was typically associated with farmers, while mandarins wore tighter circular caps, especially in the winter.

Similarly in India and Borneo, the plain conical hat was worn by commoners during their daily work, but more decoratively-colored ones were used for festivities. In Sabah, the colorful conical hat is worn for certain dances while in Assam they are hung in homes as decoration or worn by the upper classes for special occasions.

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