Khan Dong – Traditional Women’s Hairstyles in Northern Vietnam

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: February 21, 2020

Along with the “ao tu than”, traditional girls and women in Northern Vietnam are often charming with a “khan dong” and a “khan mo qua”.

The “khan dong” is a black piece of fabric wrapped around a girl’s long hair so that it forms a tube around the hair. The fabric-entubed hair is wrapped around the crown of the head. Usually, the girl’s hair is a little bit longer than the “khan dong”, forming a skinny, wispy ponytail sticking out of the “khan dong”. This ponytail is left dangling down from the “khan dong” on one side of the head. The Vietnamese call this hairstyle “toc duoi ga” because the ponytail resembles a rooster’s tail (“toc duoi ga” means rooster-tailed hair). For formal occasions, Vietnamese girls often used “khan dong” made of black velvet.

Instead of the rooster-tailed hair, they would pin the extra hair down and cover their heads with a “khan mo qua”, meaning crow’s beak kerchief. A “khan mo qua” is a black, square piece of heavy fabric. It is folded in half into a triangle and worn over the “khan dong” to cover the hair. The long side of the triangle is placed above the forehead while the two corner of the long side are tied at the nape of the neck (like the American bandana and kerchiefs). Because the “khan mo qua” is made of heavy, stiff fabric, the long side the of the triangle, or the folded edge, sticks out in front of the forehead in a point, sharp as a crow’s beak. “Khan mo qua” is not just a simple kerchief on the girl’s head, it is really the art of beautification that a Kinh Bac girl should know. Someone used to sing:

Look you with a “khan mo qua”,
Make me miss you so much…
Look you with a “khan mo qua”,  
Make me so admired for your beauty…


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