Chopsticks has a history of about 5,000 years in China. It is likely that people cooked their food in large pots which retained heat well, and hasty eaters then broke twigs off trees to retrieve the food. By 400 BCE, a large population and dwindling resources forced people to conserve fuel.
Brief History of Chopsticks
Chinese eating utensils normally are chopsticks, spoons, bowls. Forks are not used on the table and never can you see knives. It is thought that Confucius, a vegetarian, advised people not to use knives at the table because knives would remind them of the slaughterhouse. It is also thought it is because the Chinese take their meals very seriously, and feel that the meal table should be a place of peace and harmony. The knife could be used as a weapon, and could disrupt the harmony of the table. Because of this, the knife, and anything else that could disrupt the harmony, is banned from the table.
Chopsticks are two long, thin, usually tapered, pieces of wood. Bamboo has been the most popular material of chopsticks because it is inexpensive, readily available, easy to split, resistant to heat, and has no perceptible odor or taste. Cedar, sandalwood, teak, pine, and bone have also been used. The wealthy, however, often had chopsticks made from jade, gold, bronze, brass, agate, coral, ivory, and silver. In fact, during dynastic times it was thought that silver chopsticks would turn black if they came into contact with poisoned food. It is now known that silver has no reaction to arsenic or cyanide, but if rotten eggs, onion, or garlic are used, the hydrogen sulfide they release might cause these chopsticks to change color.
Gift for New Couples
Chopsticks are called "Kuaizi" in Chinese which resembles the pronunciation of other two words, soon and son. Therefore, it is a tradition in some areas to give chopsticks as a gift to newly-married couples, wishing them to have a baby soon.
Tips for Using Chopsticks
When using chopsticks to eat, people need pay attention to some rules or common conventions. Such as:
- Do not stick chopsticks into your food, especially not into rice. Only at funerals are chopsticks stuck into the rice that is put onto the altar.
- Do not move your chopsticks around in the air too much, nor play with them.
To separate a piece of food into two pieces, exert controlled pressure on the chopsticks while moving them apart from each other. This needs much exercise.
Most of the restaurants in China now have forks available. If you are not used to chopsticks, you can ask servants of the restaurant to provide you with forks or spoons. Some restaurants will serve several kinds of eating utensils for your choice before you ask and a few have descriptions and pictures available showing how to use chopsticks and some.
- How to Use Chopsticks
- Mistakes with Your Chopsticks
- Chinese Dining Etiquette
- Seating Arrangement for Dining in China
I updated this article on March 1, 2014
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