Tuesday, January 25, 2011


One can trace many things back to China itself and the first chopsticks are said to been not only of ancient China but apparently from five thousand years ago but nobody is too sure of when chopsticks first came to be.

Its thought that as the population of China grew and resources became limited, people cut up their meat, vegetables and whatever else they would have put in their cooking pot. Food was cooked quicker and there wasn’t a need to cut up their food again with knives, so the branches used for fishing ended up being turned into chopsticks.

Many know who the philosopher Confucius is and it is this man who is likely to have made chopsticks even more popular with his teachings. Confucius himself was a vegetarian who held the belief that knives would remind people of slaughterhouses and therefore too vulgar for use at the dinner table.

Confucius himself lived from 551 to 479 BCE it wasn’t until around 500 AD that the use of chopsticks were used all across China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam with chopsticks still used by many to eat.
Japanese chopsticks are notably shorter then the Chinese counterparts along with being rounder and sharp at the end. Chinese chopsticks can be recognised by being rectangular and straight at the end.

Besides the differences in the shape of Chinese and Japanese chopsticks there are absolutely many kinds of materials people have made chopsticks with, people have made chopsticks out of wood, metal, bone, stone, bamboo, plastic, coral and even jade. Aluminium from recycled cans are also used to make chopsticks which are both light in weight and easy to clean.

King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty is actually thought to have once ordered his craftsman to make chopsticks out of elephants teeth.

In the past silver chopsticks were commonly used due to the belief that the chopsticks would turn black if they came into contact with poisonous food which was later disproved. It even was this belief that had Emperor’s using silver chopsticks specifically and silver chopsticks today are passed down as family heirlooms.

There are many Chinese proverbs out there, one is “We sit at the dinner table to eat, not cut up carcasses.” This dictated not to use knives at tables while at the same time to eat already cut up food in which chopsticks come in useful. While Europeans were cutting up their meat at the table the Chinese for centuries considered this practice barbaric.

There are some taboos with the use of chopsticks, such as stretching out the index finger while using chopsticks due to that being seen as an accusation  to another. While using chopsticks there is a taboo of inserting the chopsticks vertically into the food as the Chinese insert chopsticks vertically into food during the time of giving sacrifice to the dead.

In Chinese culture it is also taboo to suck on chopsticks as it is considered as impolite and a way to show a lack of education.
People avoid hitting the side of a bowl or plate with chopsticks for the very reason as it is said that only beggars do this while begging for food.

Chopsticks as they are called in English may have came from “chop chop” meaning “quickly quickly” in what is known as Chinese Pidgin English. In Chinese chopsticks are known as kuaizi, with “kuai” meaning “quickly” and “zi” meaning “baby” so it is not uncommon for newlyweds to be given chopsticks as a wedding gift.

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