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China Information >> Folk Culture
 
Chopsticks

  


It,s commonly known that the Chinese invented chopsticks (orkuaiziin Chinese) as a set of instruments to be used when eating but the reason behind that is not commonly known. Actually, the Chinese were taught to use chopsticks long before spoons and forks were invented in Europe (the knife is older, not as an instrument for dining but as weapon). Chopsticks were strongly advocated by the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479BC). Chinese people, under the cultivation of Confucianism, consider the knife and fork bearing sort of violence, like cold weapons. However, chopsticks reflect gentleness and benevolence, the main moral teaching of Confucianism. Therefore, instruments used for killing must be banned from the dining table, and that is why Chinese food is always chopped into bite size before it reaches the table.  

Eating Chinese food would not be as enjoyable if the wrong utensils were used. Using two slim and slippery sticks to pick up grains of rice and little pieces of meat and vegetables is actually not a difficult task to accomplish. In fact, there are foreigners who are as competent in using the chopsticks as the Chinese.

The truth of using chopsticks is holding one chopstick in place while pivoting the other one to pick up a morsel. How to position the chopsticks is the course you have to learn. First, place the first chopstick so that thicker part rests at the base of your thumb and the thinner part rests on the lower side of your middle fingertip. Then, bring your thumb forward so that the stick will be firmly trapped in place. At least two or three inches of chopstick of the thinner end should extend beyond your fingertip. Next, position the other chopstick so that it is held against the side of your index finger and by the end of your thumb. Check whether the ends of the chopsticks are even. If not, then tap the thinner parts on the plate to make them even.

When dining with Chinese friends or business partners, it is always better for foreigners to try learning how to maneuver the chopsticks. You should only ask for a fork and spoon if all else fails. Using chopsticks to eat rice is a problem to most foreigners. Generally the tip to eat rice is to bring one,s rice bowl close to one,s mouth and quickly scoop the rice into it with one,s chopsticks. Since this is difficult for foreigners, and so simply lifting portions of rice to the mouth from the bowl held in the other hand is perfectly acceptable.

There are superstitions associated with chopsticks too. If you find an uneven pair at your table setting, it means you are going to miss a boat, plane or train. Dropping chopsticks will inevitably bring bad luck. Crossed chopsticks are, however, permissible in a dim sum restaurant. The waiter will cross them to show that your bill has been settled, or you can do the same to show the waiter that you have finished and are ready to pay the bill.

 

Chopsticks originated in China and usage in Japan, South Korea and Vietnam was introduced from China. About 1.5 billion people use chopsticks worldwide and a large number of Westerners are proud of using the eating utensil. Lyudmila Putin, wife of Russian President Vladimir Putin and world-famous tenor Placido Domingo, are Said to be proficient in the use of chopsticks.

Japanese chopsticks are short and pointed because, it is said, that style is more suited for eating sashimi, a Japanese favorite. There is also a Chopsticks Festival in Japan to commemorate the Introduction of the invention.

South Koreans use pointed chopsticks made of stainless steel, which are durable and convenient for eating barbecue.

In America, chopsticks are sold in many gift and souvenir stores or supermarkets and in most large eating establishments, a customer,s request for chopsticks will be satisfied.

Some Chinese food restaurants provide printed explanations on how to use chopsticks, complete with photographs and the advice that practice with pencils might be helpful.

Chopsticks are not only a unique kind of tableware but a small carrier to aid in the spread of Chinese culture. In Western countries, eating Chinese food has become popular and, eating with chopsticks helps provide the true flavor of the activity.