The Chinese chopsticks

On March 10, 2011, in Beijing, Featured China Stories, by Jack Li

During your china travel, you may be interested in Great Wall, The Summer Palace, and The Forbidden City or the delicious food. But I guess you must be confused the chopsticks. Today we will talk about the chopsticks. When the Chinese began to use chopsticks as an eating instrument is anybody’s guess. They were first mentioned in writing in Liji (The Book of rites), a work compiled some 2,000 years ago, but certainly they had their initial form in the twigs which the primitive Chinese must have used to pick up a roast after they began to use fire. The twigs then evolved into the wooden, tapering sticks as we know them today.

The correct way to use chopsticks is to hold the pair in the hollow between the thumb and forefinger of your fork hand. The one closest to your body should rest on the first joint of the ring finger and stay relatively immobile. Hold the other one with the forefinger and middle finger, which manipulate it like pincers to pick up the food. The strength applied by the fingers should vary with the things to be taken hold of. The skill to pick up, with speed and dexterity, small things like beans and peanuts and slippery things like slices of preserved eggs can only come from practice and coordinated action of the fingers.

Chopsticks may be made of any of several materials: bamboo, wood, gold, siler, ivory, pewter, and plastics. In cross-section, they may be either round or square. Some of them are engraved with coloured pictures or calligraphy for decoration. Ordinary chopsticks used in Chinese homes are of wood or bamboo; those for banquets are often ivory, whereas gold ones belonged only to the royalty and aristocracy.

Westerners are often impressed with the cleverness of the Chinese hand that makes embroideries and clay sculptures with such consummate skill.

And now for an interesting bit of culture trivia: a set of chopsticks is a common gift for newlyweds, because the Mandarin for chopsticks (筷子 “kuaizi”) is a homophone for “have a son soon” (快子).

So when you are using the chopsticks, you will appreciate the Chinese creation. I believe you will enjoy your China Tours.

Jack Li

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