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Chopsticks play an important role in the culture of food in China. Chopsticks are called "Kuaizi" in Chinese and were called "Zhu" in ancient times (see the characters above). Chinese people have been using kuaizi as one of the main tableware for more than 3,000 years. It was recorded in Liji (The Book of Rites) that chopsticks were used in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC - 1100 BC). It appears that the first chopsticks were used for cooking, stirring the fire, serving or seizing bits of food and not necessarily as eating utensils.
History of Chopsticks
There is some etiquette associated with chopsticks. Chopsticks should not be used to stab food. Do not rest them directly on the table or push them into a mound of rice and leave them there (this is only done at funerals). Don't pass food using chopsticks. Don't lick your chopsticks. Don't rub chopsticks together (as this is an insult to the host indicating that the chopsticks are cheap)
Here in the West, where fork eaters are in the majority, it is sometimes easy to forget that the fork has only recently become
an essential item at the dinner table. While the Byzantines used forks in the 10th century, in the United States, it wasn't until the eighteenth century that forks were typically used, instead relying on spoons and knives only.
Chopsticks were strongly advocated by the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479BC). Chinese society, influenced by Confucianism, consider the knife and fork to represent violence, as compared to chopsticks which reflect gentleness and benevolence, the main moral teaching of Confucianism. The thinking was that, since knives were instruments used for killing, they must be banned from the dining table.In dynastic times, the wealthy, often had chopsticks made from jade, gold, bronze, brass, agate, coral, ivory, and silver. It was believed 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, onions, or garlic were used, the hydrogen sulfide they release could cause the chopsticks to change color
Courtesy dictates that when dining you should cross your chopsticks -- and place them in clear view -- as an indication to the waiter that you are done eating and ready to pay the bill.
Length: Very long, large chopsticks, usually about 30 or 40 centimeters, are used for cooking, especially for deep frying foods.
Taper:Chopsticks are usually tapered, either bluntly (Chinese style) or pointedly (Japanese style).
Material: Chopsticks are made from a variety of materials: bamboo, plastic, wood, bone, metal, jade, porcelain and ivory.
holding food. They can warp and deteriorate with continued use if they are of the unvarnished/lacquered variety. Almost all cooking and disposable chopsticks are made of bamboo or wood. Disposable lacquered chopsticks are used especially in restaurants. These often come as a piece of wood that is partially cut and must be split into two chopsticks by the user (demonstrating that they have not been previously used). Plastic chopsticks are relatively inexpensive, low in temperature conduction and are resistant to wear.
Kuaizi is the Chinese word for chopsticks, meaning
'quick little fellows’.
The Kuaizi Museum in Shanghai contains over a thousand pairs of chopsticks.
Due to their composition, plastic chopsticks are not as effective as wood and bamboo for picking up food because they tend to be slippery. Also, plastic chopsticks cannot be used for cooking since high temperatures may damage the
chopsticks and produce toxic compounds.
Metal, usually stainless steel, chopsticks are durable and easy to clean, but metal is slippery. Silver is still common among wealthy families, as are silver-tipped wooden or bone chopsticks.
Other materials such as ivory, jade, gold, and silver are typically chosen for luxury. Sometimes these precious metal chopsticks are given as gifts for important occasions and can be quite expensive.
Styles of Chopsticks by Region
Chinese: longer than other styles at about 10 inches, thicker, with squared or rounded sides and ending in either wide, blunt, flat tips or tapered pointed tips. Blunt tips are more common with plastic or melamine varieties whereas pointed tips are more common in wood and bamboo varieties. Chinese sticks may be composed of almost any material but the most common in modern day restaurants is melamine
for its durability and ease
of sanitation. The most common type of material in regular households is lacquered bamboo.
Vietnamese: long sticks that taper to a blunt point, quite like the Chinese
lacquered wood or
bamboo. A đũa cả is a
large pair of flat chopsticks
that is used to serve rice from a pot.
Tibetan: usually identical
to the Chinese styles as they seem to be purchased mostly from China.
Nepali: shorter and more blunt, usually made of
Traditionally, chopsticks have been made from a variety of materials. Bamboo has been the most popular material 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 to make chopsticks for the greater population.
In China, an estimated 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are produced annually. This adds up to 25 million fully grown trees every year. In April 2006, the People's Republic of China imposed a five percent tax on disposable chopsticks to reduce waste of natural resources. This measure had the most effect in Japan as many of its disposable chopsticks are imported from China, which account for over 90% of the Japanese imports.
American manufacturers have begun exporting American-made chopsticks to China, using sweet gum and poplar wood as these materials do not need to be artificially lightened with chemicals or bleach, and are appealing to Asian consumers. The USA also has an abundance of wood, reducing the number of trees that are cut down in Asia.
No one knows how they originated, but there is a myth that about 3000 B.C. two poor Chinese farmers stole a chicken from a storehouse. They hid out in a forest and cooked it over an open fire. They were so hungry that they could not wait for the meat to cool and pulled off the done portions with a pair of sticks so that they would not be burned.
Sources: Wikipedia, China Culture.org, Waakapedia, indepthinfo.com, E How