Utensils are the tools without which, eating would be a very messy process. Because of the nature of the food that is being eaten in China, namely noodles and the like, chopsticks were invented as an alternative to forks.
In Ancient China, there has been a multitude of inventions and creations and a lot of which are still in use till today. These items include paper, toilet paper, gunpowder and the idea of menus.
However, the main focus of this blogpost is about the Chopsticks, which is, unsurprisingly, a Chinese invention as well.
It is believed that the invention of chopsticks was made as early as between the Xia and Shang Dynasty. Chopsticks were mainly used for cooking and serving of food until the Han Dynasty, where it was then used as utensils for eating only. By the time China was ruled by the Ming Dynasty, chopsticks were both used as eating and serving utensils. With this invention, the people started to chop their food into smaller bite-sized pieces for easier usage of the chopsticks, which also made the eating process much faster.
During the Ming Dynasty, the using of chopsticks were quickly spread to other Asian regions such as Vietnam, Korea and Japan, and later on to the Western countries.
In present times, the translation for chopsticks in Chinese is 筷子 (kuai zi). The word 筷 ‘kuai’ means ‘quick’ / ‘chop-chop’ (fast) in English. While 子 ‘zi’ comes from the word Bamboo, 竹子 (zhu zi). However, it was originally called 竹 (zhu), and later replaced by the character 筷 (kuai).
One of the earliest findings of the first pair of chopstick was in the tomb site in Ruins of Yin, Henan CIty. There was a bronze set of utensils --- a pair of chopsticks, a bowl and a spoon. However, majority of the chopsticks were made out of Bamboo and wood.
To the Chinese, food is very important as it denotes life and health, peace and harmony. While dining, chopsticks and spoons were used more often than knives and forks. One of the possible reasons is that knives remind people of slaughterhouses which was considered inauspicious.
Also, since both knives and forks are sharp objects, they could easily be used as a weapon, which could possibly disrupt the peace and harmony at the table during mealtime. According to Confucius, as a vegetarian, he believed that sharp tools on the dining table has a negative connotation, similar to that of a slaughter house. Therefore, on the dining tables of the Chinese, they were not allowed to use knives and forks.
Besides discouraging the use of knives and forks on the dining table, there are several rules that every Chinese has to obey while eating with chopsticks:
Firstly, they are not allowed to stick their chopsticks in a bowl of rice. As this is done similarly for a deceased at a funeral or altar, which symbolises the offering of the food to the dead.
Secondly, one cannot waive or move too much of their chopsticks in the air as it is seen as very rude and disrespectful to the people around.
Thirdly, the noise created by tapping chopsticks against the edge of a bowl, creates an image of a beggar, leaving a bad impression.
Fourthly, one is said to be “digging their own grave” when they “dig” in the dishes.
With the invention of chopsticks thousands of years ago, there is plenty of time to practice our chopstick skills. LOOK HOW SKILLFUL THIS CHINESE MAN IS! But can you blame him?
So are you guys team chopsticks or team forks?