Chopsticks – Traditional Chinese Dining Culture

by Rosemarie John on January 27, 2012

Considered an ancient Chinese invention, chopsticks were used as traditional eating utensils in the orient. A staple item in any household in China, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, these “nimble ones” are often made out of unfinished wood, bamboo or lacquer.

Chopsticks or “Kuaizi” as it is called can be found in most countries that are home to the Chinese diaspora. Approximately 10.5 inches long and tapper to a blunt end, these quick sticks are held in the dominant hand, between the thumb and forefinger. The art of picking up pieces of food is a skill quite dandy to acquire if you’re ever wanting to eat Chinese food the authentic Chinese way.

The fancier the event, the more glamorous chopsticks get, some are even made out of ivory, jade, silver or gold. You can even find them engraved with coloured pictures or calligraphy for decoration. These fancy multi-coloured ones with the 12 Chinese zodiacs on them were found in Chinatown Singapore.

Here are some common chopsticks don’ts:

  • Do not tap chopsticks on the edge of your bowl or point rested chopsticks towards others seated at the table as these actions are impolite.
  • Do not spear food with a chopstick. If handling food with chopsticks are too difficult, use a spoon instead.
  • Do not use your chopsticks upside-down unless there are no serving chopsticks or spoons to transfer dish to plate.
  • Do not leave chopsticks vertically stuck upright in a bowl as it resembles the ritual of incense burning that symbolises the act of feeding the dead or death in general.

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