Dear ladies and gentlemen, we are all used to that “Chinese eat with chopsticks while westerners eat with fork & knife”. But do you know why Chinese choose and stick to chopsticks for thousands of years?
In ancient time, human eat with fingers. Later on, people started to use tools to help and different cutleries appeared in Eastern Asia and Western Europe respectively. That’s why we have three ways of eating now: with fingers (the South Asian Subcontinent, Africa); with fork and knife (Western countries); with chopsticks and spoons (Eastern Asia and Southeast Asia). According to the record, spoon appeared 8000 y ago, fork 4000 y ago; but there is no clear record for chopsticks.
Different spoons in ancient China
To a very large extent, the differences of cutleries are caused by different cooking & eating habits. Traditionally, there are two ways of cooking: roasting and boiling. Western people have long history of eating bread (roasting & baking), meat and dairy product; they use fingers to eat bread, fork and knife are for other dishes (roasted meat for the most of time). While in China, people have special favor for rice gruel and well cooked (boiled, steamed, stir-fried) food. For rice or meat gruel, people need tools to stir it when cooking and also tools to eat it, thus chopsticks are the best choice for both purposes.
A paint of the Cooking scenario in Song dynasty
Needless to say, westerners were very surprised when they first saw Chinese eat food with two sticks. And it is said when a Chinese Catholic（Michael Alphonsius Shen Fu-Tsung） came to France in 1780’s, King Louis XIV invited him to dinner just to observe the way he eats with chopsticks!
The etiquette for chopsticks
How to place your chopsticks? During Han and Jin Dynasties, they were placed vertical to the edge of table; in Tang dynasty, parallel to the edge of table; then in Song dynasty, people re-placed them vertically and the custom remained since then.
What are the rules when using chopsticks?
Don’t point at people with chopstick
Don’t wave your chopsticks
Don’t lick or suck the end of your chopsticks
Don’t use chopsticks to drum the bowls/table
Don’t search or stir in the dishes
Don’t place your chopsticks upright in the rice
Don’t cross the two sticks when place them
Don’t pass food with chopsticks
Use the serving chopsticks
Hold the upper half of the chopsticks, don’t cross the two sticks when use them
When you want to grab the chopsticks, the correct way: the purlicue part should be placing downward, then grab with your thumb and index directly. Avoid grabbing the chopsticks with your hands and then adjusting them with both hands.
When Henry Alfred Kissinger first visited China in 1971, he was embarrassed for not knowing how to use chopsticks. Then he asked his assistant to prepare a whole set just to practice, in order to show his good intentions on promoting bilateral relations！What else do you know about the etiquette for chopsticks? Please share with us!