In ancient times, chopsticks were called ‘Zhu’. At that time, Chinese ancestors liked to steam or boil food. It was difficult for them to use spoons to dip vegetables in the soup. So they cleverly invented ‘Zhu’ to nip food, thus it has become the most convenient tableware in their lives. Development of chopstick has experienced a long history. Early in Xia Dynasty (21st – 16th century BC), the shape was still in development. Chopsticks only became two sticks of the same length in the Shang Dynasty (16th – 11th century BC). In the late Shang Dynasty, the tyrannical King Zhou ordered his craftsmen to make chopsticks from elephants’ teeth, which was seen to be the most luxurious in the early history of Chinese food culture.
The appearance of chopsticks said goodbye to those days when our Chinese ancestors had to use their hands to eat, so they featured the coming of civilization to food culture. The invention has many scientific theories. The lever principle of mechanics was applied into practice. The point where two sticks crossed is the pivot of the lever.
Chinese people are familiar with the use of chopsticks. Many foreigners are interested in but also puzzled about how to use it with facility. Here are some notes you’d better remember when to use it. First, you must hold the upper part and don’t cross it. Second, hold it with your thumb, index finger, middle finger and third finger. One stick is against your third finger and the other leans on your middle finger. Third, when you pick vegetable or meat in the dishes, use your index finger and middle finger to control the sticks. Practice a lot and then you will find it is an easy job.
The use of chopsticks has been a part of Chinese food culture. There are some taboos that you must pay great attention to, or you may make mistakes and be laughed at.
First, don’t use it to hit the side of your bowl or plate to make a lot of noise, because Chinese people think only beggars would do this to beg for meals. Second, when you use it, don’t stretch out your index finger, which would be regarded as a kind of accusation to others. Never use it to point at others. Third, it is thought to be an impolite behavior when you suck the end of a chopstick. People will think you lack family education. Fourth, don’t use it to poke at every dish without knowing what your want. And last, don’t insert it vertically into the bowls or dishes. Chinese people do this only when they burn incense to sacrifice the dead.
Nowadays, chopsticks serve many new functions besides tableware. For example, you can buy a pair as a gift to your friends and relatives. In Chinese, it reads ‘Kuaizi’, which means to have sons soon, so a newly-married couple will be very happy to accept it as their wedding gift. Skillful craftsmen painted beautiful sceneries on chopsticks to make them like fine artworks. Many people love to collect them as their treasure.
Chopsticks are small but they are adored by many people in the world. An interesting experiment shows that many joints and muscles are being exercised when you use it. They certainly make you cleverer, don’t they?