are an important part of Asian culture. Their popularity and
widespread use across Asia have a long and rich history.
They come in all shapes and forms, from golden chopsticks
engraved with calligraphy to disposable bamboo wari-bashi.
Regardless of the form they take, chopsticks have evolved
into an important icon of Asian culture and an important
part of history.
It is believed
the first chopsticks were developed over 5000 years ago in
China. Early Asian man would retrieve his food from the fire
using sticks or branches broken from trees. Later, as the
population grew and resources became scarce, people would
cut food into smaller pieces to save fuel because the
smaller portions cooked faster. This eliminated the need for
knives, and chopsticks became the utensil of choice.
The onset of
Confucianism is believed to have further cemented the use of
chopsticks as the primary Asian eating utensil. Confucius
taught, “The honorable and upright man keeps well away
from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows
no knives on his table.” Confucius’ disdain for the
presence of knives at the kitchen table, coupled with the
popularity of his teachings no doubt contributed to the
expanding use of chopsticks among the population.
By 500 A.D.,
chopsticks had spread from China to other countries such as
Korea, Vietnam and Japan. While initially only used for
religious ceremonies in Japan, chopsticks quickly gained
popularity there as well, and their use became as widespread
as the rest of Asia in no time.
in many different forms. Bamboo tends to be the most popular
material to make them from. There is lots of it in Asia, it
is easy to split and it is especially resistant to heat.
Other popular materials were wood and bone, and chopsticks
made of precious metals were not uncommon among the wealthy.
It was believed that silver chopsticks would turn black upon
contact with poisoned food, although this has since been
chopsticks are called Kuai-Zi, which means “quick little
fellows”. They are typically 9 to 10 inches long,
rectangular in shape, with blunt ends. Japanese chopsticks
originally resembled tweezers made from bamboo, with the two
pieces joined together at one end. By the 10th century they
became two separate pieces. They are slightly shorter than
their Chinese counterparts (7 to 8 inches long), are
typically rounded and taper to a point.
It has been said
by using chopsticks it improves memory, increases finger
dexterity and can be useful in learning and improving skills
such as Chinese character printing and brush painting. Many
Asian superstitions revolve around chopsticks as well. For
example, if you find an uneven pair at your table seating,
it is believed that you will miss the next train, boat or
plane you are trying to catch. Also, dropping your
chopsticks is a sign of bad luck to come.