Chopsticks, a symbol of the Chinese culture, originate from the 11 century B.C. They’re the simplest of all eating tools, but might be the most convenient. Especially for Chinese food, which is mostly cut into bite-small pieces before served. But there’s more to this cutlery than being ‘just’ two sticks.
The development of chopsticks
In ancient times, Chinese ancestors liked to steam or boil food to create soups. Therefore, they found it difficult to use spoons to dip vegetables. So, they went looking for other options and cleverly invented chopsticks, or as they used to call it ‘Zhu’. After this discovery chopsticks grew out to be the go-to cutlery for the Chinese nation. It’s seen as one of the basic elements of the Chinese civilization, because the civilians didn’t have to use their hands anymore.
The development of chopstick took a long time, and it became an art itself. Early in Xia Dynasty, the perfect shape for chopsticks was still unknown. It took until the Shang Dynasty, before the two sticks were created in the same length. Also, the material switched during the centuries. Did you know that in the late Shang Dynasty, the tyrannical King Zhou ordered his craftsmen to make chopsticks from elephants’ teeth? He considered this the most luxurious. These days, you’ll find chopsticks made out of all kinds of materials, but mostly you will find them made of wood, bamboo or even plastic.
The meaning behind the shape
Unlike Japanese chopsticks, Chinese chopsticks are blunt and round on the eating end which symbolizes the Heaven, while the other end is square which symbolizes the Earth. As many things in the Chinese culture, this has a reason behind it. Maintaining an adequate food supply was the Chinese people’s biggest concern, and the amount of food on earth is regulated by heaven. Hence, the shape that connects the two. Even now, there’s some Chinese that take this believe to the next level by burying the chopsticks with the dead to guarantee that he would not suffer from the shortage of food in his afterlife.
Now you know the history of these wonderful little instruments, it’s time to become a chopstick pro. Read all about the do’s and don’ts in this article.