Chinese Chopsticks

chopsticks and bowl of rice
Renee Comet/Public Domain

Chopsticks play an important role in Chinese food culture. Chopsticks are called "Kuaizi" in Chinese and were called "Zhu" in ancient times (see the characters above). Chinese people have been using kuaizi as one of the main tableware for more than 3,000 years.

History of Chopsticks

It was recorded in Liji (The Book of Rites) that chopsticks were used in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC to 1100 BC). It was mentioned in Shiji (the Chinese history book) by Sima Qian (about 145 BC) that Zhou, the last king of the Shang Dynasty (around 1100 BC), used ivory chopsticks. Experts believe the history of wood or bamboo chopsticks can be dated to about 1,000 years earlier than ivory chopsticks. Bronze chopsticks were invented in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 BC to 771 BC). Lacquer chopsticks from the Western Han (206 BC to 24 AD) were discovered in Mawangdui, China. Gold and silver chopsticks became popular in the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907). It was believed that silver chopsticks could detect poisons in food.

Materials to Make Them

Chopsticks can be classified into five groups based on the materials used to make them, i.e., wood, metal, bone, stone, and compound chopsticks. Bamboo and wood chopsticks are the most popular ones used in Chinese homes.

How Not to Use Your Chopsticks

There are a few things to avoid when using chopsticks. Chinese people usually don't beat their bowls while eating, since the behavior used to be practiced by beggars. Don't insert chopsticks in a bowl upright because it is a custom exclusively used in sacrifice.

If you are really interested in chopsticks, you may want to visit the Kuaizi Museum in Shanghai. The museum collected over 1,000 pairs of chopsticks. The oldest one was from the Tang Dynasty.

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Custer, Charles. "Chinese Chopsticks." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Custer, Charles. (2021, February 16). Chinese Chopsticks. Retrieved from Custer, Charles. "Chinese Chopsticks." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).