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Chinese Chopstick Etiquette – Do and Don’t List

Chinese Chopstick Etiquette - Do and Don't List

Why do Chinese use Chopstick? What is the history and origin of chopsticks? What is the etiquette when you are using chopsticks dinning with other Chinese? I am going to answer all these questions about chopsticks in this blog post. You will use the origin of chopsticks, the origins character of Origin of the chopstick Chinese word “筷子” and the DO and DON’T when you are using chopsticks – Chinese Chopsticks etiquette!

 

Origin of Chopsticks

As early as more than 3,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Chinese people also used knives and forks. People probably cooked their food in large pots, using twigs to remove it. But later, knives and forks came to be regarded as lethal weapons.

Moreover, Chinese cookery had been greatly improved, and there was no longer any need to cut meat into small pieces at mealtimes. Therefore, beginning in the Shang (商) Dynasty (16th – 11th Century BC), the twigs gradually turned into chopsticks, and knives and forks were replaced by them.

how to use chopsticks correctly

Origin of the Characters “筷子”

The English word “chopstick” seems to come from Chinese Pidgin English, a pidgin where “chop chop” meant quickly. The Mandarin Chinese word for chopsticks is kuàizi (筷子). It is a word made of different parts; it has the phonetic part of “快kuài”, which means quick, and a semantic part,竹zhú, meaning bamboo. In Chinese, the old word for “chopsticks” was zhù.

However, zhù became a taboo on ships because it sounded the same as another word meaning “to stop” (住zhù). Consequently, it was replaced by a word of opposite meaning,快 (fast, quick). This gradually spread until it became the word for “chopsticks” in most varieties of modern Chinese. The character for this new meaning of “chopsticks” (筷) for kuài has the semantic element of bamboo added to the character meaning “fast” kuài (快).

Chinese Chopstick Etiquette – DO

  • When seated for a meal, it is a common custom to allow elders to take up their chopsticks before anyone else.
  • It is acceptable to transfer food to closely related people (e.g. grandparents, parents, spouse, children, or significant others) if they are having difficulty picking up the food.
  • Also, it is a sign of respect to pass food to the elderly first before dinner starts.
  • Often, family members will transfer a choice piece of food from their plate to a relative’s plate as a sign of caring.
  • Traditionally, everyone uses his own chopsticks to take food from the dishes to his own bowl or to pass food from the dishes to the elders’ or guests’ bowls. Today, serving chopsticks (公筷, “community-use chopsticks”) are used. These are used to take food directly from serving dishes; they are returned to the dishes after one has served oneself.
Chinese Chopstick Etiquette

Chinese Chopstick Etiquette – DON’T

  • It is poor etiquette to tap chopsticks on the edge of one’s bowl; at one time, beggars made this sort of noise to attract attention.
  • One should not ‘dig’ or ‘search’ through one’s food for something in particular. This is sometimes known as “digging one’s grave” or “grave-digging” and is extremely poor form.
  • Do not eat when the tips of a pair of chopsticks are not aligned properly. In Chinese, this is called “三长两短” (sān chánɡ liǎnɡ duǎn), which means death.
  • Chopsticks should not be left standing vertically in a bowl of rice or other food. Any stick-like object pointed upward resembles the incense sticks that some people use as offerings to deceased family members; certain funerary rites designate offerings of food to the dead using standing chopsticks.
  • There are some who say that if you drop your chopsticks while eating, then it will bring you bad luck. And there are some others that say that if you do so, you will be poor. Either way, there is nothing good that will come out of it.
  • It is poor etiquette to tap chopsticks on the edge of one’s bowl; at one time, beggars made this sort of noise to attract attention.
  • One should not ‘dig’ or ‘search’ through one’s food for something in particular. This is sometimes known as “digging one’s grave” or “grave-digging” and is extremely poor form.
  • Do not eat when the tips of a pair of chopsticks are not aligned properly. In Chinese, this is called “三长两短” (sān chánɡ liǎnɡ duǎn), which means death.
  • Chopsticks should not be left standing vertically in a bowl of rice or other food. Any stick-like object pointed upward resembles the incense sticks that some people use as offerings to deceased family members; certain funerary rites designate offerings of food to the dead using standing chopsticks.
  • There are some who say that if you drop your chopsticks while eating, then it will bring you bad luck. And there are some others that say that if you do so, you will be poor. Either way, there is nothing good that will come out of it.

how to use chopstick

 

Chopstick Accessories: Chopstick Rest

chopstickrest

A chopstick rest (筷子座 kuài zi zuò) is tableware, similar to a spoon rest, used to keep chopstick tips off the table and to prevent used chopsticks from contaminating or rolling off tables. Chopstick rests are found more commonly in restaurants than in homes.

They come in various shapes and are made from clay, wood, glass, porcelain, or precious stones such as jade. In East Asia, chopstick rests are usually used at formal dinners. They are placed on the front-left side of the dishes, with the chopsticks parallel to the table edge and the points toward the left, or to the right side of the dishes, with the chopstick points towards the front.

 

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