The History of Chopsticks

4 mins read

What is your go-to food, when you’re hungry? I like to eat Raman noodles, as they are cooked instantly. I like the topping of kimchi over it, just the way Kim me soo puts it for Lee Young Joon in What’s wrong with secretary Kim? Well, she uses chopsticks and unfortunately, my chopsticks skill still needs polishing. Well, this is not a food article but it is about the sleek sticks that are widely used today in different parts of the world called “chopsticks”. 

In this article, we will be talking about the history of chopsticks. You must be wondering, what is there to discuss, It is a utensil used for eating, isn’t it? But, I am sure after reading this article your views will change. We are sure you would like to use chopsticks after reading about their benefits we will be discussing them later in the article. So, what are you waiting for? Hop along. Happy reading. 

What are Chopsticks? 

The chopstick known as kauai-tzu in Chinese is an eating utensil. It is a pair of sticks of equal length and is held in the dominant hand and secured between fingers. It is used to pick up food from the bowl or plate.  

It is made up of various materials such as wood, metal, bone, stone, and compound chopsticks. Bamboo and wood chopsticks are widely used in Chinese households. 

History of Chopsticks

It has a history of rich culture. It is believed that it was developed 5000 years ago in China. It is said that it is used since the Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1122 BCE). 

depiction of usage of twig
Son of China

Earlier, when Asian people used to cook food on fire, they needed to use something to take the food out of the fire. They used twigs to retrieve food. As they evolved and the population started increasing it became difficult for people to fulfill their food and fuel needs. As there was a shortage of fuel, people started cutting down the meat and other food material into smaller pieces. This also eliminated the need for individual knives on the table which were used to cut down meat. Over time, the twig evolved into a chopstick. 

Do You Know – It is said that the great Chinese philosopher Confucius didn’t like the usage of knives and forks during eating as they are considered to be the cold weapon used for violence. Whereas, he believed that chopsticks reflect gentleness and benevolence, which is the main moral teaching of Confucianism.

Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

“The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table.” – Confucius.

Well, the chopsticks weren’t used directly for eating, initially, it was used for cooking and serving. People used it for stirring the fire, and serving food, one of the main reasons was that before the Hang dynasty, millet was the primarily produced crop in North China, Korea, and parts of Japan. People used to make millet porridge and eat it with a spoon. 

Image by mensor from Pixabay

It is said that the usage of chopsticks began during the Hang dynasty when rice consumption increased. However, the spoon was still used alongside. 

During the Ming dynasty, people started using it exclusively for eating and serving.  

Do you know – During the Tang dynasty(618 -907AD), Gold and Silver chopsticks were popular? It is used by the king and the other high-class members because silver could detect poison in food. It turned black when came in contact with the poison.  

The Kuaizi Museum in Shanghai has collected over 1,000 pairs of chopsticks; the oldest one being from the Tang Dynasty.

Benefits of using chopsticks 

Photo by Rachel Claire: https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-on-plate-and-chopsticks-8112985/

Japan uses 24 billion pairs of chopsticks per year, whereas China uses more than 45 billion. We know that it is used for eating and serving purposes. We also know how it has evolved over the period of time. But, do you know there are many health benefits associated with the usage of chopsticks?

  1. Eat less – the most common of all the reasons is when you eat with chopsticks, you eat less. As you pick each grain of rice or piece of meat individually, it gives time to your stomach to process whether it is full or not resulting in less eating. This in turn saves you from overeating and gaining weight. 
  2. Motor training – Eating with chopsticks requires both brain and body. This ensures the proper coordination and training of hand and finger movements. It is beneficial for kids who are still learning the use of their limbs. 
  3. Chew your food properly – As with a small proportion you would be able to chew the food properly. It decreases the risk of choking as the small bites are easy to chew and swallow.

Where is it prominently used in the world?

Specification of worldwide usage of chopsticks
Restaurant Ware

China and Japan, both are the primary users of chopsticks in the world. However, there is a difference in its style in both countries. 

China has a huge history of using chopsticks. In China, chopsticks tend to be longer and thicker about 27 cm (11 inches). 

In Japan, chopsticks of shorter lengths are made for women and longer ones are given to men. It is also noticeable that the chopsticks are designed with a natural lacquer. Lacquered chopsticks are known as Nuribashi.

Furthermore, there are other countries as well where it is used for eating purposes like Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and Borneo. Nowadays, as South Asian cuisines are found almost everywhere in the world, the usage of chopsticks is accepted and increased widely. 

Fun Facts

  • 50 different muscles and joints of your body engage when you use a chopstick including your wrist, arm, and shoulder.
  • February 6th is National Chopsticks Day. Well, mark the date in your calendars.
  • Around a third of the world uses chopsticks every day, all thanks to the popularity of Chinese and Japanese cuisines.
  • Do you know there are people in the world who are afraid of chopsticks? Crazy, right? Fear of chopsticks is called “consecotaleophobia”. 
  • Out of all the chopsticks produced in Japan, 80% of them are made in a small city of 32,000 named Obama.
Photo by Ahmed ツ: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-posing-with-sushi-on-green-background-12544727/

Just like other customs and traditions, chopsticks have their own place in history. This eating utensil has evolved over the period of time, enhancing its beauty, whereas keeping its original self intact. We hope that the next time you dine out and order authentic oriental food, you will give it a try. 

Featured image credit – Style

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Renu Solanki works as a content specialist with Postbox Consultancy Services. She is an English Literature graduate.

She is an avid-reader and passionate about the study of the Universe, Spirituality, Psychology and Traditional Culture. In her free time she likes to indulge in a steaming cup of black coffee & Netflix.