When you go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant, you may not always find forks and knives. Although in the West they might still be supplied, you will find chopsticks at most places. Chopsticks have been around for roughly 3000 years, and in that time a lot of myths have sprung up about them. If you’ve always wanted to learn more about chopsticks, you’ve come to the right place. One possible explanation for the origin of chopsticks? When huge pots were used for cooking, people needed to collect their food quickly, so twigs were snapped off of trees to use as utensils.
Some Myths About Chopsticks
Chopsticks entered the historical record around the time of the Shang Dynasty of China. The Shang Dynasty lasted from 1766 BC to 1122 BC, and it is believed that the emperor, the ruler of the country at the time, used ivory chopsticks. These myths primarily have to do with people reputed to have invented the concept of chopsticks. They are:
Jiang Ziya: Jiang Ziya lived in the 11th century BC. He worked for the emperor of the Shang Dynasty, and as the myth goes, a bird taught him how to use sticks made of bamboo to eat his food. These prototypes would save Jiang’s life – his wife wanted to poison him, poison he found when the chopsticks started to smoke.
Da Ji: Da Ji was a woman who also lived the 11th century BC. She was beautiful enough to attract the notice of Emperor Zhou, who reigned as the Shang Dynasty’s last emperor. She was known for using hair sticks to pick up her food in order to amuse Emperor Zhou.
Da Yu: Da Yu lived in the 21st century BC. He fathered the founder of the Xia Dynasty. This myth supposes that Da Yu first used wood for chopsticks, and that the chopsticks were meant as a time saving device. After all, floods were a serious concern of the time, and the less time that could be spent eating a meal could be more time applied towards preparations for flood control.
What Are Chopsticks Made Of?
Chopsticks come in pairs, and are usually between 6 and 10 inches long and 1/5th of an inch wide. One side is thicker than the other. What are some common materials used to make them?
Bamboo: This is the most common material used. After all, it is inexpensive, widely available, heat-resistant, and doesn’t leave any strange taste or smells in the food.
Wood: Types of wood used include cedar, sandalwood, and pine.
Modern materials: Modern technology has allowed for plastic and porcelain production to flourish for chopstick production.
Tips for Using Them
The bottom chopstick is used to hold the food. Place this chopstick between your fourth and fifth fingers and press your thumb on top to keep it steady. The bottom chopstick doesn’t move, but the one on top does. Hold onto the top chopstick as though it were a pencil. Use the top chopstick to collect the food. Using enough pressure, you can “cut” a piece of food. But this technique needs much practice in order to perfect.
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