The History of Chopsticks
Most scholars seem to agree that chopsticks were probably first used as cooking utensils in China as early as 1200 B.C. during the Shang Dynasty when a pair of bronze chopsticks were excavated from the Yin ruins, which was the last capital of the Shang Dynasty.
As the population expanded and resources became scare, to save fuel people tried to cook their foods quicker. To do this, they would cut and cook their foods in to smaller pieces, which also made it more suitable for eating with chopsticks.
The onset of Confucianism at the time also had an effect. Confucius taught, “The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table.” The highly influential Confucius and his distaste for knives no doubt had an effect on the popularity of chopsticks at the time. As they grew in popularity throughout China, they began to morph into shorter, more usable shapes that were better suited for eating.
By 500 A.D. chopsticks had spread from China to Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Each region developed unique styles of chopsticks that were best suited to their own unique foods and cultures. In Japan, for example, they lacquer their chopsticks with beautiful designs as a reflection of their highly artistic culture. In ancient Korea, pure silver chopsticks were used by the king because they believed the silver would change color if the king’s food had been poisoned. Then the commoners, wanting to emulate royalty, began to use metal chopsticks as well which led to the use of metal chopsticks in Korea. Chopsticks eventually found their way to other Asian countries as well, and by the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), chopsticks were mainstream throughout most of Asia. For the well heeled followers of our blog, if you’d really like to show off when you go out to eat, bring your own chopsticks. Check out the article that we posted on that subject by clicking on the image below:
When travelling in Asia, or when dining in an authentic Chinese restaurant, you will find that in many restaurants do not have flatware unless you ask for it and in the rural areas it may be altogether non-existent, so you can save yourself some embarrassment and hassle by learning how to use chopsticks and practicing a bit before you go. For a video tutorial on how to use chopsticks, please read our earlier blog post, “[How to Video] When in a Chinese Restaurant…“.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
–Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)