Chopsticks play an important role in Chinese food culture. Chopsticks are called "Kuai zi" in Chinese and were called "Zhu" in ancient times (see the characters above). Chinese people have been using kuai zi as one of the main tableware for more than 3,000 years.
It was recorded in Li Ji (The Book of Rites) that chopsticks were used in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC - 1100 BC). It was mentioned in Shi Ji (the Chinese history book) by Sima Qian (about 145 BC) Yin Zhou, the last king of the Shang Dynasty (around 1100 BC), and 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 - 771 BC). Lacquer chopsticks from the Western Han (206 BC - 24 AD) were discovered in Mawangdui, China. Gold and silver chopsticks became popular in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). It was believed that silver chopsticks could detect poisons in food.
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.
There are a few things to avoid when using chopsticks. Chinese people usually don't use chopsticks to beat their bowls while eating, since the behavior used to be practiced by beggars. Also don't insert chopsticks in a bowl upright because it is a custom exclusively used in sacrifice.
Here are the tips of using chopsticks:
1) Rest the end of the lower chopstick in the V of your thumb and forefinger. Support the chopstick with the little finger and the ring finger.
2) Hold the upper chopstick as if it were a pencil, held between your middle finger and index finger, and anchored with your thumb.
3) Make sure the tips of the chopsticks are always even, and the same length - it is impossible to use the chopsticks effectively if the tip of one stick protrudes beyond the other.
4) When picking up food, the lower chopstick should remain still - only the upper chopstick should pivot, with the thumb as axis.
Nowadays, chopsticks serve many new functions besides tableware. For example, you can buy a pair of exquisite chopsticks as a gift to your friends and relatives. In Chinese, 'chopsticks' reads 'Kuai zi', which means to have son soon, so a newly-married couple will be very happy to accept chopsticks as their wedding gift. Skillful craftsmen painted beautiful sceneries on chopsticks to make them like fine artworks. Many people love to collect these dainty chopsticks as their treasure.