The Fascinating History Of Chopsticks

The Fascinating History Of Chopsticks

Nowadays, people around the world use chopsticks when munching on the delicious Asian specialties, but the history of these popular table utensils is ancient and truly fascinating.

Historians believe that chopsticks have been around for some 5,000 years. However, the first chopsticks made of bronze were discovered in China, in the tombs of Ruins of Yin, dating back to 1200 B.C. Before they became the irreplaceable table utensils they are today, they had to earn their spot in the Asian kitchen.

At first, chopsticks were used only for cooking. They were an ideal cooking utensil since they could easily be dipped into boiling water and hot oil. Chinese still primarily used spoons for eating as their most common meals were porridge, gruel and stew.

But then something happened that would change the Asian cuisine forever.

Around 400 A.D. a huge population boom happened in China, forcing families to start cutting costs on food and cooking fuel. Cooks started chopping food into smaller pieces that could be cooked faster and portioned more easily.

Chopsticks and bite-sized meals seemed to be the perfect match. Not only were chopsticks handy but also easily crafted from cheap materials. And so it began, they became the primary table utensil, completely eliminating the use of knives.

The explosive ascent of chopsticks can also be explained by the fact that it was advocated by the famous Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius.

Since he was a vegetarian, he was strictly against using knives at the table as they reminded him of slaughter and violence. He strongly believed that happiness and contentment should be the prevalent mood at the table. That's why he was a big fan of chopsticks.

Confucius' pacifist philosophy is probably also the reason Chinese traditional chopsticks are blunt instead of pointy at the end.

As the centuries went by, Asian cuisine kept the popular bite-size format and chopsticks became an indispensable part of every meal on the Eastern part of the continent, spreading to Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, Thailand and many other smaller countries.

Every culture adopted chopsticks in a different way regarding the materials, length, design and eating etiquette.

One of the most fascinating facts comes from Japan where the length of your chopsticks depended on your gender. Men used 8-inch chopsticks while women ate with slightly shorter 7-inch chopsticks.

The traditional materials used to make them were bamboo and wood, while the wealthier families enjoyed eating with ivory, brass, coral and jade chopsticks.

Even in the ancient times, they had something resembling premium chopsticks.

Namely, the richest people in Asia such as royal families and nobility had the privilege of eating with silver chopsticks. These were not just appreciated for their value. People believed that silver would turn black if it comes in contact with poisonous food, in which case the chopsticks could even save their life.

The history of chopsticks tells us a lot about the rich history of the Asian culture, so make sure to honor that tradition next time you're enjoying the delicacies of Asian cuisine with your own premium set of chopsticks.
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