Sunday, January 4, 2009

Do you use chopsticks while eating Chinese food?

While enjoying Chinese food for the first time, many foreigners may be confused by the distinctive facility - chopsticks! Getting used to fork and knife, it’s kind of hard to use this two simple sticks for foreigners. However, the use of chopsticks in this way is an art in itself and chopsticks have determined the way in which Chinese food is presented at table.

Chopsticks were developed about 5,000 years ago in China. In ancient times, chopsticks were called 'Zhu'. At that time, our ancestors liked to steam or boil food. It was difficult for them to use spoons to dip vegetables in the soup. So they cleverly invented 'Zhu' to nip food, thus it has become the most convenient tableware in their lives. Development of chopstick has experienced a long history. Early in Xia Dynasty (21st - 16th century BC), the shape of chopstick was still in development. Chopsticks only became two sticks of the same length in the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC). In the late Shang Dynasty, the tyrannical King Zhou ordered his craftsmen to make chopsticks from elephants' teeth, which was seen to be the most luxurious chopsticks in the early history of Chinese food culture.

Traditionally, chopsticks have been made from a variety of materials. Bamboo has been the most popular because it is inexpensive, readily available, easy to split, resistant to heat, and has no perceptible odor or taste. Cedar, sandalwood, teak, pine, and bone have also been used. The wealthy, however, often had chopsticks made from jade, gold, bronze, brass, agate, coral, ivory, and silver. In fact, during dynastic times it was thought that silver chopsticks would turn black if they came into contact with poisoned food. It is now known that silver has no reaction to arsenic or cyanide, but if rotten eggs, onion, or garlic are used, the hydrogen sulfide they release might cause these chopsticks to change color.

The appearance of chopsticks said goodbye to those days when our Chinese ancestors had to use their hands to grab food, so they featured the coming of civilization to food culture. The invention of chopsticks has many scientific theories. The lever principle of mechanics was applied into practice. The point where two chopsticks crossed is the pivot of the lever.

The use of chopsticks has been a part of Chinese food culture. There are some taboos of using chopsticks that you must pay great attention to, or you may make mistakes and be laughed at. First, don't use chopsticks to hit the side of your bowl or plate to make a lot of noise, because Chinese people think only beggars would do this to beg food. Second, when you use chopsticks, don't stretch out your index finger, which would be regarded as a kind of accusation to others. Never use chopsticks to point at others. Third, it is thought to be an impolite behavior when you suck the end of a chopstick. People will think you lack family education. Fourth, don't use chopsticks to poke at every dish without knowing what your want. And last, don't insert chopsticks vertically into the food. Chinese people do this only when they burn incense to sacrifice the dead.

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 'Kuaizi', which means to have sons 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.

Chopsticks are small but they are adored by many people in the world. An interesting experiment shows that many joints and muscles are being exercised when you use chopsticks. They certainly make you cleverer, don't they?

How to use chopsticks
First, you must hold the upper part and don't cross the chopsticks. Second, hold the chopsticks with your thumb, index finger, middle finger and third finger. One stick is against your third finger and the other leans on your middle finger. Third, when you pick the food, use your index finger and middle finger to control the chopsticks. Practice a lot and then you will find it is an easy job.

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