While Westerners are known for using cutlery of knives and spoons, Asians are known for using Chopsticks. These are pairs of equal-length sticks used throughout East Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The use of chopsticks primarily began to ensure that the food we eat is perfect, i.e., neither too warm nor too cold, neither too oily nor too dry. So, if you are wondering why do Asians use chopsticks read this article till the end!
1. When were Chopsticks Invented?
- Although Sima Qian, a historian, wrote that chopsticks originated during the Han dynasty, there isn’t any archeological evidence that supports this claim.
- However, it is said that chopsticks were invented in China, roughly around 4000-5000 years ago, during the Shang dynasty.
- It slowly spread to Japan and Korea around 500AD.
The earliest archeological evidence of chopsticks was made of Bronze and was 26cm long and 1.1 to 1.4cm wide. These chopsticks were discovered in Anyang city, dated roughly around 1200BCE. Initially, people used chopsticks to check the food from cooking pots. (See What Do Cherry Blossoms Symbolize?)
2. What are Chopsticks made of?
- The early chopsticks were made up of cheap materials such as bamboo due to a misconception regarding the use of silver chopsticks. In the early era, it was believed that silver would cause poisoning as it turns black once it touches arsenic or cyanide. However, the reality was that silver changed its color once it came in contact with garlic or onion due to the presence of Hydrogen sulfide.
- The common material used to make them are bamboo, ivory, jade, bone, metal, plastic, wood, and even porcelain.
- Also, almost all disposable chopsticks are made with bamboo or wood and are mainly used in restaurants. They come in packed form with a partial cut between them to be split during usage.
- Moreover, some metal chopsticks are sculpted with designs to give a good grip.
- Plastic is toxic in nature and won’t withstand high temperatures, which is why they are not used as kitchen utensils, but only used for eating.
- The wealthy families usually use Silver chopsticks and often gift them to others too. However, the commonly used metal chopsticks are made of stainless steel.
- Additionally, titanium chopsticks are sold at comparable prices.
- Apart from these, other chopstick materials like gold, jade, and ivory are used in the luxury segment.
Depending on the region, there are different reasons why chopsticks are used in Asia. To find out why do Asians use chopsticks, read below! (See Why Do Asians Work Very Hard?)
3. Why do Asians Use Chopsticks in China?
- The use of chopsticks became more prevalent when they became perfect for food items like meat and rice, as it was easier to eat bite-sized food using chopsticks.
- Moreover, according to the beliefs in China, people who used knives were considered warriors; while the people who used chopsticks were considered scholars.
- Another reason is that chopsticks in China symbolize the relationship between the earth and heaven, i.e., maintaining an adequate food supply.
- When talking about the rich culture of chopsticks in China, it is also to be mentioned that chopsticks are a part of a girl’s dowry. (See Why is Twitter banned in China)
4. Why do Asians Use Chopsticks in Japan?
In early history, the Japanese believed that chopsticks created a connection between the human and the divine. So, chopsticks were not used to eat simple food but were only used to offer food to deities. However, in the current era, chopsticks are the most preferred utensil in Japan. Not only for noodles but a chopstick in Japan is used to eat almost anything, including rice, beans, salad, tofu, etc. Another fact includes that the length of the chopsticks differs for men, women, and children. (See Why Japanese People are so Disciplined and Organized?)
5. What are the Types of Chopsticks Available in Japan?
In Japanese culture, chopsticks are more of an artwork than a mere utensil. Therefore, they are commonly made up of painted gold and abalone to add to the creativity involved.
- The lacquered chopsticks are known as Nuribashi, and the varieties differ with the types of lacquers used. The traditional lacquered chopsticks are produced in the city of Obama, Fukui Prefecture. The coating on these chopsticks provides waterproofing along with a glossy touch.
- Edo Kibashi chopsticks were made during the beginning of the Taisho period, and the materials used in making them are high-grade wood like red sandalwood, ebony, etc. The tips of these chopsticks are rounded to prevent damages.
- The chopsticks that are used for cooking are known as Ryoribashi and Saibashi.
6. Is the Korean culture of Chopsticks Different?
The Korean culture of chopsticks is unique among East Asians as they use both spoons and chopsticks for eating, and this set is called Sujeo. The chopsticks in Korea are made of metals and are flat. However, their use is usually limited since people prefer eating rice and other dishes with spoons. But the most commonly used materials remain wood and bamboo. Additionally, during the Goryeo dynasty, chopsticks were made of Bronze, and during the Joseon era, chopsticks used by royal families were made of Silver. This sums up why do Asians use chopsticks in different countries of Asia. (See Why are Korean Dramas so Popular?)
7. What are Chopstick Etiquettes?
Why do Asians use chopsticks is a fairly common question asked, mainly because of the etiquettes associated with it. Researchers found that different areas have different etiquettes of using a chopstick.
- Use your dominant hand and try making a position so that one chopstick can rest on your middle or ring finger.
- Then take the next one and lightly pinch it with your thumb. Keep the position steady.
- Also, keep in mind that while using a chopstick, the upper one should be moving, while the lower one should be steady.
- Chopsticks are not used to move bowls or plates.
- They are never used for sharing dishes, i.e., a chopstick shouldn’t be used to tear or stab food.
- You should never tap a chopstick on the edge of a bowl.
Practice the posture a few times now! (Also read How many Tablespoons are in a third of a cup?)
8. What is its Effect on the Environment?
The single-use chopsticks leave an adverse impact on the environment due to their non-recyclable nature. The carbon gas is released from these chopsticks when they are disposed of and degraded. Moreover, since the chopsticks are made from cottonwood, birch, and spruce, heavy deforestation happens when they are produced. So, this leads to a drastic negative effect on the environment.