At first glance, chopsticks may seem like an intimidating choice of utensil. How do you use a pair of sticks to bring your food to your mouth? If you need a crash course on how to use chopsticks, check out our Spoon guide here.
If you've already mastered how to use chopsticks, the next level is to make sure you're practicing proper chopsticks etiquette. By understanding the history of chopsticks and following our quick five-step guide, you're bound to become a chopsticks pro in no time.
How chopsticks came to be
The Chinese are attributed as inventors of the chopsticks. Though initially used to reach into deep pots while cooking, chopsticks became eating utensils by AD 400. A population boom in China led chefs to cut costs by preparing smaller-sized food, which meant food was the perfect size for chopsticks.
The shift toward bite-sized foods decreased the importance of knives at the dining table. Additionally, Chinese philosopher Confucius opposed using knives while dining because he disliked how the sharp edges evoked images of violence and warfare. This further pushed the spread of chopsticks across China and East Asia.
Chopsticks were made from a variety of materials in China, ranging from common bamboo and wood to the fancier ivory, jade, and brass. During the Chinese dynasties, the elite would use silver chopsticks because they thought silver chopsticks would turn black upon coming into contact with poisoned food, though this belief was later overturned.
5 pro tips while using chopsticks
Note: The following tips reflect Chinese chopstick etiquette and may differ from other cultures' attitudes.
1. DO NOT use your chopsticks to tap on other tableware. Resist the temptation to let out your inner drummer, because the act resembles what beggars do to attract attention.
2. DO rest your chopsticks on top of your bowl when you're done eating. Otherwise, if you're just taking a quick break, you can place your chopsticks by your bowl or on a chopstick stand, if provided.
3. DO NOT wave your chopsticks around or use them to point at others — this is considered rude.
4. DO let elders pick up their chopsticks before reaching for yours. Filial piety is highly regarded in Chinese culture and remains one of the roots of Confucian philosophy.
5. DO NOT stick your chopsticks upright in your rice. The image resembles sticks of burning incense at a funeral.
Of course, with the wave of modernization sweeping through China and across the globe, many no longer regard these standards as highly anymore. However, by following these tips, you can now be the true chopsticks pro among your friends while eating at Chinese restaurants.