Where do chopsticks come from?
It is well believed that these tricky little utensils originated in the great country of China about 5,000 years ago and spread to other Asian countries hundreds of years later. In China, they are also Kuai-Zi which means "quick little fellows". Interesting, because I am anything but quick when I eat with chopsticks. Anyways, so how did they come about? The early Chinese used sticks and branches of wood to collect their food when it was finished cooking over the fire. As the population continued to grow, resources became scarce and the people had to find ways to preserve the resources they had. In order to save fuel, they would cut their food into teeny tiny pieces so that it would cook faster. With these tiny pieces, there was no longer a need for knives. Thus, sticks and later "chopsticks", were the utensil of choice.
Confucianism and its influence on chopsticks
Confucianism was founded by Kong Qiu (i.e. Confucius) and had a powerful impact on the Chinese culture around c. 500 B.C.E. Confucius was a teacher to sons of nobility and traveled from region to region spreading his ideals and wisdom. Although Confucianism is not a religion, it is treated as such. Confucius developed followers and taught principles with strict guidelines and hierarchy of authority. His most notable teaching was one of respect towards all humans, specifically one's elders. How does this impact the development of chopsticks you might ask? Confucius was a vegetarian and he believed that knives would remind people of slaughterhouses. He stated,"Confucius taught, "The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table." With Confucianism being influential to the Chinese culture, the use of chopsticks developed quickly.
What are chopsticks made of?
Wood, duh. Well that's what we see in America anyway. But chopsticks have been known to be made of a variety of materials with a variety of designs. The most common and popular material is bamboo. They can also be made out of plastic, porcelain, animal bone, metal, jade, coral, silver, and even gold. They are usually 9-10 inches with blunt ends, but they can also be pointed too. And if you're really fancy, you might like the chopsticks with calligraphy and intricate carvings along the side. Creating chopsticks can truly be an art.