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#172632 - 07/29/05 01:59 PM Chopsticks and manners.
Kintama Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 2724
Loc: Massachusetts
It's commonly known that the Chinese invented chopsticks (or kuaizi in Chinese, Hashi in Japanese) as a set of instruments to be used when eating but the reason behind that is not commonly known. Actually, the Chinese were taught to use chopsticks long before spoons and forks were invented in Europe (the knife is older, not as an instrument for dining but as weapon). Chopsticks were strongly advocated by the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479BC). Chinese people, under the cultivation of Confucianism, consider the knife and fork bearing sort of violence, like cold weapons. However, chopsticks reflect gentleness and benevolence, the main moral teaching of Confucianism. Therefore, instruments used for killing must be banned from the dining table, and that is why Chinese/Japanese food is always chopped into bite size before it reaches the table.
There are superstitions associated with chopsticks too. If you find an uneven pair at your table setting, it means you are going to miss a boat, plane or train. Dropping chopsticks will inevitably bring bad luck. Crossed chopsticks are, however, permissible in a dim sum restaurant. The waiter will cross them to show that your bill has been settled, or you can do the same to show the waiter that you have finished and are ready to pay the bill.

General bad practice to avoid:
* DO NOT use your chopsticks to shift dishes around.
* DO NOT wave your chopsticks about in the air while trying to decide what to eat next or as gesture during talking.
* DO NOT rummage about in the food looking for the tastiest morsel.
* DO NOT pick up a dish with the hand that is holding the chopsticks.
* DO NOT point your chopsticks at people when you are eating; never lick them or spear food with the points
* DO NOT hold the chopsticks with your fist, since this appears as if they are being held as a weapon.
* DO NOT pass food from your chopsticks to another person's chopsticks. place the food down on a plate to transfer.
* In situations where you are taking from a common food dish or if you are serving someone, serve using the opposite end of the chopsticks. (the end which doesn't touch your mouth.)

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#172633 - 07/29/05 02:14 PM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: Kintama]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
Rather unique posting. Kintama giving an etiquette lesson

If I ever get the chance the even learn how to hold/use chopsticks, I will try to remember these.

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#172634 - 07/29/05 04:20 PM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: harlan]
Kintama Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 2724
Loc: Massachusetts
I don't think I've ever had anything to brag about on this forum...but I can for this topic. some random things on chopsticks: My proficiency with chopsticks is better than average (in Japan that is). For fun, we had challenges with native chopstick users...one was to eat an apple using chopsticks (no spearing, or resting the apple on anything)-I won that. my prize:I had to buy a round of drinks for the table.
I have extra long chopsticks for cooking and grilling. I'd be lost going back to spatula and fork. My half-Italian best friend adamantly refuses to have dinner with me unless I eat 'properly' with fork and spoon.
I'm a wooden scale model builder during the wintertime and designed and built a mini-crossbow to shoot chopsticks 50 feet. from 20ft away they stick into fairly soft bark on trees. I don't let the kids use this unsupervised of course, but they think it's cooler than 'ell.

on topic: it's considered bad manners to stick chopsticks in trees ...or eat apples with chopsticks for that matter.

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#172635 - 07/29/05 08:59 PM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: Kintama]
eyrie Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 12/28/04
Posts: 3106
Loc: QLD, Australia
A miniature ballista maker huh? The things you learn about people here.

The whole idea of chopsticks is so you don't "shovel" your food. The purpose is to savor the taste and texture of the tasty morsel on the end of the chopsticks.

Another point of etiquette: you shouldn't hold your chopsticks too close to the food end. The further you can hold your chopsticks away from the picking up end the more "cultured and refined" you would appear to be.

And the Mr Miyagi trick, although a highly commendable skill, is definitely a "no-no".

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#172636 - 07/30/05 01:08 AM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: Kintama]
ButterflyPalm Offline
Enigma

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia


Just to add a bit more.

If someone holds chopsticks right towards the end opposite the food end, he / she is working far from home. I've tried observing this and to my surprise, a great majority do work far from home.

To use chopsticks of uneven length is bad luck. The Chinese refers, in polite circles, to death as "3 long, 2 short"; which is another way of mentioning a coffin, which, discounting the base part, is made up of 3 long side planks and 2 short end pieces.

Left-handedness was frown upon by the old chinese and being born left-handed, I was forced to use my right hand for chopsticks and pen carrying; everything else, I used my left.

When handing a pair to a guest, always use two hands, with the food-end pointing towards your own right horizontally.

Silver chopsticks were used in order to detect poison, which if present, turns black.

Chopsticks were never put on ancestral-worshipping or any altars.

It is bad Chinese manners to lay them horizontally on the lid of your bowl, because this is what beggars do as they do not eat on tables or at least clean tables and so do not have clean places to lay them while eating.

To the Japanese, sticking them into rice or food and leaving them there is a great no-no, as this is what they do when presenting food to the dead.

If when you first hold a pair and the ends are not even (which often happens), do not tap the food-end on the table to align them; tap them gently on your other palm.

Hold the other open palm just underneath your chin while putting food into your slightly opened mouth with chopsticks is the height of refinement. Watch a beautiful Japanese lady do it and you'll see what I mean.

And finally to test if the temperature of deep-frying oil is right, stick a bamboo chopsitck in, and if lots of little bubbles form around the stick, it is just about right for frying your spring roll.
_________________________
I'll rather be happy than right, anytime.

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#172637 - 07/30/05 01:13 AM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: eyrie]
Kintama Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 2724
Loc: Massachusetts
Quote:

The whole idea of chopsticks is so you don't "shovel" your food. The purpose is to savor the taste and texture of the tasty morsel on the end of the chopsticks.


Thats the common belief...historically, it's a little different.

One of my winter-time hobbies is wood model ship building. My next project is building a scale model of the 'Shinko-Sen'.

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#172638 - 07/30/05 09:27 AM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: Kintama]
eyrie Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 12/28/04
Posts: 3106
Loc: QLD, Australia
That's news to me. What's the historical slant?

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#172639 - 07/31/05 09:45 AM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: eyrie]
Kintama Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 2724
Loc: Massachusetts
read the opening post...fork/knife were associated with violence - eating should be non-violent.

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#172640 - 07/31/05 10:21 PM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: Kintama]
eyrie Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 12/28/04
Posts: 3106
Loc: QLD, Australia
Just curious, where did you get that info from?

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#172641 - 08/01/05 08:58 AM Re: Chopsticks and manners. [Re: eyrie]
Kintama Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 2724
Loc: Massachusetts
my appologies...I should have credited sources -The history is mostly from an article on www.chinadaily.com and also some of the the bad manners/superstition part. The rest was edited and written by me based on history/mannerisms/beliefs verified from speaking/living with family members and friends in Japan over the years.

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