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How to Use Chopsticks

The great difference between eating the Chinese way and let us say the Western way is that the Chinese use chopsticks and Westerners use knives and fork- for main dishes, at any rate. This inevitably means that large piece of meat, fish and poultry are not possible at the Chinese table. Most dishes are therefore made up of mouth sized pieces which are taken up by chopsticks and transferred to the mouth.

The Chinese were taught to use chopsticks long before spoons and forks were invented in Europe. Chopsticks were strongly advocated by the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC). In Chinese, the name is 'kuai tzi' or 'fai zhi' in Cantonese which is what you would ask for in an American-Chinese restaurant.

Chinese food achieves greater delicacy when eaten with chopsticks, partly because the diner is then forced to eat smaller portions at a time and also more slowly, therefore savoring the food more completely. Also, u nlike the fork and the spoon, chopsticks convey the hand a sense of tactile rapport

with the food. Therefore, it's very true to say that Chinese dining experience involves all the senses!

There are different styles of chopsticks. The Chinese variety is blunt on the "eating end,", while the Japanese prefer those with pointed tips. There are even short lengths for children for use. The most common chopsticks are made of wood or bamboo but there are ivory, silver, plastic and even jade. For daily use, wood, bamboo, or ivory is best. Plastic chopsticks are not recommended because they tend to warp after repeated immersion in hot.



When having a Chinese meal, never wave chopsticks indecisively over food, considered poor manners. Likewise, never spear food with the tips of the chopsticks. Some things may be more difficult to pick up with chopsticks than others, but chopsticks are designed to pick up food, not to spear and stab it. Equally forbidden is using chopsticks to pull a dish forward. Use only hands.

If you need to rest your chopsticks, leave them on the chopsticks rest or by the side of your bowl or plate. Do not stick them into a bowl of rice because it resembles ancestral offerings and is frowned upon.

If the table settings include serving spoons or chopsticks, use them instead of your own set to get yourself food. Lastly, do not suck on the tip of the chopsticks. It's very bad manners.

"The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen.  And he allows no knives on his table." (Confucius)

How to use chopsticks

Two important conditions for effective use of chopsticks must be remembered. One is that the two lower ends must be even, that is, one must not protrude over the other. The other condition is that the two chopsticks must be in the same plane.

1.   Place the first (lower) chopstick in the base of the thumb and index finger and rest its lower end below on the ring finger as shown. This chopstick remains fixed.
How to use chopsticks 1

2.   Hold the other (upper) chopstick between the tips of the index and middle fingers, steady its upper half against the base of the index finger, and use the tips of the thumb to keep it in place.

3.  To pick up food, move the upper chopstick with index and middle fingers.
How to use chopsticks 2

4.  After a little practice, you will be able to use chopsticks as easily and as naturally as the Chinese.

Watch video on how to use chopsticks here or download by right-clicking and save target as. You will need Quicktime to view.


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Last Modified: 11/28/11.