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Learn Chinese with word “筷子”

chopsticks in china, chinese culture, learning chinese

Chinese people use chopsticks (筷子-kuài zi) to have meals rather than a knife (刀-dāo) and fork (叉-chā), which were embodiments of uncivilized society in ancient China. For thousands of years, Chinese people have been using chopsticks for eating as if they were their own hands.



"筷子 (kuài zi)" originates from China, from over 3,000 years ago, but no one knows how they were invented. Some believe that the ancient people had broken off branches to pick up hot food to create the earliest chopsticks. The reason why we call them "筷子 (kuài zi)" because it is quicker (快-kuài) to finish meals with chopsticks. Moreover, chopsticks are generally made of bamboo, so the people put "⺮" (a Chinese radical that means "bamboo") over "(快-kuài)" (which means "be quick") and that's where the phrase "筷子 (kuài zi)" comes from.



However, if we think twice, we can conclude that chopsticks are not necessary for finishing meals more quickly. In addition, using chopsticks isn't easy, because it may take a long time to practice. The truth is, the ancients used spoons before the invention of chopsticks. Chopsticks gained popularity due to their delicacy and convenience.



Chopsticks are usually made of bamboo or other wood, while some are made of some special materials. In ancient times, chopsticks made of metal (such as iron, copper and silver) were widely used by the nobility. Later, disposable chopsticks, which can be discarded after one-time use, were invented. However, the disposable chopsticks are a waste of natural resource and poor in quality.



Using chopsticks requires some etiquette in China. First of all, you can't point at others with your chopsticks at the table. Second, you should keep your chopsticks clean. It's considered bad manners to put back the food you just picked up, or touch everything with chopsticks. In some restaurants, shared chopsticks are available, but you should never put the shared chopsticks in your mouth. Finally, never insert your chopsticks in a bowl of rice vertically, because it looks like a tomb! Usually, inserting chopsticks in a bowl of rice or noodles can be seen in an ancestral worship, originally coming from the custom of burning incense at gravesites.



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