Not to be confused with ChapStick. For other uses, see Chopsticks (disambiguation).
Chopsticks made of Japanese Yew wood, on a chopstick rest

"Chopsticks" in Chinese characters[1]
Chinese name
Chinese 筷子
Alternative Chinese name
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese đũa
Chữ Nôm 𥮊
Korean name
Hangul 젓가락
Japanese name
Kana はし

Chopsticks are shaped pairs of equal length sticks that have been used as the traditional ancient kitchen and eating utensils in virtually all of East Asia for over six thousand years. Chopsticks were first used by the Chinese and later spread to countries, through cultural influence or through Chinese immigrant communities, such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Nepal[upper-alpha 1] as well as in areas of the United States,[5] especially California, New York, Hawaii,[6] and cities in Canada and Australia with Chinese communities. Chopsticks are smoothed and frequently tapered, and are commonly made of bamboo, plastic, wood, or stainless steel. They are less commonly made from gold, silver, porcelain, jade, or ivory. Chopsticks are held in the dominant hand, between the thumb and fingers, and used to pick up pieces of food.


The English word "chopstick" may have derived from Chinese Pidgin English, in which "chop chop" meant "quickly".[7][8][9] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest published use of the word is in the 1699 book Voyages and Descriptions by William Dampier: "[T]hey are called by the English seamen Chopsticks".[10]

The Chinese term for chopsticks is kuaizi (Chinese: 筷子). The first character (筷) is a semantic-phonetic compound with a phonetic part meaning "quick" (快), and a semantic part meaning "bamboo" (竹).[11]

In ancient written Chinese, the character for chopsticks was zhu (箸; Middle Chinese reconstruction: d̪jwo-). Although it may have been widely used in ancient spoken Chinese, its use was eventually replaced by the pronunciation for the character kuai (快), meaning "quick". The original character, though still used in writing, is rarely used in modern spoken Chinese. It, however, is preserved in Chinese dialects such as Hokkien and Teochew.

For written semantic differentiation between the "fast" (快) versus "chopsticks", a new character was created for "chopsticks" (筷) by adding the "bamboo" (竹) radical (⺮) to it.[12]

Chopsticks in use

In Japanese, chopsticks are called hashi (). They are also known as otemoto (おてもと), a phrase commonly printed on the wrappers of disposable chopsticks. Te means hand and moto means the area under or around something. The preceding o is used for politeness.

In Korean, 저 (箸, jeo) is used in the compound jeotgarak (Hangul: 젓가락 ), which is composed of jeo "chopsticks" and garak "stick". Jeo cannot be used alone, but can be found in other compounds such as sujeo (Hangul: 수저 ), meaning "spoon and chopsticks".

In Vietnamese, chopsticks are called "đũa", which is written as 𥮊 with 竹 trúc (bamboo) as the semantic, and 杜 đỗ as the phonetic part. It is an archaic borrowing of the older Chinese term for chopsticks, 箸.


Chopsticks, spoon, and bowl of the Song dynasty.

Chopsticks were invented in ancient China before the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BCE) and most likely much earlier prior to establishment of the Xia dynasty sometime around nine thousand years ago.[13] The earliest evidence were six chopsticks, made of bronze, 26 cm (10 inches) long and 1.1 to 1.3 cm (0.43 to 0.51 inches) wide, excavated from the Ruins of Yin near Anyang (Henan) and dated roughly to 1200 BCE; those were supposed to be used for cooking.[14][15][16] The earliest known extant textual reference to the use of chopsticks comes from the Han Feizi, a philosophical text written by Han Fei (c. 280-233 BCE) in the 3rd century BCE.[17]

The first chopsticks were probably used for cooking, stirring the fire, serving or seizing bits of food, and not as eating utensils. Chopsticks began to be used as eating utensils during the Han dynasty. Chopsticks were considered more lacquerware friendly than other sharp eating utensils. It was not until the Ming dynasty that chopsticks came into normal use for both serving and eating. They then acquired the name kuaizi and the present shape.[18]

A painting of a Japanese woman using chopsticks, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi


To use chopsticks, the lower chopstick is stationary, and rests at the base of the thumb, and between the ring finger and middle finger. The second chopstick is held like a pencil, using the tips of the thumb, index finger, and middle finger, and it is moved while eating, to pull food into the grasp of the chopsticks.[19] Chopsticks, when not in use, are placed either to the right or below one's plate in a Chinese table setting.[20]

For cooking

Hashi and saibashi (below)

Saibashi (菜箸; さいばし) are Japanese kitchen chopsticks used in Japanese cuisine. They are used in the preparation of Japanese food, and are not designed for eating. These chopsticks allow handling of hot food with one hand, and are used like regular chopsticks.[21] These chopsticks have a length of 30 cm (12 in) or more, and may be looped together with a string at the top. They are made from bamboo, but for deep frying, metal chopsticks with bamboo handles are preferred, as the tips of regular bamboo chopsticks discolor and get greasy after repeated use in hot oil. The wooden handles protect against heat.


Wooden and plastic chopsticks

There are several styles of chopsticks that vary in respect to:

Styles in different countries

From top to bottom: Taiwanese melamine chopsticks, Chinese porcelain chopsticks, Tibetan bamboo chopsticks, Vietnamese palmwood chopsticks, Korean stainless flat chopsticks with matching spoon, Japanese couple's set (two pairs), Japanese child's chopsticks, and disposable "waribashi" (in wrapper)


The proper way of holding chopsticks

Chopsticks are used in many parts of the world. While principles of etiquette are similar, finer points can differ from region to region.



Various chopstick rests


In Korea, chopsticks are paired with a spoon, and there are conventions for how these are used together:[32]



Historically, Thai people used bare hands to eat and occasionally used a spoon and fork for curries or soup,[33] an impact from the west. Many Thai noodle dishes, such as pad thai, are eaten with chopsticks.[34][35][36][33]

Environmental impact

Disposable chopsticks in a university cafeteria trash bin in Japan.

The most widespread use of disposable chopsticks is in Japan, where around a total of 24 billion pairs are used each year,[38][39][40] which is equivalent to almost 200 pairs per person yearly.[41] In China, an estimated 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are produced yearly.[41] This adds up to 1.66 million cubic metres (59×10^6 cu ft) of timber[42] or 25 million fully grown trees every year.[41] In April 2006, the People's Republic of China imposed a five percent tax on disposable chopsticks to reduce waste of natural resources by overconsumption.[43][44] This measure had the most effect in Japan as many of its disposable chopsticks are imported from China,[41] which account for over 90% of the Japanese market.[40][45]

American manufacturers have begun exporting American-made chopsticks to China, using sweet gum and poplar wood as these materials do not need to be artificially lightened with chemicals or bleach, and are appealing to Asian consumers.[46]

The American-born Taiwanese singer Wang Leehom has publicly advocated use of reusable chopsticks made from sustainable materials.[47][48] In Japan, reusable chopsticks are known as maihashi or maibashi (マイ箸?, meaning "my chopsticks") .[49][50]

Health effects

A 2003 study found that regular use of chopsticks by the elderly may slightly increase the risk of osteoarthritis in the hand, a condition in which cartilage is worn out, leading to pain and swelling in the hand joints.[51] There have also been concerns regarding the use of certain disposable chopsticks made from dark wood bleached white that may pose a health risk, causing coughing or leading to asthma.[52]

A 2006 Hong Kong Department of Health survey found that the proportion of people using distinctly separate serving chopsticks, spoons, or other utensils for serving food from a common dish has increased from 46% to 65% since the SARS outbreak in 2003.[53]

See also


  1. In Singapore and Malaysia, the ethnic Chinese traditionally consume all food with chopsticks while ethnic Indians and Malays (especially in Singapore) infrequently use chopsticks to consume noodle dishes only – the use of a spoon or fork however is more common.[2][3] In Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Nepal chopsticks are generally used only to consume noodles.[4]


  1. Some Min Chinese dialects still use the older term zhu .
  2. "Etiquette in Singapore - Frommer's".
  3. Suryadinata, Leo (1 January 1997). "Ethnic Chinese as Southeast Asians". Institute of Southeast Asian Studies via Google Books.
  4. Wang, Q. Edward (26 January 2015). "Chopsticks". Cambridge University Press via Google Books.
  5. "YouGov - Forget the chopsticks, give us forks". line feed character in |title= at position 10 (help)
  6. "Learning the Art of Chopsticks - Hawaii Aloha Travel". 7 June 2012.
  7. Merriam-Webster Online. "Definition of chopstick".
  8. Norman, Jerry (1988) Chinese, Cambridge University Press, p267.
  9.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chopsticks". Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 269.
  10. Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition 1989
  11. Wilkinson, Endymion (2000). Chinese history: A manual. Cambridge: Harvard University. p. 647. ISBN 978-0-674-00249-4.
  12. Norman, Jerry (1988) Chinese, Cambridge University Press, p76.
  13. Needham (1986), volume 6 part 5 105–108
  14. 卢茂村 (Lu, Maocun). "筷子古今谈 (An Introduction to Chopsticks)," 农业考古 (Agricultural Archaeology), 2004, No. 1:209-216. ISSN 1006-2335.
  15. "Le due leggende sulle bacchette cinesi". 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  16. (Chinese) 嚴志斌 洪梅编著殷墟青銅器︰青銅時代的中國文明』 上海大学出版社, 2008-08, p. 48 "第二章 殷墟青銅器的類別與器型 殷墟青銅食器 十、銅箸 这三双箸长26、粗细在1.1-1.3厘米之间,出土于西北岗1005号大墓。陈梦家认为这种箸原案有长形木柄,应该是烹调用具。" ISBN 7811180979 OCLC 309392963
  17. Needham, Joseph. (2000). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 6, Biology and Biological Technology, Part 5, Fermentations and Food Science. Cambridge University Press. p. 104. footnote 161.
  18. Endymion Wilkinson, Chinese History: A Manual (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Rev. and enl., 2000), 647 citing Yun Liu, Renxiang Wang, Qin Mu, 木芹. 刘云. 王仁湘 刘云 Zhongguo Zhu Wen Hua Da Guan 中国箸文化大观 (Beijing: Kexue chubanshe, 1996).
  19. Reiber, Beth; Spencer, , Janie (2010). Frommer's Japan. John Wiley & Sons. p. 37. ISBN 0-470-54129-6. The proper way to use a pair is to place the first chopstick between the base of the thumb and the top of the ring finger (this chopstick remains stationary) and the second one between the top of the thumb and the middle and index fingers.
  20. Giblin, James Cross (1987). From hand to mouth: How we invented knives, forks, spoons, and chopsticks, & the manners to go with them. New York: Crowell. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-690-04660-1.
  21. "さいばし". Shogakukan and NTT Resonant Inc. Retrieved 2014-02-23.
  22. Shimbo, Hiroko (2000). The Japanese Kitchen. Boston, MA: Harvard Common Press. p. 15. ISBN 1-55832-177-2.
  23. See Aero, page 48
  24. Access Asia: Primary Speaking and Learning Units. Carlton, Vic.: Curriculum Corporation. 1996. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-86366-345-8.
  25. "Difference". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  26. "Pandaphone". Pandaphone. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  27. "Chinese Chopsticks". p. 4. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
  28. 1 2 3 4 Vardaman, James; Sasaki Vardaman, Michiko (2011). Japanese Etiquette Today: A Guide to Business & Social Customs. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 68–69. ISBN 9781462902392.
  29. 1 2 De Mente, Boye Lafayette (2011). Etiquette Guide to Japan: Know the rules that make the difference!. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 43–44. ISBN 9781462902460.
  30. Tokyo YWCA World Fellowship Committee (1955). Japanese Etiquette: An Introduction. Tuttle Publishing. p. 154. ISBN 9780804802901.
  31. Tokyo YWCA World Fellowship Committee (1955). Japanese Etiquette: An Introduction. Tuttle Publishing. p. 61. ISBN 9780804802901.
  32. "식사 예절".
  33. 1 2 3 "The Scoop on Chopsticks in Thai Food".
  35. "7 biggest misconceptions about Thai food - CNN Travel".
  36. "Do Thai people actually use chopsticks or is it to accommodate the Chinese? - Quora".
  37. 1 2 3
  38. Hayes, Dayle; Laudan, Rachel (2009). Food and Nutrition. New York: Marshall Cavendish Reference. p. 1043. ISBN 978-0-7614-7827-0.
  39. Rowthorn, Chris (2007). Japan (10th ed.). Lonely Planet. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-74104-667-0.
  40. 1 2 "Rising Chinese chopstick prices help Japan firm". Asia Times Online. Asia Times. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  41. 1 2 3 4 "Japan fears shortage of disposable chopsticks: China slaps 5 percent tax on wooden utensils over deforestation concerns". Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  42. "Annual output of 4 billion pairs of biodegradable plant fiber chopsticks project of Jilin Agricultural Science Hi-tech Industry Co., Ltd.". People's Government of Jilin Province. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  43. "China imposes chopsticks tax". ABC News. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  44. "As China goes ecological, Japan fears shortage of disposable chopsticks". USA TODAY. 2006-05-12. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  45. McCurry, Justin (2006-05-14). "Japan faces chopsticks crisis". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  46. Philip Graitcer (2011-07-17). "Chopsticks Carry 'Made in America' Label". Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  47. "Wang Leehom, "Change My Ways"". 2007-08-22. Retrieved 2008-09-07.
  48. "Career". Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  49. "Chopstick Economics and the "My Hashi" Boom | Japan". Stippy. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  50. Archived April 20, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  51. "Chopsticks and Osteoarthritis in the Hand". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  52. "Xinhuanet News Article". 2005-06-02. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  53. "Hong Kong Department of Health survey". 2006-12-26. Retrieved 2009-07-14.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chopsticks.
Look up chopsticks in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/23/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.