shaped pairs of sticks used as eating utensils
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Chopsticks are sticks used in pairs as cutlery. Chopsticks are traditionally used for eating in many Asian countries. These include China, Japan, Singapore due to being a predominantly ethnic Chinese country , Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, etc (In East Asia and Southeast Asia). Most chopsticks are made of wood, bamboo or plastic.

Japanese chopsticks on a dish

Today, chopsticks are mainly used in China and neighboring countries. Chopsticks are often used in restaurants outside of Asia when serving Asian foods.



Chopsticks came from China as early as the Shang dynasty (1600–1100 BC).[1] The creation of chopsticks might have been influenced by the teachings of Confucius.[2] They were widely used throughout East Asia. Tools like chopsticks were also found in the archaeological site Megiddo in Israel. This discovery may mean there was some form of trade between the Middle East and Asia in early antiquity. Alternatively, such tools may have developed independently in both the Middle East and Asia. Chopsticks were also common household items of civilized Uyghurs on the Mongolian steppes during the 6th–8th centuries.[3]

Origin of the word

Chopsticks in use

The English word "chopstick" seems to come from Chinese Pidgin English. In this simplified language, "chop chop" meant quickly.[4][5]

The Mandarin Chinese word for chopsticks is kuàizi (筷子). The first character "筷" is made of different parts. It has the phonetic part of "快" (kuài), which means quick, and a semantic part, 竹, meaning bamboo.[6]

Eating with chopsticks

Holding chopsticks

The sticks are held together in the same hand. Usually this is the right hand.[7] At some formal occasions it may be considered rude to use chopsticks with the left hand.[8]

  1. Put one chopstick between the palm and the base of the thumb, using the ring finger (the fourth finger from the thumb) to support the lower part of the stick. With the thumb, squeeze the stick down while the ring finger pushes it up. The stick should be stationary and very stable.
  2. Use the tips of the thumb, index and middle fingers to hold the other stick like an ink pen. Make sure the tips of the two sticks line up.
  3. Move the upper stick up and down towards the stationary lower stick.
  4. With enough practice, the two sticks function like a pair of pincers (a tool that can easily lift things).

If the tips do not line up, it will be difficult to hold things. Hold the chopsticks upright with one of the tips lightly touching the table, and gently push the chopsticks down or gently loosen your grip for a moment to let both tips become equal in length. You can also adjust your grip or holding position this way.

With practice, it is possible to perform step one and two right away, on picking up the chopsticks with one hand smoothly. Hold the chopstick at different angles if necessary in order to feel comfortable with two sticks between your fingers.

Table manners




Chopsticks are used in many countries; those eating with chopsticks generally observe the following rules:

  • Chopsticks are not used to make noise, to draw attention, or to gesture. Playing with chopsticks is considered rude and vulgar (just as playing with cutlery in a Western environment would be).
  • Chopsticks are not used to move bowls or plates.
  • Chopsticks are not used to toy with food or with the dishes in common.
  • Most often, chopsticks are not used to stab food. Exceptions include tearing larger items apart such as vegetables and kimchi. In informal use, small, difficult-to-pick-up items such as or fishballs may be stabbed, but this use is frowned upon by traditionalists.
  • Chopsticks can be rested horizontally on one's plate or bowl to keep them off the table entirely. A chopstick rest can be used to keep the points off the table.
  • Chopsticks should not be left standing vertically in a bowl of rice or other food. Any stick-like object pointed upward resembles the incense sticks that some people use as offerings to deceased family members; certain funerary rites designate offerings of food to the dead using standing chopsticks.[9]

Types of chopsticks

There are many different kinds of chopsticks. From top to bottom: Plastic chopsticks from Taiwan, porcelain chopsticks from mainland China, bamboo chopsticks from Tibet, palmwood chopsticks from Indonesia (Vietnamese style), stainless flat chopsticks from Korea (with a matching spoon), a Japanese couple's set (two pairs), Japanese child's chopsticks, and disposable "hashi" (in wrapper)

Chopsticks are used in many countries. Chopsticks are sometimes different in those countries.

  • Chinese: longer sticks that are square at one end (where they are held) and round at the other (where they contact the food). They end with a blunt tip.
  • Japanese: short to medium length sticks that have a pointed end. This development may have occurred because the Japanese diet consists of large amounts of whole fish. Japanese chopsticks are traditionally made of wood and are lacquered. Some chopstick sets include two lengths of chopsticks: shorter ones for women and longer ones for men. Child-sized chopsticks are widely sold.
  • Korean: medium-length stainless-steel tapered rods, with a flat rectangular cross section. (Traditionally, they were made of brass or silver.) Many Korean metal chopsticks are decorated at the grip.
  • Vietnamese: long sticks that end in blunt point; traditionally wooden, but now made of plastic as well. A đũa cả is a large pair of flat chopsticks that is used to serve rice from a pot.

Other uses for chopsticks


Chopsticks are used in cooking to stir materials in a pan, or to help move meals.

In Japan, people use chopsticks during the funeral ceremony of Buddhists. After burning the dead, family and friends use chopsticks to move the burned bones of the dead from the coffin to a pot.[10]

Problems with chopsticks


Chopsticks and the environment

A box with disposable chopsticks

Using a set of chopsticks only once, and then throwing them away causes problems for the environment.[11][12] In Japan, single-use chopsticks are called waribashi (split chopstick). Before using, people split it into two.[13] There are some movements which aim at telling people to use a set of chopsticks more than once.[14] In China, about 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are used per year. This is equal to 1.7 billion cubic metres of timber–about 25 million fully grown trees. China is the biggest producer of disposable chopsticks, about 60,000 people have a job making chopsticks.

For this reason, China has introduced a tax on chopsticks that are only used once. There are also moves to replace disposable chopsticks made of wood by plastic or metal ones.[12]

Chopsticks and health


In 2003, a study was done. It found that people who use chopsticks regularly have a slightly higher risk of getting arthritis in the hand. With this, cartilage gets worn off, which causes pain in the joints of the hand. This is more common in older people.[source?] The Hong Kong Department of Health did a study in 2006. It found that generally, people use chopsticks or other food utensils more often than in 2003 when eating with others. It also found that personal hygiene has improved.[15]


  • Giblin, James Cross. (1987). New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
  1. "Chinese Chopsticks". Archived from the original (HTML) on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
  2. "Tableware taboos:civilising mealtime". Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  3. "The Huns - Part 1".
  4. Merriam-Webster Online. "Definition of chopstick".
  5. Norman, Jerry (1988) Chinese, Cambridge University Press, p267.
  6. Norman, Jerry (1988) Chinese, Cambridge University Press, p76.
  7. "Things Japanese - Chopsticks (Hashi)". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  8. "China Protocol tips (PDF file)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-25. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  9. "Japanese Chopsticks (Ohashi) Etiquette Errors". 29 August 2007.
  10. "Chopsticks". Archived from the original on 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  11. "Disposable chopsticks under attack in China, the Wall Street Journal". February 8, 2008.[permanent dead link]
  12. 12.0 12.1 "The true price of disposable chopsticks, The Independent". March 27, 2006. Archived from the original on February 12, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  13. "The Waribashi Conundrum".
  14. "Bring Your Own Chopsticks Movement Gains Traction in Asia". Archived from the original on 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  15. "Survey respondents clean up their acts". December 26, 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-05-05. Retrieved 2008-02-23.

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