Chop Chop Chopstick
iPhoneOgraphy – 30 Jul 2016 (Day 212/366)
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, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Nepal as well as in areas of the United States, especially California, New York, Hawaii, 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”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest published use of the word is in the 1699 book Voyages and descriptions by William Dampier: “They are called by the English seamen Chopsticks”.
The Chinese term for chopsticks is kuaizi (Chinese: 筷子). The first character (筷) is a sematic-phonetic compound with a phonetic part meaning “quick” (快), and a semantic part meaning “bamboo” (竹).
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.
In Japanese, chopsticks are called hashi (箸). 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, which is composed of jeo”chopsticks” and garak “stick”. Jeo cannot be used alone, but can be found in other compounds such as sujeo, 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 were invented in ancient China as early as the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BCE) and possibly even earlier during the Xia dynasty. 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. 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.
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.