Living in Denial A personal blog of a girl named Survon.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The 'TWIN' stick of Chinese

Being a chinese is really tough.

After researching the origin of Cow One, I was once again being challenged for the knowledge of my own root, the chinese culture.

Chinese, being the largest population in the world has always been fascinating as one of world's oldest and most complex civilizations. Sometimes, I do feel proud being a Chinese, especially when I could speak Mandarin, known as one of the most difficult language to learn. Thank god I didn't have to really learn it, since the skill was embedded in me from small.

Still, being an English-educated Chinese in Malaysia, doesn't make me being the real Chinese as what people in Europe expect. The Chinese cultures are so complicated that sometimes I could hardly understand it myself and never really try to seek the answer.

Since I'm the only Chinese in the clique, I can't run away each time they discover a single tiny-mini culture about Chinese. And most of the questions I have never ever thought of it when I was back in Malaysia and I don't think I will ever pop up with such curiosity.

The issue raised yesterday was

"Why does Chinese use Chopstick? What's the origin of it?"

OMG.....What kind of question is this???? If you could answer this, congratulations. You are the very Chinese of the Chinese. Me, being half-banana, will have to research on this. That's my current assignment.

Most of the websites I found in the internet explained the same thing in a different way. I will try to assemble the different pieces from all the sources.

Chopsticks, in Chinese called kuai-zi <筷子> (quick little fellows), were developed about 5,000 years ago in China. But, the origin of chopsticks has been lost in time. No one knows exactly who, where and when it was 'invented'.

Since the actual origin of chopsticks cannot be traced, there's a funny version of The Story of Chopsticks.

"Kúai, the youngest of three sons, lived with his family in a China where people still ate with their hands. This meant they had to wait for food to cool before eating and little Kúai could never get enough to eat. His hunger found a solution when he brought two sticks from the kindling fire to dinner and speared his chicken and sweet potatoes before his brother could touch the food. His family recognized his cleverness and soon they all started using sticks. At a big fancy wedding, the three brothers pulled out their chopsticks, and soon all the children ran outside to get sticks. In the aftermath of the uproar, Kúai’s chopsticks got approval and his stomach got full."

Erm...well, not a very interesting story, though.

It is believed the first chopsticks were developed over 5000 years ago in China. Food is cooked in large pots which retained heat well. Overtime, as the population grew and resources became scarce, people began chopping food into smaller pieces so it could be cooked more rapidly. Since the food is already in 'ready-to-eat' small morsels, knife is no longer needed and so, it is replaced by the usage of twigs which eventually turned to what we called now, chopsticks. Using chopticks were considered an elegant and (more importantly) civilized way to eat ones meal.

The knife is frequently seen utensil in the West, but is not a common Chinese utensil. No Chinese dinner table would ever feature knives, and all the cutting is done in the kitchen. A chef would not deem himself skilled if he cannot present a meal which all the diner has to do is eat, eat and eat. Meal in Chinese are taken seriously, and the meal table should be a place of peace and harmony. The knife could be used as a weapon, and could disrupt the harmony of the table. Because of this, the knife, and anything else that could disrupt the harmony, is banned from the table.

The famous Chinese philosopher Confucius, scholar and vegetarian of the 6th century BC, has further stimulated the usage of chopsticks by advising people not to use knives because he believed knives would remind people of slaughterhouses and were too violent for use at the table.

All Chinese cultures can never escape some superstitious beliefs. For example, if you find an uneven pair at your table seating, it is believed that you will miss the next train, boat or plane you are trying to catch. Also, dropping your chopsticks is a sign of bad luck to come.

Using chopsticks is also believed could improves memory, increases finger dexterity and can be useful in learning and improving skills such as Chinese character printing and brush painting (which currently is no longer an important skills).

It has been asked, 'Does tea taste better in a china cup?' Along the same lines, it has also been asked, 'Does using chopsticks make Chinese food taste better?'

The shape of the utensil affects greatly the taste of the food. Chopsticks have the advantage that you only feel a small amount of the chopsticks in your mouth, just the small, thin ends. By contrast, the fork takes up more space in the mouth. I think this is totally true, but I don't really mind how much space it takes into my mouth as long as the food gets into my stomach. It would be much more helpful if the taste of mushroom could change to abalone when it gets into my mouth using chopsticks.

On the whole, people find eating with chopsticks harder than eating with a fork. However, this is not always a bad thing, shown below by this comment from one Researcher:

"If I use a fork, then I eat so fast that I am sick. Chopsticks are what I used to use to slow me down so that I could enjoy the food more."

I copied this line from the source in the internet, which reminded me of one of my Hungarian friends here who had said exactly the same. Of course, this only applies to the amateur chopstick-ers. I won't doubt using Chopsticks can be as fast as knife, spoon and fork.

That's all for my research of the day. Sorry for the boring blog. I bet not everyone are aware of such information, but I hope you gain some knowledge from it so that you won't face the same problem when in future, a foreigner came to you and ask the same question.

*sigh*'s really hard being a Chinese.

Maybe I should start introducing myself as just a Malaysian the next time I meet new friends, forget about being a Chinese and self-claim Malaysian as an independant race itself. When asked about Malaysian culture, I could just made up some stories and no one will ever find the truth.

That would make my life much easier here.

posted by Survon @ 12:51 AM,