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The Simplest Guide You Will Find on How to Use Chopsticks Fluently

How to Use Chopsticks
Tired of fumbling with a pair of chopsticks at a restaurant? Embarrassed that you can't use one after all this time? Well, fret not! We show you how to use these tricky sticks to eat your way through any meal.
Naomi Sarah
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
"The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table." - Confucius
The use of chopsticks originated in China and then Japan, where the Japanese initially used these for religious ceremonies, where they later gained popularity throughout Asia. Soon, Korea and Vietnam followed in close pursuit, using chopsticks to eat their meals. In Japan, they came up with disposable chopsticks that were made of wood, called wari-bashi, whereas in China, it was called kuai-zi, meaning 'quick little fellows'.
With a length of approximately 10 inches, these sticks have slim, tapered ends that allow one to deftly pick up food. They were first joined at one end using bamboo, but later around the 10th century, they were made into two separate sticks. Chopsticks were used to spell trouble or good fortune. If someone were to drop one of them, it signaled bad luck. Other superstitions followed, along with the belief that using them improved certain special skills and the use of one's hands.
Chopsticks are made using either wood, bone, metal, stone, or bamboo, with a calligraphy-engraved pair of golden chopsticks also available. The Kuaizi Museum in Shanghai, houses more than 1000 pairs of chopsticks, some dating back to as far as the Tang Dynasty.
How to Use Them
I can never seem to hold on to my chopsticks; I immediately choose the easiest alternative―a fork. It's not easy at first, but once you master the technique, you'll find yourself resorting to this way of eating, often. It's a great way to eat a meal, since it holds only a small amount of food at a time. Food is not only consumed slowly, but relished until the last bite. Chinese and Japanese dishes, including those among other parts of Asia that incorporate the use of chopsticks, prepare savory meals that one cannot help but appreciate with every morsel.
It is not good to beat one's bowl while eating, since this is seen as act that beggars perform. It is always held sideways, like how you would hold a spoon when taking it up to your mouth, and not upright, since it signifies the act of sacrifice. Knowing these little technicalities of how to hold them would be best if you were eating at an Asian-inspired restaurant or visiting an Asian country, since they respect the art of eating with chopsticks. There are three main techniques when it comes to using them.
  • Fly catching (not a popular method, but was popularized by the late Pat Morita. It is not practiced anymore and is seen as an impractical way to eat.)
  • Shoveling
  • Tweezing


The shoveling technique uses chopsticks that are adjoined at one end, and not necessarily separated, thus, making it easier for one to eat. This technique is simple and literally means 'shoveling' food into your mouth. It requires that a person hold the bowl at a close range to his/her mouth, and position the chopsticks a quarter of an inch apart. Then, using a quick hand moves, food is shoveled straight into the mouth in one sweeping motion. It is important to hold the bowl a little close to your mouth, so that it isn't too far off.
This method is an Americanized version of using these sticks, with a more relaxed and slow-paced approach, compared to the shoveling method.
  • First, you have to slide your fingers about three inches above the top chopstick, holding it like you would a pen. Then, try moving it up and down where it looks like you're drawing.
  • Make sure the top stick touches the stationary one below. Once you master this act of separating and parting the chopsticks (without moving the bottom one), like you would a tweezer, you'd be able to tweeze you way through any meal.