BASIC SKILLS – USING CHOPSTICKS
The pair of sticks is maneuvered in one hand – between the thumb and fingers – and used to pick up pieces of food. The Mandarin Chinese word for chopsticks is kuàizi 筷子. 筷 is a semantic-phonetic (xíngshēng) compound with a phonetic part of “快”, which means quick, and a semantic part, 竹, meaning bamboo. Many rules of etiquette govern the proper conduct of the use of chopsticks.
In Chinese culture, it is normal to hold the rice bowl up to one’s mouth and use chopsticks to push rice directly into the mouth. If rice is served on a plate, as is more common in the West, it is acceptable and more practical to eat it with a spoon or fork.
*It is acceptable to transfer food to closely related people (e.g. grandparents, parents, spouse, children, or significant others) if they are having difficulty picking up the food. Also it is a sign of respect to pass food to the elderly first before the dinner starts. It is impolite to spear food with a chopstick and/or play with the chopsticks.
*It is rude to use the chopstick to dig for food in the common dish.
Chopsticks should not be left sticking (pointing up) on the rice because it symbolizes “feeding” the dead and death in general.