The impact chopsticks have made on society is impressive. Most scholars agree that they were probably used first as cooking utensils in China as early as the Shang Dynasty, citing a pair of bronze chopsticks dated 1200 BC that was excavated from the Yin Ruins (the last capital of the Shang Dynasty). As the population expanded, resources became scarce and people tried to cook their food more quickly to save fuel. To do this, they would cut and cook their food in smaller pieces, which also made it suitable for eating with chopsticks. The onset of Confucianism at the time also had an effect. Confucius taught, "The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table." The highly influential Confucius and his distaste for knives no doubt had an effect on the popularity of chopsticks at the time. As they grew in popularity throughout China, they began to morph into shorter, more usable shapes that were better suited for eating (Wilkinson, 2000).
Expansion throughout Asia:
By 500 A.D. chopsticks had spread from China to Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Each region developed unique styles of chopsticks that were best suited to their own unique foods and cultures. In Japan, for example, they lacquer their chopsticks with beautiful designs as a reflection of their highly artistic culture. In ancient Korea, pure silver chopsticks were used by the king because they believed the silver would change color if the king's food had been poisoned. Then the commoners, wanting to emulate royalty, began to use metal chopsticks as well which led to the use of metal chopsticks in Korea. Chopsticks eventually found their way to other Asian countries as well, and by the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), chopsticks were mainstream throughout most of Asia. When travelling in Asia, you will find that in many restaurants do not have flat-ware unless you ask for it and in the rural areas it may be altogether non-existent, so you can save yourself some embarrassment and hassle by learning how to use chopsticks and practicing a bit before you go.
Expansion throughout the world:
In 2050, the world economy will be dominated by India and China, so as the world becomes smaller, the need to be culturally adept, especially with Asian countries, will become larger. This recent globalization has brought mandarin lessons to elementary schools in Georgia state, and chopstick culture to the entire world. As people learn more about the diaspora between Asian growth and cultural literacy, they realize that cultural awareness will play an important role in their future success. Nevertheless, most of the world is still missing out on the enjoyment of using cultural artifacts like chopsticks to eat delicious Asian food. Indeed, if you add up the entire population of all chopstick-wielding countries, the sum only accounts for about 33% of the world's population, so there is still plenty of time to learn. So here's to your future success and enjoyment of Asian cuisine. Chopsticks are taking their place in modern history as the newest ancient way to eat!