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A history of China’s indispensable eating utensil

In November, Dolce & Gabbana saw sales plummet over an offensive Shanghai runway show ad. Among charges of sexism, racism, and general sleaze, the Italian fashion house was accused of cheap orientalism by depicting a model eating Italian food with chopsticks—and using them wrong.

Smarting over D&G’s jab at the “small stick-like things,” CCTV re-uploaded “Chopsticks” to Weibo. The five-minute public service announcement, which originally aired in 2014, showed chopsticks as a symbol of love. “A pair of chopsticks bears Chinese people’s feelings and memory,” the state broadcaster tweeted.

How did chopsticks become the quintessential Chinese utensil, though? According to archeological evidence, chopsticks have a history of at least 3,000 years. The oldest pair to date was unearthed from the Yin Ruins of Henan province, dating roughly back to 1,200 BCE. At 26 centimeters long, the bronze utensils were believed to have been used for cooking—reaching deep into pots of boiling oil or water to stir the food— rather than eating.

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Chopped! (Paywalled) is a story from our issue, “China Chic.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.

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Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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