Customs
Folk Beliefs

How to hold a chopstick

Informant Background: The informant was born in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Taiwan. He grew up with his parents and grandparents who still speak Chinese, he does too. Many of his relatives are in Los Angeles so they all still practice a lot of Taiwanese/Chinese traditions and celebrate all the Chinese holiday such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry day, Chinese Ghost day, etc. He said his family still hold many Chinese folk-beliefs and superstitions. He also travels back once in a while to visit his other relatives who are still back in Taiwan.

 

If you hold your chopstick close to the tip, you will never leave your family and stay at home with your parents forever. If you hold toward the end, you will probably run away from your family and never see them again. If you hold toward the middle, you will have a happy medium between creating your own life and your original family.

The informant stated that is one of many Chinese folk-beliefs around the dining table. The informant learned about this through his parents. This is meant as a way to teach children to hold their chopsticks properly.

 

 

I believe Chinese culture value and respect their ancestor and older generation greatly. The value and respect can also become overpowering to some. To stay at home forever is fear by many because it hints that they would never get married and start their own life. To not have any ties left is unconventional in Chinese culture and sometimes can be seen as undesirable when your family ties are weak or non-existence. To hold the chopstick at the middle is to have, as the informant said, a happy medium of both older wisdom and new knowledge.

This belief shows the important of marriage as a life transitional period. Marriage changes a person’s identity of him/herself, identity within the community, and identity with his/her own family. In this case it is either a presence or absence of marriage that dictates the person’s faith.

This folk belief reminds me of Goldilocks and the three bears where in the three options lies a happy medium between the two undesirable extremes. It also resonates with the idea of the number three: in this case three option of too much, too little, and just enough.

I do agree with the informant that this can be a way for parents to teach their children proper table manner through these folk-beliefs. Chopsticks are use in every meal in a Chinese cuisine so it is an important everyday habit to hold it properly. This also shows how folklore can exist in everyday life through association to common everyday activities.

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