"Tableware" folk culture


"Tableware" folk culture

Chinese folk culture has used tableware very early. The history of using spoons is about 8,000 years, and the history of using forks is about 4,000 years. In use, 51 dinner forks bundled into a bundle were unearthed from the Warring States tomb in Luoyang, Henan. After the Warring States period, the fork may have been eliminated, and there were few records and real objects. The division of labor between spoons and chopsticks was very clear in the pre-Qin period. Spoons were used to eat, and chopsticks were used to eat the vegetables in the soup. "Miscellaneous Notes of Yunxian" contains: "Xiang Fan waited, there are lacquer flower plates, Ke Dou chopsticks, and fish tail spoons."

Funny story about tableware

In neighboring Japan, it is common sense to place chopsticks horizontally, but in the Chinese people they generally place them vertically. The method of placing chopsticks alone can open up a grand theory of comparative culture. In fact, the author once witnessed a scholar discussing the differences between Chinese and Japanese cultures based on the arrangement of chopsticks. However, before doing such a big article, there is a simple question to answer first. Chopsticks were clearly introduced to Japan by the Chinese nation, so why did Japan form a different way of placing chopsticks than our country? Inference from experience, this is unlikely. After the restoration of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, Japanese dishes such as beef hot pot and sushi entered China. When facing Japanese cuisine for the first time, you must first learn the correct eating method and table manners. Not only in China, when people introduce foreign tableware, they have a common mentality, that is, use the tableware in an authentic way as much as possible, and the same is true when introducing western food knives and forks. In this regard, the ancient Japanese were no exception. If the Japanese changed the way of using chopsticks when they introduced them, at least it must be proved that China has placed chopsticks vertically since ancient times.

In this regard, the author once had a hypothesis: Judging from the fact that Japanese chopsticks are placed horizontally, it is very likely that our ancestors also placed chopsticks horizontally in ancient times. In the long course of history, for some reason, China's chopsticks have been placed vertically, while Japan still maintains its previous appearance. In order to confirm this hypothesis, the author consulted various materials, but did not find any clues for a while. Thinking about it carefully, this is not incredible. No one usually pays attention to details such as the way chopsticks are placed, let alone record the situation at that time.

Just when the literature survey found nothing, the author accidentally found evidence from the murals of the Tang Dynasty. In 1987, several murals were found in the tombs of the tombs of the mid-Tang Dynasty excavated in Nanliwang Village, Chang'an County, Shaanxi Province (now Chang'an District, Xi'an City), and one of them depicted a banquet scene. It can be clearly seen from the picture that the chopsticks are placed horizontally on the low dining table.

The evidence doesn't stop there. In the banquet scenes depicted in the murals in Cave 473 of Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, chopsticks and spoons are placed horizontally. In addition, the murals depicting wedding scenes in the Second and Fifth Grottoes in Yulin are also circumstantial evidence. Although the picture was damaged and only part of the picture could be seen, it was obvious that the chopsticks in front of the man were placed horizontally. These image materials all prove that, at least before the Tang Dynasty, Chinese chopsticks were placed horizontally.

The Evolution of the Song and Yuan Dynasties

However, when did chopsticks placed horizontally become placed vertically? Li Shangyin of the Tang Dynasty pointed out in "Evil Appearance" in the volume of "Yishan Miscellaneous Compilation" that among the rude behaviors, the most typical one is "horizontal chopsticks on the soup bowl" (put the chopsticks horizontally on the bowl). Although this is a bad habit denounced by "Yishan Miscellaneous Compilation", it cannot be proved that Li Shangyin's opinion represented the common sense of society at that time. Just as modern critics would deliberately criticize unsightly secular customs, they just criticize social common sense and etiquette out of personal likes and dislikes. Moreover, the bad habit Li Shangyin refers to is placing the chopsticks horizontally on the bowl, not to placing the chopsticks horizontally on the table. Secondly, if the chopsticks were placed straight at that time, they will also be placed straight when placed on the bowl. It can be inferred from this that it was relatively common for chopsticks to be placed horizontally on the bowl at that time.

In fact, when Liang Zhangju of the Qing Dynasty talked about this point in Volume 8 of "Continued Talk on the Waves", he once testified that the custom of "hanging the chopsticks on the soup bowl" has also continued to future generations. It is said that placing chopsticks horizontally on the bowl is a humble expression of finishing eating earlier than elders and bosses. In the Ming Dynasty, Ming Taizu hated this custom, and it was only considered a rude behavior after that.

According to Liang Zhangju, in the Ming Dynasty, it was considered rude to put chopsticks sideways on the bowl after a meal. Assuming that it is associated with this, placing chopsticks horizontally before meals has become a taboo at that time, and it can be speculated that the habit of placing chopsticks vertically was not formed until after the Ming Dynasty.

But this is not the case. In Kaihua Temple in Gaoping City, Shanxi Province, there is a Song Dynasty mural titled "The Story of the Prince of Good Things". The picture of the mural is not very clear, but it can still be seen that the chopsticks are placed straight.

Another scroll titled "Han Xizai's Evening Banquet" is the work of Gu Hongzhong, a painter of the Five Dynasties, which describes the life of Han Xizai, a minister of the Southern Tang Dynasty, who was extremely happy. However, according to new research results published in the 1970s, it can be inferred from the painting method, clothing and movements of the characters in the painting that it was created not in the Southern Tang Dynasty, but in the early Song Dynasty (Shen Congwen, 1981).

There are actually several versions of "Han Xizai Night Banquet Picture", with subtle differences in details. No chopsticks can be seen in the version collected by the Palace Museum. There are chopsticks on the woodblock watermark of Rongbaozhai, and the chopsticks are placed vertically. Why did chopsticks appear in the latter? Are the chopsticks part of the original painting, or were they added by later generations? Can't be sure right now. But in short, the custom of placing chopsticks upright appeared after the Song Dynasty, and there should be no problem with this.

In the "Shi Lin Guang Ji" compiled by Chen Yuanliang in the Song Dynasty, there is an illustration depicting Mongolian officials "playing on double six". The original version of "Shi Lin Guang Ji" was wrong, and a supplementary version was issued in the Yuan Dynasty and was widely circulated. The illustrations are mixed with works from the Yuan Dynasty. That is, in the Song Dynasty, and at the latest in the Yuan Dynasty, it has become a custom to place chopsticks upright.

In the Ming Dynasty, the printing technique made great progress, and a large number of books with illustrations were published. Many illustrations have dining tables, and the chopsticks in the pictures are all placed upright without exception. The illustrations of "The Story of Jin Bi" (edited by Zheng Yiwei) published in the Wanli period are one example.

from mat to table

Throughout history, people's diet and lifestyle have undergone earth-shaking changes between Tang and Song Dynasties. In the tombs of the Eastern Han Dynasty, a large number of wall bricks carved with portraits were used. One end of the diet and eating habits at that time can be known from such portraits. In the "Portrait of Traveling and Banqueting" unearthed in Chengdu, Sichuan, there are banquet scenes of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Participants eat and drink sitting on mats, and dishes are arranged on short-legged food tables. These materials show that, like China and Japan in the Eastern Han Dynasty, chairs and tables were not used.

In the murals in Wangcun, Nanli, Shaanxi, mentioned above, the host and the guests are not sitting on mats, but on short-legged benches, and the dining table is still a short-legged table. It can be seen that since the Tang Dynasty, people no longer sat on mats.

To understand the customs and habits of the Tang Dynasty, the "Gong Le Tu" collected by the National Palace Museum in Taipei is an important material that cannot be ignored. The existing paintings are copies of the Song Dynasty, and the original was completed in the middle of the Tang Dynasty (Shen Congwen, 1981). "Palace Music Picture" depicts the scene of court nobles drinking tea while listening to music. It can be seen from the painting that it is common to use chairs and tables in court life.

This "Gongle Picture" was made in the same age as the tomb murals in Wangcun, Nanli, Shaanxi, both in the Middle Tang Dynasty. However, comparing the two, we can find that the shapes and usage of tables and chairs are different. It is obvious that everyday objects and their usage are different in different classes.

So, when did the custom of eating at a table, the same as it is now, begin?

Looking at "Han Xizai Night Banquet Picture" again, we can see that the usage of chairs and tables in the Song Dynasty is roughly the same as it is now. Of course, this painting depicts high-level bureaucrats living in the center of power, and their lives are incomparable with those of ordinary people. So, what was life like for the common people at that time?

Among the murals unearthed from the tombs of the Song Dynasty, there is a picture called "Banquet". The figure in the picture is the owner of the tomb, whose identity is unknown. Judging from the clothing and daily necessities, it doesn't look like the upper class, but they also employ people, presumably with a certain status and economic strength, maybe lower-level officials or small businessmen. Different from the exquisite chairs and tables in "Han Xizai Night Banquet", the chairs and tables in "Banquet" are relatively rough. But from this mural, it can be seen that chairs and tables were widely used in the daily life of common people in the Song Dynasty.

Straightforward placement of chopsticks and table knives

From the lifestyle of sitting on mats to the use of chairs and tables, this change has no direct relationship with the use of chopsticks. Why did chopsticks placed horizontally become vertical for a period of time from the Song Dynasty to the Yuan Dynasty?

The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms between Tang and Song was a time of turmoil. During this period, the northern nomads entered the Central Plains one after another and established dynasties. Accompanied by this, many ethnic minorities immigrated to the residences of the Han nationality. Because they are engaged in animal husbandry and eat meat as the staple food, of course they use table knives when eating. Sharp knives can hurt people accidentally, so it is natural to place the tip of the knife facing the opposite direction when eating. This point can be seen at a glance only by observing the western food etiquette of using a knife and fork.

In fact, when tasting Mongolian cuisine, it can be found that the table knife is placed vertically. During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, the eating habits of the nomads had moved south across a large area. It is not difficult to imagine that the people who immigrated here still maintain the habit of using knives, and naturally they also place chopsticks vertically like table knives. Even in the court of the cultural center, starting from the emperor, the senior bureaucrats of the nomads unconsciously placed the chopsticks vertically. Since ancient times, banquets have been held frequently as a ritual to show the emperor's authority. The minority regimes also centered on the emperor and inherited the tradition of banquets. Among them, the habit of placing chopsticks vertically may have gradually penetrated into the upper bureaucracy. In addition, Chinese people often use chopsticks with a round cross section. In the life of using tables and chairs, placing the chopsticks vertically can prevent the chopsticks from falling off the table.

Interestingly, the popularization of chairs and tables, as well as the change in the arrangement of chopsticks, occurred almost at the same time. The original name of the chair is "Hu Bed", which was introduced from the Western Regions. It is a folding chair and later evolved into a modern chair. As mentioned earlier, after the Song and Yuan dynasties, tables and chairs were basically popular among the people. During this period, the chopsticks also changed from horizontal to vertical. Although there is no causal relationship between the two, it is nothing more than an intriguing coincidence.

"Huanxi Sands, Drizzle and Slanting Wind Makes Xiaohan" - Su Shi

The drizzle is slanting and the wind is cold, and the light smoke is sparse and the willows are beautiful on the sunny beach. Entering the Huai River and Qing Luo River is getting long.

Snow foam milk flower floating noon cup, Polygonum antler Artemisia bamboo shoots try spring plate. The taste in the world is Qinghuan.

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, analyze site traffic and personalize content. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Privacy Policy