Some Westerners are surprised to learn that different Asian nations have different styles of chopsticks. Chinese chopsticks are chopsticks made in the Chinese style, and they are the primary type of chopstick used in China. This style is also commonly found around the world, with many people using Chinese chopsticks for all sorts of Asian cuisine, rather than differentiating between the different styles of chopstick. Chinese markets carry Chinese chopsticks, and stores which carry more general Asian cooking supplies often have an array of chopstick styles to choose from, including Chinese designs.
The Chinese appear to have invented the chopstick, with the concept spreading outwards from China to places like Korea, Thailand, and Japan. The business end of Chinese chopsticks is rounded and blunted, while the end held in the hand is squared off. This distinctive design is unique to Chinese chopsticks. Chinese chopsticks are also classically rather long, with a length of around 10 inches (25 centimeters) on average.
In China, distinctions are made between chopsticks used for cooking, and chopsticks used for eating. Cooking chopsticks are quite long, so that they can be used to stir dishes in deep pots and pans. These extra-long chopsticks can also be used for deep frying, with the cook manipulating deep fried foods with the chopsticks. They are classically made from unfinished wood or metal so that they do not react with the food, and they may be used singly or in pairs.
Eating chopsticks are shorter than cooking chopsticks, and they may be decorated to make them more aesthetically interesting. Unfinished wood is a traditional material for Chinese chopsticks, but they can also be made from porcelain, jade, stainless steel, and other materials. In some regions, people differentiate between longer “banquet-style” chopsticks which can be used to pluck food from shared bowls in the middle of a table, and shorter personal chopsticks, which tend to be a little easier to handle.
Some Chinese chopsticks are quite ornate, with lacquer, inlay, or carved figures at the top of the chopsticks for formal dining. Special materials like jade may be used for formal occasions or given as gifts, with people reserving plain wooden chopsticks for every day use. As in many other cultures which use chopsticks, a chopstick rest is usually provided for the purpose of setting chopsticks down neatly on the table. Chopstick rests can be made from a variety of materials including wood, stone, and porcelain.