[KS] Re: A chopsticks question
c.horlyck at vam.ac.uk
Mon Feb 24 06:24:15 EST 2003
There are several examples of bronze chopsticks having been found in Korean graves. One of the earliest examples I have come across are two sets of bronze chopsticks excavated from the Paekche tomb of King Munyong dating to the 6th century AD. The chopsticks were found together with three bronze spoons. With their wide, nearly fan-shaped handles, the bronze spoons are of a different shape than the ones used today. The chopsticks seem to be devoid of any decoration and measure around 18.cm.
Bronze chopsticks are also found in graves of the Koryo period, but are not as common as bronze spoons. It is more common to find only a bronze spoon in a grave as opposed to a set of chopsticks placed together with a bronze spoon. The chopsticks are mostly plain and without decoration as opposed to the spoons which often have a simple incised decoration. Bronze chopsticks are more common in graves of the Choson period, where they appear together with spoons as sets. Judging from the archaeological material available to us today, the use of chopsticks may not have become widespread until the beginning of the Choson period, but more evidence needs to be gathered to support this initial, and somewhat hasty, assumption.
Organic material does not survive well, if at all, in Korean graves, and it is therefore not possible to assess whether chopsticks of organic materials were palced in graves.
Curator of Korean Art
Victoria and Albert Museum
>>> Brother Anthony <anthony at ccs.sogang.ac.kr> 02/21 1:02 am >>>
Someone working in a museum of popular culture should be consulted. It is clear from any visit
to Korean antique shops that chopsticks made of metal were widespread (standard? universal?) in
pre-modern Korea and I would imagine that one reason would have been their durability at a time
when an awful lot of people had virtually no money with which to keep buying new ones. But I
think they might have been favored even among the richer classes in the context of the
Confucian aesthetics of frugal simplicity that underlie the use of undecorated white pottery
etc. Lacquered wood or ivory chopsticks (Japan and China) were presumably not designed
originally for the use of the laboring classes. I have a feeling that metal chopsticks are used
in the royal memorial rituals at Chongmyo. On the other hand, monks today often eat out of
lacquered wood bowls using lacquered wood chopsticks / spoons but I do not know how ancient
that is (obviously metal chopsticks would not be good for lacquered wood).
The discussion ought perhaps to include the question of when and why Koreans started to use
spoons? They are not found at all in Japanese tradition, I think, and the Chinese ladle-like
porcelain (plastic) spoon is quite a different kind of object.
An Sonjae / Br Anthony
Sogang University, Seoul
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