Hallmark of a Chinese meal, the chopsticks are used not only at table but also occasionally as a cooking utensil to prepare certain dishes. They may be made of bamboo, wood, bone or any one of a number of materials including silver and ivory, though these are becoming rare. The sticks are generally 26 cm (10") in length, with a diameter of 0.6 cm (1/4"). Some are round throughout; others may be round for the lower three-fifths of the length but square at the upper part.
How to use chopsticks has always intrigued the westerner on his first visit to China. Yet with just a brief coaching any novice will manage to get through his or her first Chinese dinner, though speed and dexterity will have to come from practice.
Hold the chopsticks in the hollow between the thumb and forefinger of your fork hand. The one closest to your body should rest on the first joint of the ring finger and stay immobile. Support the other one with the forefinger and middle finger, which manipulate it like pincers to pick up things.
Some westerners find it easier to start to learn with shorter chopsticks. In any event, you may quickly grasp the action of chopsticks if you just imagine that they represent the extension of your thumb and forefinger when you ordinarily pick something up.
Again, should you find the art of using chopsticks too difficult, do not hesitate to ask for a fork and knife. No Chinese host will fault this as a breach of manners.