别 (bié) = don't
三长两短 (sān cháng liǎng duǎn) = death
夹 (jiá) = to pick up (food)
What Not to Do with Chopsticks
1. Don't pick up a piece of food and put it back - Who wants to eat the food that has your saliva on it? I had an experience once when there was no communal chopsticks available, and the person next to me was struggling to pick up food with her chopsticks. Eventually, she ended up touching every piece of the food. Again, make sure to ask for an extra pair of chopsticks when you are eating in a group! If you don't know how to use chopsticks, watch the video HERE.
2. Don't stick the chopsticks in rice - Many families pray to their ancestors and the Gods with incense sticks that are placed vertically in a cup of uncooked rice. This is a sign of disrespect when you do so while eating.
3. Don't leave the chopsticks uneven on the table - Uneven chopstick setting on a table signifies death. A Chinese idiom "三长两短 (sān cháng liǎng duǎn)," literally means "three long two short," is implying a coffin that has not been fully closed. Think of all sides of a coffin, which is structured with 3 long wooden pieces and 2 short ones. Superstition?
4. Don't stick out a finger while holding the chopsticks - It could mean you are intentionally pointing at someone to identify his/her faults.
5. Don't drum or bang the chopsticks against anything - This implies that you are a beggar on the street who is trying to get people's attention for money.
6. Don't use one single chopstick to poke the food - Some people are sensitive to this as it is considered degrading to the people who are at the same table as you. If you have trouble picking up food with your chopsticks, reach out with both chopsticks and gently poke through one piece of the food using one chopstick while holding the piece with the other one (see the video).
7. Don't drop your chopsticks on the floor - Dropping your chopsticks could imply you are disrupting your ancestors who are buried deep into the ground.
Chopsticks as gifts
To a newlywed couple - to have kids soon and continue working well as a pair (never separated) To a business partner - to collaborate well together To kids - to grow up fast and healthy To elders - to have a long and healthy life