Learning Chopsticks

In: Historical Events

Submitted By bobchuckx
Words 816
Pages 4
Learning Chopsticks

In Guanlong Cao's essay titled “Chopsticks”, an excerpt from a longer memoir entitled The Attic: Memoirs of a Chinese Landlord's Son, Cao recounts a tale from his automotive school days in Shanghai China of students crafting their own chopsticks. Cao tells us about how the students made their chopsticks and the clandestine maneuvers required to obtain the raw materials. Some of the students went to great lengths to carve very elaborate chopsticks that were sometimes used to acquire a boyfriend or girlfriend. This is an enjoyable essay that not only illustrates a footnote in Chinese history between the 1950's and 1970's, but also brings some humor and a sense of irony to what many westerners may consider a dark time for a little understood country.
Cao begins by telling us about his four years spent at an automotive manufacturing school in Shanghai, China. The conditions at the school were harsh. Meals were scarce. So scarce, in fact, that the administrators encouraged more sedate pass times such as chess and cards so that the students would not use up the precious few calories they gained from the food (Cao 109). All of the students wore pouches that contained their personal set of chopsticks. The clandestine manufacture of these personal utensils became the favored hobby among the students.
The most treacherous stage in making one's own chopsticks was stealing the bamboo. The student dormitories were constructed of bamboo and the students would go on nightly raids, stealing bamboo stalks from the piles used by the maintenance workers to make repairs. At first no one noticed a few missing stalks, but as the fad grew, the construction department began complaining about the missing materials. Ultimately the superintendent of the school banned students from taking the bamboo to make the chopsticks. This slowed down the thievery, but it didn't…...

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