Storytime: Chopsticks unity

We welcome this new year, this Fire Rooster year, which promises to be a year of spirited fighting, praying, resisting and healing. I’ve been giving eco-friendly Tzu-Chi chopsticks to friends and bigs in Buddhist Peace Fellowship. It’s a joy to continue keeping my promise with my grandma, that I would practice being a good woman, a woman who cultivates 團圓 “Tuan Yuan” with her loved ones.

With the chopsticks, I shared one of my beloved childhood stories.

Once upon a time, in an ancient dynasty, a family of many brothers and sisters filled their courtyard every day with squabbles.  The villagers couldn’t tell who was louder, the chickens or the screaming siblings.  This continued for weeks and weeks, days and days.

Finally, the parents called them all to the dinner table, sat them down and asked them all to pick up one chopstick.

“My children, tell me.  What is the strength of one single chopstick?”

The mother motioned for them to pick up a chopstick each.

“Go ahead.  See if you could break it.”

And the hall filled with snaps and echoes of the broken chopsticks falling to the ground.

“Ha, that was not hard at all!” laughed some of the children.

Then the father took out a bundle of chopsticks, tied together with a piece of twine at both ends.

“Alright then, try to break these chopsticks.”

He handed them around and each of the siblings, oldest to youngest, strongest to weakest, brothers and sisters, tried to snap the bundle, but it was unbreakable. It made it’s round around the table, and back to the parents.

The mother picked up the bundle and untied the twine and handed it to her husband.  She held a single chopstick up.

“My children, when you squabble and stand alone, you each are a single chopstick, so easily bent and broken.  But when you come together,”

And she put that chopstick back into the bundle.

“…and form a family…”

she took the twine from her husband and tied it around the beginnings and ends of the bundle,

“…if y’all face the same direction, and with unity, with togetherness, with Tuan Yuan…You are unbreakable together.”

So that’s the story I shared as I cooked LNY dinner for my friends and bigs, wishing us all unity and Tuan Yuan in this New Year.  And plus, a single chopstick isn’t even really a chopstick unless it’s got a buddy.



“Year of Fighting Fascists” art by Linda Luu (tw: @lndaluu). a crowing rooster defiantly steps over a wall #NoBanNoWall.

Also read:  Lunar New Year Story of Resistance, retold by Andy Su


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Published by tingl1

indigenous (+) buddhist citizen

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