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The history of toothpicks

Nov 01, 2020

Toothpicks are actually an important oral hygiene appliance. It has a history of more than 2,000 years. Because of its small size, the material is usually wood or bamboo, and it is also easy to be converted to ashes, so its status is low, and there is indeed little evidence of toothpick invention in history. Fortunately, Chinese archaeologists unearthed toothpicks made of gold, probably in the late Han Dynasty. Although this kind of golden toothpicks belonged to a small number of royal families rather than ordinary people, it can still prove that toothpicks existed in China in the 3rd century.

People have always had the illusion that chopsticks and toothpicks are equally Chinese inventions. Because most people think that Chinese people always pay attention to food. In China, where the food culture is developed, since someone invented a practical product like chopsticks, the toothpicks related to it were naturally invented at the same time. But this is not the case.

In fact, this disposable thing originated in India. Some people think it may be related to the Buddha Shakyamuni’s teaching of hygiene to his disciples. Toothpicks and toothbrushes were both called "poplar branches" in the early days and originated in India.

Legend has it that when the Buddha Shakyamuni preached to his disciples, he found that the disciples around him all had bad breath when they spoke. So Sakyamuni taught them another hygiene lesson. He said: "You can use a branch to brush your teeth to remove bad breath, increase your sense of taste, and get five benefits." At that time, Sakyamuni promoted Buddhism under the Bodhi tree and taught his disciples how to eliminate bad breath. To this day, the working people in India still brush and floss their teeth with branches or wood chips in the morning, which is probably related to this legend. It can be calculated that as early as two thousand years ago, Indians already knew how to use branches or wood chips as toothbrushes to clean their mouths. Later, the Indian secret of using branches to eliminate bad breath was introduced to China along with visiting Buddhist monks. As a result, they used poplars and willows as tooth brushing tools for local materials, so the translation from Hindi to Chinese was written as "poplar branches." Modern Chinese no longer uses the word "Yang Zhi", and only Japan still uses this ancient word.