6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
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At this colorful Chinatown chopsticks shop, each pair has a story. The company is based in Beijing—it manufactured the official chopsticks set for the 2008 summer Olympics—and expanded into the U.S. in November 2008. Around 200 different styles line the walls, ranging from a single plastic pair for $1.99 to an ebony mahogany set with German silver tips for $600. (The collection is based on Dream of the Red Chamber, a controversial book banned during the Revolution, and the inscription on each stick signifies one of the twelve main female characters.) The chopsticks are crafted from a range of materials, from bamboo to sandalwood to ox bone, and high-end versions incorporate minute details like seashell inlays or silver accents. The imagery behind each style is significant: The “4 Flowers” set symbolizes the four different temperaments of men; pairs decked with a crane and turtle represent longevity; and those bearing a fish bring luck. There are chopsticks printed with Chairman Mao’s famous quotes, those illustrated with the faces of the Beijing Opera, and others depicting best-selling Chinese books or famous paintings. Sets come in elaborate illustrated boxes and are popular wedding, birthday, or housewarming gifts—the word for chopsticks also sounds like “happiness” in Chinese.