February 18, 2010

Foochow Ceremony : Topping off (Shun Liong) in Sibu

(Photos : Courtesy of I Galleries)

My Sibu friend Steve Ling would have a brand new house soon.

I am very impressed by the topping off ceremony he held for his new house in Sibu. His childhood friend Rev Lau Hui Tak conducted the Methodist church Topping Off ceremony. He placed the words "Emmanuel" or "E Ma Nei Li " in Chinese on the beam. In this way  his family would feel the presence of God in their home. The event was completed with a simple Foochow meal of rice vermicelli and chicken soup. There is a saying "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." May God bless him and his family and their new home.

I am sure it would be very useful to use these two photos to explain the meaning of topping off to our young Foochows who may not know about this custom. Most Foochows practise this ancient custom brought over from China with great seriousness.

And furthermore it is a fact that many different countries celebrate this occasion in different ways. In building construction, topping out, or topping off, is a ceremony held when the last beam is placed at the top of a building or when the building is completed.

It is common in England, Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland

(American way)
The origins of the ceremony are obscure. Its practice has long been an important component of timber frame building. This tradition migrated to America with European craftsman. A tree or leafy branch is placed on the topmost beam, often with flags and streamers tied to it. A toast is usually drunk and sometimes the workmen are treated to a meal. The ceremony has also been common in the United States when a skyscraper is completed. The last beam to be hoisted is painted white and signed by all the workmen involved. In other types of building, the ceremony typically focuses on the bedding of the last block of masonry or brick. The ceremony is akin to the practice of placing a newspaper or coins under the cornerstone of a building.
Topping off ceremony

This photo shows the topping off ceremony of the Polish Pavilion in Shanghai.


Source : http://www.answers.com/topic/builders-rites



I feel that it is important for us to have a topping off ceremony besides a very public ground breaking ceremony with lots of changkuls and even a bull dozer as has been practised by many dignitaries of our society. It is meaningful and for all the reasons we can think of it is the right thing to do.

(Taiwan Pavilion Topping Off Ceremony in Shanghai World Expo grounds - you can see the words Shun Liong - putting up the beam - in Chinese on the ceremonial banner)

In the next few months we shall be reading a lot about the topping off ceremonies of the international pavilions in the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Would our Malaysian Pavilion have a topping off ceremony too?


Ah Ngao said...

waa...very steady lah,especially with the red cloth with Chinese characters written - very ommph and forceful.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yeah...this is really special for Chinese and other cultures to do....

A very important recognition of the Higher Powers.


wenn said...

ic, something interesting!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Wenn

West Malaysians don't do topping off? I am sure people in Sitiawan would have to do it...the red piece of cloth for the final beam I mean.

Thanks for visiting.

Ann said...

The Cantonese do, we call it GOU LIONG. My Ah Kung says is for the Contractor boss to appease the workers, otherwise, they may place a hex and have disasters during the construction, and even later in the house. So the house owner also contribute to the makan to appease the spirits. Very pandan, but everyone does it. My dad built his house at Embang Rd, so i know all about it.

In NEw Zealand, they also do it. My school built a few small buildings, Each time the main beams go up, the contractor shouts us the teachers. In New Zealand, the Maoris also have a lot of spirits thing. Before a house or class room is used, they have a blessing.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann

What a ceremony to unite us all on earth. Across oceans and over hills and mountains we practise the same peace making with the spirits. Let the Maoris know about our Foochow ways.

We call ours Shun Liong )go up the beam - the last one). Yeah it is also to appease the wrokers (we usually give ang pows in lieu of makan.

Isn't it nice to bless the classrooms?

Bengbeng said...

i remember i climbed up to the 'attic' and saw the red cloth. i wanted to remove it but did not dare. only now i realize the significance of it

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Bengbeng
Yes the piece of red cloth would be there for a long long time. Not to be removed. I used to remember all the four sacred words suitable for this ceremony. Now I can only remember the Christian words like Emmanuel from Steve's ceremony.

It would be interesting to know what phrase others use today.

cheers. Thanks for visiting.

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