Groundbreaking is deeply embedded in Chinese culture.
Even in this day and age people from all walks of life undertake groundbreaking ceremonies whether it’s for residential or commercial properties.
While modernization has meant that more and more people are no longer taking this task seriously, seniors and the elderly can still view it as an important event. This is not to say that they are old-fashioned. Maybe it’s just that they value culture much more than the younger generation.
Ground breaking essentially states that there should be an official date in which remodeling, constructions and building activities commence. And a notable ceremony should be done by conducting simple rituals of customs to mark this significant day.
This day would firstly be chosen after consultation with a metaphysics expert on date selection. Only then can the activity be scheduled to go ahead.
For Taoists and Buddhists, a somewhat religious ritual would be conducted at the start. Followed by the practical part which most homeowners do today.
For resale homes that was occupied by previous owners, it is believed that negative energy can still reside in the premises especially when misfortune had struck them. Leading to having to sell their homes.
This is an especially critical concern when there was death.
As such, offerings and sacrifices are made to the foundation master (开基主) for appeasement. This can sometimes be referred to as the house god.
Then a table would be set up to worship the earth god (土地公). If the schedule permits, then this would be done on the second, or sixteenth day, or both days of the lunar month.
Offerings are usually made in the form of fruits, tea leaves, traditional cakes, etc. And the most common sacrifice is a roast pig.
The homeowner would them speak out loud requesting for permission to start constructions, and asking for the deity’s blessings.
In some cases, tablets like those of ancestral tablets might also be used when the previous owners can be identified.
These rituals are usually performed with the assistance of taoist priest or buddhist monks.
When the proceeding is completed, the actual physical ground breaking can take place.
While there is a feng shui logic behind choosing a suitable day for groundbreaking, it should be noted that this is considered a more spiritual undertaking rather than a metaphysical one.
Also, don’t confuse the moving day rituals with this. They are not the same.
Incense and candles are prepared at either the entrance of the site or at the center of the property. The latter making more sense for apartments.
The landowner or homeowner would then ask for permission out loud to start renovations.
Then a shovel, hoe, hammer, or any type of construction tool with a red cloth tied to it is used 3 times on the ground of the 4 corners of the site. This is sometimes narrowed down to only one corner for apartments.
Because the soil can be dug up on landed property, 4 holes would be created in the 4 corners of the site. The holes will then be filled with grains, rice, beans, tea leaves, etc, and cover the holes up with soil.
It is done.
The homeowner can leave the premises and allow the contractors and worker to kickstart their construction works.
Depending on the inclination of the homeowners towards religion or spirituality, people could be requested to sing or say auspicious things as the first digging acts take place.
A more simplified yet equally symbolic gesture that is widely acknowledged these days is to have have the landowner dig into the ground once with a tool (usually a shovel) of some sort. This symbolic act is accepted in modern times as the ground breaking itself.
Taking this further
The above guide is usually more than sufficient to declare your construction works to the gods.
But if you want to take it further, then there are some additional rituals that people who are more spiritual or superstitious can undertake as well.
For example, ancient Chinese were known to bury bottles containing the same auspicious items as the wealth vase in the ground. This is supposedly meant to bless the household with wealth luck for generations to come. The items contained in the bottle can sometimes also include the 8 auspicious items.
When there is drainage that runs through the property, it was common practice for landowners to throw tea rice into the drain and let flowing water wash them away from the house. This is meant to wash away negative energy and spirits with bad intentions so that the building itself can enjoy prestige.
In some areas, the ceremony would be done while raining if the day itself looks like it was going to rain. This is hugely symbolic and spiritual as rain is nature’s way of washing away the old and bringing fresh life force.
Finally, it must be said that these days ground breaking ceremonies are usually practiced in major construction projects like building a new house from scratch. Homeowners doing minor remodeling works tend to neglect it altogether.