Monday, December 13, 2004

talking architecture (part 2)

I was stumped when Ajik sms’ed me asking about ‘relong’. Few days before, he was talking to me about some pieces of his in-laws land in ‘Aloq Staq’. For those in the dark, ‘relong’ is a measurement unit for land normally used in Kedah for ‘bendang’ or ‘dusun’. The more ‘relong’ one has, the richer he was, the more expensive the ‘mas-kahwin’ should you ask for the hand of his daughter.

Hang nak menikah anak Pak Chad tu, hang ada beghapa? Yati tu keluaq yunibesiti, Pak Chad pulaq bendang depa ratuih relong. Hang buleh ka?’ (So you want to marry Pak Chad’s daughter, how much money do you have? Yati was a university graduate, Pak Chad on the other hand has few hundred relongs of padi field. Can you afford it?)

I knew about ‘relong’ but never find any need to use it. Certainly, I was not made to pay the mas-kahwin in any ‘relong’ of ‘bendang’ when married to Yati.

The solution was to sms around. Help came from Hang Lekiu (my senior draftsmen; yes his name is so) who had worked in Kedah for few years. Q (as he is known) explained that a ‘relong’ equals to 484 ‘jemba’. What? Well, that was seven-tenth (0.7) of an acre or 30,976 square feet. A ‘jemba’ also equals an area 8 feet by 8 feet or 64 square feet. That was getting interesting.

In Terengganu-speak, ‘jemba’ means ‘to reach down’ or ‘lurge at’ or simply as ‘go’ or 'rush'. If used as j’emba’ it means in the negative.

‘Musing kemara ning, air t’lage tu toho sikek, mung kene jembe lah kalu nok kara.’

‘Jage anok tu!, nye jembe tengoh jalang kang langgor l’ori’

‘Mujo ambe dang jembe p’aso, kalu dok, dok makang ikang le kite.’

‘Nok tengok mok yong gane Mek Nah ooo! Dok dang j’embe nye k’ite.Padang basoh kaing nge jage anok je kite niiing…’

In Kedah-speak, the word ‘jemba’ means ‘depa’; measurement of outstretched arm (like in crucification). Since average ‘depa’ was only about 6 feet, ancient Kedahan must be big indeed. The measure must have been based on the ‘gergasi’ of the legend Merong Mahawangsa. But why ‘jemba’ and not ‘depa’? Not to confuse it with ‘depa’ (meaning ‘they’) perhaps?

Anthrophometric-based system of measurement was the original of all system of measurement. In Malay architectural tradition we have the ‘jari’jengkal’, ‘hasta’, and ‘depa’. In the English Imperial System, an inch was based on the width of your thumb, the feet on the length of your sole. A yard interestingly was decreed by English King Henry I (1110-1137) as the length from the tip of his nose to the end of his middle finger. That was some royal measure. In 1324, Edward II decreed that the inch was the length of 3 barley corns placed end-to-end

I had first thought that ‘relong’ was near equivalent to English ‘furlong’. I was wrong. Furlong was a measure of length not area. Now what was ‘furlong’? A furlong is a "furrow long" or length of a mediaeval field used for the lengths of some horse races. It equals 220 yards.

Architects who chanced on ancient land titles or grants often found measurement in chain, rod, pole, rood or furlong. A chain is 66 feet. A link in the chain is 0.66 ft. Old surveyors said so. But while at UTM (in 1981) we were given two different sets of chain; one a 100 link chain measuring 66 feet and the other measuring 100 feet. The 66 feet was the true chain while the 100 feet was known as Ramsden’s or engineering chain. Chain measurement is still widely used today despite the metrication. I guess with most of the country’s land already measured before, the task of converting would be near impossible. So we have the one or two chain road reserve everywhere and most housing lots, bungalows especially; measures 66ft in width.

A rod normally of five and a half yard interestingly originates from the poles used by farm boys. ‘Medieval ploughing was done with oxen, up to 4 pairs at a time. The ploughman handled the plough. His boy controlled the oxen using a stick, which had to be long enough to reach all the oxen. The term rod, pole or perch actually refer to the same thing but each term was used in different time. And, believe it or not, the legal rod of the 16th century was 'the combined length of the left feet of 16 men as they left church on a Sunday morning.'

A rood equals 1210 square yards or 19,890 square feet or 40 square poles. Rood was also one furlong times one pole (1 furlong x 1 pole). 4 roods made up an acre.

So how much was all that in square meter? Go figure.
Some facts of the Imperial System reproduced in the article quoted from www.

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