In classical Feng Shui practice, a consultant for the study of a place, both inside and out, uses the compass, or Luo Pan, as a tool.

Feng Shui bases its studies on the Qi flow. Qi is not a potential energy that can be measured with the parameters of Western science; however, the compass is a linking instrument between modern science and Feng shui as a science art.

The study of Feng Shui, in order to integrate this flow of Qi with the inhabitants of a home or commercial premises, seeks to measure the magnetic directions, establish alignment with it, identify the directions of the sitting and facing, assess time cycles using as based on the principles of yin-yang, the five elements, etc.

The study of Feng Shui builds its analysis on the overlapping of Qì fields in which gravity and magnetism are the main actors. Although Feng Shui is not a science, it cannot be completely separated from science. Being the magnetic field one of the two most important fields on earth, Feng Shui must be based on magnetic directions.

Master Joseph Yu [1]

Differences between the Chinese compass and the Western compass

Joseph Needham in his books (Science and Civilization in China, Physics Volume 4), attributes the invention of the compass to China. Series of writings on the history of Asia, show the ancient of it, despite the arguments exist about the independent development of the European compass. [2]

It is logical to think that the diffusion of the Chinese compass to Europe comes through the great trade of the Silk Road, and not, that the diffusion comes through the Muslim world where the compass appeared later.

The difference between a conventional western compass and the Chinese compass are marked by some points that it is good to highlight:

  • The European compass its needle points to magnetic north, while the Chinese compass always points to magnetic south.
  • The basic divisions of the European compass are 18, unlike the Chinese compass which uses 24 divisions of 15 degrees.
  • The European compass establishes its measurement by points while the Chinese compass by sectors.
  • The European compass uses divisions that mark 8 cardinal points, while the Chinese compass refers to subdivisions within the same cardinal point in which western language are: South 1, South 2, South 3, SE1, Se2, SE 3, etc..
  •  The European compass marks the south at 180 degrees, the Chinese compass includes a sector from 157.5 degrees to 202 degrees

La brújula Luo Pan, el cuaderno de trabajo de un consultor de Feng Shui/

How does a measurement and declination work?

La brújula Luo Pan, el cuaderno de trabajo de un consultor de Feng Shui/

Cortesía Enciclopedia británica

A magnetic compass works because of the freely moving magnetic needle, the earth acting as a huge magnet, causes the needles to align to their north-south field.

Due to the earth’s magnetic field, the north-south direction is not quite parallel to the north-south axis of the globe, so it presents a needle deflection due to the magnetic influences of the location.

The magnetic declination, being the difference between the geographic north and the magnetic north, is taken into consideration at the time of the Feng Shui analysis, therefore, when measuring a home, the positive value will be taken into account if the magnetic north is to the east of true north, and negative if it is to the west, making it clear that lately in some areas, the magnetic declination is changing considerably. [3]

An important topic to consider are the arguments regarding the measurements in the Southern Hemisphere, a topic to analyze in a future post, because some teachers consider that it should be inverted.

In one of the conferences of the Academic Journal of Feng Shui – 1st Symposium – Oceania, Master Jodi Brunner [4], in her presentation “Defusing the north-south issue” states:

The compass is the main tool in Feng Shui, and taking into account the earth’s magnetic field encompasses the entire globe and does not change depending on the hemisphere (south remains south, north remains north in both hemispheres), then no there is a need to change the Feng Shui for the Southern hemisphere.

Master Jodi Brunner

Structure of the Luo Pan

In its structure, a Luo pan is built from a square plate of lacquered wood, called Wei pan or outer plate, it helps reading by allowing a reference alignment point to be taken with the earth.

Next we find an inner plate or Nei pan in a circular shape that rotates freely, where in the center is a compass, or Sky Pool, so called because in the past the magnetic needle floated on water, today we use a dry compass as in West.

In the Wei pan, we find the concentric rings, inscribed in Chinese characters, which according to the school, varies the number of rings, we can find up to 70 rings in a Luo pan.

The red strings, or Heaven ‘s Heart, divide the Luo pan into four 90-degree parts, making it easy to find the position of the direction and note about the rings. [5]

In my next posts, I will include measurement techniques, it is a very broad subject as they are one of the difficulties we encounter today, due to the development of the city and the abundance of complex housing and building designs.

Application and types of Luo pan

In the beginning, the Chinese compass, Luo pan, in addition to being used for terrestrial orientation, was transformed into a workbook by adding rings that included guide tables depending on the Feng Shui school, and according to the applied methodology. Obviously, the history of Luo Pan is linked to the long journey of Feng Shui, its evolution accompanies the techniques used.

Feng Shui as an Art-science, developed different schools which created their own Luo Pan, all of them have a common thread of basic principles that they have placed in the structure of their Lou Pan Compass, in the so-called Rings.

We can find more than 5 types of Lou pan according to the school, however, currently the most used are:

  • San He Luo pan
  • San Yuan Luo pan
  • Combined Disc or Zong He Luo Pan

Therefore, no matter the school of Feng Shui used, we will find different common rings within the various types of Luo pan, representing principles such as Yin-Yang, trigrams, the five elements, the distribution of the Early Heaven (Xian Tian Ba Gua ) and the Later Heaven (Hou Tian Ba Gua), 24 mountains, the 12 terrestrial branches, etc.

A feng shui consultant must use and understand at least the basic rings, such as the Ring of the Previous Heaven (Xian Tian Ba Gua) show us the energy that does not change, show the order of the universe, and its cyclical events. Meanwhile, the ring of the Later Sky (Hou Tian Ba Gua) shows us the changes and movements of time and space. The transfer from the Later Heaven to the palace is what the 9 cycles of time will show us later.

“The rings of the Luo Pan contain a philosophical guide to Chinese thought serving both astronomy, astrology, and Eastern cosmology.”

Master Stephen Skinner

San He Luo Pan

San He Luo Pan is linked to the study of the configuration of rivers, mountains, identifying the patterns of the environment through which Sheng Qi or favorable Qi runs.

It uses principles such as the five elements, the 12 Bazi branches, the 10 stems and the 12 life palaces, in addition to including a ring of 28 constellations.

Part of the development of the San He School is attributed to Master Yang Jun-Song, by integrating the Heaven plate and the Human plate, together with the already existing Earth plate, completing the three characteristic plates of this Luo pan during the Tang dynasty, although the origins of the school date back to the Han dynasty [6]

Specifically, the Lou pan San He, is characterised by having three rings of 24 mountains, apparently repetitive in their characters. Each repetition represents the so-called “Plates”. The first inner plate is called the “Earth Plate”, the second is the one that is displaced 7.5 degrees counterclockwise, called the Human Plate, and, finally, the third plate, displaced 7.5 degrees clockwise is the “Heaven Plate “

Lou pan San He’s rings are divided into 12, 24, 60.72, 120 and 240 sectors.

San Yuan Luo pan specifically linked to the study of magnetic directions, time cycles, and the intangible Qi of the Stars.

The San yuan school uses the 8 trigrams, the 64 hexagrams of the I Ying, the 9 stars, as well as the Lo Shu numbers and the three periods. It will clarify that this Luo pan contains some basic rings of the Luo Pan San He, but it does not have any of the Human and the Heaven plates .

Historically, Master Shao Yong and Fu Xi are credited with founding the theory of the Xuan Kong school, which in its development has spawned several schools that have added rings to the Luo Pan.

The rings of the Luo pan San yuan are divided into sequences of 8, 64, 384 sectors.

The Luo pan San Yuan supports the schools created within the Xuan Kong school in their rings:

  • Xuan Kong Fei Xing or School of Flying Stars
  • Xuan Kong Da gua
  • Purple white School Method

Even within the San Yuan School, there is the Bagua school, such as the Eight Houses or Wandering Stars Method, we can find a ring that has been added in recent times, when it was generally inscribed on the lower face of the Luo pan.

It is important to clarify that the school of The Black Hat, which emerged in 1986, does not use the Luo pan compass as a tool.

Combined Disk or Zong He Luo Pan uses generally have been developed since the 20th century, allowing the Feng Shui practitioner to use formulas from the San He and San Yuan schools, where we find rings from both schools.


The Luo Pan compass comprehends all the information to understand the structure of the universe. When we analyze the ring of the 24 mountains we can describe the energy that flows in the earth from different directions, the identification of this energy allows it to be activated, improved and collected, which is what Guo Pu described when using the term Feng Shui.

In Feng Shui, the Qi runs with the wind, and collects with the water, it is a metaphorical term that confirms the existence of a moving energy (wind) retained in a certain space (water).

Both the tangible and intangible energy of the environment influences people, through the use of the compass, when determining the front or the sitting of a house, starting point for a Feng Shui analysis, we can create a synergy between the environment and the human beings.

I invite you to discover a unique tool, and full of knowledge.

Evelyn Escarfullery

[1] Master Joseph Yu

[2] Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China (obra monumental, en 15 volúmenes, iniciada en 1954


[4] Academic Journal of Feng Shui – 1st Symposium – Oceania, Master Jodi Brunner- DEFUSING THE NORTH-SOUTH ISSUE

[5] Stephen Skinner, Guide of Feng shui Compass

[6] Howard Choy, A Guide to the ECOFS Luo pan

.[7] Stephen Skinner, Guide of Feng shui Compass