The oldest form of Feng Shui, the Form School (San He) refers to the shape of the environment, such as mountains, rivers, plateaus, buildings, and general surroundings. It considers the four celestial animals, the yin-yang concept and the traditional five elements (Wu Xing: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water).
It was developed by Yang Yun-sun, Imperial Geomancer to Emperor Hi-Tsung (874-888 AD) and was based in Kiangsi (or Jianxi), a province of Southeast central China. The four cardinal compass directions are represented by four animals:
- the Black Turtle of the North
- the White Tiger of the West
- The Green Dragon of the East
- the Red Phoenix of the South
These animals refer to the ideal landforms to look for around the outside of your home. Gentle hills at the back of the house offer protection. These are called “Black Turtle”. The “White Tiger” hill to the West of the house also gives protection (this side should be a bit lower than the opposite East side). The “Green Dragon” hills to the East of the house bring abundance and prosperity – these two landforms should ideally be low hills, other buildings, trees etc.
Finally, the “Red Phoenix” or “little footstool” (a tiny hill) in the front of the house needs open space to prosper. It represents your opportunities and financial affairs. The 4 celestial animals are also used inside the house for furniture placement, interior design, etc.
Today using Form School means analyzing natural features such as trees, hills, mountains, rivers and lakes. In the urban environment, this also includes other buildings, walls and fences. Form School is still relevant today, and particularly important in large development sites. In China, a Feng Shui Master can charge up £70.000 ($100,000) to locate a good site and demand for their service is extremely high. In this country and most western countries it is not practiced as much; in fact there are few Masters who are qualified to practice it.
“Compass School” is a term coined by Westerners to refer to the “Patterns of Chi” or Classical School of Feng Shui. Any true form of Feng Shui should involve a Compass. Hence, this term is somewhat humorous, albeit popular.
Chinese history books describe how around 2005 BC, a turtle emerged from the River Luo with 9 numbers arranged in a grid on his back. The numbers were arranged in such a way that when they were added vertically, horizontally or diagonally, they always added up to fifteen. This is referred to as a “Magic Square”.
This magic square is part of the Bagua, a tool used to do Feng Shui. Compass School superimposes the Bagua onto a floor plan of the dwelling. Each of the 8 outer squares relate to compass directions, and the center square represents the center of your life (or house).
Each compass direction has certain colors and elements associated with it: water, wood, earth, metal, or fire. These colors and elements are used to balance and harmonize the space. Each of these areas is called a “gua” in Chinese. “Ba” means eight, therefore, the “Bagua” is “8 areas“. This type of Feng Shui further divides into several sub-schools, described below.
Eight Mansion Theory
Eight Mansion Theory (Ba Zhai) is used to determine your four lucky and four unlucky directions or areas. The idea is to maximize the compatibility between you and your dwelling.
The Kua or Gua number is how we calculate the lucky directions, or most auspicious energies based on a client’s date of birth.
Each person is either in the East Group or West Group. East Group people have four lucky locations that are opposite to West Group lucky locations. Consequently, it is tricky to Feng Shui a house that contains East Group and West Group people.
Flying Star (Xuan Kong) is the most advanced level of Feng Shui and adds the time dimension to a building’s energy. A Luo pan compass is used to calculate the facing and sitting degrees of the structure. The date of construction and facing/sitting degree is used to determine energy patterns within.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Flying Star School, we suggest “A Master Course in Feng Shui,” by Eva Wong.
New Age Schools
A contemporary “new age” western adaptation of ancient Chinese Feng Shui, integrating biology, psychology, cultural anthropology, physics and other environmental considerations to assess how an individual experiences their environment. I cannot speak about the accuracy of this form of Feng Shui, since it is typically grouped in with the Black Hat School (see below).
Western/BTB (Black Hat Sect Tibetan Buddhist)
The “Black Hat School” of Feng Shui was developed in the mid-1980s by Professor Thomas Lin Yun and is a combination of Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Psychology and Traditional Feng Shui. It is more of a spiritual than scientific approach to Feng Shui. There is quite a bit of overlap between the Black Hat School and Classical Feng Shui, but there are also distinct differences.
With Black Hat, the dwelling is divided into eight sections (nine being the center) and a Bagua map is aligned with the entry door, rather than actual compass directions. I use the compass, because the Bagua correlates to the compass for crucial reasons. For example, the North sector is the Water element. If you align the Bagua based on the door, not the compass, you might end up with the Career (Kan, Water element) sector in the South, but South is represented by the Fire element on the Bagua.
Some masters have great luck practicing Black Hat, but we use the Compass School, Form School, and Eight Mansion Theory because they are the oldest, classical forms of Feng Shui.