True or Magnetic North?

April 29, 2010

“I have been thinking about the difference between true north and magnetic north, since coming back from San Francisco which has a declination of 14 degrees, nearly one mountain. What is your take on this? Should one uses the true north or the magnetic north to measure the sitting and facing of a house to construct a Flying Stars chart?”

I asked my good friends Michael Paton and Derek Walters this question after coming back from San Francisco and the following are their answers, it is indeed a vexed question.

Hi Howard,

Originally fengshui xiansheng used true north. Only in the Song dynasty with the advent of the luopan did magnetic north come to the fore. Grafflin wrote a paper on the problem of declination with the fengshui of the Ming tombs, but unfortunately I don’t have a copy to send you. Perhaps Gyda could find it in the uni library there. The details are below.

Grafflin, D., ‘Geomantic Cliché and Geomagnetic Puzzle’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 105, no. 2, 1985. pp. 315-316.

I hope this helps.


Dear Howard,

How nice to hear from you!

What a vexed question. When I was in Taiwan the Fang Shi there told me that the magnetic north follows the lines of qi. But when doing Flying Stars, which are more numerological than geographical, true north is used. Indeed, in the (modern) Book of the Luopan, which I have from Kaohsiung (Gaoxiong) there are tables of magnetic declination, to be used for calculating true north. But when they were taking readings for graves and temples, they used the Luopan but ignored declination. Some authorities (Needham nodding) claim that the Heaven, Human and Earth plates on the Luopan show that temporal magnetic declination was known to the ancients. I don’t hold to this theory; too neat for it to be so much one way and the same amount the other. In any case it varies from location to location in the same area. As indeed, the Luo Qing testifies, with its references to hidden weapons affecting the needle.

Very best wishes,

World Magnetic Declination Map 2005


One Response to “True or Magnetic North?”

  1. Mike Says:

    This is an interesting question. The difference reading between True north and magnetic north(compass) could be as many as 13degree(in Singapore/Malaysia) and 14 degree for California. Getting the wrong facing direction for your home feng shui will give you a totally wrong calculation.

    As we know, Feng Shui is based on the universe energies(not only earth magnetic energy) such as the sun, moon, earth magnetic, wind and water.
    True north reading is based on the sun’s location while magnetic north is based on earth magnetic field. Both sun and earth magnetic field are strong energies. We should not ignore either one of them. All the wind direction report,rain, international maps report are based on true north.

    The original feng shui used TRUE north. Magnetic north was used when luopan(compass) was introduced during Song dynasty. We would like to know Why it was suddenly switch to magnetic north? Based on my imagination(after watching too much drama and CSI movies), was it switched when the Song Emperor decided that commoners should not use the powerful Feng Shui and hence let them use the inaccurate magnetic north instead ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: