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.
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.
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,