After a house is built, Liqi Pai 理氣派 or Compass School Feng Shui is concerned with how the building is engaging with the environment from a Gua Qi 卦氣 (Qi of the Trigrams) point of view and there are three ways to do this, according to the San Cai 三才 theory of Tian Qi, Di Qi and Ren Qi or the Three Abilities theory of Heaven Qi, Earth Qi and Human Qi:

1) To “ride” (Cheng 乘) the Earth Qi.
2) To “face” (Xiang 向) the Heaven Qi.
3) The “take in” (Na 納) the Human Qi.

For this reason, a compass method, like the Bazhai Mingjing 八宅明鏡 Eight Mansion School, would use the sitting direction, called the Fu Wei, to calculate the locations of the eight Wandering Qi through Yao line changes, the idea is to use the correlations of the compass readings to calculate how the house is “sitting on” or “riding” the Earth Qi.

Another system, like the Xuankong Sanyuan Feixing Pai 玄空三元飛星派 or Space-Time Three-Era Flying Star School, would use the facing direction to calculate the location of the flying stars, with its resultant sitting and facing star influencing health/relationship and wealth/officialdom respectively. The idea is to use the facing direction and its subsequent correlations of the eight Trigrams in the eight directions, to calculate how the house would face the Heaven Qi and whether a particular direction is auspicious or harmful (ji-xiong 吉凶) from a health and wealth perspective.

Still another method, like the Yangzhai Sanyao Bazhai Pai 陽宅三要八宅派 or the Three Essentials of a Yang Dwelling Eight-Mansion School, would use the front door as its Fu Wei, to calculate the locations of the eight Wandering Qi memorized by the Song of the Yearly Cycles (Younian Ge 遊年歌), namely Fu Wei 伏位, Sheng Qi 生氣 , Yan Nian 延年, Tian Yi 天醫, Huo Hai 禍害, Jue Ming 絕命, Liu Sha 六煞 and Wu Gui 五鬼, instead of using the sitting direction mentioned earlier.

When a house is not yet built, Feng Shui is concerned with its location to the landscape, so in systems like the four San He Water Methods, they use the incoming and outgoing water in front of the site, as well as the direction of the Coming Dragon of the mountains behind as their reference point, to set up the 12 Life-Cycle (十二長生訣), to calculate the auspicious and harmfulness of a location.

In Xuankong Dagua, the aim is match the siting of a house with its landscape (Shan Shui or Mountain and Water), so the direction of the “Coming Dragon” and “Going Water” of the land is matched with the Sitting and Facing of the house, according to the correlated numbers or Trigrams so the 4 numbers/trigram are either of the same, adding up to 5, 10 or 15 or they have Hetu pairing relationships to be ritually correct and auspicious.

Thus we can see the Compass Feng Shui Schools have different metrics to reflect the different way a house would engage its environment, and these are used as reference points for calculations, both before and after its construction, also internally and externally.

When this is understood, the compass methods may seem numerous and complicated, but they all have the same objective: how best to engage the Qi of the environment, so it can energize and nourish us in a meaningful and ritually correct way. Obviously, the best way would be for a house to be able to “ride”, to “face” and to “take in” the Qi of the environment in the most appropriate or auspicious way at the same time and this idea should be the core principles of any Compass school of Feng Shui.


Have you ever wonder why there are two main schools of Feng Shui, namely the Form School and the Compass School, and not just one? Why do we need two of them? What are their main differences that we would need one to support the other? These questions can be partly answered by looking at their Chinese names.

In Chinese, ‘Form School’ is called either ‘Xing Shi Pai’ 形勢派 or ‘Luan Tou Pai’ 巒頭派. ‘Xing Shi’ literally means ‘Form and Configuration’, that is we look at the smaller and visible parts in our environment and see how they would relate to each other to form a larger configuration, that is how they would group together to form a whole, this process is not unlike playing with children’s wooden blocks to form a recognizable construction.

Another name for ‘ Form School’ is called ‘Luan Tou Pai’, which literally means the ‘Mountain-Top School’. Why mountain tops? Because if we look at the mountaintops of a range of mountains, we can see and follow their rise and fall to get an idea of how the landscape would behave from Point A to Point B.

Both these Chinese names implied that we would use observation and analysis to do our ‘Form School’ Feng Shui, and in the process we are dealing with something that are tangible, they have form and are visible. To these things that are manifested, and quantifiable, the Chinese would say they have ‘Form Qi’ or ‘Xing Qi’ 形氣, as compared to the opposite, to things that are intangible, formless and invisible. These things that are un-manifested and not quantifiable, the Chinese would say they have ‘Formless Qi’ or just ‘Qi’. There is even a character for Form Qi 氣 and another for the Formless Qi 炁 even though they sound the same.

This is where the term ‘Li Qi Pai’ 理氣派 for Compass School of Feng Shui comes in. ‘Li Qi’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine has the meaning ‘to regulate the flow of the Vital Qi and remove obstructions to it’. In Feng Shui the aim is similar, but it is not ‘Vital Qi’ (Qi that keeps us alive) that we are concerned with, but the ‘Formless Qi’ or just the ‘Qi’ of the environment. Thus ‘Li Qi Pai’ can be translated literally as ‘Regulating (Formless) Qi School’.

To regulate implies that we have to keep a balance, but the Qi that we are working with is intangible, it has no form, it is invisible and not manifested, so how are we to this? With the compass and with correlative thinking is the Chinese answer.

We start with something that is measurable, like measuring the sitting and facing of a house, or the top of a mountain, or the direction of the coming and going of the water with a compass. This measurement is then correlated to a set of values and numbers to create a pattern language. By interpreting the resultant pattern with a set of rules, we can get an understanding of how the invisible and the intangible are related to each other. With this insight we can ‘read’ the Formless Qi by comparing it with the Form Qi, so the seen and the unseen, the form and the formless, the manifested and the un-manifested can come together, to enable us to find the in-between that is appropriate to the situation.

This is exactly how a Compass School method like Flying Star works in Practice. We start with the time of construction of a house and then correlate it to a 20-years Period with a Trigram and a number, this number then become the Period Number, which can fly through the Nine-Palace with a fixed pattern. Then we do the same with the sitting and facing of a house, the compass measurements are correlated to a set of Trigrams and numbers and with these numbers and the agreed upon flying sequence we can make up a Flying-Star Chart. We then interpret this pattern language with a set of rules, based on the Five-Phase relationships and the concept of timeliness and ‘Host and Guest’, etc.

We then compare our interpretation of the numbers or ‘stars’ with what we can observe in the Form School Feng Shui, and together with the Yin and the Yang of what is visible and observable in the Form School with what is invisible but calculated in the Compass School, we can do our analysis and come up with some efficacious suggestions for our clients to consider.

Correlative thinking in Compass Feng Shui is unlike the analytical thinking we use in Form School Feng Shui. Analytical thinking observes and examines things in detail in order to learn about them, so the process can be repeated and is predictable. It is diagnostic, methodical, logical and systematic. Whereas correlative thinking uses a conceptual framework of correlations to make sense of the same phenomenon, the outcome is not so much in learning about things individually but how they are related to each other, so there is mutual resonance to achieve efficacy. Correlative thinking is more concerned with the original character of a thing under consideration instead of diagnose it. Correlative thinking is more intuitive; it is not methodical or systematic. It tends to be multi-valent and vague in the sense that it relies more on inspiration than on facts.

Precisely because the Chinese believe that everything has Qi and has Yin and Yang, so there are Form Qi and as well as Formless Qi, also correlative thinking as well as analytical thinking to make sense of things holistically, that we need both the Form and Compass School of Feng Shui to do our audit and analysis properly.

However, the pressing issue in modern day Feng Shui is that many practitioners do not understand or know the working of analytical thinking as compare to correlative thinking, these people often take the correlations analytically and literally.

A classic example is the 5 Yellow Earth Star, which is not a real star in the night sky but a correlation for a quality that is sitting in the middle of a situation and has the ability to connect in all directions. It is liken to an emperor sitting on its throne, it can be powerfully good when it is timely and it can be powerfully bad when it is untimely, so when we see a combination like 2,5 where the 2 Black Earth star is correlated to sickness and the mother of the house, these people would say literally that the 2,5 combination will cause the mother to have untimely disaster or even get cancer of the stomach!

This is a gross misunderstanding of correlative thinking, it is like just because you were born in a certain year you are correlated to a Dog or a Pig, it does not mean that you are a dog or a pig literally, these labels are only used as a metaphor to get an understanding of your potential character and tendencies, and we need to observe you in detail to see if that is the case. Somewhere between the observations, the calculations, the analytical and the correlative thinking, we can find the in-between and know a little more about you, so as consultants we can help you make better decisions. That is how Chinese correlative thinking works in practice.

Graphic courtesy

Graphic courtesy

%d bloggers like this: