How to Take a Compass Reading for Feng Shui

close up of the feng shui compass

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In the classical and traditional schools of feng shui, some practitioners may use a magnetic compass to assist them in advising you. The compass is used to find the magnetic directions of your home so you can determine your home’s facing direction and sitting direction. You can also use the information to lay the bagua on your home according to the directions, as well as see compatibility with the birth information of the people in the home.

Tip

The luo pan is an ancient Chinese compass that identifies the bagua of a home. They're typically used only by experienced feng shui practitioners and masters.

In feng shui, the magnetic directions correspond to the different areas of the feng shui bagua, the five elements, yin and yang, and so much more.

  • North sector is Kan, water element
  • Northeast sector is Gen, yang earth element 
  • East sector is Zhen, yang wood element
  • Southeast sector is Xun, yin wood element
  • South sector is Li, fire element
  • Southwest sector is Kun, yin earth element
  • West sector is Dui, yin metal element
  • Northwest sector is Qian, yang metal element

All schools of feng shui are founded on these same fundamental principles, but not all practitioners apply them in the same way. So it makes sense if you’re getting confused! Do your best to keep your DIY feng shui adjustments simple, or work with a feng shui consultant who can guide you based on their expertise.

The Compass

The traditional feng shui instrument used to read the magnetic direction of your home (or any location) is a device called a luo pan. Sometimes it’s a circular or square piece of wood painted red or yellow with golden accents. In the center there is a magnetic compass with concentric circles radiating out around it. The circles rotate around the center compass, and each ring has information inscribed in Chinese characters. One of the rings includes the names of the 24 directions that a skilled classical practitioner is trained to use in your feng shui evaluation.

The needle of a luo pan uniquely points south, while Western compasses will have the needle pointing north. Typically, notations are as follows on a compass (and it’s the same for both the northern and southern hemispheres—you take the geographic magnetic reading)

  • North is at 0 degrees. 
  • East is at 90 degrees
  • South is at 180 degrees
  • West is at 270 degrees.

Unless you’re a professional, you can use your ordinary outdoor hiking compass or even the compass app on your smartphone to take the readings for your feng shui home directions. (Even professionals may use their smartphone app.) Just be sure you have a high quality compass. If you are using your smartphone, make sure that your app is calibrated correctly. If you want to get fancy, you can absolutely purchase a luo pan, but it might confuse you more than help!

feng shui compass and Chinese almanac
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How to Take Your Compass Reading

Once you are ready to go with your magnetic compass of choice, here are the steps for taking your reading for feng shui purposes.

  1. Stand in the formal front door of your home facing out the door.
  2. Hold the compass flat, so it’s parallel to the floor, pointing out the front door.
  3. Determine what direction you are facing and write down the direction and degrees.
  4. Step back further into the home and take a few more readings. Take at least three readings.
  5. Review and average the readings to determine the magnetic direction and degrees facing out your front door.
  6. It’s helpful to make sure there are no large magnetic or metal objects near you when you take your readings.

After you determine your directions, you can use an accurate floor plan to super-impose eight equal pie pieces. Each pie piece is a sector that relates to a direction for a compass bagua layout. The center of the home will be where all the points of the pie pieces meet. 

Facing Direction vs. Sitting Direction

The facing direction is generally where your front door is located. This would mean the official, formal, original front door. But, sometimes it might be another location. Some examples would be if your front door was on the back side of the house, or if your street address doesn’t match up with where your door is located. 

The sitting (or mountain) direction is typically the backside of the house. It’s always the magnetic opposite of the facing direction and is often where you’d find the backyard. If your home placement is more complicated, you can still determine the directions of your home as described, and overlay the eight sectors. Then you can work with a feng shui consultant to determine which is the facing and sitting directions to explore further.

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