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3 Schools of Feng Shui

Let’s clear up some misunderstandings about Feng Shui. It seems that today Feng Shui has gotten a bad rap as it has been oversimplified and the underlying principles that ground Feng Shui philosophy have been lost. In general, Feng Shui is the study and optimization of energy within a space.

There are three different schools of Feng Shui;

  1. Classical Feng Shui (Form School and Compass School,)
  2. Black Hat School, 
  3. New Age Feng Shui. 


Classical Feng Shui is the traditional, Eastern practice.

The most obvious differences that set Classical Feng Shui apart from the other schools is that it is a macro, or “outward-in,” practice that includes the consideration for the environment, time, and direction of the property (or space) in a typical assessment. Under this branch of Classical Feng Shui, there are two predominant styles: Form School Feng Shui and Compass School Feng Shui.

Form School

Yangshuo Form School Feng Shui

The goal of a Form Feng Shui assessment can be summarized as threefold:

1. Understand the natural environment and observe the directional divisions of the external features surrounding a property,

2. Understand how the earth’s energy is influenced from above, astrological factors.

3. Assess the Qi or Chi quality in order to identify where the positive or negative Qi-collecting features are in order to access (or avoid) them.

Form school is the oldest documentation of Feng Shui and originated over thousands of years ago before the invention of the magnetic compass. Ancient people studied the land, qi or Chi flow and the principles of yin and yang. From this, they learned the best placement for their homes to ensure good harvests, healthy livestock and their own abundance and survival.

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 Flying Star Feng Shui.

Who Created Form School?

Master Yang Yun Sung is credited with expanding the theories of Form Feng Shui in the 9th century. Although actual documentation of his teachings is scarce, he left a legacy of classical texts on Landscape Feng Shui. This included an emphasis on the importance of selecting auspicious sites that have the dragon’s energy, or “Dragon’s Breath,” where vital Qi or Chi is located. This revelation contributed to the importance of the careful examination of the shape of land formations.

This technique emphasizes achieving harmony between heaven, man, and earth. It is a fairly straightforward system.

Form Feng Shui is primarily an external assessment

This system is especially useful if you are looking for a plot of land to build a home, office building, school, or landmark (long before you begin to consider the architectural and interior design of the property).

As time progresses, people and their homes evolve. So has Feng Shui. A well-trained Feng Shui practitioner makes use of all available resources, tools, and techniques to assess the Qi quality of the environment. There is no such thing as the “perfect house” in a “perfect environment” for all of eternity. We use Forms to assess the Qi quality surrounding the property for its long-term and long-lasting effects to withstand the dynamic changes of time.

Different Schools of Feng Shui Compass School

Compass School

While Form School focuses on the physical landscape configuration of the environment, Compass School focuses on assessing the abstract energies that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Compass School is more complex and has many subsets.

Compass School can be divided into two types:

  1. Yang House – Yang House represents dwellings for people. Yang house uses Flying Star and Eight Mansion Feng Shui.
  2. Yin House – Yin House represents burial sites for the dead. The two main classical systems for Yin House are San He and San Yuan.

Different Schools of Feng Shui Yin Yang

All of these systems emphasize the use of formulaic calculations – rather than the external physical landforms – to determine how Qi or Chi affects you and your home.

Therefore, it is considered a more dynamic practice. It has quick and short-term effects, prompting the Feng Shui fortune of a house to continuously change as time passes (i.e., the quality of Qi changes with time).

Feng Shui compass: Luo Pan

All formulaic systems are also based on direction, which incorporates the use of a Feng Shui compass known as the Luo Pan. In my opinion, a serious Classical Feng Shui practitioner should also examine the astrological charts of the residents occupying the space, making it a more powerful and accurate assessment in determining how certain people will react and respond to the shifts in energy. This practice is known as BaZi or The Four Pillars of Destiny.

It is important to emphasize that Form and Compass Schools are not necessarily two separate schools; rather, they should be viewed as two aspects of Feng Shui – one relates to the physical formations of the surrounding, and the other refers to the abstract, invisible influences affected by time and space (directions).


Black Hat, or “BTB,” is shorthand for Black Hat Sect Tantric Buddhism Feng Shui.

This style was developed around the ‘70s by the late Chinese Grand Master Lin Yun Rinpoche. He was considered the one who first introduced and pioneered Feng Shui in the West. Black Hat is also one of the most commonly used systems in the United States.

The school combines the essence and philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, holistic healing, transcendentalism, divination, psychology, and Classical Feng Shui. Clearly, there’s a lot going on here.

Many Black Hat Feng Shui practitioners and enthusiasts say the practice is a spiritual and holistic experience, and sometimes even a religious one. It combines the art of meditation by quieting and centering the mind in order to intuitively feel the space and its energy. Many practitioners and enthusiasts also perform rituals, chants, mantras, and other affirmations to bless their dwellings or to “call in” the Qi.

Black Hat School Basics:

While the Black Hat school honors some of the Eastern heritage of the traditional practice, one of the key distinctions is that it does not consider the use of a compass. It does not assess the external environment, the property’s location, or house facing directions, as an absolute. Black Hat practice uses the Eight Aspirations Map otherwise known as the Bagua Map (Ba Gua) or Energy Map, as its primary tool and is not otherwise a geomantic system.

In an attempt to simplify the complex rules of traditional Chinese Feng Shui, Black Hat uses the Ba Gua, also known as an Energy Map Or Bagua Grid, to divide a building into eight “Life Aspirations” or “Stations”. It is also common to see the Ba Gua, meaning “Eight Trigrams”, incorrectly divided into nine sectors.

bagua-map Eight Aspirations Map

Since Black Hat is a non-directional practice (wherein the traditional cardinal directions are not observed), the Map is laid out the same way – no matter where the Main Door of the property faces – for all types of properties. Instead of orienting the house with the Feng Shui compass, the Bagua Map is oriented to the entryway in any room every time. As you can imagine, it relies less on directional energies, landforms, and astrology than Classical Feng Shui. The internal orientation of the door is what matters here.

Black Hat is a popular form, especially in the West. But many traditional Feng Shui practitioners in Asia regard this adaptation as inauthentic because it grossly deviates from the traditional roots of the classical practice. It often gets ridiculed and challenged for its methods.

One of the main criticisms of Black Hat is that it was invented to make Feng Shui “easy.” The lack of consistency and oversimplified application means it is not always as black and white. Primarily, the Feng Shui assessment of space is subjective to the person performing the evaluation.


Also, many Black Hat practitioners are often deeply spiritual and/or religious individuals, blending or incorporating their personal beliefs into the practice of Feng Shui. This is one of the reasons Feng Shui gets mislabeled as a religion rather than the logical, metaphysical science it is.


New Age Feng Shui has many names, including Modern, Western, or Intuitive Feng Shui.

As the name denotes, this system of Feng Shui is “newer.” The practice was developed sometime around the early 1990s and is the Western adaption. It borrows and utilizes the Bagua from Black Hat. It also emphasizes products as enhancers such as crystals, figurines, and talismans, interior designing with colors, shapes, and textures, object placements, and the practice of personal intuition.

This is perhaps the most oversimplified approach to Feng Shui. Many traditional practitioners regard it as “watered down.”

Crystals for Feng Shui

The bad aspects of New Age Feng Shui

Many nontrained enthusiasts employ some form of New Age Feng Shui techniques in their homes and they can make mistakes. Skeptics of Feng Shui often give anecdotes relating the many inconsistencies and conflicting advice they’ve heard from different New Age Feng Shui practitioners.

The biggest concern of traditional practitioners is that much of the tradition, philosophy, theories, and rich history of Feng Shui are lost in translation. Some regard the departure from tradition in the New Age as a lack of honor and respect. They argue that, without proper consideration, the new idea only creates more confusion and misunderstandings.

Regardless of which system of Feng Shui you use, bear in mind the heart of Feng Shui lies in the study and observation of Qi or Chi energy.


In conclusion, classical Feng Shui schools into account the most data when doing the Feng Shui analysis. Compass school is the most complicated and in-depth and New Age is the most simplified. That said, all three schools can be used in combination as they all have the same aim: promote the qi energy of the environment to suit the needs of the individuals inhabiting the space.

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