Feng Shui Fundamentals

The Feng Shui Luopan

We look at how to appreciate a really good feng shui compass, a beautifully crafted authentic Chinese luopan

An authentic Chinese luopan has to be one of the most beautifully crafted tools in the world. These extraordinarily precise compasses contain a treasure trove of feng shui formulae and secrets. An amateur feng shui practitioner does not need a feng shui luopan. Any Western-style boy scout compass will do the job if all that is needed is to measure placement orientations of houses and their main doors.

Reference can then be made to precalculated tables in any good feng shui book that contain immediately usable and user-friendly interpretations, cures and remedies. Amateur practitioners do not need to have instant access to the complex formulae or the calculations that are required in the professional practice of feng shui. They also do not need to have immediate answers to a whole diversity of feng shui problems.


But the feng shui lo p’an is indispensable to the professional feng shui adviser. There is no way a practising consultant can practise real and authentic feng shui if he or she does not possess a reliable and accurate lo p’an, and is able to read and understand it. It is all well and good saying feng shui is an ‘instinctive’ or ‘intuitive’ practice. But even the most gifted ‘intuitive’ practitioner must know how the basic concepts of the practice relate to each other. They must also know how the energies or ch’i interact with each other under contrary scenarios – and these scenarios have to do with the orientations of the house and the main door.

Consultants use the lo p’an to help them diagnose feng shui afflictions in a variety of circumstances and orientations, and also to come up with serious solutions to these afflictions. If all that a professional consultant can do is make recommendations on the placement of symbols based on their intuition, or tell their customers to ‘clear the clutter’ then they really have no business calling themselves consultants.

Problem Solving

The lo p’an gives readings for every degree point of the compass, thereby pinpointing accurately what is potentially wrong with a site, and under which method might be a solution to a given problem. The reading of every formula contained in the rings of any lo p’an offer immediate calculations that treat the affliction that is being indicated. This information is given in the concentric rings around the central compass needle.

And here is where one lo p’an differs from another. Some lo p’ans have more formulae than others – and contain more solutions than others. So how good alo p’an is depends on the original design and the information that it contains.

Different Types

Today there are two major standardised types of lo p’ans. One is the san yuan lo p’an, which contains the Flying Star formulae for both yin (burial) and yang (home and office) residences, while the other is the san he (or san hap) lo p’an, and this contains the landscape formulae, the Eight Mansions formula and the 24 mountains.

The san yuan lo p’an also contains the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, while the san he lo p’an is recognisable by the presence of the three similar rings showing the 24 mountains each 7.5 degrees out of alignment with each other. In recent years, both lo p’ans have been combined into one in a combination lo p’an. Grand Master Yap Cheng Hai has designed an even more impressive lo p’an which covers just about everything from landscape to all the formulae – Eight Mansions, Flying Stars of both periods 7 and 8, the I Ching, the Water formulae, and the kua numbers of individuals.

Master Yap’s lo p’an is, indeed, a challenge to the feng shui expert. It is also a masterpiece of feng shui design, and I have to say that only a true Master could have come up with such an amazing amalgamation of all the formulae – all contained and presented within a compass that is no bigger than an average size eight inch lo p’an. Most lo p’ans contain only 3,000 Chinese characters. Master Yap’s lo p’an manages to contain 6,000 characters. If Master Yap can successfully make this lo p’an affordable it would, in our opinion, be a huge step forward for all feng shui practitioners and a major event in the feng shui world.

The Rings Of The Lo P’an

Different Masters’ formulae are contained in the compilation of rings around the lo p’an. Some of this information is given in code, but this does not present too much of a problem these days since the key to these codes is now readily made available to students who learn to use the lo p’an.

In olden times, of course, these codes were revealed only to favoured students of the Masters. In this way lineages and schools of feng shui were created. Today however, with the explosion of interest in feng shui taking place within a modern scenario where information can be made available so speedily, Masters such as Yap Cheng Hai are fast passing on their knowledge to the world.

But the information contained in the lo p’an is only one side of the picture. For a lo p’an to function correctly it has to have been made with a great deal of precision and care. Special materials must be used to make the lo p’an. Thus for instance the best lo p’ans are made from very expensive oil wood, a wood so durable, it is said to last for more than a hundred years. Cheaper substitutes are acceptable but lo p’ans made of plastic, cardboard or paper cannot really be used for professional consultations.

This is a san yuan lo p’an because it has the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching on the 10th ring. The outer ring shows the 360° circle, with the 28 Constellations on the ring just inside that.

The face of the compass – where the rings are placed – is known as the Heaven dial and this sits on the wood base known as the Earth plate. The Heaven dial or face of the lo p’an may be carved, printed or made of stamped copper plate. High quality lo p’ans have clear, sharp and well-crafted characters and measurement degrees, and they never rust. Others are written or carved directly onto the wood plate.
There are eight important things to look out for, if you are thinking of investing in a professional lo p’an.

  1. Needle quality. This is the most vital part of the compass, and is often the most expensive element of the lo p’an. The needle must be able to align accurately with the red thread on the top. Never buy a lo p’an with a needle which will not rapidly settle down to a steady and accurate reading.
  2. Two red dots. These must be present on either side of the line pointing North (the Rat direction) while the point of the needle should point South (the Horse direction).
  3. Accuracy of the axis cross. These are the two red threads that must cross the cardinal axis directly at 0, 90, 180 and 270 degrees of the Heaven dial. They are anchored in the square wooden Earth plate. If there is even the slightest deviation, the lo p’an is worthless.
  4. Quality of the characters on the Heaven dial. These must be clear and not blurred so that the characters can be read easily This is particularly important for non-native Chinese readers. Also the dial should be smooth to turn.
  5. The Earth base. This should be square to facilitate taking directions by placing it parallel to the wall or door of a building.
  6. Information in the rings. Only buy a lo p’an which contains printed information or with formulae you know and practice, otherwise it is a waste of your money.
  7. Accurate degree markings 0°-360° or 0-365 days. These are vital and are usually shown on the outermost ring. Examine these markings carefully.
  8. Finally, of course, I do insist that a lo p’an should look attractive and beautiful and be as smooth to the touch as possible. Masters often feel their lo p’an takes on a life of its own – and these lo p’ans do get better with age.

If you have made a decision to become a professional feng shui consultant you should seek out a Master, find yourself a lo p’an that contains his or her favourite formulae, and one that feels just right to you.



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