Lo Shu

The Lo Shu Magic Square Part 1

The lo shu magic square is one of the oldest feng shui tools. Its grid of nine chambers helps to unlock the time dimension of feng shui, enabling the practitioner to decide on the best time for the occupants of a dwelling to make changes

Around 4,000 years ago, according to ancient Chinese history, the sage Yu saw a turtle emerge from the Lo river carrying on its back a pattern of nine numbers arranged in a grid. The eight numbers around the edge of the grid corresponded to the Eight Trigrams of the Later Heaven arrangement of the pa kua, with the ninth pivotal point located in the centre. This arrangement became known as the lo shu magic square.


Yu’s engineering skill and knowledge of watercourses was well respected and, having been the first man to control the flow and prevent the flooding of the mighty River Lo by building a huge tunnel to divert some of the torrent, many believed he had been rewarded with the knowledge of the lo shu magic square. He later went on to become Emperor and, according to legend, reigned successfully for 40 years.

The Magic Square

The ‘magic’ square is so called because the numbers contained within the square add up to 15 in any direction, whether calculated horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The number 15 also happens to be the number of days which it takes for a new moon to become a full one. Yin, or even, numbers (2, 4, 6, 8) are found at each corner of the square while yang, or odd, numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) are at the four compass points and in the centre.


When the lo shu grid is superimposed onto the pa kua the number nine corresponds to the Fire Element in the South and the number one with the Water Element of the North. The square is used extensively in Compass School feng shui. By laying the square over a plan of a room, house or garden and using it in the same way as the pa kua, the square divides the house or room up into nine sectors, with each of the numbers around the edge corresponding to one of the Eight Trigrams.

The Lo shu magic square Ⓒ FSML
The Lo shu magic square Ⓒ FSML

Time Flies

When used to determine the time dimensions of feng shui, the square is modified. Time is divided into eras of 60 years which consist of three cycles of 20 years. The order of the numbers within the lo shu changes during each cycle. The current, or seventh, cycle, began in 1984 and will come to an end in the year 2003. This means that the number at the centre of this square, also known as the reigning number, is seven.

This movement of numbers around the lo shu is referred to as ‘flying’ and the study of the effects of this is Flying Star feng shui. To the Chinese, numbers, or words which sound like numbers, have a great influence over important decisions. In Cantonese, for example, the number four sounds like the word ‘die’ and is therefore considered highly inauspicious. Nine is considered to be an auspicious number because it represents wholeness, as too is the number one which represents the beginning of all things.

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