Helpful Feng Shui Basics for Beginners

Contributor: Sally Painter
Feng shui items

The most basic element of feng shui is chi energy, life force energy that flows through everything and governs all living matter. This concept of chi energy is where feng shui begins. It's the connecting energy that makes the world cohesive and dictates how everything cycles into each other and creates life. Beginners to feng shui need to understand simple basics regarding chi in order to start making auspicious choices in placement and design.

Feng Shui Is the Art of Placement

Feng shui (fung-shway) means wind and water. It is the ancient Chinese artform of placement. The goal of feng shui is to create a positive flow of life force energy known as chi.

Chi Energy Divides Into Yin and Yang

Chi energy is divided into two opposite forces, yin (female) and yang (male). For a healthy existence, chi energy must be balanced. Too much yin or too much yang creates an imbalance. When this occurs within the body, you're more prone to disease. On a global scale, nature suffers. In your home, life becomes off kilter.

Yin yang sign in garden rocks

Elemental Energies Come From Different Yin Yang Configurations

Chi energy further divides into five feng shui elements that have different configurations of yin and yang energies. These five elements create a cycle that must be observed and kept in balance in order for chi to flow optimally.

5 Feng Shui elements cycle

Elemental Energies Govern Luck Sectors

These energies govern different sectors of homes, rooms, and other spaces. They are based on compass directions and laid out on the bagua, a map that guides basic feng shui layout and placement.


Place Appropriate Elements in Each Luck Sector

These luck sectors are all represented on the bagua, and using items from the proper elements that govern the sector can enhance luck in those areas of your life. Luck sectors, the elements, and their compass directions include the following:

Sector Direction Element
Career North Water
Knowledge and wisdom Northeast Earth
Health and family East Wood
Wealth and abundance Southeast Wood
Fame South Fire
Marriage and relationships Southwest Earth
Children and creativity West Metal
Benefactors and travel Northwest Metal

There Are Different Schools of Feng Shui

There are three main schools of feng shui in the Western world. Two are considered traditional or classical feng shui, and the third is a western version of the ancient eastern art.

Shapes and Form School of Feng Shui

Typically called Form school, this is one of the traditional or classical feng shui schools. In the modern world, it's rarely practiced by itself and is usually combined with the Compass School. It's known as Form and Compass Feng Shui. Shapes and Form Feng Shui focuses on land formations and the elements surrounding the house. Exterior elements have a greater impact on the home than which room you use for a bedroom. For example, if a dead-end street ends directly across from your home, then you and your family can experience health-related issues and financial stress due to what is called the poison arrow effect.

Compass School of Feng Shui

Compass school relies on taking compass readings to determine the sitting/facing directions of your home. It also employs calculating the house's Kua number (calculated using year house was built and compass reading), and each family member's Kua (Gua) number (birthdate). In addition, the East and West System or Eight Mansions and Flying Star System are calculated for each member within the home. When combined with Shapes and Form school, you get a very concise and mathematical evaluation of your home and each family member.

Compass for feng shui
  • Flying Star Theory (change annually and monthly)
  • Eight Mansions or Directions (four auspicious and four inauspicious)
  • Pillars of Destiny (birth month, day, year, and hour)
  • Kua Number (personal number and number of house)

This school of feng shui requires many tools including the following:

  • BaGua (Pa kua) - a map that shows directions and power areas of spaces
  • Luo pan compass - a special compass used to determine directions in the home
  • Lo shu square - a 3x3 Chinese numerological grid

Black Hat Sect of Feng Shui

Black Hat Sect was invented by Lin Yun, who first discovered the Black Hat sect of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism as a child in Peking. He was trained in the sect's mystical arts by a high lama. Lin Yun is responsible for bringing the Black Hat Sect Feng Shui to the West, which is a simplified version of traditional feng shui. Traditional Feng Shui masters have dubbed Black Hat Feng Shui as "fast food feng shui". It is feng shui for the masses. Many Americans believe Black Hat is traditional feng shui and have yet to discover Form and Compass Schools. In Black Hat feng shui, a bagua is the same for every house. It's placed over the home according to the location of the front door, not the house's facing direction as in traditional feng shui.

Choose One Feng Shui School and Follow It

Choose a single feng shui school and follow it, or you risk sending the universe confusing messages. Find the one that works for you; there is no right or wrong answer, although feng shui experts from all schools have strong opinions. According to traditional feng shui practitioners, if you place elements in a one-size-fits-all bagua overlay for your home, then the elements are being placed in the incorrect areas. Traditional feng shui experts claim Black Hat cures may work or appear to work due to applying the basic feng shui principle of getting rid of clutter which frees up blocked chi energy.

Items from Black Hat Sect feng shui

A prime example of the differences between Black Hat and Traditional Feng Shui: The north is controlled by the element of water and is a career sector. Black Hat dictates placing a water fountain in the north sector of your home to activate your career. In some cases, this could literally end your career. If you're in a year where inauspicious flying stars have moved into the north sector of your chart, then adding a water fountain will only boost those negative influences. This why a fountain may have worked quite well for you the previous year but suddenly the magic seems to have disappeared and your career is failing. Black Hat practitioners disagree with this assessment. They feel their form of feng shui is helpful, useful, and easy to follow, making it an ideal form of feng shui for the western world.

Basic Advice for Feng Shui Beginners

As you can see, Feng Shui is a complex system. Learn about the basic tenets of feng shui and then decide which school you wish to follow.

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Helpful Feng Shui Basics for Beginners