Feng shui bagua systems

What is the difference between the Compass method that is used in traditional feng shui and the Front Door method that I explain in my books?

Feng shui bagua

This is a huge topic with no simple answer, but there are some insights I can give that I hope will be helpful to anyone just starting out on their feng shui journey and looking for some clarification about this.

The feng shui bagua

The feng shui bagua is a grid that can be laid over the plans of any building to reveal which aspects of the occupants’ lives are located in which areas. The version you can see here is a simplified diagram showing the nine main areas.

The Compass Method

The Compass method involves taking compass readings to discover which direction the house is facing, which then determines how the bagua is aligned. This system works well for houses situated in their own plot of land where there is a strong awareness of orientation because of an external influence such as the daily movement of the sun from east to west.

In my experience, though, this is not so applicable to urban dwellings, where there is much less awareness of solar orientation or interaction with “heavenly chi”. It also does not work in cultures that have their own specialized system of geographical orientation, such as Bali, where “north” is the direction of the sacred mountains in the middle of the island and “south” is all the coastal areas, be they north, south, east, west, or anything in between.

The Compass method has also become unreliable because Magnetic North is shifting at the rate of 40 miles per year due to unusual changes in the earth’s molten core. Magnetic fields generated by equipment within a home can also seriously interfere with obtaining a correct compass reading.

For all the reasons I’ve explained here, I rarely use the Compass method myself.

The Front Door Method

In the Front Door method (sometimes known as the Three Door Gate system), the orientation of the bagua is determined by the main entrance through which people and energy enter a building. You can find some information about how to apply the bagua using this method in my Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui book, and there is a brief description online here.

This method is based on human chi rather than heavenly chi, and can be used for huge mansions, tiny apartments, underground cellars, and every other type of building you can think of. It even works in the complex spiritual orientation system of Bali. It is particularly good for modern dwellings such as apartments and is much simpler to learn and use than the Compass method. It has widely been adopted by feng shui consultants in the US, so is sometimes known simply as the Western method of feng shui.

Don’t mix the two

What doesn’t work is to mix the two systems. You pick one and go with it. If you try to apply both bagua methods to the same building, the results you get will be confusing and ineffectual.

If you’re interested to know my personal preference, in most situations I use the Front Door method. This is not because of any intellectual conclusion I have arrived at but because the hand sensing technique I have developed in over 35 years of doing space clearing work allows me to actually FEEL the chi energy and bagua areas that the Front Door method is based on. It is therefore not theoretical but extremely tangible to me. Not only that but I can also discern the quality and ease of flow of the chi. 

For this reason, I start each feng shui consultation in the same way that I begin a space clearing consultation, by hand sensing the entire inner perimeter of the place, starting from the chi portal of the main entrance. I don’t know of any other feng shui practitioners who work this way, but the level of information this allows me to access is far deeper than simply walking round and observing with my eyes. As I’ve discovered on many an occasion, appearances can sometimes be deceptive.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2013

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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24 Responses to Feng shui bagua systems

  1. Dear Karen,

    I too have the same problem laying the bagua (front door method) grid over any of my homes in the last several years. Entire sections of the bagua have been totally missing! (i.e. As the caregiver to my Mom, and living in her home for the last several years, it occurs to me that the entire Romance/Relationship section is non-existent at this home, not unlike my life, btw! With her recent admission into a nursing home, I have been using the online dating sites for the last 2-3 yrs, as on the horizon, I had a view of a different vision of my future lifestyle than the recent and currently extremely isolated and stressful one I have had to contend with. How do I begin to address these missing sections using the bagua in Feng Shui? In your original book editions, I could never find these issues addressed?

    Thanking you,

    ~joCAT ^^

  2. Karen your book changed my life and guided me down a path of self-discovery and improvement. It feels so much better to not have so much stuff or clutter. It’s a process I have repeated many times since I first bought your book in London in the late 90’s. Much good health and positivity to you for helping so many of us!

  3. Thank you Karen. As an Interior and architectural designer trying to apply the FS for the buildings to design, I was always confused a bit by these 2 different methods and cannot find the commons sense thru out the inet as everywhere is just “pick your own as you like”. This was not helping me as I am perfectionalist in a kind. Finally your particular comment that traditional Bagua is more helpful for alone assets influenced more by the heaven and earth energies, while “BTB Bagua working mostly more intuitive and better for a mankind chi in occupied places, this finally give me some sense and much better understanding. Thanks for clearing it (finally – cant find correct answers before) for me and others. Bless you, Divana

  4. Hello Karen,

    I just finished reading your book, “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui.” Thank you – it was a great read and was more detailed with emotional, spiritual and mental clutter clearing.

    I am interested in the Bagua diagram, but when lining it up with the layout of my house (only been here three weeks), there are sections missing in my house, like the Abundance section. Also, there are some sections that don’t quite make sense. The Health section is in the stairway that leads directly upstairs just inside the front door. The Relationship section is in my garage. The Family section is in my bedroom. Any suggestions for applying the Bagua diagram to rectangular houses and other shapes that don’t match? Especially the missing sections!!!!

    1. Hi Lanette – Glad to hear you enjoyed my Clear Your Clutter book, and if you want to take this further, you may like to explore the online courses that I offer.

      However I will not be able to help you with your feng shui question. I do not offer personalized advice about the bagua from a distance because I have not found it to be accurate or effective. There are too many things that need to be taken into account and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for giving you wrong advice that you would then act on. You will need to find a reputable feng shui consultant in the part of the world where you live to visit your home and advise you.

      1. Thanks for taking the time to reply, Karen. Unfortunately, I live in a very small community and there are no clutter or space clearing consultants nor any feng shui consultants. I will keep my eyes and ears open for someone.
        Thanks again!

  5. Thank you Karen for writing this blog entry. It brings clarity to the different methods. I appreciate you sharing the knowledge of sensing chi in each space.

  6. Hi Karen
    A month or two ago I asked my mum if she had a book I could borrow from her to read as I was unusually travelling to London (just for 2 days) for a training course. The book I borrowed was your Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. Well, I couldn’t put it down and read the whole book within the 2 days and couldn’t wait to get home to start clearing cupboards. But the biggest effect your book has had for me is in the last week. I can be quite sceptical but none the less I put the Bagua front door method to the test.

    I have my own new business that has been struggling to properly take off for the last couple of months and I was putting a lot of time and effort in to it and not really getting anywhere.

    On Sunday, just gone, I decided to clear the clutter out of the Prosperity, Wealth, Abundance, Fortunate Blessings. Business has picked up soo much already this week alone. Appointments are being made and there are soo many more enquiries. I also seem to have more of a fresher outlook on things and new ideas keep now coming to me.

    It’s amazing. I now can’t stop clutter clearing. Thankyou.

  7. Hi there, first I’d just like to say how much I respect and enjoy reading about your personal space clearing journey and the many wonderful energy techniques you have generously shared with the rest of the world.

    I am a feng shui consultant and I’d just like to add a little clarity to the comments above. If you go back to the original literature on feng shui, which was known as Kan Yu, (ie before the advent of new-age feng shui which was developed in the 1970’s), you will find no mention at all of the fixed bagua method. Some people may mistakenly think the above description of ‘compass school’ feng shui is related to the original and traditional/classical form of feng shui which uses a Luo Pan compass and utilises San-He and San Yuan feng shui methodologies, and this is not the case.

    While the new age fixed bagua method (when used with a compass or located according to the main door etc) is fun, quick and easy to apply and appeals to your Mankind Luck (ie linking the qi of your personal aspirations to your home environment), it does not have any real link to classical or traditional feng shui. It is also incorrect to assume that classical feng shui has no validity in today’s world because it was ‘developed for ancestor worship and the location of important government buildings and monuments in China’.

    Classical/traditional feng shui is based on over 4000 years of careful mathematical observation of time and space which produced continually repeating cycles of probability factors according to the flow of qi in the surrounding landform of a building (irrespective of whether it is located on a farm or an inner city dwelling), the date the building was constructed and the precise compass direction the building faces towards. The energetic cycles of qi (energy) according to classical feng shui are very real and just as relevant in today’s society as they were over 2000 years ago.

    I have been practising and studying classical feng shui for over 10 years now and am still learning. It is a vast and highly complex mathematical metaphysical science.

    While the new-age fixed bagua techniques described in the comments above are usually quite harmless and appeal to someone wanting to focus on their personal positive aspirations, I have unfortunately come across many cases where people have added active water features in the hope of attracting wealth energy to their supposed ‘Career’ or ‘Wealth’ area and the result was the complete opposite, sometimes with quite devastating results.

    I therefore recommend if anyone wishes to use the new age fixed bagua method, then please stick to using positive aspiration quotes and symbols and if you wish to experiment with water, use a small container of water first and carefully observe and take note of what happens once it has been placed in a particular location.

    Hopefully you will be intuitively tapping into a location with an inherently positive water star energy, however there are plenty of homes out there with really negative water star energies in the North or SE sector of their home and/or in the far left hand corner of their house or room when measured from the main door and if a large body of water is placed there, you may risk stimulating very negative repercussions.

    If anyone is interested in learning the difference between new-age feng shui and classical/traditional feng shui, I recommend starting with the following books:

    “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Feng Shui – 3rd Edition” by Elizabeth Moran, Master Joseph Yu and Master Val Biktashev

    “The Feng Shui Way: Create the Life you want through your Environment” by Juliana Abram

    1. Thank you for taking the time to put together this lengthy response to my article.

      I knew when I wrote it that not everyone would agree with my approach, and I do not want to enter into a lengthy discussion here. I will simply reiterate that my approach is based on being able to feel, read and interpret the actual chi energy that feng shui is based on, which most feng shui practitioners cannot do and – astonishingly – do not even consider necessary. In my experience, this includes practitioners of New Age feng shui as well as most classical Chinese practitioners, so I do not feel an affiliation with either style. Both methods rely on prescribed formulas, taught to them by someone else or learned from books, rather than being able to feel the chi flows that great feng shui masters of old would certainly have been able to do. It can take many years to learn classical feng shui, but it takes decades of personal work to build the subtle body structures to be able to perceive and restore integrity to spaces through working with chi energy direct, and that is the route I have chosen to take.

      1. Hi Karen,

        I agree wholeheartedly with your approach to being able to feel, read and interpret the actual qi in and around an individual’s living and work environment – that’s the whole point of classical feng shui and any authentic feng shui consultant is on board with this.

        Yes, some people like yourself are better able to perceive energy than others and it’s also common for experienced classical feng shui consultants to feel something is inherently wrong with a particular location in a dwelling before we even verify the actual energy anomaly. Then, via careful observation of qi flow in the surrounding landform, integrated with classical feng shui formulae, we are able to inform the client in detail on the energy in that location, who it is affecting, precisely how it is affecting the client health-wise and work-wise, how to make better use of the energy and what the outcome will be if it is not balanced and harmonised. We’re on the same page 🙂

      2. Hello Karen!

        First, I’m sorry about my english. I am from Brasil. I read your books and I’m trying to better understand the question about compass vs black hat. Your reply to Derelle explains only the question of your talent to sense qi, which I understand and agree completely. But my question is: Considering there’s no sensitive feng shui consultant available for me here in Brasil, what do you suggest for me to choose? Thank you very very much… your work is truly inspiring and amazing!! Love from Brasil

        1. This article was written to explain the difference between the two main feng shui systems. I’m sorry to say that feng shui is so mixed up with New Age fruitloopery these days and so interwoven with Chinese superstitions that it is very difficult to find a good practitioner anywhere in the world. The best I can do is to help people to be more discerning about this.

        1. The article you have provided a link to is about Lin Yun – or, as he preferred to call himself – His Holiness Grandmaster Professor Lin Yun. I’ve met him and didn’t rate him at all. His original bagua system has integrity, but the man himself went way off-track and some aspects of his teachings took feng shui into the realms of pure fruitloopery. He died in 2010 but his followers continue to proliferate the nonsense they were taught, so much so that it has caused me to distanced myself considerably from being associated with feng shui. It’s in the titles of my first two books, so it’s impossible for me to do this completely, but you can be sure I won’t be including “feng shui” in any future titles.

  8. I wanted to apply the bagua to my home when I moved into my now husband’s home. We live in a condo and never use the front door, instead we use the garage door. The garage is on the bottom floor of our home, and the entrance leads to a small entry way, with 5 stairs to the right, going up those stairs is the front door entryway and a long flight of stairs to our main living area. If I put the bagua in the direction of either entrance it misses every room in my house and is in a neighbors house or the parking area.

    I don’t feel like I’m connected to the compass directions in this home, but I have no idea how to effectively use the bagua is this space.

    1. I suggest you find a local feng shui consultant to advise you. I don’t give personalized feng shui advice from a distance because there are too many things that can get missed that way.

  9. Then is it correct that if your house faces North and the front door is on that side, then the two methods (front door and compass) will give the same result?

    Unfortunately, I was taught to use the Compass method and I honestly don’t think it’s worked particularly well for us. As my house faces South, that means that I now need to reverse the Bagua to the way I’ve been using it – but I will do this and see if it works better. Thanks Karen.

  10. Thank you, Karen! This information is helpful. I have read that the Chinese Compass method also reflects aspects of Chinese culture, such as the association of the Wealth and Prosperity area with the Southeastern part of China, and it does seem as if other places might have different associations. I appreciated the explanation.

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