The Different “Schools” of Feng Shui

If you’d tried to learn about Feng Shui via the Internet, I’m sure you’ve run into a mishmash of information, leaving you more confused than ever.

This is because there are several schools of Feng Shui, and while they have overlapping principles, they can also be very different. (By the term “school,” I am not referring to places of study, but rather the different types of Feng Shui traditions that are in practice today.)   So what happens is that you seem to run up against contradictory information.  But by learning which school you tend toward, you’ll be able to narrow down your search and hone in on the important stuff, which, of course, is figuring out what to do in your home and office to create the most optimal chi flow!


(image thanks to Luminous Spaces)


Form School is the school that started it all. It has to do with landforms, hence the name. Back in ancient China, (and I’m talking ancient as in thousands of years ago), where you sited your home was of the utmost importance to survival. A home needed protection from the winds and storms, as well as from invaders.   Hills and mountains would serve as a sort of shield. People also needed access to healthy flowing water, like a creek or river.   In short, the landscape was the first thing that made a difference in the Feng Shui of a space, and therefore the “luck” of the inhabitants.

Today, Feng Shui consultants absolutely consider the exterior of spaces, but because humans’ needs and exterior landscapes have changed dramatically with modern times, one must take that into account when assessing it.

Form School knowledge is typically embedded into the fabric of the two other major schools of Feng Shui, the Compass (or Classical) School and the Buddhist Tibetan Black Hat (BTB) School.


As you know, Feng Shui takes into account the interiors and exteriors of spaces. The Compass School is true to its name – practitioners who prescribe to this school use a compass and the directions to determine chi flow of a home. If you’ve read enough about Feng Shui, you’ve discovered the famous Bagua map. It’s a map that you use over a floor plan to determine the different areas of your space that relate to the different areas of your home. This map is oriented to the directions in Compass school using a compass specially made for Feng Shui, called a Luo-Pan.

Bagua Map

Furthermore, Compass school take the birth dates of the inhabitants into account as well as the date the house was built, so that there is an astrological aspect to the cures a practitioner provides. If you’ve heard of Flying Stars, Upper and Lower Heaven, the Four Pillars, or the Eight Mansions, know that these concepts are in relation to the Compass school of Feng Shui.

For a more thorough read on the Compass School, The Spruce website has a lovely description to take you a bit deeper. Read here!

Lillian Tao’s writings are based in this school and are probably the most widely-read.


The Tibetan Black Hat (BTB) School of Feng Shui was brought over to San Francisco in the 1970s by Grandmaster Lin Yun, a fifth generation Feng Shui master. The most obvious difference between this school and the Compass school is that the bagua is oriented to the front door of the space, or the Mouth of Chi, as it’s called rather than the directions.   Lin Yun also emphasized the importance of “intention” in Feng Shui, using this concept to implement cures. In this school, intuition plays a large role, while in the Compass school, numbers overrule intuition more often than not.

Similarities between the schools include use of the Five Elements (water, wood, fire, earth, and metal), which can be found in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as the notions of Yin and Yang in a space, and the most common denominator, Chi flow.

OTHER SCHOOLS:Five Element Theory

Many other schools have surfaced as derivatives or combinations of these two major schools, such as Pyramid Feng Shui or Modern Feng Shui.  It seems like new ones are evolving every day, so it’s important to research the ones that fit what you’re looking for.


Back in the 1990s, I self-taught myself BTB through years of research and practice, even taking on clients for a small fee with the understanding that I was still learning.  While living in Los Angeles, I sought a teacher to take my studies to the next level. A lovely woman took me on as her student and apprentice in the tradition of the Compass school.   I was eager to learn, and she and I hit it off, so I went ahead with my studies with her, although I was more familiar with the BTB School. It was amazing to learn the complicated mathematical formulas that went into the concepts of the Flying Stars and in relation to the building date of the home and the birth dates of the occupants.

However, as my studies deepened, I recognized that the philosophies within the Compass school were clashing, if not discounting, what I had already come to learn with thorough practice of BTB.   I found that some (not all) of cures that the Compass school called for were counter-intuitive to the point of being superstitious; whereas in BTB, the cures had, in a way, a higher logic in terms of common sense mixed with a little psychology and good old-fashioned smart design.

After a while, I realized that BTB suited my practical nature more, and because I had seen so many amazing results with friends and clients and myself within the tradition of BTB, I decided to study and become certified with Sharon Stasney of the Feng Shui Training Center in Salt Lake City.   It was absolutely the perfect fit, and I recommend any and all of her books.

I am happy I learned what I did with the Compass school, and I hold my collegues in that tradition in high regard.  BTB was just more for me! To be clear, both schools deal with energy, and that is the most important aspect of Feng Shui.

I hope this helps with your own personal Feng Shui studies and if you’re looking for a consultant, please take these schools into account. It’s an amazing practice that has changed my life for the better, and I hope this write up help you on your own path of discovery.

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