Enjoy our articles on Classical Feng Shui on Ba Zhai, Career-Luck and the two big Classical Feng Shui schools. Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World!

Classical Feng Shui: The Two Big Schools/Universities of Feng Shui

By Master Denise Liotta-Dennis

The origins of Feng Shui started developing over thousands of years ago and as a result, two big schools emerged (San He & San Yuan) and became the foundation of Classical Feng Shui. Many mistakenly use the terms to describe these schools as—Form School and Compass School. It is important to understand that Feng Shui is highly dynamic and constantly developing, even today. A big majority of modern-day Feng Shui Masters will combine these two schools as one big body of knowledge. However, there are a few who will use one or the other exclusively.

At its core, Classical Feng Shui is based on the keen observations of the heavens (time) and earthly (exterior environment & interior space) forces and how they exchange energy/chi; it was called Kan Yu in the old days. The term Feng Shui has only been used for a little over a hundred years or since the Ching Dynasty; and the “golden era” of Feng Shui was the Tang Dynasty.

All Feng Shui systems have a nucleus set of principles and theories that are similar: for example, they all refer to the Five Elements; they all take into account the four factors—direction, the residents, time, and the location. Both schools use a Compass/Luo Pa and take into consideration landforms/topography. So it is actually incorrect to separate Feng Shui systems as either being part of the Compass School or the Form School. Calling the two great schools “compass” and “form” would be like an interior designer saying that they will incorporate the “color school” and “shape school” into their design--it is understood that the use of color and shapes are integral to design.

The names compass school and form school came about, no doubt, from the different approaches each school takes.  One school examines form, shape, contour, appearance, flow & confirmation (known as Xing Fa aka Xing Shi Pai) and the other approach is (Li Chi Pai) considers the influence of chi, the qualities of chi, time dimension, environmental chi, and directional chi; while their approach or focus is slightly different the objective is the same to examine the energy of the site using form, shape, direction, timing, a compass and the individual themselves that will rent, own, occupy, or develop it..

The San He School (aka San Hup)

San He (means three harmonies, three unities or three combinations depending on Mandarin or Cantonese Chinese translations) is considered the oldest form of Classical Feng Shui. The San He School gives great importance and consideration to environmental features like mountains, topography of the land and water. The direction, shape, flow and appearance of these features became important components to consider before construction of a building or in city planning. In Neolithic China, Feng Shui was first used in selecting the perfect location for a home or village, and also for the perfect grave site for ancestors (Yin Feng Shui). By the Tang Dynasty (618- 907 C.E) Feng Shui had blossomed into a science—sophisticated and complex.

Since San He focuses on the environment – the mountains, the rivers and the landforms – it looks to understand how the environment shapes and creates Chi. San He techniques are focused on finding the most advantageous or strategic location in which to extract the Chi from the environment. This school recognizes that Chi is dynamic and changes through time but is based on using the unchanging (Yin energy such as mountains) to counter the changing (Yang energy such as time cycles). San He systems do not look to adapt to the changing chi cycles, but to insulate and outlive any unfavorable energy cycles through either, selecting or creating superior landform.  The San He School of Feng Shui has extensive systems and formulas—several to assess formations for disaster and others to bring wealth and good luck.

For example the Peach Blossom Sha Road Formation indicating bad romance & illicit affairs, the Eight Roads of Destruction (Pa Loo Hwang Chuen) causes bankruptcy, divorce & disaster, Eight Killing Forces (Pa Sha Hwang Chuen) indicating bad health, money and romance.  Other formulas like the Five Ghost Carry Treasure (a well-guarded secret from Taiwan) and Three Harmony Doorways are used to enhance wealth. The famous Water Dragon Formulas fall under this school and is considered the most powerful of the wealth-producing formulas.  There are still other techniques such as the 72 Dragons, 120 Gold Divisions, the 60 Dragons, Triple Goat Punishment & Six Harms Technique, He Tu Roads, the Court Official, the Sky Horse, and the Assistant Star Water Method, all with various methods in analyzing, enhancing or adjusting the Feng Shui of a site.

The San He is the best system to use for large-scale Feng Shui projects, such as a Master-planned community, city planning, high-rises, hotels, resorts, airports, hospitals and so forth. Because this system is so highly developed in landforms—natural or man-made—it excels in methodologies at placing the structure/s in relationship to mountains (real or virtual) and water placement (real or virtual such as roads).

These macro-level considerations should be addressed prior to attempting the “micro-engineering” design of any of the buildings. However, it is perfectly suited for the average home as well with numerous techniques that address every area of life.

San Yuan (Three Cycles)

This school is not as old as the San He system, but excels in methods of timing. The Luo Shu/Magic Square is the mathematical representation of the Later Heaven Ba Gua and this is the “bible” to the San Yuan system with all formulas encoded in it.

In San Yuan, Chi is understood to be dynamic but has the disposition to cycle. Nothing in our Universe is stagnate but is constantly changing; however it’s possible to identify certain dependable trends. So it is necessary to regularly update one’s Feng Shui to stay current with the time cycles of energy. Both San Yuan and San He take into consideration the factors of time and form. The main difference between the two systems is that San He gives great credence to forms and San Yuan has an extreme focus on time.

Flying Stars (Xuan Kong Fei Xing) and Eight Mansions (Pa Chai/BaZhai) fall under the San Yuan system and these are two of the more popular Feng Shui systems used today, especially for interior Feng Shui. In Flying Stars, an energy map of the property is derived from calculations and then used to determine the quality of chi in each sector of the home. Eight Mansions by contrast is about understanding the individual and unique chi pattern of the House, and then matching the House to the individual.

Flying Stars explains why no structure will forever enjoys good or bad Feng Shui as it cycles through time. Each building or structure will have a Natal Flying Star Chart which gives vital clues as to the unique energy held there. Additionally, there are special Flying Star charts for buildings that can be exceptionally auspicious. They are the Pearl String Formation (Lin Cu San Poon Gua), the Combination of 10, and the Parent String Formation (Fu Mo San Poon Gua) all three are famous for bringing either great money or relationship luck. Other techniques such as the Castle Gate Theory (Sent Mun Kuet) are used to tap the energy of a natural body of water for greater prosperity.

Also under the San Yuan, are the Zi Bai (Purple-White Flying Stars), the Xuan Kong Da Gua (Big 64 Hexagrams Method) which is excellent for date selection and is extremely precise, Xuan Kong Shui Fa (Time-Space Water Method) used to enhance the site through wealth-producing water features. The San Yuan Dragon Gate Eight (Long Men Ba Da Ju) method is used also to enhance wealth and is particularly excellent for career luck. The San Yuan system also developed (and adopted from the San He school) techniques that are used to assess annual visiting, negative energies such as the Three Killings (Sam Sart), the Tai Sui (Grand Duke) and the Sui Po (Year Breaker) in which disturbing the earth with major digging such as a pool, construction or major landscaping can bring disastrous results.

To counter these negative energies (including the 5 Yellow Star) when either construction or digging is necessary—the Great Sun Position (Tai Yang Dou San Pan) is used to select good dates to protect you from harm or disaster. The Robbery Mountain Sha (Chor San Kibb Sart), the calculation of the daily, monthly and yearly “stars” are other techniques used to assess the Feng Shui, and are part of the San Yuan School.

Which School is the Best?

Neither school is superior over the other except in application or priority of examination. For example, if you are using Feng Shui to design a master-planned community—timing is of little use as a first priority. You have a raw piece of land in front of you, and what is available in landforms becomes the main focus. Therefore, the San He School is best for this situation until you begin designing the homes and other structures on site. At that stage of the project, the San Yuan’s Flying Stars will excel in its ability to distribute the chi in the homes & buildings.

At the end of the day, San He and San Yuan have common denominators – they both agree that the factor of time must always be considered and that landforms cannot be ignored. Both systems use the Ba Gua, the five elements theory, and both are intrinsically rooted in the concepts of Yin-Yang. Ultimately, San He and San Yuan have one common goal—extract the chi of the environment to support the occupants and enhance the human experience.

Increasing Your Career Luck with Feng Shui

By Master Denise A. Liotta-Dennis

Career luck is different than wealth luck, although money luck is part of having a good, healthy career.  Wealth luck is for building and creating wealth, whereas career luck deals with gaining positions of power, being recognized and acknowledged, or getting a promotion. It may also involve moving up into a position of authority and gaining influence in the workplace. So career luck will bring you opportunities for advancement within the world of corporate politics. Some people jokingly refer to this as the” food chain”.  Today, working for a large corporation—which is very similar to a small government—has a defined bureaucratic system. Career luck is all about playing and winning this game using Feng Shui as your edge and advantage.  Here are some of the most important things for individual offices and your immediate environment.


Protecting your back is a natural, basic human instinct. Look at all the expressions we have regarding the back, “He’s a back stabber”, “They went behind my back”, “I need some back-up”, “I feel I’ve been backed into a corner”, and “You better watch your back, buddy”.  The real reason for this is the spinal column is one of the most vulnerable areas of the body, and has the potential to be devastating if compromised. So we tend to be protective of it, especially when we can’t see who is approaching us from behind.

If you wish to rise in your workplace, protect your back by never leaving it exposed in the following ways:

  • Having your back to a busy hallway.  The energy of a busy hallway is very active therefore distracting to your concentration.  You will constantly be looking over you shoulder every time you hear footsteps, a sound that doesn’t register, or you “feel” someone approaching.  Your energy will be scattered and you will be on guard.
  • Placing your back to a large window or set of windows.  This too is like virtual water; energy is very intense when it enters large windows. You have no solid wall of protection and you are energetically “flapping in the breeze” as it were. Energy needs stable footing to be powerful; windows at your back do not provide this.  It will indicate the lack of support from your employees, a possible uprising from subordinates, or a power struggle. If there are tall, pointed shape buildings outside of the window, this will accelerate negative outcomes.
  • Having your back to a large mirror.  This is very disconcerting to your energy field and will cause confusion, lack of concentration, and is like virtual water offering no support. Energy is also deflected away from you.
  • Placing a water feature, such as a fish tank, at your back.  This is real water at your back, very inauspicious and will indicate danger in the workplace or unpredictable events.
  • Having your back to an “internal T-juncture” via a hallway.  This is the most serious and will indicate the most direct type of attack on you.

If you are a key person, manager or executive it is really important to have your back to a solid wall.  Place your desk in such a way, that you are able to see who is entering your office.  Locate your desk some distance from the door; this is an imposing and commanding posture. Also, the distance will also create an open space that is known as a “bright hall” (Ming tang) where chi can collect and accumulate. Creating this distance from the door is also intimidating which instantly establishes a position of authority.

Other Office Considerations

  • Organize your office, and have it clutter-free as possible particularly by the door and pathways—this will help with money luck, mental clarity and improve work efficiency.
  • Do not sit too close to a door—this will weaken your position in the workplace and make you vulnerable.
  • Avoid opposing desk positions and opposing doors—this is considered confrontational in Feng Shui when doors oppose each other and are in direct alignment.  The same principle applies for desk facing each other, it could cause bickering and power plays.  The old fashion “partner’s desk” is not ever recommended.  Partners tend to break up.
  • Have a good shape to the desk.  Kidney shape desks are “jade belts” and will bring good money luck because of the shape. A square, rectangular, or u-shaped are also good.  If you select the u-shape, place your computer on the work surface that is best for you to face which is your power direction based on the Eight Mansions system (Sheng Chi).  The worst are the desks/office set-ups where you are forced to face a wall.  This is like facing a mountain; it won’t bring you good career luck.
  • The desk should be in exact proportion to your position in the company—if you are an executive, your desk should be suited for your high position.  You can’t command employees with a little desk you would give to your children for school homework.  This applies to your home office as well.  If you have a home-based business and you are the President/creator of the business, have a desk that represents your position and where you want to go in the world.
  • Work with good quality lighting—much research has been done on the effects of fluorescent lighting and how it affects the energy field.  Use good incandescent lighting, especially for performing tasks. This will reduce stress, eye strain and headaches. Fluorescent lighting will weaken your energy field; it has a low-level hum that is very subtle and negative.
  • Secure window that go all the way to the floor—if your personal office has a wall of windows and they go floor to ceiling, energy could escape if they are no boundaries.  Frame the windows with some very simple drapery panels just on the ends.  This will frame the window and hold the chi/energy in the space.
  • Face Your Power Direction-you will need your Gua number to know which direction this is for you.  See the next article on how to calculate your Gua.

©2017 This is an excerpt from Denise’s upcoming book entitled “Eight Mansions Horoscope Feng Shui: A Personalized Technique to Activate Romance, Health, Money & Career”

The Eight Mansions System (Ba Zhai)

By Master Denise Liotta-Dennis

Interestingly enough, the first book to introduce the Eight Mansions system to the public was Applied Pa-Kua and Lo Shu Feng Shui by Lillian Too in collaboration with Yap Cheng Hai (my teacher); this was in 1993. In this book, the author retells the story of how Master Yap spent three years unlocking the secrets from a tattered, antique manual which was copied from a volume originally written during the Chien Lung period of the Chin Dynasty by a Feng Shui Master from Southern China. He has used the Golden Star Classic aka The Big Dipper Casting Golden Light (Jin-Guang Dou Lin Jing) for over 50 years with great success. While studying with Master Yap, he told his students many times, how fortunate he was to have received several, handwritten original texts from his teachers and he treasures them greatly.

Master Yap is a huge fan of this system but practices it much differently than other masters; it was the first formula he taught in his world-famous classes (Eight Mansions in Chinese is PaChai also spelled BaZhai). He would humorously demonstrate the power of the formula and bring the point home by saying:

 “How are you going to help the homeless person on the street, change his bed or door? He doesn’t have a door! But if you have him sleep to his best direction, maybe someone will come along and offer him a job.”

This is why Master Yap loved this system, everyone can benefit with just a little information, even someone in dire straits. While the system is wildly popular in SE Asia, Western societies around the world weren’t familiar with it. In the early 90’s, books on Feng Shui, of any kind in English were rare indeed. While Eight Mansions is more widespread now, many still shrug it off as too simplistic to have any real impact on your Feng Shui. Not so, the system is simple, yet profound at the same time! Master Yap revealed many layers and applications that make it rich and viable. If you wish to get a full experience of Classical Feng Shui, you must factor-in Eight Mansions.

While it is true that Eight Mansions does not have the complexity of the Flying Star system (Xuan Kong Fei Xing) which attracts enthusiastic interest from students worldwide, it is amazing. The Eight Mansions system’s focus is on the people aspect, while Flying Stars is all about the structure/building. No matter, when the Eight Mansions formula is applied correctly, it can bring dazzling prospects for love and romance, business opportunities, health, promotions at work, flourishing investments and wealth-luck. It can help identify negative energy, which will be apparent when people suffer from disease, poor health, a crippling divorce, bad relationships, accidents, disastrous events and bankruptcy. In addition, it is the only system which has a ‘personality type’ aspect serving as a horoscope; much is devoted to this facet in next three chapters.

Remember, the primary objective of Feng Shui is to determine whether the energy will support people in their homes and workplace or not. Classical Feng Shui is traditionally practiced by combining several systems at once, however Eight Mansions can be implemented as a stand-alone application.

You will be astonished and delighted at how a few simple changes can alter your life for the better. Eight Mansions dates back to the Tang Dynasty; it is not part of the Eight Life Aspirations found in Western styles of Feng Shui touting your wealth corner, marriage sector, fame area and so forth. No indeed, Eight Mansions is the real deal, a genuine system that can deliver powerful results! You will see, from this chapter, there is no ‘universal’ marriage or romance area that fits everyone. You’ll have your own personal relationship direction to activate so you may attract love, romance, sex and more harmonious relationships. Likewise, you will have your own personal direction to enhance wealth and health too.

Calculating the Life Gua Number

Using the Formula

According to this Feng Shui system, based on your birthday and gender, you will be influenced in positive and negative ways by the eight directions: four will support you and four won't. The lucky directions will augment wealth and money luck, health, good relationships, and stability; the other four can set into motion divorce, bankruptcy, betrayals, lawsuits, cancer, and so forth. The idea is to use and activate your good directions and diminish the negative ones. Before you can begin using this great system, you will need to determine your personal Life Gua Number.

If you wish to calculate the Life Guas using the formulas, they are as follows. There are different calculations for males and females; and do vary slightly after the year 2000 as well. However, be sure to check the chart to confirm that your math is correct and that you have the right Life Gua Number.

  1. Eight Mansions Formula for MALES

(Males will subtract from either 10 or 9)

Formula for those born before 2000: Add the last two digits of your birth year until you reach a single digit. Subtract that number from 10. If you end up with 5, you will take the 2 Gua number. If you were born before February 4th in any given year, use the previous year. Zero always takes the energy of the 9.

Male example 1: Born January 2, 1980 will use the previous year, 1979. Add 7 + 9 = 16.

1+6= 7 Now subtract 7 - 10 = 3. This man is a 3 Gua.

Male example 2: Born June 21, 1962. Add 6 + 2 = 8. Now subtract 10 - 2 = 8. This man is an 8 Gua.

Formula for those born in 2000 and after: Add the last two digits of your birth year and add them together until you reach a single digit. Subtract that number from 9. If you end up with 5, you will take the 2 Gua number. If you were born before February 4 in any given year, use the previous year.

Male example 3: Born September 27, 2000. Add 0 + 0= 0. The zero takes the 9. This boy is a 9 Gua.

Male example 4: Born October 12, 2004. Add 0 + 4 = 4. Now subtract 9- 4= 5. This boy is a 2 Gua; there is no 5 Gua in this system, a male 5 takes the 2 Gua.

  1. Eight Mansions Formula for FEMALES

(Females will add either 5 or 6)

Formula for those born before 2000: Add the last two digits of your birth year until you reach a single digit. Add 5 to that number. If you end up with 5, you will take the 8 Gua number. If you were born before February 4 in any given year, use the previous year. Zero always takes the energy of the 9.

Female example 1: Born September 10, 1954. Add 5 + 4 = 9. Now add 9 + 5 = 14. Keep adding until you reach a single digit: 1 + 4 = 5. There is no 5 in this system; females will take the 8 number. This woman is an 8 Gua.

Female example 2: Born March 15, 1962. Add 6 + 2 = 8. Now add 8 + 5 = 13. Keep adding until you reach a single digit: 1 + 3 = 4. This woman is a 4 Gua.

Formula for those born in 2000 and after: Add the last two digits of your birth year until you reach a single digit. Add 6 to that number. If you end up with 5, you will take the 8 Gua number. If you were born before February 4 in any given year, use the previous year.

Female example 3: Born February 28, 2000. 0 + 0=0. The zero takes the 9. Now add 9+6=15. Add 1+5=6. This girl is a 6 Gua.

Female example 4: Born December 12, 2010. Add 1+0=1. Now add 6 + 1=7.  This girl is a 7 Gua.

To understand how to use this system correctly, refer to any one Denise’s three books.

Feng Shui Books button

©2017 This is an excerpt from Denise’s upcoming book entitled “Eight Mansions Horoscope Feng Shui: A Personalized Technique to Activate Romance, Health, Money & Career”