When I first wanted to learn about feng shui (Fung SHWAY) it was from sheer curiosity. I didn’t have a clue what it was and I do not appreciate feeling ignorant about a subject. So I went to trusty Google and made a search. Link after link I kept finding something called a “bagua” (sometimes “ba gua”). What is this bagua?, I wondered, and which bagua is the right one? I had heard that feng shui has very specific rules, so the different variations in the baguas I found worried me.
Then I found some books that gave me a much better understanding of feng shui in general and for what a bagua is used. Even they did not cover some of the symbols I saw in the baguas online, though, so I set out to create my own bagua and an easy explanation to accompany it.
What is a Bagua and What Does It Look Like?
There are multiple ways to use feng shui analysis and the bagua map, including the Form, Compass, and Black Hat Sect schools of thought. The Black Hat Sect method is the simplest, relies heavily on intuition rather than specific compass directions, and the bagua is their only tool, so I found the Black Hat method best for learning to read a feng shui bagua.
The bagua (BAH-gwa) is a very basic feng shui tool used as a map to find which parts of a space–whether that space is a home wofs almanac, office building, room or yard–correlate with particular areas of life.You can find many different bagua maps by searching “bagua” in Google Images.
Once we know which area of a space corresponds to which life aspiration, we can enhance our environment in such a way that our environment helps us achieve our goals.
Sound hokey? Think of it this way: If you felt stressed, what would you do at home to make yourself feel less stressed? You could use feng shui principles such as color or sound psychology to make a room in your home more conducive to relaxation.
Sometimes the bagua is in the form of a nine-section square and sometimes it looks like a nine-section octagon. Either way, they include the same sections and are read the same way. I like using the octagon because it’s traditional, but it may help to begin by using a square bagua map, which is a square divided by a tic-tac-toe board to create the nine sections.
What do the Sections and Symbols of a Bagua Mean?
Additionally, different bagua maps call the various sections of the bagua different things. These different terms are all ways of titling and explaining the same sections, so no need to worry or feel confused. For example: the Wisdom section may also be called the Knowledge or Education section; while the terms mean different things, this bagua section includes all of these meanings and so can be called any of them.
My bagua map uses the following nine sections/life aspirations, each with a color:
Career / Life Path – career, business, life path (BLACK)
Wisdom – wisdom, knowledge, education, self-cultivation, personal and professional development (BLUE, black, green)
Ancestors / Family – ancestors, deceased and current relatives, family, foundation (GREEN)
Wealth / Abundance – money, wealth and abundance in all areas of life, prosperity, abundance-thinking (PURPLE, GOLD, green, red)
Fame / Reputation – fame, reputation, positive recognition (RED)
Relationships – relationships, love, marriage (PINK, red, white)
Children / Creativity – children, child-like thinking, creativity, artistic creativity (WHITE)
Helpful People / Travel – friends, mentors, benefactors, other helpful people, guides, safe travel (GRAY, white, black)
Health – physical and mental health (YELLOW, earth tones)
My bagua uses multiple names as a reminder of the different names I may come across as I read feng shui books and as a reminder that the meaning behind the name is often broader than it seems. (For example, “Fame” doesn’t necessarily mean attracting fame to become famous; it also means attracting positive recognition and a positive reputation.) Some sections also have more than one auspicious color, the most auspicious color in all-caps.
Each section also has a direction and element, and most have an associated symbol. The directions are on the bagua for more advanced use but will not be further used in this lesson. The symbols are illustrations of shapes associated with the element.
The basic feng shui elements and shapes:
Fire – triangles, pyramids
Metal – circles, spheres
Water – wavy lines, curves
Wood – rectangles
Earth – squares, cubes
Many baguas include special lines called the eight trigrams. Mine excludes these lines but I felt it important to mention them. In English, these lines represent heaven, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountain, lake. When using my bagua, which includes some of them as “elements,” think of mountains as earth, wind as wood, and heaven as metal.
So, How Do You Read a Bagua?
Since any space can be analyzed using a bagua, the first thing you want to do it decide what space you want to analyze, whether it be one room, a smaller space such as a desk, or an entire floor plan. For this lesson we’ll act as if we’re analyzing a room.
Next, determine the main entrance to your space and stand in the entryway facing into the room or space. (In the Black Hat Sect method, the main entranceway of a space is always the mouth of chi.)
Hold the bagua with the Wisdom/Career/Helpful People sections facing you and parallel to the main entryway wall. The main entryway always falls in the wisdom, career or helpful people areas.
Determine which section you are standing in. For example, if you are analyzing a room, is the entryway in which you’re standing in the left, center, or right? The left corner/area is the Wisdom area, as shown on the bagua map. The middle area is the Career area. The right corner/area is the Helpful People area.
Next, where are the other sections of the bagua map are located? If you’re having trouble using the octagon bagua use a square bagua (since it better represents the common American shape of a room) or draw a tic-tac-toe board on the octagon to make the divisions easier to visualize.
So What? What Does the Bagua Do for Me?
Once you know what area of your room or space falls in each part of the bagua, you can begin making changes in the bagua area that represents the life aspiration in which you want to influence.
Let’s say you wanted better health for you or someone in your household. First, find where the health area is in your home with the help of a bagua map. Second, look on the bagua to see what colors, shape and element correspond to that aspiration. Yellow/earth tones, squares, and Earth correspond to the health area of the bagua. Third, place items or paint colors of that bagua area in that area of your home to enhance that area’s aspiration.You might place a yellow clay (earth) pot or a potted plant in the Health area or paint the Health area’s most prominent wall marigold.
That’s it! After you’ve used a bagua once it’s super easy–and dare I say fun?–to use it again and again.
Don’t limit yourself or feel frustrated with feng shui if all you know of it is the bagua–the bagua’s colors and elements are not the only way to use feng shui to enhance an area in your life. Each color, including those not in the bagua, has a psychological effect on our subconscious, as do scents, sounds, and textures. Different types of gems and other items also have other symbolic meanings associated with them.