Geomantic feng shui compas, Chinese, 1850-1920.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Geomancy is the art of siting builidings auspiciously. The Chinese geomantic system is known as feng shui. In Chinese thought, feng shui is a system of good and evil influences in the natural surroundings, which is taken into consideration when designing and siting buildings. Geomantic compases consist of bands of concentric rings arranged around a magnetic needle. The most important of these, the 24 directions ring (third from the centre), is used to determine the facing direction of a site. These compases were used to find the most healthy position to build a house, so that the forces of Yin and Yang were balanced correctly, reducing the chance of illnes. This one is made of wood, steel and glas.