In the fifteenth century A.D., the calligrapher Li Chun wrote an essay titled “The Eighty-Four Laws.” Li determined eighty-four typical situations for creating good form. For each case, Li used four examples, each written by famous calligraphers, showing the types of adjustments necessary when making dynamic but balanced form. Li focused the eight component strokes individually, showing the variety of line spacing, line weight and the trajectory angle. Li also identified four composite character types: left-right, left-middle-right, top-bottom, and top-middle-bottom. The composite type determines each component’s proportion, scale, and position, along with line spacing, line weight, and stroke orientation and adjustments follow as needed. Li’s analysis alternates between the overall appearance of the character and its stroke components. In fact, he observed that many characters look best as simple geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles, trapezoids and circles. Moreover, singular character form and composite character form present different challenges. The integrity of a singular character form often depends on the precise rendering of one dominant stroke, whereas size and spacing, along with line modifications, affect composite character forms.
Law 1: Sky Covers
The top covers the bottom entirely. In this law, the top is clear and the bottom is turbid.
Law 2: Ground Carries
The bottom supports the top. In this law, the top is light and the bottom is weighty.
Law 3: Concede Left
The left side is raised high, while the right side is hung low, if the right side possesses a modest appearance.
Law 4: Concede Right
The right side dominates, while the left side is suppressed, if at first the left side looks unassuming.
Law 5: Divide Boundary
Assume that left and right are equal, with neither side yielding, as if they were two people standing side by side.
Law 6: Even Three
Assume that the center is straight and upright, and made stronger if the left and right greet the middle.
Law 7: Two Parts
Divide in half, compare lengths, add a little and spare a little.
Law 8: Three Stops
Divide into three sections, then estimate how far or near the sections are to one another, in order to arrange the stops.
Law 9: Occupy the Top
The top is broad yet drawn clear, the bottom is narrow yet drawn turbid.
Law 10: Occupy the Bottom
The bottom is wide yet drawn light, the top is narrow yet drawn heavy.
Law 11: Occupy the Left
The left side is big yet drawn slender, the right side is small yet drawn thick.
Law 12: Occupy the Right
The right side is wide yet drawn lean, the left side is narrow yet drawn fat.
Law 13: Occupy Left-Right
Left and right are lean yet long, the middle is fat yet short.
Law 14: Occupy Top-Bottom
The top and bottom are wide and slightly flat, the middle is narrow but not long.
Law 15: Occupy the Center
The center is wide and large, but drawn light, the two ends are narrow and small, but drawn heavy.
Law 16: Bowing Gou’s
The top possesses a narrow but short gou stroke, the bottom possess a large curve and a long gou stroke.
Law 17: Four Equal Corners
The upper two corners are level, and the bottom two corners uniform. This law avoids a limp back and bent foot.
Law 18: Open Two Shoulders
The shoulders open up, and the feet are drawn together. This law avoids straight legs and relieved shoulders.
Law 19: Draw Evenly
Black and white in pleasant unison.
Law 20: Crisscross
Three parts afraid of obstructing each other.
Law 21: Sparse Arrangement
In Sparse Arrangement, the pie stroke must show; if it does not, then the word appears coy.
Law 22: Precise
Precise words are drawn tightly, not loosely scattered and wide open.
Law 23: Hanging Pin
Hanging Pin words do not use Vertical Stroke, because the Vertical Stroke reduces vigour.
Law 24: Vertical Stroke
Vertical Stroke words do not use Hanging Pin, because the Hanging Pin looks unstable.
Law 25:Top Leveled
The Top Leveled word is smaller on the left, but never misaligned.
Law 26: Bottom Leveled
The Bottom Leveled word is smaller on the left, but never out of position.
Law 27: Top Wide
For the Top Wide word, the bottom cannot be big and only a slight, elongated square is beautiful.
Law 28: Bottom Wide
For the Bottom Wide word, the top is long and narrow and a short, compressed square is good.
Law 29: Subtract Na
A na stroke is subtracted, because if it is not, then the dominant na is difficult to see.
Law 30: Subtract Gou
A gou stroke is subtracted; otherwise, the dominant gou stroke lacks form.
Law 31: Concede Heng
For Concede Heng, draw a long, yet unburdened, horizontal stroke.
Law 32: Concede Upright
For Concede Upright, the shu stroke is straight and does not lean.
Law 33: Reined in Heng
For Reined In Heng, there is no potential, or shi, when the stroke is level.
Law 34: All leveled
For All Leveled, simultaneously rein in the strokes.
Law 35: Vertical Po
The po stroke of Vertical Po, only delights in a hidden head and a gathered tail.
Law 36: Horizontal Po
The po stroke of Horizontal Po first needs an extended neck and broad chest.
Law 37: Vertical Ge
The ge stroke of Vertical Ge only fears losing strength from bending.
Law 38: Horizontal Ge
The ge stroke of Horizontal Ge particularly dislikes stiff, straight, flat hooks.
Law 39: Wrong Foot
The gou stroke of Wrong Foot must envelope two dian strokes.
Law 40:. Prop Up
The pie stroke of Prop Up must intersect at midpoint.
Law 41: Head
Like 曾, the top is opened and the bottom is closed.
Law 42: Feet
Like 其, the top is closed but the bottom is opened.
Law 43: Rectangle
A Rectangular case likes its four sides straight and wide.
Law 44: Short Rectangle
A Short Rectangle values level and open shoulders.
Law 45: Build Separate Gou
For Build Separate Gou, the gou stroke is added separately, otherwise, the stroke looks tired and undifferentiated.
Law 46: Weighty Pie
For Weighty Pie, the pie stroke conveys the curve, not committing the fallacy of looking like a row of teeth.
Law 47: Assembled Dian
The appropriate orientation of each dian stroke of Assembled Dian does not resemble a row of masonry.
Law 48: Arrangement of Dian
The dian stroke of Arrangement of Dian uses variation, without resembling scattered chess pieces.
Law 49: Striving Vertical Gou
A Striving Vertical Gou is not suited for enveloping; otherwise, the word will not look square.
Law 50: Bounded Gou
A nu or vertical stroke is not suited for a Bounded Gou; if used, the word won’t fill out.
Law 51:Middle Gou
A Middle Gou is beautiful, as it merely relies on an upright disposition.
Law 52: Ample Gou
For Ample Gou, the most charming disposition inclines towards upright.
Law 53: Outstretched Gou
An Outstretched Gou aims only for a bent, outstretched form.
Law 54:Yielding Gou
A Yielding Gou must know its form exists upright, with its extension bent back.
Law 55: Left Droops
With Left Droops, the right side must not be too long.
Law 56: Right Hangs Down
With Right Hangs Down, the left side alone is short.
Law 57:Cover Below
For Cover Below, the left and right sides divide equally.
Law 58: Advantage Below
For Advantage Below, the two sides are valued and displayed equally.
Law 59: Vertical Wan
The wan stroke of Vertical Wan is long, only afraid of resembling a wasp’s waist or a crane’s knee.
Law 60: Horizontal Wan
The wan stroke of Horizontal Wan dislikes being short, for it is not a crane’s knee or a wasp’s waist.
Law 61: Vertical Pie
The pie stroke of Vertical Pie especially dreads being short; and yet it worries about resembling a rat’s tail and a bull’s head.
Law 62: Horizontal Pie
The pie stroke of Horizontal Pie favors being slightly long and is only afraid of resembling a bull’s head and a rat’s tail.
Law 63:. Successive Pie
According to the law of Successive Pie, the lower stroke’s head faces the upper stroke’s chest.
Law 64: Disperse Water
According to the law of Disperse Water, the bottom stroke’s edge responds to top stroke’s tail.
Law 65: Fat
Fat words are slightly fat, but not so much that they end up looking bloated.
Law 66: Thin
Thin words are trim and the form opposes looking dry and weak.
Law 67: Scant
Scant words by nature are arranged sparsely; hence, use ample, robust strokes.
Law 68: Close
Close words are tightly arranged and comfortably outstretched.
Law 69: Stack
Stacked words overlap, again and again, but the point of overlap is positioned evenly.
Law 70: Accumulate
Accumulated words, always invariably complicated and disorderly, seek wholeness within the disorder.
Law 71: Slant
Slant words incline to one side as appropriate.
Law 72: Round
Round words naturally like circular enclosure.
Law 73: Oblique
Despite being Oblique, the word in essence possesses uprightness.
Law 74: Straight
Straight words are upright; their four corners are not oblique.
Law 75: Weighty
In a Weighty case, the bottom is necessarily large.
Law 76: Side By Side
In a Side By Side case, the right is necessarily wide.
Law 77: Long
A Long case primarily dislikes shortness.
Law 78: Short
A Short case does not seek length.
Law 79: Big
For a Big case, the words are already big, and its components are amassed cleverly.
Law 80: Small
Small cases are small, but value an ample and austere appearance.
Law 81: Facing:
Although Facing cases greet, hands avoid touching feet.
Law 82: Back Away
The Back Away case is already turned around, but the central artery of the word is unobstructed and free flowing.
Law 83: Alone
Alone words are drawn isolated, and only worry about becoming flighty, dry and thin.
Law 84: Single
Single cases are alone, slightly weighted, handsome, light and long.