Medieval manuscript scrolls are often ruled with grid lines to guide the hand of the calligrapher. These lines are a basic feature of most standard Buddhist and Taoist scrolls, which typically have 17 characters per line and 27-28 (or 31) lines per sheet of paper. But other types of manuscripts with less standard layout also often employed the same system of grid lines. There are usually two horizontal grid lines, one at the top of the sheet and one at the bottom, creating a margin of an inch or two on both ends. The vertical grid lines are drawn to connect the horizontal ones, and the characters are then written between the vertical strips created this way. This produces an even and aesthetically pleasing appearance. In some cases, the vertical grid lines or the horizontal ones can also be missing, which surprisingly does not seem to affect the quality of calligraphy. Manuscript Or.8210/S.230 (Plate 1) below is a typical example of the use of vertical and horizontal grid lines.
Plate 1. Grid lines in manuscript Or.8210/S.230
Plate 2. Manuscript Or.8212.480 from Loulan
Plate 3. Embroidered silk manuscript Pelliot chinois 4500