Tangram

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The tangram (Chinese: 七巧板; pinyin: qī qiǎo bǎn; literally "seven boards of skill") is a dissection puzzle consisting of seven flat shapes, called tans, which are put together to form shapes. The objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape (given only an outline or silhouette) using all seven pieces, which may not overlap. It was originally invented in China at some unknown point in history, and then carried over to Europe by trading ships in the early 19th century. It became very popular in Europe for a time then, and then again during World War I. It is one of the most popular dissection puzzles in the world.[1][2]

Contents

History

Reaching The Western World (1815-1820s)

The tangram had already been around in China for a long time when it was first brought to America by Captain M. Donnaldson, on his ship, Trader, in 1815. When it docked in Canton, the captain was given a pair of Sang-hsia-k'o's Tangram books from 1815.[3] They were then brought with the ship to Philadelphia, where it docked in February 1816. The first Tangram book to be published in America was based on the pair brought by Donnaldson.

The puzzle was originally popularized by The Eighth Book Of Tan, a fictitious history of Tangram, which claimed that the game was invented 4,000 years prior by a god named Tan. The book included 700 shapes, some of which are impossible to solve.[4]

The puzzle eventually reached England, where it became very fashionable indeed.[3] The craze quickly spread to other European countries.[3] This was mostly due to a pair of British Tangram books, The Fashionable Chinese Puzzle, and the accompanying solution book, Key.[5] Soon, tangram sets were being exported in great number from China, made of various materials, from glass, to wood, to tortoise shell.[6]

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