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Tangram (七巧板)

A tangram is a kind of intellectual put-together puzzle. Players use seven pieces to form various silhouette shapes. The modern tangram originated from tangram drawings used as templates by ancient Chinese carpenters when making “tangram tables.” Its origin can trace even further back to the Yanji diagrams in the Song Dynasty.
 Yanji diagrams are also known as banquet table diagrams. Each set has seven tables in three different sizes placed in various combinations. The diagrams were originally used for arranging banquet tables, as was recorded by the scholar Huang Buosi during the North Song Dynasty. Later in the Ming Dynasty, Yan Cheng applied the principles of Yanji diagrams to cut a square into several geometric shapes. He used these shapes to make a set of ten teapoys in the shape of trapezoids or butterfly wings. These teapoys can be arranged to form a square or hundreds of other shapes. Because of the distinctive shape of the teapoys, this game is called “butterfly teapoy drawing.”
 It is believed today that the butterfly teapoy drawing is a more ingenious set up than the simpler Yanji diagrams. The tangram we know today developed from the Yangji and butterfly teapoy diagrams. Later in the Qing Dynasty, the tangram was formalized into a separate “Tangram drawing” category and a game known as “intelligence board.”
The tangram challenges players to form numerous shapes or characters using the seven pieces provided. It has now spread all over the world and is played by people of all walks of life. It has been called the “king of puzzles” or “king of intellectual games.” The tangram’s charm never seems to wane, with generation after generation discovering the game for themselves.

National Digital Archives Program—UEPlay Digital Museum - Intellectual Games, Department of Plastic Design (Graduate Program of Toy and Game Design), National Taipei University of Education