ORIGINS OF THE GAME
Beyond the fact that it comes from China, little is known about the precise origins of the Tangram. The first written mention appears in a Chinese book from the year 1813. However, there is evidence from the year 1742 of a Japanese puzzle called “ch’ich’ae pan”, (puzzle of of the 7 pieces), a word dating from from the Chu era, which extended from 740 - 300 B.C. This has led a number of investigators to situate the origins of the game in this remote epoch. While the word Tangram was coined a little over a century ago by a North American, in Chinese the game has always been known as 'the board of wisdom' or 'the board of the 7 elements'.
As a result of the Chinese publication from 1813 describing the puzzle, the popularity of the Tangram spread rapidly throughout Europe and North America, making it the Rubik's Cube of its time. Numerous books were published depicting the figures that could be created. These were initially limited to the several hundred shapes described in Chinese books and texts, but new shapes and forms expanded the number to around 900. In 1973 the Dutch designers Joost Elffers and Michael Schuyt created, with a new, rustic version of the Tangram that they had conceived, 750 new figures, bringing the total number to over 1,600.
A Chinese legend related to the game makes reference to a fight between the God of Thunder and the dragon Yu that caused the sky to fall to the earth in 7 pieces. The pieces were so black that they absorbed all of the world’s light, thereby obliterating the forms of all of the objects on the face of the earth. The dragon, saddened by such a tragic happening, took the 7 pieces and set about constructing the different forms and beings that had existed, starting with the plants, animals and humans.
The novelty of this Tangram is that it works with a third dimension and includes a new element: the need to strike a balance between the tans The attraction between the ‘tans’ is what ultimately sustains the figures and makes their handling so rewarding. As a result the upright figures can be seen and enjoyed from any perspective.