How Do You Play Tangrams?
The Tangram is a Chinese puzzle consisting of seven pieces called tans having various geometric shapes: five right isosceles triangles (two small, one medium and two large), a parallelogram and a square.
The objective is to form a specific figure by arranging all the pieces so that they touch but do not overlap. The pictures made are typically outlines of people in various poses, animals, birds, letters of the alphabet and assorted geometric shapes.
Try Solving Some Puzzles Now
On the "Tangram House" below, click a figure to "Select Puzzle."
Drag and drop each tan onto the game board. Every piece can be flipped by pressing the <CTRL> key or rotated 45 degrees with the <TAB> key.
A tan can be spun freely by clicking a corner and dragging the mouse in a circular motion. When successfully assembled, the completed figure will become whole. Then, try another puzzle!
Tangram House was created by Andrew D. Orlov and appears here with appreciation.
Learn More About Tangram
When the Tangram was created, and by whom, is unknown today. However, the first known written reference is found in a Chinese book from 1813, so the Tangram's origin is probably much earlier.
According to legend, a man invented this puzzle 4,000 years ago while trying to reassemble the seven pieces of a broken porcelain tile.
Contact between China and the Western world resulted in a spreading of "The Chinese Puzzle," as it was then called, first to Europe and then the United States during the 1800’s.
The word "Tangram" might have been derived from the name Tang, the ruling Chinese dynasty from 618-907 AD, a period of great literature and art in China’s history.
In 1903, puzzle author Samuel Loyd published “The Eighth Book of Tan” which included 700 Tangram designs and an entertaining, although fictional, history of the puzzle. Loyd’s whimsical book proved to be popular, helping to spread interest in Tangram.
The Tangram was a favorite challenge for such famous players as Lewis Carroll (author of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"), Edgar Allan Poe (who wrote macabre tales such as "The Masque of the Red Death") and Napoleon Bonapart (the Emperor of France).
Commercially manufactured Tangrams can be purchased today, along with books of patterns to solve, from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Or you can play right here, on our web page!