antedating of tangram (1855-56) (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Thu Sep 6 21:50:51 UTC 2007

Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Jerry Slocum has worked out the history of the game, and the word:

>From a short review (

Jerry Slocum, with the help of an international team, has tracked down
much origin and history for The Tangram Book.  A precursor was the Sei
Shonagon's Wisdom Plates, shown below (the pieces make a square in two
different ways.) The Tangram was invented between 1796 and 1802 in China
by Yang-cho-chu-shih.  He published the book Ch'i ch'iao t'u (Pictures
using seven clever pieces).  The first European publication of Tangrams
was in 1817. The word Tangram itself was coined by Dr. Thomas Hill in
1848 for his book Geometrical Puzzles for the Young.  He became the
president of Harvard in 1862, and also invented the game Halma.  Jerry
tracked down the sets owned by Poe, Napoleon, and others.   Martin
Gardner: "This will surely be the classic reference on the topic for
many decades to come."

So it would appear that the puzzle, as we now understand it, goes back
about 200 years, and the word to 1848.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Mark Mandel
> Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2007 9:51 PM
> Subject: Re: antedating of tangram (1855-56)
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Mark Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: antedating of tangram (1855-56)
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------------
> I recall reading in a book about mathematical puzzles that
> tangrams were less Chinese in origin than chop suey, i.e.,
> not at all. I'll try to remember or find the book.
> m a m
> On 9/4/07, Stephen Goranson <goranson at> wrote:
> >
> > OED has 1864 for this Chinese geometrical puzzle.
> >
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list