Ancient Chinese Inventions Project
story of Tangrams
Legend holds that thousands of years ago, a sage in the ancient orient was asked to transport a pane of glass. The pane was to be used in the royal palace as the first glass window for the king and queen. In those days, panes of glass were a prized commodity, especially one as perfectly made as this one for it was perfectly square. So, as you can imagine, the transporting of the glass was an awesome responsibility. To protect the glass, the sage first wrapped it with the finest silk in the land to protect it from being scratched. He then wrapped the package with leather that was strong to protect the glass yet soft enough as to not break the glass. Finally, the sage wrapped the entire package in a thick layer of canvas. This, he thought, would protect the pane of glass from all danger.
After days of travel, the sage came to the hardest part of his journey, a rocky mountain. He ascended the mount, carefully selecting each step so as not to accidentally trip and possibly break the glass. When at the top, after successfully evading many potential pitfalls, he could see his destination in the valley below-- the royal palace. He realized his journey was nearly over. Unfortunately, while peering off into the distance, he didn't see the tiniest of pebbles, no bigger than his little toe, on the ground before him. Before he knew it, he was tumbling down the hill along with the glass! When he eventually got himself under control, he immediately opened the package containing the glass. First he unwrapped the canvas, then the leather, and finally the silk. To his amazement, the pane had not shattered into a million pieces. Instead, it had broken into seven pieces. There was one square, one parallelogram and five triangles.
The sage tried to fit the pieces back together in the shape of the original square. At first he made a rectangle. Next he came up with a parallelogram. Finally, after many attempts, he was able to fit the pieces into a square. He realized the infinite amount of combinations and interesting shapes that could be made by arranging the pieces. With this revelation, the sage wrapped the pieces back up as in the original package and continued his trek. Upon arriving at the royal palace, the sage presented the package to the king, but not as a simple pane of glass. Instead, the sage proceeded to tell of the story of his trek using the pieces of broken glass to illustrate his adventures. The king was amazed at the shapes, and he and the people of his kingdom quickly embraced them. And so the art of tangrams was born!