How do you play Tangram?
Tangram is no ordinary puzzle. The placement of the ‘tans’ and the observation of the figures come together to confer an aura of enigma and magic to the game, giving the Tangram its own special place in the world of puzzles and riddles. The possibilities that it provides for our imagination are virtually infinite. Much like when we put together a collage, the individual pieces of a Tangram lose their identity and appear before our eyes, magically, as part of a new form.
The puzzle is made up of seven flat, geometric pieces resulting from the dissection of a square. Each one of these pieces is called a ‘tan’ (part, in Chinese). There are 2 large triangles, 1 medium-sized triangle, 2 small triangles, a square and a rhomboid.
How is it that the partition of a square in 7 parts – these 7 in particular – can yield such a vast array of fascinating, evocative figures? We have yet to come up with an answer, despite our search in specialized publications and web sites; perhaps the question would best be put to a mathematician.
The vertex, the common point at which two lines converge – or diverge – , is a primordial element in the graphic representation of all kinds of phenomena. It is first and foremost a graphic symbol, one that in its essence is the synthesis of an event. It marks the point where a road separates, where two rivers come together, where one plane ends and another begins, a change of direction, a fold, a dilemma posed by two possibilities, the branching out of growth and evolution, the cross-linking of a plane, the planar deconstruction of a volume, an itinerary for logical reasoning, computational structure, algorhythmic formulation…
The triangle is the polygon with the fewest number of sides that can be made with straight lines. It is also the most elementary polygon, the primary polygonal unit, the proto-cell with which we can cover an entire flat surface and form all other possible geometric figures.
What makes the Pentaminos fascinating is its initial simplicity, so different from the ennigmas and problems described below. Unlike a 1000-piece puzzle, which has a single solution, the Pentaminos, while consisting of only 12 pieces, has thousands of possible solutions.
Altogether there are twelve different Pentaminos, each designated by a different letter of the alphabet: (F, I, L, N, P, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z). Pentaminos obtained by joining others at their axis or by rotation are not considered to be ‘different’ Pentaminos.
The tightrope walker balances over the precipice, risking life and limb as he walks over the thinnest of threads. They are not actors; rather, they relive what is essentially their life away from the wire. We are all tightrope walkers, though some more than others. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all balanced on the edge. That is what they are trying to tell us.