The dawn and advance of civilization is not confined to any one chapter or portion of a book, but extends throughout the entire work, portraying, in all its minutest details, the different phases of progress. Justice to this grand feature of a scheme, requiring over 7,000 illustrations to harmonize and connect the gradual changes, cannot be expected in this brief synopsis. Nothing but the importance of the subject induces the writer to dare the attempt, with the meagre resources at his command, so he depends largely upon the kind indulgence and vivid imaginations of his readers.
The following ten designs are taken from a collection of several hundred unique specimens of the more advanced implements, utensils, and vases, which are supposed to show a certain improvement on the crude articles given below :
The progress of architecture is given at great length, not confined to one page, but scattered throughout the work, beginning with the primitive homes, tents, and huts of the mound-builders up to the development of the chimney, as shown :
Assuming that enough has been said to show that the mere solving of puzzles is the least important feature of Tangrams, we will resume the historical thread from the point where primitive man made his appearance. Antiquarians and archaeologists will have an opportunity to revel in what may be presented as the oldest known illustrations of utensils, weapons, and articles of pottery and stoneware of the prehistoric age. These designs appear in all puzzle-book editions, and are familiar as pertaining to geometrical figures which have been studied for many centuries simply in the nature of puzzles.
From the primitive cabin of our prehistoric ancestors we are led, by gradual and interesting stages, through an architectural course up to pretentious residences, towers, pagodas, forts, temples, and palaces, characteristic of the style of the Celestials of more recent dates, specimens of which are here shown, without reference to the question of improvement :
In the matter of interior decorations for the house, as well as in furniture, utensils, chinaware, etc., the illustrations are profuse and marvellous in the minutiae of details. Here, for example, is shown the plain old-fashioned open hearth which, through the evolutions of various styles, develops into a fireplace and mantel of artistic design :
As closely allied to the fortress and moated castle, here is an exhibition of masonry in the form of bridges and archways of varied design, which calls for clever handling of the pieces from a puzzle standpoint :
In the following additional specimens of bridge-building the first two were marked by a sign which has been interpreted as signifying "worthy of special notice." These signs, somewhat in the nature of exlamation marks, proved of great service in discovering hidden meanings or connections with other illustrations. In the first figure it may be intended to call attention to the fact of its being the same as a design shown elsewhere without the rhomboid piece removed. The second is the same as one of the primitive huts, with a mysterious addition on the top which is not easy of explanation :
There is a fine display of antique furniture, consisting of beds, chairs, sofas,lounges, tables, etc., some of such elaborate pattern as to be unintelligible to us Christians, so we will have to be satisfied with the following simple articles:
A varied assortment of oriental bric-à-brac and household goods, gathered at random from the later books of Tan, shows advancement from the primitive utensils already described. Each piece tells its own story without the necessity of further explanation, and will be readily recognized as belonging to the well-known forms in the popular editions of Tangrams :
The following glimpse of a Chinese clothes-line, presenting an array of the oldest designs, proves that the Celestial fashions have not undergone much change within the past few thousand years. Costumes of more elaborate design doubtless occur throughout the books, but as the writer makes no pretensions to be an expert sinologist it is safe to say that they have been presented as geometrical figures, wild animals, or some sort of house-hold utensils :