They speak a strictly monosyllabic language in China, and the same is written by a series of arbitrary word-signs, without attempt at alphabetical spelling; so, although it has been shown that the seven tangrams may be combined to form the rudimental words, there is practically no attempt at letter-press description in the original books. It is plain, however, that there is a certain illustrative narrative, which, from the humorous postures, would suggest popular proverbs or fables rather than historical incidents. Be that as it may, however, according to Professor Challenor, such things pertained to unwritten legendry, and were irretrievably lost ages ago. He held that the same was of no great importance, and he aimed merely to revive the educational features of the work, which of necessity requires a certain modernizing of the whole scheme. As explanatory of the reference to illustrated fables we present the following up-to-date rendering of the famous nursery rhyme about
We might also, by a slight effort of the imagination, amuse a group of children with a recital of the ever-popular story of Cinderella and the little glass slipper, with Tangram illustrations. Commencing, as shown, with the fireplace, Cinderella, the haughty sisters, the kind fairy, what might serve in a pinch for a pumpkin, the rat coachman, the little slipper, and finally the handsome prince doing a stately minuet with the heroine. The coach, horses, etc., are shown later on.
From a puzzlist's standpoint it would seem but fair to have the Tangrams drawn to a uniform scale of size, and modern publishers make the error of attempting to improve upon the Chinese plan. By so doing they eliminate the invaluable study of geometry which trains the eye to judge of the ratio of one piece to another, instead of solving puzzles by mechanical measurements of the lengths of the sides.
Artists who sketch from nature will best appreciate the feature of reducing in correct proportion where measurements are impossible.
Tangrams were never designed to be drawn upon a specified scale of size. Each design is to be made with a set of seven pieces which fit together to form a perfect square, but the pictures are not of the same size. By this means the Chinese conception of perspective is faithfully represented. They use flat colors or tints, and depend entirely upon the different sizes of the objects to represent distance. If such was not the case, in the story of the house that Jack built the cock that crowed in the morn would look bigger that the cow with crumpled horn, and the house would be smaller than the malt.
There are certain characteristics of form and action in animals and birds which may be studied to advantage by practice with Tangrams, and I have yet to discover any subject which cannot be fairly shown by the seven magic pieces. Some may be a little crude perhaps, but, if space permitted, it would be a simple matter to illustrate the entire list as given in the familiar rhyme of Noah's ark, where