Chinese Puzzles

November 06, 2010 - September 05, 2011

Games for the Hands and Mind

From The Yi Zhi Tang Collection

Photos of Chinese Puzzles Opening Night (Photos by Niana Liu)


China’s rich tradition of puzzles and fascination with puzzling objects is thoroughly embedded in its arts and culture, and has been a popular cultural export to America since the 19th century. The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) presents Chinese Puzzles: Games for the Hands and Mind, curated by Wei Zhang and Peter Rasmussen.

Over the course of a six-month period, more than 100 objects and images from the curators’ private Yi Zhi Tang (art and intelligence) Collection will be on view at MOCA. Consisting of over 1300 antique Chinese puzzles, books, and graphic materials, the collection dates back from the Song dynasty to the mid-20th century. Many of the puzzles are also objets d’art in the classical tradition and exhibit the highest level of workmanship, including beautifully crafted porcelains, carved ivory, and mother-of-pearl.

Literally translated in Chinese as “intelligence games”, puzzles inspire us to challenge our hands and mind. Visitors young and old will have the opportunity to play with modern reproductions of these classic puzzles, including: the tangram – the game that sparked the world’s first international puzzle craze; the nine-linked rings – an object of interest for mathematicians and computer scientists; and the sliding block puzzle – a challenge in military strategy.

The exhibition is accompanied by an 80-page, full-color catalog; and a full-range of public programs designed for audiences of all ages: guided gallery tours; Family Puzzle Days – workshops for budding puzzlers ages 5-12 years; Puzzler Day for newbies and veterans of the puzzling world; and curator talks with Wei Zhang and Peter Rasmussen, who have been collecting and documenting the histories of Chinese puzzles since 1997.



Saturday, March 19, 2pm, Curator’s Talk: Chinese Puzzles
Sunday, March 20, 2-2:30pm & 4-4:30pm, Curator-led Tours of Chinese Puzzles

Thursday, March 24, 2-2:30pm & 4-4:30pm, Curator-led Tours of Chinese Puzzles

Thursday, March 24, 7pm, Hands-On Puzzles with Curators






Photo captions:
Left: Ivory and tortoiseshell puzzles in lacquer box, ca. 1840.
Right top: Wood, brass and lead 15-piece puzzles, 1920s.
Right middle: Porcelain tangram paint dish set, 19th c.

Right bottom: Curators Wei Zhang and Peter Rasmussen

(Photos by Niana Liu)