Baguenaudier, but Time Spent on Solving Puzzles is Never Wasted

I am on a fun trip visiting artisan workshops in East China. At one shop where they make handcrafted brass and cast iron toys, I saw something that looked very familiar, and reminded me of some childhood memories. This is a metal puzzle called Nine Rings, one of my favorite childhood toys. These are not the huge heavy rings we recently saw in the movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. These are nine small metal rings that are big enough to pass an adult’s finger. Nine rings are connected through some rigid metal bars, which locked the rings together. However, the rings only appear to be locked together. If you find a way to disentangle the rings, you solve the puzzle. I remember as a 12-year-old school girl, I got addicted to it for many days until I eventually solved it. It was so much fun.

Nine Rings is an ancient puzzle that was mentioned in old literature. Some said that it was invented by Zhu Ge-Liang (AD 181-234), the legendary smartest politician in Chinese history and folklore. Although most historians disregard this theory, it is believed that Nine Rings was invented over 2000 years ago.

Only after I grew up, I learned that Nine Rings was popular in other cultures too. The implicated mathematical problem also fascinated many scholars. For those who have eventually solved the puzzle, the solution is also philosophical. The first step to disentangle the rings is to put the ring back together, a counter-intuitive approach. But it is like many other challenges we want to solve, the first step toward moving forward is to take a step back.

In French, this Chinese ring puzzle has another name, Baguenaudier. It means “time waster”. It is indeed a very appropriate name for a puzzle. However, the time one spends on solving a puzzle is never wasted, it is the best time spent exercising both our brain and our hands. Solving puzzles allows us to improve our concentration, while enjoying some uninterrupted relaxation time alone or with our family.

We currently have a nice collection of Dowdle Folk Art Jigsaw Puzzles. The first jigsaw puzzle was invented in 18th century. The Dowdle Puzzles combine classic art with modern technology to make high-precision puzzles. They are perfect gifts for anyone, on Valentine’s day, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Christmas or many other occasions.

It is often hard to buy gifts for someone who does not want more “stuff”. Many of us want to spend less on belongings, and spend more on experiences. Puzzles bring us fun experience. Not only the time we spend solving puzzles forms fond memories, but the fantastic art work presented by each puzzle also reminds us of the beautiful places we have visited or dream of visiting. When not in use, the puzzle pieces can be stored in the beautiful box, which makes a nice presentation on your book shelf without cluttering your house. Or you could fix the finished puzzle to a board, frame it, and present it as a piece of art work you have completed. In many ways, the puzzles slow down the time for us, as the French people suggested, so that we could enjoy it more.

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

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