Friday 16 October 2015

Yee Dian Lee - Puzzle Books Collector Extraordinaire

Its always nice to get together with fellow puzzlers/collectors and last week while I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for business, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Yee Dian Lee at his home and spending a great evening with him talking about puzzles and admiring his extensive collection.

The puzzle den is actually longer than what the photo shows
Some of you puzzlers would know Yee Dian pretty well, especially those who have attended past IPPs. Yee Dian attended his first IPP at IPP12 in Tokyo in 1992, over twenty three years ago. Since then he has not missed a single IPP to-date! I had met Yee Dian the first time over three years ago at IPP33 in Japan and since then we have regularly kept in touch. it was only now that I paid a visit to his home and see vast puzzle and puzzle books collection.

Yee Dian is an Electrical Engineer by training and graduated from Osaka University, Japan. Professionally he a corporate trainer working mainly with various Malaysian government departments. Apart from mechanical puzzles, Yee Dian is also the Testing Procter for the Malaysian Mensa as well as Secretary of the Malaysian Sudoku Society. 

I was hosted to a sumptious dinner by Yee Dian and his lovely wife, the meal home-cooked by Yee Dian's mother-in-law. Thereafter I spent the rest of the evening in his puzzle room. As I ascended halfway to his puzzle room, Yee Dian's puzzle vessel collection greeted me. It occupies an entire wall and the cabinet houses several puzzle vessels/pots from all over the world. What a sight to behold!

Puzzle vessels galore!
Yee Dian's puzzle den occupies the better portion of the third floor of his three storey house with both sides lined with shelves from floor to ceiling. The right shelves comprise mainly of puzzles and some books while the left are almost all puzzle books. I have never seen so many puzzle books in my life!

His IPP Exchange Puzzles, which number over 2,000 are not in the same puzzle den; there is just not enough space for them. Instead they are kept in boxes (all marked and numbered by year/country) which line one side of the corridor leading to his daughter's bedroom. 

Yee Dian does not just collect mechanical puzzles (his main interests being puzzle vessels and interlocking) but also focuses on puzzle books. While his mechanical puzzle collection numbers several thousand (he says he has lost count), his puzzle book collection is well over 5,000 titles! They are in several languages including English, Japanese and Chinese. 

Outside of Japan, Yee Dian has the largest private collection of puzzle books in South East Asia. A real treasure trove of puzzle literature acquired over many years with each and every title/details recorded meticulously. His passion is hunting for rare puzzle books both on the internet and when he travels abroad.

All puzzle books here
To go through just his mechanical puzzles alone, it would probably take a whole week. Yee Dian recounted to me that there was once a European collector (a pretty well know name in the puzzle community whom I shall keep anonymous) who visited some years back; he had spent three days in the puzzle den only coming out for meals and toilet breaks. Yee Dian welcomes any puzzler visiting Malaysia to drop by his home for a visit. Nowadays I go to Malaysia for business quite regularly. I am already looking forward to my next trip!

Well, enough said, I will let the photos do the rest of the talking....

Ultra rare puzzle books on this shelf

Notice some of the wooden puzzle boxes at the lower right?
These were from Akio Kamei before he became famous

Yee Dian and I exchanging gifts. 
I received a very nice puzzle vessel (a wine pot) 
which will be the subject of a future blog post


  1. Wow thank you Jerey astonishingly good post.

  2. OMG! I think I could move in there and live permanently! I'm actually not jealous as I think owning such a collection would result in Mrs S actually murdering me.


  3. I'm actually jealous of the display cases. Do you know if those were custom built? Very slick.

  4. Wow thats an amazing collection of puzzles. Keep going :)