An exhibition of matchboxes provide glimpses of old-time Taiwan society

The exhibition, “Old Time on Those Taiwanese Matchboxes,” is held at the Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau until Dec. 15

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The exhibition, “Old Time on Those Taiwanese Matchboxes,” is held from Dec. 1 -15. at the Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau (Source: CNA)

The exhibition, “Old Time on Those Taiwanese Matchboxes,” is held from Dec. 1 -15. at the Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau (Source: CNA)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Small matchboxes not only carry dozens of thin sticks that can light up objects, but they also contain images representing the old days of Taiwanese society.

The exhibition, “Old Time on Those Taiwanese Matchboxes,” displays over a hundred matchboxes at the Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau until Dec. 15.

Tang Cheng-yu (唐鎮宇), who is a former city fire department commissioner, owes his collection to his father, Tang Kun (唐坤), once an executive at Taiwan Match Co., reported Central News Agency.

The matchboxes, with images ranging from hotels, hostels, public canteens, and bus companies, among several others, serve as a medium of advertising similar to packets of tissue papers distributed freely on the streets nowadays. In addition, those images are also reminiscent of the lifestyle and city landscape of old-time Keelung before lighters became ubiquitous and replaced matches as a daily tool.

The exhibition also presents Tang Kun’s manuscripts of match design and recipes. Tang said his father came to Taiwan after the Second World War and took over the match company left behind by the Japanese. Without any formula preserved from the Japaneses Empire and knowledge of match manufacturing beforehand, Tang Kun examined the match production with his team and eventually figured it out from scratch.

►Tang Cheng-yu, who owes his matchbox collections to his father, once an executive at Taiwan Match Co. (Source: CNA)

Once a common tool in Taiwanese households, matchboxes are now almost extinct from people’s daily lives. There were once 68 match factories in Taiwan, but match manufacturing went straight into decline starting in 1987, after the introduction of lighters, said Tang.