No Phillumenist I, nor proper collector of anything, but like most graphic designers I love a nice bit of printed ephemera. I bought these matchbox labels in Thailand, and as far as I can tell they are mostly (all?) Japanese, made for the Chinese market and stone lithography printed. I can’t read the text (which might explain much) but the use of flags in some puts them in the second and third decades of the 20th century – beyond that my ignorance is complete, not that that hinders my enjoyment of them. What is going on in the example above for instance? A diminutive husband and wife extending hospitality to an outsized westerner? or two smartly-dressed children welcoming Daddy home (wondering why he could not afford a full-sized house)? Either way – the drawing, pattern, texture and colours are beautiful.
This puzzling kitten-weighing scenario is probably not an illustration to a recipe printed on the other side of the matchbox. The coloured stripes on the weight are those of the flag of the ‘five great races of the Republic of China’ (red = Han, yellow = Manchus, blue = Mongols, white = Huis (Muslims) & Uyghurs, black = Tibetans). The kitten seems to be wearing the star emblem of the Chinese army, so perhaps this is about the new/young army being as powerful as all China – plausible, if dull. I prefer the kitten-cuisine theory. Or perhaps this is simply The Heaviest Kitten in China.