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Calls and sounds of the Peking street peddlers

Paintings of street sellers and descriptions of their cries and jingles from Samuel Victor Constant's Calls, Sounds and Merchandise of the Peking Street Peddlers, written in 1936 as a master's thesis at the College of Chinese Studies.

GATE GOD PEDDLER

This one says –

“Men shen lai
Kua ch’ien erh”

or

“Gate gods have arrived, and money to hang up!”

He sells pictures of the two gate gods which are pasted one on either side of the outer gates to Chinese compounds and also the doors to buildings inside the main gates. In addition, he sells “kua ch’ien erh” which are paper hangings cut in filigree desihns and hung from the tops of doors of the stores and small houses.

The gate gods used on the majority of outer gates are Ch’in Ch’iung and Ching Tei (actual character Te). These are two famous warriors of the the T’ang Dynasty. The story is that T’ang Ming Huang, one of the famous emperors of the T’ang Dynasty, had two dreams in which he visited the moon and also the 18 Buddhist Hells. At the latter place he saw the two officers Ch’in Ch’iung and Ching Tei guarding one of the gates. He asked them what they were doing and they said they were to prevent the very bad spirits from entering. When the emperor awoke he gave instructions to have pictures of these two officials pasted on the gates. The meaning of this custom is of course to keep evil from entering the compound.

On of the gates of the Princes and Dukes of the Manchu regume (Fu) the gate gods are two pictures of Chung K’uei, a scholar of the Han Dynasty who lived in Chung Nan Shan in Shensi. One night while T’ang Ming Huang, the famous T’ang Dynasty emperor, was sleeping he dreamed of seeing Chung K’uei and asking his name. When the emperor awoke he ordered a well known artist called Wu Tao-Tzu to paint Chung K’uei’s picture. From this time on gates of “Fu” had a picture of Chung K’uei pasted on each part of the divided doors. The figure on the right side was dressed in a red robe and the one on the left in a blue robe.

It is interesting to note here that the red robe (hung p’ao) was the color worn by a “chuang yuan” or scholar of the first grade. Blue was worn by scholars of the second grade or “chin shih” and also by those of the second grade or “chu jen”.

Other pictures which are used to paste on the doors of rooms inside the gates are of “T’ien Kuan”, the deity supposed to look after all the literary officials.

The “Kua ch’ien erh” (hanging money) are oblong sheets of very thin red or green paper cut into filigree designs which are hung from the door sills of stores and small residences. Either one of these or five are used depending on the space available. The origin of this “Kua ch’ien erh” must have come from the old feeling that like attracts like and to hang paper money over the door would bring in more money.