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.


This peddler sells braid to sew around the edges of ladies’ garments. The braid is called “t’ao tzu” and comes in many varieties, some plain, some embroidered. Most of the braid is English, French or Chinese made.

The braid seller carries a large pack on his back. The pack is composed of many small paper boxes containing the braid. These boxes are stacked on topo of the other and then wrapped in a large piece of coarse blue cloth. This bundle is roped and forms the peddler’s pack.

The characteristic sound of the braid seller is made with a drum and the Chinese call him a “yao ku ti” or “large drum swinger”. This distinguishes him from the “yao ku erh ti”, the peddler who has a small drum and sells cloth. The “ta ku” is about eighteen inches in diameter fastened to the end of a stick. This stick is quite strong and is sometimes used as an aid in carrying the pack.