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 is called a Chinese doughnut or cruller peddler for lack of a better translation. The peddlers buy the crullers from the small shops that make them and peddle them from house to house. The “Yu cha kuei” is made of flour with a little soda and alum added. It is a small twisted cake which is fried in sesame oil so the inside becomes hollow.

These peddlers also sell a wheat cake with sesame seed pressed into the top as well as the crullers. Their call is –

“Shao ping, yu cha kuei”, “Wheat cakes and crullers”.

The shops which sell the wheat cakes and crullers to these peddlers have a rime which their cooks often chant. It is given below –

“Yu yu hsiang, mien yu pai,
Jeng ti kuo li, p’iao chi’i lai,
Sai kuo hsiao ch’uan erh ti yu cha kuei”.

Or approximately –

“The oil is fragrant, the flour is white
Throw it in the pot, it floats just right –
It is bigger than a small boat – this cruller!”