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.


There are two types of these fortune tellers who use their eyes as well as their wits. The first kind has no apparatus of any kind. He looks at the customer and asks the following information:

1. Year of birth.
2. Month of birth.
3. Day of birth.
4. Time of birth.

Then using this information based on his knowledge of the “Pa Kua” or “Eight Diagrams” he works out a fortune. Sometimes he refers to a fortune telling book or to a “huang li”, an almanac, for material.

The “Pa Kua” or “Eight Diagrams” are credited to the mythical Emperor Fu Hsi (B.C. 2852–2734) who saw them on the back of a supernatural “dragon horse” which emerged from the waters of the Yellow River. The “Pa Kua” consist of arrangements of divided and undivided lines in different combinations up to sixty-four. It is on the permutations of the sixty-four combinations that the classical “Book of Changes” – the I Ching – was founded. This was prepared by Wen Wang, father of the founder of the Chou Dynasty, B.C. 1300–1400. It is a book of divination, each diagram standing for some active or passive element or force in nature – heaven, earth, fire, water, etc.