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.


The blind fortune tellers are formed into societies. Some of them live in groups at the headquarters of their organization. There are four types of blind fortune tellers:

1. Ta ku ti – drum beaters.
2. T’an hsien tzu ti – stringed instrument players.
3. Ch’ui ti tzu ti – flute players.
4. Ta tiang tiang erh ti – those who beat a sort of cymbal with a knob in the center. There is no character for the word “tiang” – it sounds like the sound made when the instrument is struck.

These four kinds of fortune tellers tell fortunes and also sing songs for entertainments. They go out singly to tell fortunes and sing songs but can be secured in groups to play and sing for entertainments.

They of course use the “Pa Kua” or “Eight Diagrams”. The knowledge is passed on by word of mouth. This is very complicated as explained above and the fact that these blind men remember such a complicated system shows the remarkable memory of the Chinese.