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 has appeared on the Peking streets only since about 1900 with the introduction of various kinds of iron and tin into China by foreign merchants. This type of peddler goes from place to place buying up old tin and iron which he makes into water kettles, candle and oil lamps and other small articles.

The kettle peddler has a “t’iao tzu” on which he slings his collection of kettles and also a small stove which he uses to repair and solder kettles. As he goes along he hits the bottom of a kettle with a stick to let people know he is coming. He also has a call –

“Yang t’ieh hu” –
“Foreign iron kettles”.

This of course means that he has kettles for sale which are made from foreign tin or iron. Many of these are made from the Standard Oil or other brand five gallon gasoline tins. As noted above this peddler is more or less a newcomer to the ranks of peddlers. In olden days the copper or brass kettle was purchased at a brass store and used for years at a time. Now the tin kettle is more common but of course does not last as long – hence the peddler is able to exist as the housewife cannot go to a store every time a kettle wears out.