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 calls –

“Hao k’e kua tzu erh ai” or “Easily opened melon seeds!” These are the yellow or white seeds of the pumpkin and the black seeds of the water melon which have been heated until dry. The Chinese like to crack the seeds edgewise with their front teeth and the eat the small kernel which is inside. A plate of seeds seems to miraculously appear with tea wherever Chinese meet and help along the general sociability of the occasion.

The peddlers who sell these seeds hit a small gong, about four inches in diameter, with a little stick of wood. They carry a basket and while occasionally seen at other times are exceptionally prevalent at New Year’s time. At this season they also carry packs of small Chinese playing cards which the people use to help pass the night waiting for the New Year. The selling of these cards, however, is prohibited by the police.