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 cries –

“I yao ao lao wei” – milk liquor.

The first three words and the last are meaningless and for sound only. The word “lao” means a sort of liquor made mostly of milk. This originated in Mongolia. The milk is first heated and a little “chiang mi chiu” glutinous rice wine added. This is cooled on ice and makes a sort of jelly.

This peddler carries two large round wooden boxes with covers – “yuan lung” – one on each end of a pole borne on his shoulder (t’iao). In each is a large piece of ice surrounded by the liquor and a large assortment of small cina bowls.

The peddler carries three dice and gambles with a prospective purchaser. The dice are thrown in an empty bowl. If the peddler wins the purchaser gets his drinks free, otherwise he pays so much per bowl. The peddler always wins because the purchaser after all can only drink a few bowls of the cold liquid.