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 Chinese puppet show is very much like our Punch and Judy performance. The apparatus is packed in two loads carried on either end of a pole. One load looks like a small house but opens out into a little stage, from the bottom of which hangs a cloth drape completely hiding the performer. The stage is propped up by means of the carrying pole. The other load consists of nested boxes in which are carried the puppets and other articles needed for the plays.

Two of the most famous puppet plays are

(1) “Wang Hsiao ta lao hu” – “Wang Hsiao hunts the tiger”. In this Wang Hsiao is eaten by the tiger. His wife goes after him, kills the tiger and drags Wang Hsiao from the tiger’s mouth.

(2) “Kao Lao Chuang” &Ndash; “The village of Kao Lao”. This is one of many stories about the mythical monkey, Sun Hou Erh from “Hsi Yu Chi” or “Journey to the West”.

The performer works the puppets from below and at the same time talks and hits a small gong when appropriate. When going in search of trade these puppet show men beat a large gong and a small one. The former is about ten inches in diameter and flat with a level place in the center. It is hit three times with a thin piece of wood after which the large gong is struck once. This gong is about two feet in diameter.