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 is one of the first on the streets in the spring and his appearance is always welcome by the Chinese as one of the signs that the coldest weather is over. He is seen on the first day of the New Year and for about three months thereafter.

Some of these peddlers are old men but the majority are old women. In the autumn these old people go outside the city walls to the marshy places and stream banks where reeds grow. They gather the reed leaves which they take to their homes and during the winter they roll them spirally into small horns. A thorn is used to keep the leaf from unrolling.

These small horns are made in varying sizes from three to six inches in length. The peddler places one of them inside a broken earthenware wine jug when he blows to advertise his wares. The jug amplifies the sound of the reed horn. Needless to say the horns purchased sound very weak by comparison, but they sell for only two to four coppers each and the children love them.

The peddler carries a basket in which he places his collection of horns. In the side of the horn is often struck a small paper flag as an added attraction.