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 man has two and often three young boys with him. Their apparatus consists of a boat made from cloth and bamboo, a false horse’s head and false lion’s head. They use a large gong, drum and cymbals as they go along the streets to advertize their arrival and these instruments are utilized as well during the entertainment.

The show usually consists of the following:–

(1) The head man sits on the ground and beats the drum and cymbals while the two small boys – one of which is dressed as a girl – go through with the act which consists of singing.

(2) In this part of the act the boy dressed in girl’s clothing rides around on a horse and sings a well known song: “chao chun ch’u sai” which tells of famous actors and authors of the Han Dynasty. This is called “P’ao Chu Ma” – Riding the Bamboo Horse.

(3) For the third act we have an historical anecdote called “Ta t’ou he shang to Liu T’sui”. This is the story of a large headed Buddhist priest who was very much wrapped up in his religious studies. One day a fox fairy changed into a beautiful girl called Liu T’sui who tries to seduce the priest. She is unsuccessful and the priest goes on with his devotions. This is pantomimed in dancing.

(4) The last act is the “p’ao han ch’uan” or “running land boat”. The boy dressed as a girl gets inside the boat and unstraps his small girl’s feet of wood on which he has been teetering around for the first part of the show. He arranges these so it looks as though he was really sitting on the boat. He then runs around to the accompaniment of drum and cymbals. The other boy use a pole as though pushing the boat.