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 type of peddler comes down from the earliest days in China. He sells the oil made from crushing sesame seeds. It is called “hsiang yu” and is used to flavor all kinds of food in North China. Peking people are particularly fond of its taste and it is used in cooking almost every sort of dish. As you go further south in China the yellow bean oil is more used for flavoring, as it is in Manchuria.

In olden times sesame seed oil was burned by being placed in a small bowl with a wick. It is now used in this way for altar lamps in temples and on family altars, but its main use is for flavoring in cooking and for frying various kinds of food.

This peddler hits a sort of wooden castanet or “pang tzu” with a stick. The “castanet” is a piece of wood with the inside hollowed out so that when struck it emits the typical hollow sound of the “pang tzu”. There are many kinds of “pang tzu” used by peddlers as have been described elsewhere.