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.


These peddlers are seen on the streets during the ninth and tenth months – the autumn – of the Chinese year. Their cry is

“Kuo k’uei lu tzu” – “Stoves made of asbestos”.

It will be noticed that the words of his call are not like the name of what he sells which is “pu hui mu lu tzu” or literally “stove made of wood which has no ash”. These peddlers have a “t’iao tzu” on each end of which is a shallow basket about three feet in diameter made of thorn bush twigs.

The stoves are carried in these baskets and are of various sizes. They are made of a sort of clay containing asbestos which comes from mines in eastern Hopei Province about fifty miles east of Peiping. This locality is not far from the “Tung Ling” or Eastern Tombs of the Manchu Emperors.

The clay like material is mixed with water, moulded to shape and allowed to dry. The stoves are round in shape and have seven iron grate bars. In the smaller stoves these are fixed but in the larger ones the bars are removable.