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 feet fixer, or chiropodist as we Occidentals say, has two small pieces of bamboo fastened to the ends of two small hinged sticks. These are clacked together and announce his passing.

All feet fixers come from the town of Ting Hsing Hsien, about forty odd miles southwest of Peking. This town is famous for its feet fixers and bath house attendants. The latter have special ability to keep fires hot.

It is interesting to note that the Peking bath houses with their heating system of tiled floors are all built by masons from Ting Hsing Hsien. They keep the secrets of their trade very jealously.

The chiropodist in China is not without fame and has often worked himself into prominence. Not many years ago there was the famous Li Yen-ch’ing who was private feet fixer for Ts’ao K’un, then President of the Peking Government in 1924.

At that time the Peking Government with Wu P’ei-fu and Feng Yu-hsiang as its military leaders fighting against Chang Tso-lin of Manchuria. Ts’ao K’un sent a large sum of money to Feng but it was taken by Li Yen-ch’ing who had risen from feet fixer to other heights in Ts’ao’s household.

When Feng received no money to pay and feed his troops he turned and captured Peking. His first act was to shoot Li Yen-ch’ing. Feng then attacked Wu P’ei-fu and caused the downfall of Wu and also the Government of Ts’ao K’un. A new government was set up in Peiping under Feng which gradually gave way to one under Chang Tso-lin who came in from Manchuria.

Thus the actions of a feet fixer changed the history of China!