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.


In Chinese this peddler is called “tu t’ang lo erh ti” – “candy gong hitter”. He uses a wooden stick to hit a small gong about six inches in diameter. This is his method of announcing his arrival to the children within hearing. His title does not accurately describe his wares for he sells but little candy. This is called “jen shen t’ang” or “ginsing candy” but it has none of that famous and expensive root in it. Actually his candy is made from sugar with a little chalk – “pai t’u tzu” – added. It comes in short sticks about three inches long and a little around than a lead pencil. He also sells a few candy drops made from sugar.

Aside from this small amount of candy the peddler sells toys. This is his real stock and he carries a great variety of articles. They are made of paper, of the cheapest scrap wood, tin and cardboard and none sell for more than the equivalent of two or three cents U.S. currency. Some of the articles sold are:

Clay figures.
Paper wagons.
Glass marbles.
Small kites.
Wooden and cardboard swords.
Wooden guns.
False faces.
False whiskers.
Playthings made of old tin.

All of these peddlers have a small paper house or rack with shelves in it on which they display some of their wares. Some have this on top of a basket which is slung over the shoulder and some have two round wooden boxes in which the toys are carried. In the latter case a “t’iao tzu” is used and one box slung on either end of the pole which is carried over the shoulder.