Knick-knack peddlers were traveling salesmen for sundries in the old days. They would carry assorted goods on a pole slung over their shoulder or in a push cart as they made the rounds in countryside villages, often playing a hand-held pellet drum to announce their arrival. Repeating their melodious or catchy tune, peddlers would advertise wares and describe them in detail, including their functions. Striving to make a sale, peddlers apparently attracted the attention mainly of women and especially children.
The knick-knack peddler brought with him a multilevel arrangement of goods in almost every imaginable type, similar to a miniature supermarket or department store. Besides items for everyday use, there were toys, cosmetics, and even farming tools. Furthermore, he carried sweets and vegetables for sale, having something for everyone in the village, much like a portable store to satisfy both young and old. The attention-getting tune of the knick-knack peddler must have been a common sound and welcome joy in the often-mundane life of country folks in the past.
This exhibition not only presents a variety of paintings depicting knick-knack peddlers from ancient times, the dazzling variety of goods depicted in them also serves as a reminder for older viewers in Taiwan of the "itinerant peddlers of household goods" who plied their trade decades ago. This display is divided into two sections, one for "Gems of Painting: Knick-knack Peddlers over the Ages" and the other especially devoted to "A National Treasure: Li Song's 'Knick-knack Peddler." The former introduces the diversity of pictures on knack-knack peddlers from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, while the latter focuses on the famous "Knick-knack Peddler" painting by Li Song (1170-1255) of the Southern Song period. By illuminating the world of knick-knack peddlers in the past, it is hoped that the richness of these ancient paintings and their cultural perspectives can recreate a dialogue between art and life that allows the museum to further enrich the daily life of modern audiences.
Publication: Guide Book to Special Exhibition Gems of Painting: Pictures on Knick-knack Peddlers