The noodle sellers weren’t the only traders on the move; they were part of a thriving and colourful street life for which Chengdu was renowned. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, in the early twentieth century, a guide to the city by Fu Chongju included descriptions and illustrations of some of its many street traders, including itinerant barbers and pedicurists, water-carriers and flower-sellers, menders of parasols and fans, vendors of chicken-feather dusters, knife sharpeners, and snack makers. The old city was a maze of alleys lined with timber-framed houses, their walls made of panels of woven bamboo that were packed with mud and straw, then whitewashed. Stone lions stood on pedestals at either side of imposing wooden gateways. There was a teahouse on almost every street, where waiters with kettles of boiling water scurried around, refilling china bowls of jasmine-scented tea. And amidst the cacophony of the markets and the bustling streets, no sound was more welcome than the cry of a snack-seller, advertising the arrival of some delicious xiao chi, or ‘small eat’. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are remembered as the heyday of Chengdu snacks. Street vendors lived or died by the quality of their cooking, so the secrets of their methods were jealousy guarded. In an atmosphere of fevered competition, individual traders devised new recipes, some of which still bear their names. One man, Zhong Xiesen, invented the divine ‘Zhong boiled dumpling’ (zhong shui jiao), a tender pork-filled crescent bathed in spiced, sweetened soy sauce and chilli oil, and finished off with a smattering of garlic paste. Another, Lai Yuanxin, left to posterity his squidgy glutinous rice balls (lai tang yuan), stuffed with a paste of toasted black sesame seeds and sugar. A married couple who roamed the streets with their cooking equipment had a relationship so famously harmonious that their speciality – slices of beef offal tossed with celery and roasted nuts in a fiery dressing of spiced broth, chilli oil and Sichuan pepper – is still known as ‘Man-and-wife lung slices’ (fu qi fei pian). The more successful traders often went on to open their own restaurants, usually named after their most celebrated snack.