Hundreds of demonstrators today tried to enter the compound housing China's leaders to present demands for food and jobs to Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping.

Armed soldiers turned back the demonstrators, but late tonight about 50 of the raggedly dressed protesters were still gathered outside the main entrance to Peking's huge walled Chungnanhai compound next to the Forbidden City. Temperatures were well below freezing.

During the march from Tienanmen Square they had carried banners reading, "We want to present our grievances to Teng the incorruptible," and "Strike down the backstage supporters of the Gang of Four who are still in existence."

One of the demonstrators said 20,000 people had come to Peking from all over China to present their complaints but had nowhere to go or sleep. They were living outdoors and complained of being beaten by police.

An elderly man, weeping and pulling at his ragged clothes, said he had walked more than 1,000 miles from southern China.

The demonstrators drew a crowd of about 1,000 onlookers who blocked a stretch of Changan Avenue.

It was the second time in a week that peasants had demonstrated in Peking. The first time, last Monday, they were unable to stage their demonstration in front of the compound, which is the Peking equivalent of the White House.

Many of the demonstrators said they were people who had come down in the world, victims of "unjust" decisions taken by the now discredited "Gang of Four" radical leaders or their followers.

Some of them said they were former urban workers sent to the countryside at the start of the "black years," times of serious economic difficulties early in the 1960s. Numbering about 1,000, from every region in China, they came to Peking in a bid to get back their old jobs in the cities.