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History of the Chinese cat of luck – Maneki Neko

Surely we have all seen the Maneki Neko, literally translated as the lucky cat, it is not necessary to go to its origins in China or Japan to see it, right here, in many oriental establishments we can see them located near the cash register of the premises. But not only that, many are also adopting it for decorating their own homes.

Well, in this article we are going to offer you more information about the story of the Chinese cat of luck, Maneki Neko that you must know to be more aware of its meaning and the purpose of its possession. Does your leg move incessantly by some demonic pact or does it carry batteries? What does it mean to be golden? Keep reading to discover it.

What is its origin, Chinese or Japanese?

This is a point that supposes a strong dispute between both traditions, the Chinese and the Japanese, that dispute the authorship of their origin. However, we can affirm that although the Chinese could also justify that it comes from its ancestral culture and we know it as “Chinese lucky cat” the real lucky cat has its origin in Japan. In fact Maneki Neko in Japanese means Lucky cat o Cat that attracts, in China it would be known as Zhaocai Mao.

It is usually associated with Chinese culture by a traditional Chinese proverb that reads as follows: “When a cat rubs his face up to his ears, it means it’s going to rain.”

There are two traditional Japanese folk tales that tell the story of Maneki Neko’s origin:

    In the first one we are told the story of a man of money who caught the storm and took refuge under a tree that was right next to a temple. It was then when at the door of the temple he saw what it looked like a cat calling him with his paw, inviting him to enter the temple, so he did following the advice of the feline.

Upon leaving the tree, lightning fell from the sky splitting the strong wood in half. The man, interpreting that the cat had saved his life, became a benefactor of that temple bringing great prosperity. When the cat died, the man ordered that a statue be made to him that would be known after the passing of the years as Maneki Neko.

The other tells a slightly more sinister story. One in which a geisha had a cat that was her most precious treasure. When going to dress one day with his kimono the cat was launched nailing the nails on the cloth. Seeing this, the owner of the geisha thought that the cat was possessed and attacked the girl and with a quick movement she drew her sword and cut off the cat’s head. The head fell on a snake that was about to attack the geisha and saved the life of the girl.

She was so hurt and disturbed to lose her cat, her savior, that one of her customers, distressed, gave her a statue of the cat to try to comfort her.

So it’s funny that we call it the story of the lucky Chinese cat, right?

Symbolism of Maneki Neko

At present, Maneki Neko figures are used by both Orientals and Westerners to attract fortune and good luck, both to homes and businesses. You may see different models of lucky cat, so depending on the leg they have raised will have one or another meaning:

  • To attract money and fortune, those who have the right leg raised.
  • To attract good visitors and guests, those who have the left leg raised.
  • In rare cases you will see them with both legs raised, they are looking to bring protection to the place where they are.

The color also represents an important nuance in the Maneki Neko’s symbolism, although we are used to seeing them in gold or white, there are many other colors:

  • The gold or silver are those used to seek to bring wealth to a business.
  • The white lucky cat with orange and black details is the traditional and original, which is placed to offer luck to travelers on their way. In addition it also attracts good things for its possessor.
  • The red one seeks to attract love and drive away evil spirits.
  • The green seeks that the nearest people enjoy health.
  • Yellow serves to improve your personal economy.
  • The one that will help you fulfill all your dreams is the blue one.
  • Black is a shield against bad luck.
  • Rosa will be the one to help you find the right partner for you.

Apparently we’re going to have to get a legion of Chinese lucky cats of all colors to enjoy all the benefits and protections they offer.

In addition to colors, these cats can carry objects or accessories, and depending on what they carry their meaning will also vary slightly. For example, if you see them with a golden mallet in the claw, it is a money mallet, and what they do when they shake it is to try to attract it. With a Koban (coin of Japanese luck) seeks to attract even more good luck. If you bite a tent what you want is to attract abundance and good luck.

Fun facts

It is very common that in China or Japan the cats are at home through streets and shops, it is a very appreciated animal, maybe because of this tradition. If the plastic or metal work, what can not get a real one?

It also assumes a widespread belief in the East, to think that cats are able to see some “things” that people can not even imagine. That is why many have cats, because they have the firm conviction that they are capable of seeing and chasing away evil spirits. I illustrate it with another legend.

“They say that a demon came to take the soul of a person, but this one had a cat, who saw the devil who asked about his intentions. The cat did not object to taking the soul of the human who lived in his home, however, to let the demon go, he challenged him to tell each and every one of the hairs of his tail.

Neither short nor lazy, he began to tell but when he was close to finish the cat shook his tail. The demon got angry but started again with the first hair, although again the cat shook its tail again. After several attempts he gave up and left, so the cat wanted or not saved the soul of his master. “


To finish, you have to know that the maneuver movement of Maneki Neko’s leg is not about saying goodbye, but about welcome you and invite you to spend.

If you want to read more articles similar to History of the Chinese cat of luck – Maneki Neko, we recommend that you enter in our Curiosities section of the animal world.

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