Maneki Neko · Beckoning Cat

招き猫 · [ maneki neko ]

The origin of Maneki Neko lies in Japan, not in China as most Western people suppose. However it is extraordinary popular in both countries. Maneki Neko literally translates with „beckoning cat“ but is also known under “welcoming cat”, “lucky cat” or “money cat”. The cat usually wears a red ribbon with bell around its neck and holds a Japanese coin with the inscription: 千万両, meaning “ten million ryō” (an extraordinary sum of money).

The Maneki Neko figurine is traditionally made of porcelain or ceramics, in many different colors, shapes and sizes. The most common color is white with black-brown spots. The beckoning cat is often placed in restaurants and shop windows. Raising the left paw brings in customers, while a right paw brings good luck and wealth – sometimes you even see cats with both paws high in the air …

There are many different legends about the origin of the beckoning cat. In the most known story a wealthy feudal lord was taking shelter under a tree near Gōtoku-ji temple during a thunderstorm. He saw a temple priest’s cat beckoning to him and followed; a moment later the tree was struck by lightning. The wealthy man became friends with the poor priest and the temple became prosperous. When the cat died, supposedly the first Maneki Neko was made in his honor and became a luck symbol.


> Usage of the symbol

You can meet beckoning cats in almost every Chinese shop, restaurant or office all over the world. They’re supposed to attract luck and business success. That’s exactly what this popular symbol can do for you too. It makes no difference, whether you use a real Maneki figurine or a picture – the symbol counts, not the form. Best place to put it is the entrance area of your flat or in the shop-window if you run an own shop. 

For an overview of specific cats, related hybrid creatures and mythological figures see:


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