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What Does The Waving Cat Mean At Chinese or Japanese Restaurants - The Lucky Fortune Cat

Updated on June 9, 2016

Welcome to my hub page on Maneki Neko or the "Beckoning Cat" translated from Japanese. Have you ever wonder what does the waving cat mean at Chinese, Japanese restaurants or Asian supermarkets and why they are there since they are literally everywhere once you start noticing them. Well only a few months ago i was in the same situation when i was at a friends Chinese restaurant opening and someone gave them a large porcelain "Beckoning Cat" and since then i have been doing some research on their significance and history and this is the amazing story i found about their origins and purpose.

Common Names and Purpose of the Beckoning Cats

The Beckoning Cat is of course considered a lucky charm or talisman among Asian cultures. while originating from Japan this little cute porcelain figurine also became very popular with the Chinese and that is why it is also commonly referred to as the Lucky Chinese Cat, other names include just Luck Cat, Happy Cat, Money Cat, Fortune Cat, Golden Cat and the Welcoming Cat. However Maneki Neko is its genuine name and translates directly to "Beckoning Cat" from Japanese. It is believed that the owner of such a cat will attracted good luck and fortune and therefore made a great gift at my friends Chinese restaurant opening and why it is so often seen in such restaurants, stores and other business however The Maneki Neko are not only found in work places but can be found in homes as well or really where good fortune or positive energy is desired.

Home of the Maneki Neko Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo

Entry of the Gotokuji Temple
Entry of the Gotokuji Temple | Source
Gotokuji Cat Temple with hundreds of  Maneki Neko Luck Cats
Gotokuji Cat Temple with hundreds of Maneki Neko Luck Cats | Source

The Folktails and Lore of the Beckoning Cat

As with most folktails and legends no one really knows how they started and when the first Maneki Neko came to be. With many variations or retelling of the stories pasted down from generation to generation. The Wiki page on Maneki Neko however does a great job at telling a number of versions of it origin story. But the most accepted story is the one described at the Gotokuji Temple near Tokyo where the Beckoning Cat first appeared in the Edo Periods of Japan between the 17th Century and mid 19th Century.

The story goes something like this, one day a nobleman or sometimes a Emperor was taking shelter under a tree near the Gotokuji Temple during a thunderstorm. At the time the temple was only small and not doing so well financially. The nobleman then saw the temple's cat waving and beckon to him to follow him. Suddenly and only moments later the tree that he was sheltering under was struck by lighting. And as a result of the cat saving his life the nobleman became friends with the monks of the temple and became a patron. Because of the cat the temple soon became prosperous and when the cat died a grave and statue of a cute waving cat was made in its honor for people to worship and to remember the cat by. Since then everyone knows the Gotokuji Temple as a symbol of household serenity, business prosperity and fulfillment of wishes. A detailed version of the temple lore can also be found on the Maneki Neko Wiki page and below is a great virtual tour of the temple which is home to thousands of porcelain Beckoning Cat figurines. Note on the back of some of the cat figurines are wishes written by worshipers.

Virtual Tour of the Gotokuji Temple

The Beckoning Rasied Paw And Its Meaning

Now we know a little more about the background of the Beckoning Cat, Did you know that whether it is the left or right paw is raised there is a particular meaning and in some cases both paws so that's why there are variations around. The Left paw raised symbolizes and invites customers and welcomes people and hence its other popular name the "Welcoming Cat". On the other hand a Right raised paw symbolizes the attraction of wealth and good fortune and usually this is the one you will see at Asian restaurants and stores. While both paws raised invites protection of the home or business.

Funny Adorable Real Maneki Neko

Traditional Maneki Neko are modeled after the Calico Japanese Bobtail
Traditional Maneki Neko are modeled after the Calico Japanese Bobtail | Source
Tri-colored Beckoning Cat is consider to be the luckest
Tri-colored Beckoning Cat is consider to be the luckest | Source

The Colour's of a Luck Cat Matters

Like most aspect of the Lucky Cat's every detail has a meaning and none is more important then its colour.

The Calico Traditional Colors: Is the most common style and consists of three color combinations, white with black and orange spots or patches modeled after the Japanese bobtail or tabby cat. The calico style is considered the luckiest of all the Maneki Neko's.

The White: Such as the Maneki Neko from the Gotokuji Temple symbolizes happiness, purity and positive energy.

The Golden: A popular color for business and ones you will mostly likely see near restaurant cash registers symbolizes wealth and prosperity and the reason its often called the Fortune Cat, Money Cat, Luck Cat and Golden Cat.

The Black: Maneki Neko's is meant to ward off evil spirts.

The Red: symbolizes success in love and relationships, old and new.

The Pink: is variation on the red style and is a bringer of love.

The Green: is for good health.

The Blue: for academic success.

Note that the red, pink, green, blue styles are new colours additions and a recent develop of the Maneki Neko trend in modern times.

The Lucky Cat Power's Up Accessories

You may have also noticed with the Maneki Neko you are likely to see in Asian restaurants and Chinatown that they are finely dressed, personified like humans in various situatons and adorned with a number of accessories. These versions of the Maneki Neko are more flamboyance then their simple and traditional counterparts that can be found at the Gotoukiji Temple that only wear a simple red collar and bell. However the basic traditional dress that can be founds on all Maneki Neko includes a collar, bell and a decorative bib, or sometimes either a handkerchief or scarf. This stylisation is meant to reflect the dress of their wealthy owners during the Edo period of Japan. And of course the bell is so the owners can keep a track of their cat.

However frequently Lucky Cat figurines are often seen with accessories or other luck charms and i assume in an attempt to improved its fortune attraction abilities, like a Power up. These items include a gold coin, a hammer, a fish and a jewel. Of course there are also many other symbolic items too and would depend on the circumstance the Maneki Neko is depicting, for example a book might be in the hand of a Luck Cat in order to bring good luck in studying and be dressed as a student. Often notes or wishes are held by the paws too. In this case it could be a grade or graduation certificate.

The most common item however is the gold coin and is called a Koban and worth one Ryo which is a Japanese monetary unit from the Edo period. The coin sometime represents other monetary units too such as ten thousand and one million Ryo and is linking to good fortune and wealthy not surprisingly.

The magic money mallet is also another popular object and looks much like a wooden baby rattle and when shook is meant to attract wealth.

Lucky Tai Fish Festival in Japan

A fish is sometime accompanying the Beckoning Cat too, and is often a carp or Koi. and sometimes the fish is the Lucky Tai Fish another auspicious talisman, also know as the Japanese sea bream or red sea perch and is symbolic of abundance and good fortune. The Tai fish even has its own festival called the Tai Matsuri or Red Sea Bream Festival held each year during July in Toyohama.

And when both the Lucky Tai Fish and Beckoning Cat are together they are said to represent Ebisu, the Fisherman, a member of the Japanese "Seven Deities of Good Fortune." who is the god of fishermen and luck.

Finally a pearl is sometime held by the Maneki Neko and represents wisdom, much the same as in "Pearls of Wisdom".

Trends, Popularity And Other Beckoning Cat Products

Since the popularity of the Maneki Neko spread outside of Japan into China and subsequently seen in nearly all business in Chinatown's around the world, The Beckoning Cat has been mistakenly called The Chinese Luck Cat despite its Japanese history.

In Asia the Maneki Neko is a beloved cultural icon and has even been thought to be the inspiration to the popular Japanese character "Hello Kitty" which share many similarities including its spread from being just a spiritual statue of worship into all manner of merchandise imaginable for examples cloths, jewelry, toys, dinnerware and the list goes on. Not surprisingly as a result of the Japanese's love of anime and adorable things.

The popularity and influence of the Maneki Neko is not only limited to Asian culture but also can be found in the rest of the worlds.

Ted Heath, The UK Prime Minister of the 1970s, was said to have been a collector of Maneki Neko and had several on display in his private apartment at 10 Downing Street.

Science fiction author Bruce Sterling wrote a story, Maneki-neko, in which the cat-paw gesture is the sign of a secret AI-based gift economy.

Maneki Neko character has appeared in a number of video games including Super Mario Brothers, Virtual Boy Wario Land and Skies of Acadia.

Now there you have it a quick introduction to the Beckoning Cats, its history and spirituality meaning. I hope you enjoyed this hub page as much as i have writing it which has been longer then i originally thought would be and there still more to share such as where you should place a Maneki Neko around the house and its array of products, which i will write about in a future hub. But to end this hub here is another funny real Beckoning Cat video i found in my research. Enjoy!


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