I know, the money cat (Maneki Neko) actually derives from Japanese origins. But it’s so commonplace in China, as well, you see one in just about every restaurant or shop. While the cat does come as a solid figurine, it’s more popular to get one with a motorized arm that waves forward and backward.
For the longest time, I thought the cat was knocking. When I finally asked someone about it, they beamed, “Give me money!” In many Asian cultures, the “come here” gesture is done with the palm facing outward (the opposite of what we would do). So the cat isn’t knocking or waving; it’s saying, “Come here and spend money.”
I bought this particular cat from the silk market in Beijing. The vendor was a young girl who seemed almost reluctant to sell it, like she didn’t want to part with it. Maybe it was all business tact, but if I asked about the cat, I was received with a lot of, “Uh…” instead of the usual, “Cheaper, cheaper!” When we finally agreed on a price, she gave the cat a hug and a kiss before putting it away in a bag. I bet she cries about that cat every night.