The shop cats of China get a starring role in new book

In Marcel Heijnen’s photographs of shopkeepers and their feline companions, the viewer is given a colourful insight into China’s busy retail life

While dogs often get the gig, cats, with their majestic and stoic air, seem to be the more natural choice for the role of guardian.

This is what Marcel Heijnen’s photographs demonstrate, as he has captured China’s shop cats who act as emperors over these small retail kingdoms, keeping rodents at bay and luring customers inside. 

All images: © Marcel Heijnen

Published by Thames and Hudson, Shop Cats of China is a companion to the book Shop Cats of Hong Kong, also by Heijnen. This edition showcases an array of shopkeepers and their feline companions, who are thought to bring good luck to their shops.

Heijnen is a Dutch photographer and designer who has lived in Asia for nearly three decades, and his images take the viewer from one shop to the next across the provinces of China.

Here, traditional retail and street life merge, providing a snapshot into Chinese culture. The focus is of course the cats, who blend in seamlessly into their surroundings, but it’s also a fascinating insight into the different ways shopkeepers organise and present their wares to customers ranging from fruits and vegetables to textiles, tea, and ornaments. 

To accompany Heijnen’s images there are a series of haiku and stories by author Ian Row, which “invite you into the cats’ innermost thoughts” and shop life. Capturing the playful charms of these shop-bound kitties, the book is a charming and warm tribute to retail life in China.

Shop Cats of China by Marcel Heijnen is published by Thames & Hudson on 26 August; marcelheijnen.com

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes