First of all, he is Japanese rather than Chinese.
He's made of porcelain and you are right, is quite old. From the way the decoration is done, this figure dates to about 1890 - 1912, a time known in Japan as the late Meiji period. Meiji was a Japanese emperor who reigned from 1868 - 1912.
Although impossible to see for sure, the mark on the bottom is probably a two character ***** *****ke this one:
that reads 九谷 or Kutani which is a region and a style of Japanese porcelain (so not the name of the individual who made it).
Strictly speaking, this figure is called Hotei (or Budai in China) the god of happiness and contentment. He is one of the "The Seven Deities of Good Fortune" - a group of immortals very popular in Japan.
I have always confused this figure with the Buddha, but they are two separate entities. Hotei gets his name from budai, meaning a cloth sack which he is often depicted carrying, and in this case he has draped over his shoulder. The sack contains his few possessions as well as gifts for the children.
He's based on a real individual, an eccentric Chan monk who lived in tenth century Liang dynasty China and who, tradition has it, was bald, rotund and ever smiling. He was also adored by children.
Hotei is always depicted smiling and with a large exposed belly which one is supposed to rub to release the happiness and abundance, which may take the form of children and grandchildren, so be careful what you rub him for!
It is also traditional to place a coin in his mouth to get him to grant you wishes. You may notice his mouth is open and his teeth are arranged in such a was as to hold a coin.
He's often nicknamed the "Laughing Buddha" which only adds to the confusion with the founder of Buddhism which he really has nothing to do with.
The decoration on these figures is particularly noteworthy, where his robe is densely covered in beautiful brocades of raised enamels, all carefully hand painted in a technique known as moriage (pronunced mori-ah-gay) that requires remarkable skill and the steadiest of hand to do.
At 15 inches yours is one of the largest examples of a Kutani Hotei you'll find. They come in many sizes and vintages. They went on making them in this way until World War II.
These older, larger ones are the most sought after, but prices can be all over the place. To give you an idea of the spread, this example, for instance, also 15"
sold at auction for $400.
And this one,
sold for $1650.
Having said that, if you were to sell at a good antique auction house yours should fetch in the range of $1250 - $1750.
He therefore has a full retail value of $3,500 (if you saw him for sale in an antique store, say) which is also the replacement value for insurance purposes.
So I would go and find the dealer who mentioned the price of $10,000 and take him up on his offer as fast as you can!
I do hope this helps!
Please let me know if you need me to explain or expand on any of the above, I would be glad to.