Mienshao seems to be based on an ermine and also seems to have drawn inspiration from whip fighting as well as a variety of martial arts, such as Shaolin Kung Fu. The fur on its arms also resemble the shuixiu (水袖) or "water sleeves", which are long, white, flowing sleeves used by performers of Chinese operas to express the emotions of their character.
Mienshao, according to Bulbapedia, is based on an ermine, not a ferret. However, on the Wikipedia page linked in the Bulbapedia article, it states that ermines belong to the Mustelidae family, which includes ferrets, along with weasels. The Bulbapedia page also states that the literal translation for Mienshao's Mandarin Chinese name is "master weasel", and, on Mienfoo's page, it states that its name in the same language literally translates to "Kung-Fu weasel".