Visit a world where everything is different. A world with a unique and fascinating culture where women have the power. Visiting the ethnic minority group the Mosuo will make your China travel very special. Explore the lifestyle of the Mosuo and get a unique cultural experience.

In recent years the Mosuo culture has attracted a lot of interest especially because of their special lifestyle where women take over the main role in the family. The Mosuo have a population of 40’000 people and live high in the Himalayas in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces close to the Tibetan border in small towns and villages. They are said to belong to the Naxi minority group but actually they are an own group with a different language, culture and religion. The Mosuo practice their own religion called “Daba” in which they also integrated Tibetan Buddhism.

It is not much known about the origins of the Mosuo culture as the Mosuo don’t have a written language. Therefore there history has passed down orally from generation to generation and consists of a lot of hypotheses. Some consider the Mosuo to be native to the Yunnan and Sichuan area and others trace their origins back to Mongolia.

The economy of the Mosuo is mainly agrarian. They are capable of producing most of their daily needs by themselves. The main part of the work on the fields and in the households is done by women, who in the Mosuo culture have a high status. A woman is always the head, called”Ah mi”, of the household and therefore has the absolute power. The Ah mi manages the money and jobs of each family member and decides the fate of all those living under her roof. But the Mosuo men have important roles too. They are in charge of livestock and fishing and they deal with the slaughter of livestock. Also a funeral is the domain of men as they make all funeral arrangements. Moreover it is the only time men prepare food for family and guests. Usually every family in the village will send at least one male to help with the preparations.

The living-together of the Mosuo is the most famous aspect of their culture as they practice so called “walking marriages”. The Mosuo live in a large family with many generations together in the same house. Everyone live in communal quarters without private bedrooms. Only women who are old enough to invite male visitors will get their own room. When a woman is interested in a man she will invite him to come and spend the night with her. Such a pairing is kept in secret. Therefore the man will come late at night and leave early the next morning. It is possible for a woman to change partners as often she likes but few Mosuo women will have more than one partner at a time and some of these pairings will last for a lifetime. If long-term or not, the man will never go to live with the woman’s family. Each stays at his/her family and remains a member to that family. If a child is born it automatically belongs to the family of the women. The whole family will raise and educate the child and the uncle’s will take over the father role.

This system is very different from other systems but it has been proved that this family structure is extremely stable. Divorces, splitting of property and child custody questions never come up. Also there is no preference for a specific gender as everyone stays in his family.

However, recently the Mosuo society is changing quickly. With better roads and transportation and Television, young Mosuo got access to the outside world. More and more men and women leave their villages and find employment in neighboring cities. Also tourism affects daily life of the Mosuo. Lot of tourists come to the Lugu Lake to experience the Mosuo culture. This brings the Mosuo an additional income but also brings the trend of a western lifestyle also in terms of marriage. Until now it is still unclear how far this trend will go and if it will affect the traditional values of the Mosuo.

This culture is still fascination and definitely worth to explore. There visit the Lugu Lake and get a very special cultural experience!

Jack Li

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