Lugu Lake, the Mosuo tribe, a Chinese minority into a Matriarchal Society
Meeting with the Mosuo Tribe during my trip to Yunnan where I discovered a beautiful lanscape with the Lugu lake.
Mosuo women have traditionally controlled all the features of community life normally controlled by men: money, farming and religious ceremonies. Society is organized into matriarchal clans that take care of children collectively like in an Israeli kibbutzim.
In traditional Mosuo matriarchal societies property and names are passed down from mother to daughter and disputes are settled by female elders. If the Mosuo word for female is added to a word it makes it stronger. If the word for male is added it weakens the word. The word for "stone" plus "female" equal boulder while "stone" plus "male" equals pebble.
One Mosuo song says:
“There are so many skillful people,
but none can compare with my mother.
There are so many knowledgeable people,
but none can equal with my mother.
There are so many people skilled in song and dance,
but none can compete with my mother”.
The women do most everything. They raise the crops, fish, take care of the children, earn money. Help is provided by matrilineal kin. At night women gather around a fire and are assigned tasks for the next day by the senior woman in the village.
Men are responsible for some heavy tasks such as plowing, clearing land, herding horses and hauling fish nets and occasionally helped out at stores and guest houses owned by the women. Mostly the sit around, play pool and watch the children. "The men here do nothing," a 24-year-old Mosuo woman told the Los Angeles Times. "Really we don't like them."
Mosuo have traditionally rarely taken husbands. A typical family consist of a mother, grandmother, sister, younger brother, older brother and sister’s son. The ideal household consist of a senior woman, her brothers, her younger sisters, her children, her sisters’s children and her sisters daughter’s children.
Up until the 20th century marriage didn't even exist in Mosuo culture. Women took lovers when it pleased them and often children had no idea who their fathers were. According to a custom known as the azhu (or friend) system, Mosuo women lived on their own and their the lovers were allowed to spend the night but not live with them. Any children who were born belonged to the woman who gave birth to them and she was responsible for their upbringing. No effort was made to find out who the father was and if the father was identified he was responsible for taking care of the his child only as long as his relationship with the child's mother lasted.
Sexual relations took place in accordance with a custom variously known as sisi ("walking back and forth"), zoy hun ("walking marriage"), or azhu humyin ("friend marriage") in which men live at home with their mothers and visit the homes of their partners after dark and leave before dawn. Traditionally, the man kept up allegiance to his mother not his lover and was responsibilities. upbringing of his sister's children, not his own.