The Kingdom Of Women

Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains

In a mist-shrouded valley on China’s invisible border with Tibet is a place known as the ‘Kingdom of Women’, where a small tribe called the Mosuo lives in a cluster of villages that have changed little in centuries. This is one of the last matrilineal and matriarchal societies on earth, where power lies in the hands of women. All decisions and rights related to money, property, land and the children born to them rest with the Mosuo women, who live completely independently of husbands and fathers, with the grandmother as the head of each family. A unique practice is also enshrined in Mosuo tradition – that of ‘walking marriage’, where women choose their own lovers from men within the tribe but are beholden to none.

Choo WaiHong

About The Author

Choo WaiHong, a corporate lawyer who yearned for escape and ended up living with the Mosuo for six years – the only non-Mosuo to have ever done so. She tells the remarkable story of her time in the remote mountains of China and gives a vibrant, compelling glimpse into a way of life that teeters on the knife-edge of extinction.

A fascinating portrait of one of the world’s last matriarchal societies, a land without fathers or husbands, without marriage or divorce, written by an international corporate lawyer who ditched her hectic life to embrace this Shangri-La inside deepest China.

Jan Wong, author of Beijing Confidential

A crisp account by a high-powered Singaporean lawyer of how she renounced her former life of fifteen-hour working days in a male-dominated corporate world to find her feminist soul in the last matriarchal ethnic group remaining in China. Full of insights and touching descriptions, this is one of the most accessible and concrete descriptions of the Mosuo, a group more analysed than understood, putting the humanity of this tribe at the forefront of their identity.

Kerry Brown, author of CEO China and The New Emperors

A most engaging account of life among the matrilineal and matriarchal Mosuo tribe in China’s Yunnan province, but also a lament to a way of life now threatened by modernity and tourism.

Jonathan Fryer, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

A refreshing and authentic portrait of a hidden society in patriarchal China.

Hsiao-Hung Pai, author of Scattered Sand
The Kingdom Of Women Book Cover

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Article in Her World

http://www.herworldplus.com/woman-lawyer-turned-author-matriarchal-tribe-china-mosuo

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This is a picture gallery to accompany the reading of the book. A click on a chapter of the book will take you into the intriguing matrilineal and matriarchal world of ‘The Kingdom of Women’, as told in the pictures collected over the years by the author.


chapter 1

Arriving In The Kingdom Of Women

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The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

The drive (to the Kingdom of Women) was scenic although arduous as we wound our way up and down the mountainous route. This was pine-studded countryside with spectacular vistas of snowy mountain peaks and small valleys…

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

That first sight of Lugu Lake, no matter how many return trips I make, never fails to take my breath away.

Squinting my eyes, I focused on the massif taking on the shape of a human-like figure, the outline of which looked just like a reclining woman in profile…

Squinting my eyes, I focused on the massif taking on the shape of a human-like figure, the outline of which looked just like a reclining woman in profile…

Squinting my eyes, I focused on the massif taking on the shape of a human-like figure, the outline of which looked just like a reclining woman in profile…

Squinting my eyes, I focused on the massif taking on the shape of a human-like figure, the outline of which looked just like a reclining woman in profile…

This unique female demiurge would be the object of special worship by the Mosuo tribe at the Gemu Mountain Goddess Festival…

This unique female demiurge would be the object of special worship by the Mosuo tribe at the Gemu Mountain Goddess Festival…

This unique female demiurge would be the object of special worship by the Mosuo tribe at the Gemu Mountain Goddess Festival…

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

To us Mosuos, the coming of age at 13 years is the biggest day of our lives. We call it the ‘Becoming an Adult Celebration.’

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chapter 2

Building a Mosuo Home

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On and on the troopers for the day slaved though the morning until the entire framework of the house was all notched up, without one single mail being used. The whole Lego set was finally complete.

On and on the troopers for the day slaved though the morning until the entire framework of the house was all notched up, without one single mail being used. The whole Lego set was finally complete.

On and on the troopers for the day slaved though the morning until the entire framework of the house was all notched up, without one single mail being used. The whole Lego set was finally complete.

On and on the troopers for the day slaved though the morning until the entire framework of the house was all notched up, without one single mail being used. The whole Lego set was finally complete.

On and on the troopers for the day slaved though the morning until the entire framework of the house was all notched up, without one single mail being used. The whole Lego set was finally complete.

The grandmother’s room…is the heart of a Mosuo home…designed to house a stone hearth in the centre.

For a finishing touch, every square centimeter on the carved woodwork installed inside and outside the entire house was brilliantly painted in red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and every shade in between.

For a finishing touch, every square centimeter on the carved woodwork installed inside and outside the entire house was brilliantly painted in red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and every shade in between.

For a finishing touch, every square centimeter on the carved woodwork installed inside and outside the entire house was brilliantly painted in red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and every shade in between.

For a finishing touch, every square centimeter on the carved woodwork installed inside and outside the entire house was brilliantly painted in red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and every shade in between.

For a finishing touch, every square centimeter on the carved woodwork installed inside and outside the entire house was brilliantly painted in red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and every shade in between.

For a finishing touch, every square centimeter on the carved woodwork installed inside and outside the entire house was brilliantly painted in red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and every shade in between.

For a finishing touch, every square centimeter on the carved woodwork installed inside and outside the entire house was brilliantly painted in red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and every shade in between.

A small circle of pine-forested hills ringed the tranquil Moon Lake, so called because of its crescent shape. To its left the grand old Gemu Mountain seemed to be smiling down on me.

A small circle of pine-forested hills ringed the tranquil Moon Lake, so called because of its crescent shape. To its left the grand old Gemu Mountain seemed to be smiling down on me.

A small circle of pine-forested hills ringed the tranquil Moon Lake, so called because of its crescent shape. To its left the grand old Gemu Mountain seemed to be smiling down on me.

I could at last settle in to what would become the spiritual home for my feminist soul.

I could at last settle in to what would become the spiritual home for my feminist soul.

I could at last settle in to what would become the spiritual home for my feminist soul.

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chapter 3

Going Native

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Back home in Lugu Lake, I showed off my new riding skills by arriving on horseback at the Gemu Goddess Festival that summer.

Back home in Lugu Lake, I showed off my new riding skills by arriving on horseback at the Gemu Goddess Festival that summer.

Back home in Lugu Lake, I showed off my new riding skills by arriving on horseback at the Gemu Goddess Festival that summer.

Back home in Lugu Lake, I showed off my new riding skills by arriving on horseback at the Gemu Goddess Festival that summer.

Back home in Lugu Lake, I showed off my new riding skills by arriving on horseback at the Gemu Goddess Festival that summer.

Back home in Lugu Lake, I showed off my new riding skills by arriving on horseback at the Gemu Goddess Festival that summer.

If you drive a green car like this, no traffic police will stop you. And everyone else on the road will give way to you, thinking you are a VIP!

If you drive a green car like this, no traffic police will stop you. And everyone else on the road will give way to you, thinking you are a VIP!

If you drive a green car like this, no traffic police will stop you. And everyone else on the road will give way to you, thinking you are a VIP!

If you drive a green car like this, no traffic police will stop you. And everyone else on the road will give way to you, thinking you are a VIP!

In many ways I really believe I am accepted because I am a woman welcomed into a woman’s world.

In many ways I really believe I am accepted because I am a woman welcomed into a woman’s world.

In many ways I really believe I am accepted because I am a woman welcomed into a woman’s world.

In many ways I really believe I am accepted because I am a woman welcomed into a woman’s world.

In many ways I really believe I am accepted because I am a woman welcomed into a woman’s world.

In many ways I really believe I am accepted because I am a woman welcomed into a woman’s world.

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chapter 4

Getting to Know the Mosuos

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It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

It boils down to the special place created for women in Mosuo society. Understanding that the wellspring of new life resides in women, this society believes in the sanctity of women as representing life and light.

Upholding life and light means a distancing away from death, whether it is taking the life of an animal or handling a corpse directly or indirectly. To keep this taboo sacrosanct, a Mosuo woman does not, and must not, have anything to do with touching or preparing a dead body for its funeral. The men have to perform this unsavoury task.

Upholding life and light means a distancing away from death, whether it is taking the life of an animal or handling a corpse directly or indirectly. To keep this taboo sacrosanct, a Mosuo woman does not, and must not, have anything to do with touching or preparing a dead body for its funeral. The men have to perform this unsavoury task.

Upholding life and light means a distancing away from death, whether it is taking the life of an animal or handling a corpse directly or indirectly. To keep this taboo sacrosanct, a Mosuo woman does not, and must not, have anything to do with touching or preparing a dead body for its funeral. The men have to perform this unsavoury task.

A Mosuo family simply consists of everyone related directly to the maternal bloodline of the central figure of a woman, the grandmother, based on the inviolate principle that she traces her bloodline up through her female ancestral side and down maternally via her daughters and sons, and the daughters and sons born only of her daughters.

A Mosuo family simply consists of everyone related directly to the maternal bloodline of the central figure of a woman, the grandmother, based on the inviolate principle that she traces her bloodline up through her female ancestral side and down maternally via her daughters and sons, and the daughters and sons born only of her daughters.

A Mosuo family simply consists of everyone related directly to the maternal bloodline of the central figure of a woman, the grandmother, based on the inviolate principle that she traces her bloodline up through her female ancestral side and down maternally via her daughters and sons, and the daughters and sons born only of her daughters.

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chapter 5

Becoming the Godmother

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Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

Gumi, the mother of my two godchildren, is the youngest in a family of eight sisters and brothers born to A Ma… “Through the years, I got to know A Ma and some of Gumi’s siblings and their children really well, close enough to be considered part of that big family.”

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

To this day, I continue to carry the Gemu event. If I am lucky to have supportive friends from Singapore or Beijing join me at the festival, I impose a small goddess tax on them to help finance the event.

I would like to believe that my undertakings as a godmother and a friend of the Mosuo have by now qualified me as an insider.

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chapter 6

Hunting and Eating in Bygone Times

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Every year around late autumn, the Mosuos celebrate the pig in all its glory in a frenzied post-harvest festival. It is not really a festival where everyone comes together to hold a community event, but a time when each homestead holds its own fete, killing and preserving pig meat from sows fattened on the farm.

Every year around late autumn, the Mosuos celebrate the pig in all its glory in a frenzied post-harvest festival. It is not really a festival where everyone comes together to hold a community event, but a time when each homestead holds its own fete, killing and preserving pig meat from sows fattened on the farm.

Every year around late autumn, the Mosuos celebrate the pig in all its glory in a frenzied post-harvest festival. It is not really a festival where everyone comes together to hold a community event, but a time when each homestead holds its own fete, killing and preserving pig meat from sows fattened on the farm.

Every year around late autumn, the Mosuos celebrate the pig in all its glory in a frenzied post-harvest festival. It is not really a festival where everyone comes together to hold a community event, but a time when each homestead holds its own fete, killing and preserving pig meat from sows fattened on the farm.

Every year around late autumn, the Mosuos celebrate the pig in all its glory in a frenzied post-harvest festival. It is not really a festival where everyone comes together to hold a community event, but a time when each homestead holds its own fete, killing and preserving pig meat from sows fattened on the farm.

Every year around late autumn, the Mosuos celebrate the pig in all its glory in a frenzied post-harvest festival. It is not really a festival where everyone comes together to hold a community event, but a time when each homestead holds its own fete, killing and preserving pig meat from sows fattened on the farm.

Every year around late autumn, the Mosuos celebrate the pig in all its glory in a frenzied post-harvest festival. It is not really a festival where everyone comes together to hold a community event, but a time when each homestead holds its own fete, killing and preserving pig meat from sows fattened on the farm.

Every year around late autumn, the Mosuos celebrate the pig in all its glory in a frenzied post-harvest festival. It is not really a festival where everyone comes together to hold a community event, but a time when each homestead holds its own fete, killing and preserving pig meat from sows fattened on the farm.

In the meat-based diet of the Mosuos, there is one treat that is considered by far the best, to be savoured only on special occasions. The treasure is called zhubiaorou, a kind of pork fat preserved inside an entire pig. It is the lardo of a whole pig carcass…

In the meat-based diet of the Mosuos, there is one treat that is considered by far the best, to be savoured only on special occasions. The treasure is called zhubiaorou, a kind of pork fat preserved inside an entire pig. It is the lardo of a whole pig carcass…

In the meat-based diet of the Mosuos, there is one treat that is considered by far the best, to be savoured only on special occasions. The treasure is called zhubiaorou, a kind of pork fat preserved inside an entire pig. It is the lardo of a whole pig carcass…

In the meat-based diet of the Mosuos, there is one treat that is considered by far the best, to be savoured only on special occasions. The treasure is called zhubiaorou, a kind of pork fat preserved inside an entire pig. It is the lardo of a whole pig carcass…

In the meat-based diet of the Mosuos, there is one treat that is considered by far the best, to be savoured only on special occasions. The treasure is called zhubiaorou, a kind of pork fat preserved inside an entire pig. It is the lardo of a whole pig carcass…

In the meat-based diet of the Mosuos, there is one treat that is considered by far the best, to be savoured only on special occasions. The treasure is called zhubiaorou, a kind of pork fat preserved inside an entire pig. It is the lardo of a whole pig carcass…

Everyone I know goes looking for one kind or another of the more than 30 varieties of edible mushrooms in these Yunnan hills.

Everyone I know goes looking for one kind or another of the more than 30 varieties of edible mushrooms in these Yunnan hills.

Everyone I know goes looking for one kind or another of the more than 30 varieties of edible mushrooms in these Yunnan hills.

The Mosuo version of grace: “Let the horsemen have a safe trip. While they are on the road, let them not step on thorns or cross a snake’s path. Protect our family. Let peace prevail. Let our family be strong generation after generation. Let the arrows we shoot in our lives find their targets.”

The Mosuo version of grace: “Let the horsemen have a safe trip. While they are on the road, let them not step on thorns or cross a snake’s path. Protect our family. Let peace prevail. Let our family be strong generation after generation. Let the arrows we shoot in our lives find their targets.”

The Mosuo version of grace: “Let the horsemen have a safe trip. While they are on the road, let them not step on thorns or cross a snake’s path. Protect our family. Let peace prevail. Let our family be strong generation after generation. Let the arrows we shoot in our lives find their targets.”

The Mosuo version of grace: “Let the horsemen have a safe trip. While they are on the road, let them not step on thorns or cross a snake’s path. Protect our family. Let peace prevail. Let our family be strong generation after generation. Let the arrows we shoot in our lives find their targets.”

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chapter 7

How the Mosuo Women Rock

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The Mosuo woman positively rocks with confidence. It is not an aggressive confidence but a self-assurance that comes from deep within.

The Mosuo woman positively rocks with confidence. It is not an aggressive confidence but a self-assurance that comes from deep within.

The Mosuo woman positively rocks with confidence. It is not an aggressive confidence but a self-assurance that comes from deep within.

The Mosuo woman positively rocks with confidence. It is not an aggressive confidence but a self-assurance that comes from deep within.

The Mosuo woman positively rocks with confidence. It is not an aggressive confidence but a self-assurance that comes from deep within.

In fact it is much more than a lifestyle choice that the Mosuo woman, like the Mosuo man, is fundamentally free in her society to choose an axia (lover), or any number of them, through the course of her life.

In fact it is much more than a lifestyle choice that the Mosuo woman, like the Mosuo man, is fundamentally free in her society to choose an axia (lover), or any number of them, through the course of her life.

And true to their unique perspective on their love life, their Goddess is imbued with a spirited enjoyment of her men friends…I love the Gemu story, down to her playful ways with the mountain gods. So do the Mosuos, who see Gemu as the inspiration to romance and love, and use it to justify their multi-partner code of love.

And true to their unique perspective on their love life, their Goddess is imbued with a spirited enjoyment of her men friends…I love the Gemu story, down to her playful ways with the mountain gods. So do the Mosuos, who see Gemu as the inspiration to romance and love, and use it to justify their multi-partner code of love.

And true to their unique perspective on their love life, their Goddess is imbued with a spirited enjoyment of her men friends…I love the Gemu story, down to her playful ways with the mountain gods. So do the Mosuos, who see Gemu as the inspiration to romance and love, and use it to justify their multi-partner code of love.

And true to their unique perspective on their love life, their Goddess is imbued with a spirited enjoyment of her men friends…I love the Gemu story, down to her playful ways with the mountain gods. So do the Mosuos, who see Gemu as the inspiration to romance and love, and use it to justify their multi-partner code of love.

And true to their unique perspective on their love life, their Goddess is imbued with a spirited enjoyment of her men friends…I love the Gemu story, down to her playful ways with the mountain gods. So do the Mosuos, who see Gemu as the inspiration to romance and love, and use it to justify their multi-partner code of love.

And true to their unique perspective on their love life, their Goddess is imbued with a spirited enjoyment of her men friends…I love the Gemu story, down to her playful ways with the mountain gods. So do the Mosuos, who see Gemu as the inspiration to romance and love, and use it to justify their multi-partner code of love.

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chapter 8

The Men Rock Too

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By far the most fun and pivotal role a man plays in the tableau of Mosuo life is to take the part of the ‘stud’ in the life cycle of the Mosuo family…To this end, a Mosuo man trains and auditions for the part.

By far the most fun and pivotal role a man plays in the tableau of Mosuo life is to take the part of the ‘stud’ in the life cycle of the Mosuo family…To this end, a Mosuo man trains and auditions for the part.

By far the most fun and pivotal role a man plays in the tableau of Mosuo life is to take the part of the ‘stud’ in the life cycle of the Mosuo family…To this end, a Mosuo man trains and auditions for the part.

By far the most fun and pivotal role a man plays in the tableau of Mosuo life is to take the part of the ‘stud’ in the life cycle of the Mosuo family…To this end, a Mosuo man trains and auditions for the part.

I am certain that every Mosuo man rehearses his act before stepping out of the door. How else can I explain the commonplace phenomenon of him literally striking an eye-catching pose in public or making a move with a studied manly ‘cool’ whenever he is in female company. It is obvious that he has honed his craft over the years to bring his peacock act to perfection.

I am certain that every Mosuo man rehearses his act before stepping out of the door. How else can I explain the commonplace phenomenon of him literally striking an eye-catching pose in public or making a move with a studied manly ‘cool’ whenever he is in female company. It is obvious that he has honed his craft over the years to bring his peacock act to perfection.

I am certain that every Mosuo man rehearses his act before stepping out of the door. How else can I explain the commonplace phenomenon of him literally striking an eye-catching pose in public or making a move with a studied manly ‘cool’ whenever he is in female company. It is obvious that he has honed his craft over the years to bring his peacock act to perfection.

I am certain that every Mosuo man rehearses his act before stepping out of the door. How else can I explain the commonplace phenomenon of him literally striking an eye-catching pose in public or making a move with a studied manly ‘cool’ whenever he is in female company. It is obvious that he has honed his craft over the years to bring his peacock act to perfection.

The name of the game for the Mosuo man is to use every opportunity to catch the attention of a woman as a peacock would his potential mate.

The name of the game for the Mosuo man is to use every opportunity to catch the attention of a woman as a peacock would his potential mate.

The name of the game for the Mosuo man is to use every opportunity to catch the attention of a woman as a peacock would his potential mate.

The name of the game for the Mosuo man is to use every opportunity to catch the attention of a woman as a peacock would his potential mate.

The prime example of the proud peacock is the modern-day Lugu Lake legend widely acknowledged as the ‘Mosuo Prince of Walking Marriage’…The famous, and some say infamous, Don Juan of Don Juans is none other than the uncle of my godchildren and the architect-cum-builder of my house, Zhaxi.

The prime example of the proud peacock is the modern-day Lugu Lake legend widely acknowledged as the ‘Mosuo Prince of Walking Marriage’…The famous, and some say infamous, Don Juan of Don Juans is none other than the uncle of my godchildren and the architect-cum-builder of my house, Zhaxi.

The prime example of the proud peacock is the modern-day Lugu Lake legend widely acknowledged as the ‘Mosuo Prince of Walking Marriage’…The famous, and some say infamous, Don Juan of Don Juans is none other than the uncle of my godchildren and the architect-cum-builder of my house, Zhaxi.

The prime example of the proud peacock is the modern-day Lugu Lake legend widely acknowledged as the ‘Mosuo Prince of Walking Marriage’…The famous, and some say infamous, Don Juan of Don Juans is none other than the uncle of my godchildren and the architect-cum-builder of my house, Zhaxi.

If the women are confident in their special place in matrilineal Mosuo society, the men too are confident in the role of playing the Romeo in this fun-seeking community. They are confident, knowing their place in society, embracing their masculinity like their unspoken mascot, the peacock.

If the women are confident in their special place in matrilineal Mosuo society, the men too are confident in the role of playing the Romeo in this fun-seeking community. They are confident, knowing their place in society, embracing their masculinity like their unspoken mascot, the peacock.

If the women are confident in their special place in matrilineal Mosuo society, the men too are confident in the role of playing the Romeo in this fun-seeking community. They are confident, knowing their place in society, embracing their masculinity like their unspoken mascot, the peacock.

If the women are confident in their special place in matrilineal Mosuo society, the men too are confident in the role of playing the Romeo in this fun-seeking community. They are confident, knowing their place in society, embracing their masculinity like their unspoken mascot, the peacock.

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chapter 9

A Marriage That Is Not a Marriage

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As a love story, walking marriage is unique and so different from marriage in patriarchal terms that it is impossible to make any direct comparison between the two.

As far as I am aware, nowhere else in the world is there a society that exists without marriage. In the traditional marriage-less world of the Mosuo, a woman and a man never form a nuclear family with the aim of creating a separate unit consisting of themselves and their children. In their parallel universe, the ‘nuclear’ family is a separate unit consisting of the grandmother and her children and all her matrilineal descendants. Axias (lovers), who may be husbands or wives in out universe, need not apply for membership in this family.

..in the flower chamber of each woman…A Mosuo has a menu of choices on how to lead her or his love life. A person is free to choose to have an axia furtively, openly, adopted into the family, or as couple, with or without a marriage certificate. Additionally, such choice is not necessarily an once-in-a-lifetime option. The choice is open, any time, many times, serially, contemporaneously, at any stage of one’s life. To be exercised at will, and the permutations of the choices can be limitless. No one is criticized for whatever variation…she or he chooses.

What comes across as a total surprise is that the freedom to chose (a mate) is available to both women and men. Equally.

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chapter 10

The Matrilineal Ties That Bind

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Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

Whenever I walk into a Mosuo home, I can immediately sense the feminist vibes, to use a modern-day term.

The woman’s role is primary…taking charge of everything to do with her home…the role of the man in carrying out the heavy manual work needed around the household, as well as liaising with the community outside the home, is secondary.

The woman’s role is primary…taking charge of everything to do with her home…the role of the man in carrying out the heavy manual work needed around the household, as well as liaising with the community outside the home, is secondary.

The woman’s role is primary…taking charge of everything to do with her home…the role of the man in carrying out the heavy manual work needed around the household, as well as liaising with the community outside the home, is secondary.

The woman’s role is primary…taking charge of everything to do with her home…the role of the man in carrying out the heavy manual work needed around the household, as well as liaising with the community outside the home, is secondary.

If all the offspring of all the daughters of the grandmother are full-blood siblings, it is understandable that the children refer to their respective mother and all their maternal aunts as ‘mother’. All the daughters of the grandmother are mothers to all the children in the big matrilineal household.

If all the offspring of all the daughters of the grandmother are full-blood siblings, it is understandable that the children refer to their respective mother and all their maternal aunts as ‘mother’. All the daughters of the grandmother are mothers to all the children in the big matrilineal household.

If all the offspring of all the daughters of the grandmother are full-blood siblings, it is understandable that the children refer to their respective mother and all their maternal aunts as ‘mother’. All the daughters of the grandmother are mothers to all the children in the big matrilineal household.

If all the offspring of all the daughters of the grandmother are full-blood siblings, it is understandable that the children refer to their respective mother and all their maternal aunts as ‘mother’. All the daughters of the grandmother are mothers to all the children in the big matrilineal household.

If all the offspring of all the daughters of the grandmother are full-blood siblings, it is understandable that the children refer to their respective mother and all their maternal aunts as ‘mother’. All the daughters of the grandmother are mothers to all the children in the big matrilineal household.

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chapter 11

The Birth-Death Room

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There is a special room in every home in which a Mosuo begins her life at birth and to which she will return at the end of her life to lie in wait for her funeral.

A ma was lucky to have had six sons in her large brood of eight children, for only Zhaxi, Jizuo and the other four boys were involved in dealing with the tasks associated with touching A Ma’s corpse, from the time of her death all the way to the final cremation, remembering that we are in the land of the Kingdom of Women where Gumi and her older sister, and all the other female relatives, are forbidden to have anything to do with touching death.

A ma was lucky to have had six sons in her large brood of eight children, for only Zhaxi, Jizuo and the other four boys were involved in dealing with the tasks associated with touching A Ma’s corpse, from the time of her death all the way to the final cremation, remembering that we are in the land of the Kingdom of Women where Gumi and her older sister, and all the other female relatives, are forbidden to have anything to do with touching death.

A ma was lucky to have had six sons in her large brood of eight children, for only Zhaxi, Jizuo and the other four boys were involved in dealing with the tasks associated with touching A Ma’s corpse, from the time of her death all the way to the final cremation, remembering that we are in the land of the Kingdom of Women where Gumi and her older sister, and all the other female relatives, are forbidden to have anything to do with touching death.

A ma was lucky to have had six sons in her large brood of eight children, for only Zhaxi, Jizuo and the other four boys were involved in dealing with the tasks associated with touching A Ma’s corpse, from the time of her death all the way to the final cremation, remembering that we are in the land of the Kingdom of Women where Gumi and her older sister, and all the other female relatives, are forbidden to have anything to do with touching death.

A ma was lucky to have had six sons in her large brood of eight children, for only Zhaxi, Jizuo and the other four boys were involved in dealing with the tasks associated with touching A Ma’s corpse, from the time of her death all the way to the final cremation, remembering that we are in the land of the Kingdom of Women where Gumi and her older sister, and all the other female relatives, are forbidden to have anything to do with touching death.

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chapter 12

On the Knife-Edge of Extinction

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I have borne witness at first hand to how quickly they have moved from their subsistence-farming way of life to plug right into the new world as cogs in the burgeoning tourism machinery of China.

I have borne witness at first hand to how quickly they have moved from their subsistence-farming way of life to plug right into the new world as cogs in the burgeoning tourism machinery of China.

I have borne witness at first hand to how quickly they have moved from their subsistence-farming way of life to plug right into the new world as cogs in the burgeoning tourism machinery of China.

I have borne witness at first hand to how quickly they have moved from their subsistence-farming way of life to plug right into the new world as cogs in the burgeoning tourism machinery of China.

I have borne witness at first hand to how quickly they have moved from their subsistence-farming way of life to plug right into the new world as cogs in the burgeoning tourism machinery of China.

Tourists leave behind in their wake a detritus of totally foreign and challenging ideas, such as the cash economy, mass consumerism and the male-dominant Chinese culture.

Tourists leave behind in their wake a detritus of totally foreign and challenging ideas, such as the cash economy, mass consumerism and the male-dominant Chinese culture.

Tourists leave behind in their wake a detritus of totally foreign and challenging ideas, such as the cash economy, mass consumerism and the male-dominant Chinese culture.

Tourists leave behind in their wake a detritus of totally foreign and challenging ideas, such as the cash economy, mass consumerism and the male-dominant Chinese culture.

The rapid change from an ancient agrarian life to a millennium lifestyle touches not only the material things in life but also the old customs and values.

The rapid change from an ancient agrarian life to a millennium lifestyle touches not only the material things in life but also the old customs and values.

From a traditionalist perspective it is clear that the old ways are in their death throes, slowly but relentlessly.

From a traditionalist perspective it is clear that the old ways are in their death throes, slowly but relentlessly.

…my social enterprise project…sustaining the traditional rice farming activity of the Baju villagers is admittedly a small effort to stop the gradual decimation of traditional life

…my social enterprise project…sustaining the traditional rice farming activity of the Baju villagers is admittedly a small effort to stop the gradual decimation of traditional life

…my social enterprise project…sustaining the traditional rice farming activity of the Baju villagers is admittedly a small effort to stop the gradual decimation of traditional life

…my social enterprise project…sustaining the traditional rice farming activity of the Baju villagers is admittedly a small effort to stop the gradual decimation of traditional life

…my social enterprise project…sustaining the traditional rice farming activity of the Baju villagers is admittedly a small effort to stop the gradual decimation of traditional life

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