The Mosuo minority is the last matriarchal society in the world. In the past, it was difficult to imagine women having complete control in authority in their society. This concept is what has made the Mosuo minority one of the most well-known minorities in China. For this research, I decided to write an 8-10 page paper on the history on this unique minority. I will dive into different traditions, lifestyles of both sexes, as well as the negative and positive aspects of tourism. Another important aspect is how their culture may be deteriorating at a pace they may not be able to control. These traditions have lived for over 2,000 years, but they are now caught between the present and their cultural past.
To begin, the basic geographical background knowledge was necessary. Their location is in southwest China in a valley on the border of the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. The most well known landscape of this society is Lugu Lake. It takes a foreigner at least 2 days to reach this location by road. Other means of transportation are very difficult due to the landscape. There are around 40,000 Mosuo people that live in this society. They also spread out in a series of other villages around the lake. Some foreigners describe this society as paradise because of the beauty of the landscape and the simple lifestyles portrayed.
Women have the most power and control over basic lifestyle choices as well as major decisions. For example, women control their household finances, have the rightful ownership to land and houses, have full custody rights to the children, and hold down some of the most essential and demanding jobs. More often we hear of certain aspects of Chinese culture still practicing arranged marriages and men having the upper-hand with most situations. Having a society completely flipping the scenario and surviving for over 2,000 years is quite impressive. Men have their roles and jobs in this society, however, women posses the dominant roles.
One of the most famous traditions are the walking marriages. Women are not expected to marry in this culture, and it is as if marriage is a never-existing concept. When girls turn the age of 13, they go through a ceremony that makes them a woman. At this age, women are allowed to take as many, or few, lovers as they please. They receive their own bedrooms and are given full disclosure behind those doors. When, or if, they have children with their lovers, the biological father does not have a large role. The children will live under the mother’s family. The children’s uncles take on the role as a father figure.
However, this tradition can twist the idea of why these women live these lives. This has a major impact on certain tourism aspects. Foreign males may see this tradition as an open invitation and believe that these women will sleep with anyone. However, that is not the case. Women have complete control over who they choose to have relations with. However, tourism can create this misconception which continues to raise many issues for their community. This is one of many issues that tourism has inflicted on their culture. However, tourism is also one of the main sources of income. Tourism has a strong, and necessary, aspect on the survival of the Mosuo culture. On the other hand, there continues to be negative, and degrading, points of view that are continuously casts over them.
Women, as well as men in this culture are struggling. With living in this fast-paced world, many are beginning to doubt whether or not they wish to leave. There have been instances throughout their history of people leaving this way of life, but not as much as now. This concept is one that can threaten this culture’s entire future. Many may want to settle down and get married. Some may want less-demanding, or more demanding lifestyles. Men want to have a say in their biological child’s life. Some still struggle with the concept of women having the dominant roles. This issue has existed throughout their entire history. However, it is most prominent today because many want to adapt rather than settle.
There are many aspects of this culture that are really fascinating. These women taking charge in a strongly male-influenced country creates a completely different take on the importance of other minority cultures. The traditions, lifestyles, and aspects of tourisms are by far the most compelling and important factors in this culture. There are clear positive aspects, and there are the negative aspect as well. Will this culture be able to sustain their traditions and lifestyles, or will tourism and modernity somehow bring everything to a screeching halt? The answer to that will never be easy.