Mosuo: A Mysterious Matriarchal Group in China
Around a great lake in the mountains of Southwest China lives a
matriarchal group called Mosuo. As part of the Naxi
ethnic minority -- one of China's 55 ethnic minorities -- to date, the
matriarchal system is still practiced in some villages.
Grandma Heads the Family
Mosuo people live around Lugu
Lake nearly 2,700 meters above sea level. The lake is completely surrounded
by mountains, with Yunnan
Province to the west and Sichuan
Province to the east.
Although the size of a Mosuo family varies, it usually consists of around 10
people. While some families may comprise as many as 20 or 30 members, every
family is always led by a female. The head is the most capable woman in the
family and is highly respected by other members. She has both an honorary status
and important responsibilities since everyone counts on her to make decisions in
handling family affairs.
About 50,000 Mosuo people live
around Lugu Lake, which measures over 48 square km. There is plenty of space to
build large timber houses where each family has its own courtyard. The number of
rooms in each courtyard depends on the size of the family. But in every
courtyard -- big or small -- there is generally one room that stands out among
the others: the grandmother's quarters. It is also used for offering sacrifices
to ancestors, discussing family matters, dining and receptions. However, its low
ceiling and dark atmosphere also brings a sense of intimacy. The only light in
the room comes from a flame that burns in a coal-stove chamber, where an
important stone is located.
The Mosuo people are having a
The stone represents the entire family ancestry. It is believed that souls of
past generations live in it and that the fire must stay lit all year round to
keep them warm. An extinguished flame means that the family is declining. It is
only when the flame is burning that the family can prosper.