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Mosuo: A Mysterious Matriarchal Group in China

As a source of spiritual guidance, this religion is deeply rooted in the daily lives of the Mosuo people, who believe that their sacred gods have protected them in the past and will protect them in the future.

 Axia Marriage and the Matriarchal Family

There are three kinds of marriage patterns among the Mosuo people: the traditional Axia system (visiting marriage), Axia cohabitation and monogamy.

Monogamy only exists among urban Mosuo people and other Mosuo villages inhabited by many ethnic groups. People around Lugu Lake and the Yongning area still widely practice the Axia marriage.

A Mosuo wedding ceremony

The traditional Axia system is marriage-free. Mosuo men call their beloved women Axia ("intimate companion") and women call their lovers Azhu. They are not bound by marriage and will live in their mothers' homes all their lives. Every adult Mosuo girl has a special Azhu house of her own where her lover can visit during the night but must leave early the next morning. If the girl wishes to stop the love affair she simply closes the door and then the man will not return. The lovers have no economic or legal ties: Their relationship is based only on mutual love and affection, where the will of the female is highly respected. If children are born into the family, they belong exclusively to the mother's side and inherit her surname. They are raised with their mother and uncles and are not introduced to their father until their adult ceremony.

The matriarchal family has the following advantages:

A Mosuo couple

First of all, there are no complex relationships; the relations among family members are simple. As a result, there are fewer conflicts.

Secondly, since women serve as the heads of the families, they are in charge of most of the work and handle property matters, while uncles look after the boys. Such a blood-based connection may prove to be more stable than the love-based marriage of duty. Thus, every family is harmonious and united.


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