Chinese Style — 29 July 2013

“The Kingdom of Women”, it’s a matriarchal society, such as Mosuo, a small ethnic group living in Yunnan of China. One of the best known, and least understood, aspects of Mosuo culture is their practice of what has been termed “walking marriage” (zou hun in Chinese).

Traditionally, Mosuo women did not marry in the conventional sense and all children (both men and women) would live in their mother’s house for the whole of their lives. When a girl reached the age of 13, she would go through a ceremony and receive “adult clothes”. She would be given her own “flower room”, start to meet boys and eventually would receive a “walking husband”.

Walking marriage” would last for as long as the “husband” continued to visit his “Asha” and as long as she continued to open the door for him when he came to her room. The “husband” could stay the night but had to return to his mother’s house at dawn.

The old traditions are slowly changing but in the more remote areas around the lake the lifestyle continues. Women control the family money and all property passes through the female line.This walking marriage system is a pure system, and it is based on the love, without any social rules. Such marriage practice has many positive outcomes. First, it gives both participants equal measures of freedom. It can be initiated at will and ended in the same manner. China has a history of focusing more on families’ ties than the individuals’ and works to serve the economic and political interests of these larger parties. Walking marriages, however, negate these social pressures and allow more independence. Another particularly important result of this practice is the lack of preference for children of a particular sex. In poorer populations, there is a strong preference for male children, because most think when they get old, only sons rather than daughters will care for them. However, among the Mosuo, since children never leave the household, there is no particular preference for one gender over the other.

However, among the Mosuo, since neither the male nor female children ever leave the household, there is no particular preference for one gender over the other. The focus instead tends to be on maintaining some degree of sexual balance, having roughly the same proportion of males to females within a household. In situations that this becomes unbalanced, it is not uncommon for Mosuo to adopt children of the appropriate sex or even for two households to “swap” male and female children.

No matter how peculiar you may think their society is – we have to admire that. On the other hand, Civilization is forcing its way into cultures of all corners of the world. Soon enough, modern civilization will also encroach upon the Mosuo, and the delicate matrilineal system by the Lugu Lake will eventually disappear.

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