The Mosuo people are descendants of Tibetan nomads and classify as a subgroup of the Naxi with a total population of about 50,000. In addition to Lugu Lake, Mosuo people are also distributed in Ninglang County in Yunnan Province and Yanyuan and Muli counties in Sichuan. The Mosuo people have their oral language, but no writing words and belief in the primitive Daba religion and Tibetan Buddhism. Daba, Shaman priests, are similar to the Naxi Dongba. Matrilineal society and Walking Marriages are the distinctive ethnic labels of the Mosuo people.
The Architecture of Mosuo
The traditional Mosuo houses are built with log or square wood walls, and the roof is covered with wooden boards (most of which have been covered with tiles now). Generally, Mosuo homes consist of four rectangular structures arranged in a square, around a central courtyard, and are divided into main rooms, flower buildings, scripture halls, and gatehouses. The first-floor houses livestock, the main cooking, eating, and visiting areas. The second floor is used for storage and the bedrooms. The architectural structure of Mosuo house is adapted to religious beliefs, marriage patterns, and family organization.
Mosuo culture is a farming culture, with work based on farming tasks such as raising livestock (pigs, goats, and poultry) and subsisting off barley, corn, potatoes, and vegetables. The people are largely self-sufficient in diet, raising enough for their daily needs. Meat is an important part of their diet and, since they lack refrigeration, is preserved through pickled. The Mosuo are renowned for their pickled pork (Pipa meat), which can be kept for two or three years or even more. They drink local alcohol: Sulima. Sulima is a kind of yellow rice wine that every Mosuo family receives guests or enjoys by themselves. It is said that the raw materials of wine are highland barley, glutinous rice, buckwheat, corn, barley, and plateau red rice. Sulima is divided into two types: beverages and low-alcohol liquors. The liquor is golden yellow and sweet. It tastes a bit like beer but is better than beer.
The Mosuo Adult Ceremony: The Mosuo people on the shore of Lugu Lake regard 13 years old as the beginning of a new life. Traditionally boys and girls wear long gowns before the age of 13. On the morning of the first day of the Lunar New Year, a solemn” trouser ceremony” or “skirt ceremony” is held for children of both sexes who have reached the age of 13 at home. The children who participate in the ceremony should lean on the pillars by the fire pit, men leaning on the left pillar and women leaning on the right pillar, with their feet separately stepping on the Pipa meat and grain bags, symbolizing the abundance of food and clothing in the future. The adult kowtows to the elders, who give gifts in return, and their friends and relatives come with gifts to congratulate them, and from then on, they grow up to be adults and look for their “A Zhu”.
Mosuo women like to wear red, blue, or purple coats, which are edged with colorful cloth strips and sewed with two lines of buttons, and two-layer ankle-length skirts in white color. They also like to tie the red or yellow belts around their waist and wear embroidered shoes made of black cloth. Young men braid their hair and coil it at the top of the head or fall below the head. Men between thirty and fifty wear black cloth hats or leather hats made by themselves. They like Tibetan clothes and adornments such as Tibetan woolen hats, Tibetan boots, and big copper or silver earrings.
Form Marriage of Mosuo People
The marriage forms of Mosuo people include “A Zhu marriage”, “A Zhu cohabitation marriage” and “Registration of marriage”.
A Zhu Marriage (also known as “Walking Marriages): “A Zhu” means “friend” and “partner” in the Mosuo language. The main character of the marriage is that men don’t take wives and women don’t marry. Young men and women who don’t belong to the same maternal blood lineage can choose their beloved according to their love and will. Men and women live in their large matriarchal families, and the husbands and wives who have A Zhu relationship have no substantial economic connection. The man visits the woman’s house at night and returns to his mother’s house during the day. Children born thereafter get the mother’s surname and are reared by their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and uncles, and their biological fathers raise the nephews and nieces of their sisters. Even if a child and father were close, the father has no financial obligations to his biological child.
The love between a man and a woman is the foundation of A Zhu Marriage. If the woman doesn’t want to see the man anymore or the man stops visiting, the “A Zhu Marriage” is over.
The characteristics of A Zhu Marriage have contributed to a large blood family with the mother as the core, and there is no father-son relationship, mother-in-law relationship, or sisters-in-law relationship. After the death of the mother, the female who can run the household will take on the heavy responsibility of the family.
The “A Zhu Marriage” of the Mosuo people has been described as “the living fossil of the development history of family and marriage in human society”.
A Zhu Cohabitation Marriage: In the long-term development of A Zhu Marriage, the form of marriage is also gradually changing, from separation to cohabitation. No matter which large matriarchal family men or women choose to live, husband or wife is a reasonable member of the family. Most people are willing to implement this marriage system.
The above two types of marriage are forbidden to A Zhu relationship within the same maternal bloodline.
Registered Marriage: Obtaining a marriage certificate is more and more chosen by young people who work outside, and it will facilitate their employment and children’s schooling.
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