"Life around Lugu Lake—high up in the Himalayas, straddling China’s
Yunnan and Sichuan provinces—has been changing rapidly. Until relatively
recently, the Mosuo, a Chinese ethnic minority of about 40,000 people,
enjoyed hundreds of years of relative stability in a complex social
structure that values female power and decision-making. Most famous
among Mosuo traditions is the practice of the “walking marriage”: women
may choose and change partners as they wish. Mosuo children stay with
their mothers’ families for life, and men only visit their female
partners by walking to their houses at night.
Because the head of a Mosuo household is always a women, responsible for
all financial decisions and the passing of the family name and property,
the Mosuo are often characterized as a matriarchal society. Reality is a
little more complex. For example, women hold no official political
power. Yet according to Chuan-Kang Shih, an expert on the Mosuo and an
anthropology professor at the University of Florida, the Mosuo social
system is underpinned by a fundamental belief that women are more
capable than men, mentally and even physically.
My portraits focus on older Mosuo matriarchs, the dabu
, who carry on
despite outside pressures. Since China’s Cultural Revolution in the past
century, when the Mosuo religion was forbidden and couples were forced
to marry, this social system has faced challenges. Fewer Mosuo women are
able to sustain a way of life traditionally centered on large,
matrilineal clans sharing their household income."
Via Muse, who wrote "We often think of our way of life as just how
things are. We have so many ways we could be living, but tend to only
feel secure when we enforce what we have lived with upon others."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics