The Mosuo

A matrilocal and matrilineal people in China

The Mosuo, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group comprising around 40,000 individuals, inhabit the region around Lugu Lake in southwest China. Their lifestyle is characterized by a matriarchal societal structure defined by various principles such as matrilinearity, matrilocality, distribution economy, and consensus orientation. In Mosuo culture, women hold central importance. The head of the family, typically the eldest woman, is referred to as Ah mi. She oversees the management of all clan incomes and is the owner of the entire estate, including the land. This ownership is passed down to daughters when the time comes. The grandmother holds a prominent position within the clan and commands the respect of all family members. The Mosuo live in large clan houses where families cohabit and work together. Meals are shared, and the family is a central construct in the life of every Mosuo member.

They practice what is known as “visiting marriage,” where men visit at night and live in their own clans during the day. Connections are non-binding, and children are collectively cared for within the mother’s clan. The Mosuo are self-sufficient and live in harmony with nature. They engage in agriculture and trade with their produce. Women are primarily responsible for food cultivation, while men tend to machinery work, fishing, and animal husbandry.

A notable tradition of the Mosuo is that women do not marry but live independently from men. At around thirteen years old, they are declared women during an initiation ceremony and are given their own room in the grandmother’s house. There, they meet with friends and later with lovers, with men only visiting at night. This matriarchal way of life among the Mosuo is rare and unique in the modern world. However, their future is uncertain as many young people are drawn to the influences of modern media and are turning towards urban lifestyles.

Ah mi Najinlachu, Yunnan, 2016
Ah mi Zhaxilachu, Yunnan, 2016
Lugu See, Yunnan, 2016
Ah mi Zhimacier, Yunnan, 2016
Ah mi Zhimacier´hands, Yunnan, 2016
Clan of You Zhou Zhima, Yunnan, 2016
Ah mi Gezuozhima, Yunnan, 2016
Ah mi Gekepuchi, Yunnan 2016
Clan house, Yunnan, 2018
Ah mi Gaozou, Yunnan 2016
Ah mi Zhimacier, Yunnan, 2016
Father and son, Yunnan, 2016
Weaving loom, Yunnan, 2016
Goose eggs, Yunnan, 2016
Ah mi You Zhou Zhima
Ah mi Najiniachu, Yunnan, 2016
Clan house of Ah mi Gaozou, Yunnan, 2016
Ah mi Najiniachu, Yunnan, 2016
Harvest, Yunnan, 2016
Harvesting, Yunnan, 2016