(Southwest University for Nationalities)
Paper Short Abstract:
The Zhaba people, about 15000 people living in Sichuan, China, are found to practice a form of 'walking marriage' called Rezuo Yici (i.e. not a marriage but a visit from a man to a woman in her home.) Their family system is therefore similar to that of the better known Mosuo matrilineal people.
Paper long abstract:
With a population of 15,000, the Zhaba people of Daofu county, Sichuan, China, are regarded as a branch of Tibetan although they have their own language. The main marriage form of the Zhaba people is 'Rezuo Yici' (walking marriage); that is, not a marriage but a visit from a man to a woman in her home - similar to that of the better-known Mosuo matrilineal people. On the basis of records in ancient Han Chinese literature, some Chinese scholars have proposed that, although they are not neighbours, the Zhaba people and the Mosuo people share former contact or descent with Dongnvguo (or East Kingdom of Women), an ancient kingdom with strong matrilineal characteristics.
Although today there are several forms of marriage among the Zhaba and the Mosuo peoples, the proportion of walking marriage is still very high. Among the scholars examining the reasons why the walking marriage form can last for such a long time, few have noticed strict unwritten rules concerning the walking marriage system. Knowledge of the family clan's membership and genealogical connections is essential and is transmitted from generation to generation. All the members of a clan, both male and female, are enjoined to obey rules restricting or forbidding sexual access, and even speaking about sex, sexuality, or love affairs within the family. Although there are differences between the Zhaba and Mosuo concerning the boundary of their walking marriage, the most important restriction for both of them is a strict taboo on consanguineous 'marriage' within one's clan.