Accepted Paper:

'Kingdom of Women' - Myth or Reality? A study of the Mosuo matrilineal society in the context of the tourism industry  


Kunbing Xiao (SouthWest University for Nationalities)

Paper Short Abstract:

Lugu Lake, advertised as ‘the Kingdom of Women’, is home to the Mosuo people. Their unique matrilineal social system, ‘walking marriage’, and self-sufficient households are distorted into staged myths for tourist consumption while cultural performances are appropriated by strangers.

Paper long abstract:

Lugu Lake, known as 'the Kingdom of Women', is home to the Mosuo, one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in Eastern Asia. The scenic setting of Lugu Lake provides an ideal holiday-type resort setting for crowds of tourists attracted by the prospect of meeting Mosuo women. Because the Mosuo's practice of what is termed 'walking marriage', or tisese, is unusual for Han Chinese and Westerners, the Mosuo have been distorted by media and advertisement as a promiscuous society. This feeds expectations of sex tourism and transforms the whole community into a staged performance.

First, I review the Mosuo's worldview and creation myth from their own perspective and I summarize traditional subsistence activities and household organization. Then I examine how the Mosuo today are engaged in the new presentation and representation of their matrilineal culture for tourists, and correspondingly, how the presence of tourists has changed the traditional matrilineal culture as well as the gendered division of labour. By contrasting and analysing the Mosuo's matrilineal culture at different stages, and from different viewpoints, I wish to explore the relationship between history and cultural performance. The case study on the Mosuo shows that the 'Kingdom of Women' is a myth made up by historical 'others', and becomes a reality produced by the tourism industry.

Panel POST-01
Poster session