Accepted Paper:

The cultural context of the Mosuo matrilineal kinship system  


Mingying La (Sichuan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

The Mosuo people are well known for their unique form of matrilineal social organization where men and women live all their life in their mother’s house. This custom is only one expression of a larger system of relationships that shapes our shamanic world view as much as our kinship system.

Paper long abstract:

The Mosuo people have generated a great deal of attention in China and abroad because of their particular matrilineal social organization and in particular the fact that their families are headed not by a husband and wife couple but by a brother-sister couple; the father is replaced by the maternal uncle and men and women live all their life in their mother's house. Most of the documentation available is based on preconceived theories rather than on the opinion expressed by the Mosuo people themselves. In particular, far from seeing our society's ways as a simple matter of ignoring or refusing marriage in the Chinese sense of the term, Mosuo older people see their kinship system as part of a cultural matrix that is rooted in their worldview and their relationship with the non-human environment, from mountains and lakes to animals, trees and other plants, to invisible beings and to our ancestors and deceased relatives. It is this web of relationships that supports the essential ties between the mother and her children, that extends to the living and the dead, and between the world around and its inhabitants. It also supports our value system that allows us to treat both men and women with respect, deliberation and shared responsibility. Our traditional rituals, exemplified by our daba (healers, shamans or ritualists) are as much part of this web of connections as our matrilines.

Panel RM-KG04
Naxi and Mosuo peoples in China and their Eastern Asian Neighbors