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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Mosuo experience

If you have read David's link added to the Yongning post, you may be familiar now with the Mosuo society, moreso than I was. I knew of them as a matriarchal society where women control things, and where marriage is not a consideration. I had also heard of the walking marriages practice, in which a woman might indicate to a partner that he should come to her room in the evening, and then in the morning he would return to his mother's house. Children born are not raised by the father at all, but instead by the woman's sisters and brothers.

I did not see much of any of this in Yongning. What I did see was a Mosuo woman who was married and has two daughters. I saw rough hands and lined faces telling of a hard life. At Lugu Lake, things changed.

I had heard that a large number of Chinese tourists have been going to Lugu, as much to see the lovely blue lake and soaring mountains as they did in hopes of scoring a Mosuo girl for the night. I did see a large number of Chinese tourists, though most were in Luoshui as opposed to Lige where I stayed.

The day was nice. Lots of hammering and sawing as new guesthouse rise up. Smiling people everywhere. A nice long walk to Daze village where I met a lot of people and ate some good food and drank a very sour Mosuo alcohol.

The nighttime was where things got interesting. I went down to the small restaurant, well dining area in my guesthouse. A number of men were just sitting down to eat, all the men who had been working in the day. They were of Yi and Li minorities, and there was one Han. A case of beer was brought and we started ganbeis. Then a few Mosuo girls joined. Men were very noticeably seeking their attention, and Im pretty sure two of them went home happy this morning.

After a long time, eating beef and potatoes grilled over a plate of fire and coals set under the table, and several ganbeis, I went outside and joined a group of men and a few girls who were taking turns singing. One of the girls was Mosuo, the other a 40-some Han woman who had fallen in love with a 20-something Mosuo boy and had been staying in Lige now for several months. The Mosuo girl could speak some English with a heavy French accent, as she had once had a French boyfriend for about a month. She was badmouthing H A N people left and right, and Chinese boys in general, and also going on about how difficult life was for the women, having to do farm work and house work and that things just were not fun.

"So many nights I drink a lot," she said. (This was before she and another guy at the table vomited-they had been drinking bai-jiu).

Anyway, at one point this girl grabbed my hand and scratched my palm. I did not think much of this until just now when I was reading about Mosuo culture. It seems that scracthing the palm of a man is how the women indicate they want the man to come to their bedroom that night. I guess she did not think of my having a girlfriend the same way I do.

Needless to say, I slept alone.

It was an interesting night, though. To hear many different languages being spoken by people of the same country. To see first hand a large change being wrought on a society, and the way outsiders are taking advantage of traditions, and hearing reactions about this (some are happy with the number of people coming as it means more money - but I don't think that lake will stay blue for long).

I thought about staying there for one more day, but I decided instead to come to Ninglang before going to Dali tomorrow (and a word of advice for anyone going to or coming from Lugu Lake: do not do this drive with a hangover. Bad bad bad). In the morning, as I was eating breakfast, the girl who scratched my palm walked by.

"I am very sorry about last night," she said. "I am so embarrassed, I drank so much."

"No problem," I said. Had I known about the scratching palm perhaps I would have apologized for standing her up. Then she asked if I was staying and I said I was going. She waved and walked off. I wonder if she will find the foreign boy she is looking for, one to come to her bedroom at night and perhaps take her away.

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