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The grandmothers in power in China's “Kingdom of Women”

(People's Daily Online)    14:08, March 18, 2019
The grandmothers in power in China's “Kingdom of Women”
Li Youzhua takes care of her great-granddaughter on March 11. ( Lei)

Near Lugu Lake, a beautiful lake located at the junction of southwest China’s Sichuan Province and Yunnan Province, live the Mosuo people, a minority ethnic group of China, who are also the only existing matrilineal society in China, reported on March 13.

A Mosuo family is made up of brothers and sisters of the same maternal line and the children of the female members of the family, while the eldest or the most capable grandmother is usually the head of the family.

These families live at the lakeside of Lugu Lake in Lijiang City, Yunnan Province. Their hometown has long been referred to as the “Kingdom of Women.”

Most of the Mosuo people usually live in a traditional quadrangle, consisting of a scripture hall, the house of the grandmother, the “flower house” of the young women, and a “grass house” for the livestock.

“For Mosuo people, the house of the grandmother is the core of a family. The entrance of the house of the grandmother is usually shorter than that of a regular house, while the threshold of the grandmother’s house is higher than that of a common house,” said Li Zhizhi, a Mosuo man.

Li explained that the house of the grandmother is designed in this way so that people have to bow their heads to get into the house, which is a way of showing respect for the older generation.

Li Youzhua, Li Zhizhi's mother, is the grandmother in power in her family. Every day, she makes an offering of incense and then assigns the whole family work for the day.

“Grandma is usually in charge of finances and other family affairs, while my maternal uncle handles the work relating to etiquette,” said Li Kumu, the granddaughter of Li Youzhua, disclosing that her grandma “usually has the final say, and never makes a promise that she cannot keep.”

In contrast, Yang Kujia, 60, another grandmother in power, is a little overwhelmed by her responsibility, as she is no longer in the best of health.

Yang’s family always help her with various tasks. “Brothers and sisters in my family help each other and care for each other. We’ve never had a single spat over all these years,” said Yang Erche, Yang Kujia's elder brother.

Bao’er Geke, 73, has been the center of her family since she was 20. She experienced hard times in the past when her family was short of food and clothing. “We didn’t have good living conditions and convenient transportation in the old days, but now our life is getting much happier,” she said.

There are a total of 11 people in Bao’er Geke’s family, but only she and her daughter stay at home, as all the other members of her family are working or studying outside of her hometown.

“Our life is moving forward. My children now buy things on the Internet and send them to me. My grandson is working in Beijing. He might marry a girl from another city, and I will support his decision,” Bao’er Geke said, noting that though modern life is changing some of the traditional habits and customs of Mosuo families, she is ready to embrace these changes. 


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(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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