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The Alluring Walking Marriage of Mosuo People


 
In a remote corner in southwest China where Yunnan greets Sichuan, sits a picturesque and bewitching lake: Lugu Lake. It is a kingdom of free love where woman rules and the matriarchal culture which has vanished long ago in other parts of the world, still prevails.
 
In this primitive and undisturbed land inhabits a group of innocent people: Musuo People, one branch of the Naxi minority. Since there is no marriage like that in our society, thus, in the dictionary of Mosuo people, there is no words like husband, wife, rape, jealousy...
 
Hengduan Mountain prevents the intrusion of outsiders and plays a big role in maintaining the most exotic, romantic and bewildering custom: walking marriage(zou hun). As a unique cultural symbol of Mosuo people, walking marriage has stirred sensation and triggered the widest fantasy among outsiders since its debut exposure.
 
It is probably the only place on earth where marriage gives way to a relationship called “walking marriage”, also known as “visiting relationship” or “axia”: a relationship stems from mutual affection and ends when love fades away. Power, social status and money are least valued when love ignites and there is no conflictions between family members when it lasts. What is more incredible is that this relationship is so easy to end that only one side’s reluctance to continue can end the whole story successfully. No cold war, no abuse, no resentment,no disputes over property or children, no law suits against each other...
 

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 Walking Marriage Bridge: Mosuo people go across this bridge to see their walking marriage partners

 Mosuo Girl will wear long dresses when they come of age and live in the flower chamber
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 Love does not come from the door, but through window

 Mosuo Woman in her daily attire

 
 
 How do Mosuo people practice walking marriage
 

It is simple and easy to build this “marriage” life relationship. Mosuo people take various chances to find their true love, such as during festivals, singing and dancing gatherings or daily labor. Once Mosuo man finds his love, he will seize the chace to confess to the woman, if the woman happens to love him also, they will exchange gifts such as jewelry, bracelets and rings. Sometimes, little gifts such as belts or insoles made by the woman herself will be given as a sign of affection, and the man will return her favor by giving a scarf or a piece of jewelry. Once gifts are exchanged, the “Axia ” relationship comes into its being and no one can step into their way.
 
After establishing walk marraige relationship, Mosuo man can pay night visits to his love after gaining her permission. The man will climb to her flower chamber and the woman will leave the window wide open to welcome her love. Flower chamber is an independent and well-decorated house exclusively dwelled by the mosuo girls after they come of age, which is built within reasonable distance from the big house where her family members live in. To show respect to the woman’s family, the man will depart the minute day breaks and head home without anyone’s notice. This secret night visit will last for a considerable long time before being declared public. During the previous rounds of public visits, the man needs to avoid bumping into his love's male family members. When time is mature, the "couple" will bring gifts to visit each other’s home during grand occasions such as festivals, child birth or funerals. When the man needs to take a trip, his lover will put eggs, porks into a bamboo basket for him to eat during the journey.

However, not all walking marriage sparks secretly. A considerable number of Mosuo people practice this routine in a public and more grand way since the very beginning. When a man falls for a woman, he will entrust one of his family members or friends to bring fine clothes, tea, sugars to the woman’s house. The messenger needs to clarify the purpose of this visit to the woman’s mother, and the woman’s mother will ask for her daughter’s opinion whether to accept or not. A consent from the woman will mark the establishment the “axia” relationship. Relationship built in a public way will be continued publically.
 
 
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 Mosuo man and woman on their way to the Zhuanshan Festival ( a festival they celebrate by touring around the holy mountain and paying homage to their god)
 
 Rules of Practicing Walking Marriage
 
 Under the surface of Mosuo people’s unrestrained love life underlying strict binding rules: a mosuo woman have ultimate freedom to choose her love, but she cannot have more than one lover meanwhile, and vice versa. Besides, people of close relationship such as among cousins, are forbidden to engage in such a relationship.
 
This relationship starts from true love and is not subject to other elements such as power or money, once gifts are exchanged, nothing and no one can stop this relationship. A permission from a woman is a necessity for night visits.
 
The child(ren) come(s) from this sex union belong(s) to the mother side, they will be raised and educated in the mother’s home. Mosuo man lives in his mother’s family from cradle to cane, shouldering the minority tasks such as fishing, managing livestocks, slaughtering pigs as well as playing the role of father to their sisters’ children. Unlike man live in big cities who needs to fight for everything: car, house, happy life and successful career, Mosuo man lives a idle and cozy life here.
 
 
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 Mosuo girls will live in Flower Chamber when they come of age

 
How do Mosuo People Raise their children?

Children from “walking marriage” will belong to their mother, inherit their mother’s family name,property and live in their mothers’ houses for lifelong time. Their uncle will play the role of a father, raising and educating them together with other family members. Their father, who is not one of the family members, has very limited opportunity to raise and educate them. However, it does not mean there is no connection or obligation between father and children at all. In the second day after a child’s birth, his (her) mother’s family will host a name giving ceremony. Besides, They will bring food and wine to his(her)father’s house to announce the good news. The father’s family members will bring lots of food to visit the mother and the child. During everyday life, a father can visit his child(ren) from time to time and when a child reaches 13-year-old, the child’s father will be invited to participate in the grand “Coming-of-age Ceremony”during which blessings from father is an indispensable part. After the children grow up, they will be fully responsible for their mother family’s senior aged members and partly responsible for their fathers in his twilight age.
 
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 Interior of Flower Chamber

 
How to end a relationship?


Mosuo people’s “Walking Marriage” relationship lasts from several days to decades and even lifelong time. Undoubtingly, the absence of economy bond and frequent contact during daily life result in much uncertainty. Long distance is the biggest threat to such a relationship.Some Mosuo people have several “walking marriage” partners during their lifelong, and some even have dozens of. Though not advocated, some Mosuo people tend to have one stable lover and several secret backup lovers, especially during their young age. During this relationship, if one finds the other is unfaithful or intolerable, she or he will end this relationship freely and easily: man can send someone to carry a message to his lover that he wont come and  woman can indicates this by refuse her walking marriage partner’s sex request or hide away from him during his visit. No one get hurt or humiliated and there is no disputes and hatred, thus, they can still be good friends even after the love perished. Sometimes, the broken relationship can be repaired also.
 
 
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 The house of Ami(Grand Monther) who has absolute powers of everything and every one in the family
 


 

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