China / Society

The walking marriage of Mosuo ethnic group

( Updated: 2016-06-13 10:07

The walking marriage of Mosuo ethnic group

The Mosuo ethnic group [File photo/Xinhua]

The walking marriage, in which a man and a woman establish relations after the man's nocturnal visits to the woman's boudoir, has been less prevalent in the Mosuo ethnic group generally residing in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

The traditional matriarchal practice has nowadays been questioned by the modern moral criterion of monogamy underlying loyalty as long as people are married.

However, the demand of fidelity doesn't work in the Mosuo minority who can easily change their partners. Generally, a marriage can be ended if a man informs his partner that he will no longer come to visit or refuses to visit her for a long time. If a woman is unwilling to maintain the marriage, she can directly tell her partner in person not to come or stop his visits to her bedroom. Anyone who finds the partner has fallen in love with someone else can send a package stuffed with charcoal, peppers and chicken feathers to warn the partner or directly terminate their relations.

In this matriarchal society which began during the primitive ages, the walking marriage, as a custom of the Mosuo minority, has endured the changes of the world. Currently, with the exodus of its young people and influence from the external world, the prospect of the indigenous custom is dimming.

"People have followed the call of the government to lead a life with a formal and stable marriage since the 1960s, so the number of walking marriages is diminishing," said a guide from the Mosuo minority.

However, despite losing its attraction to many local young people, the walking marriage, which has been preserved and inherited from one generation to another in some villages, is appealing to a number of visitors, who mistake the ritual merely as a one-night stand.

Several years ago, a woman's four diaries covering her travels in the towns of the Mosuo ethic group in Yunnan, where she flirted, had sex with Mosuo men and experienced the walking marriage, sparked controversy.

Following her blogs which received millions of hits, Chinese online users commented that she, as a woman from modern society, was not eligible for the walking marriage preserved by local Mosuo ethnic people in the primitive milieu where they comply with the tenets of a matriarchal society.

However, there were also a number of netizens supporting the adoption of the walking marriage in modern society, saying, the way of the walking marriage is a good option for young people who may fall in love without economic concerns, such as, a house, a car, as well as nuptial and betrothal gifts. Also, a man in this situation can be free from his duties as he will leave the children to the woman in her family headed by the maternal grandmothers.

However, experts showed their disapproval of the idea to adopt the walking marriage in modern society. Tao Li, a professor at the Research Center of Folk Culture of China's Minzu University, said that mankind has eventually chosen monogamy as an overwhelming legal system for marriage to ensure the stability of families, clans, societies and social development. With the extension of the monogamous marriages which have been stipulated in the laws of our country, the customs of the walking marriage are gradually fading among the villages of the Mosuo minorities.

The professor also said that the walking marriage is a remnant of the primitive social structure of a matriarchal society, so it cannot survive without the pervading local cultures. Therefore, those who misinterpret the marriage as a one-night stand in modern society are perverting the absolute understanding of the historic tradition.

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