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Lugu Lake's Kingdom of Women

By Harvey Thomlinson | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-06 13:26
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Lugu Lake has nurtured the Mosuo people for centuries. [Photo/Courtesy of In Search of the Forgotten Kingdom]

Although it is far in every sense from Hong Kong where I run a literary press, I always had a hunch that I would visit Lugu Lake some day. The alpine lake, nested in the sub-Himalayan roots of China's Yunnan province, has long been a fashionable retreat for Chinese writers fleeing urban modernity. One of our more famous novelists would occasionally pop up in our offices, dressed in flowing ethnic threads, announcing she was back from "Yunnan" - by which she meant Dali, Lijiang and Lugu. Inseparable from the lake's modish mystique is the much-misrepresented matriarchal culture of the Mosuo people who live on its shores.

So when photographer Pamela and I finally arrived in southwestern Yunnan to work on a new book, after a few days in Lijiang we felt it was time to move onto Lugu. The 200 kilometer ride was a spectacular one through passes deep in the Yulong mountain range with stunning vistas of snowcapped peaks. Our bus stopped at a high-altitude ticket station and finally we saw how the fabled lake unfolded: alpine flowers blooming around the glittering waters with forested slopes, beaches and pearl-like islands.

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