China Underground > Travel to Yunnan > Travel to Lijiang > The Ahxia walking marriage of the Mosuo People, Lugu Lake, China

The Ahxia walking marriage of the Mosuo People, Lugu Lake, China

Last Updated on 2022/04/22

Lying in the mountains between Ninglang County of Yunnan Province and Yanyuan County of Sichuan Province, the Lugu Lake (泸沽湖) is 69 kilometers from the Ninglang county town.

The Mosuo People, who live on the Lugu Lake shores and belong to one branch of the Naxi People, still retain the matriarchal custom of “Ahxia walking marriage(摩梭人的婚姻习俗), in which males and females are not bound to get married and keep a cohabitation relationship. For this reason, the Mosuo wedding tradition is considered to be the “living fossil” of the matriarchal society.

Lugu Lake map

Basic Information

Geographic location: Lugu Lake is located between Ninglang County in Yunnan and Yanyuan County of Sichuan. It is 72 kilometers away from Ninglang County.
Scenic status: a provincial level tourists resort
Tour time: 2 days

Travel Tips

Tourists can stay at the Luoshui village, as well as the Lige village at Lige Island. Compared with Luoshui village, Lige village is less commercialized but is more difficult to access.

Recommended Tour Route

Overview of Lugu Lake → a visit to Mosuo family (customs of Mosuo people) → go boating on the lake

Key Points

“The Females’ Kingdom”, “Lugu” means “falling into the water”, matriarchal society, “Axia” relationship, matriarchal-lineage, “living fossil of the matriarchal society”

In the sublime Xiaoliangshan Mountains of Yongning District of the Ninglang Yi Autonomous County inlaid a shimmering pearl —— Lugu Lake. It is the native place of “the Females’ Kingdom” composed of the Mosuo people, a branch of the Naxi nationality. In Mosuo language, “Lugu” means “falling into the water” (“hu” means lake in Chinese), hence the name of the lake.

Lugu Lake is located between Ninglang County in Yunnan and Yanyuan County of Sichuan. It is 72 kilometers away from Ninglang County. Its total area is 51.7 square kilometers, the space within the precincts of Yunnan being 27.6 square kilometers. It is 2,685 meters above sea level, counting from the surface of the water, and is, therefore, the lake with the highest altitude in the province. Its average depth of water is 40 meters, the greatest depth being 90 meters. Among Yunnan’s lakes, it stands only second to Fuxian Lake in terms of depth of water. The water of the lake is generally clean and green, with different shades of color: turquoise blue, sapphire blue, white-gray, simply beyond one’s imagination. On the lake are the “pig-trough boats” (“zhucaochuan”) specific to the place. Teeming in the lake are fine-scaled fish, carps, and other species. The lake waters flow eastwards to the Yalong River and finally into the surging Jinsha River.

Lugu Lake is surrounded by high and verdant mountains that are snowbound for over 3 months every year. Since the lake is rather deep, a definite regulating influence is exerted on the temperature of the lake shores. Therefore the surrounding mountains abound in forest resources that afford exquisite beauty, much fresh air, and charming scenery. At present, it is one of the places in China which is least damaged by human efforts and best preserved in its natural features.

Up to now, they still keep remnants of matriarchal society

The lakeshore is inhabited by Mosuo people who have peculiar customs. Up to now, they still keep remnants of a matriarchal society. Men and women are not united by wedlock, each living at the mother’s home respectively. Yet they keep a casual cohabitation relationship. Thus the place is called “A Quaint Realm of Matriarchy”. The male and female youth of the Mosuo people, having fostered mutual love in the long period of productive labor and social activities, begin to reciprocate “tokens”.

The male party, in accordance with his economic conditions, presents the female party with gold or silver ornaments, jade bracelets, beads and silk threads, etc. The “tokens” returned by the female party are generally some personal accessories that the other party likes. Given such affection on both sides, the seniors of the male party would bring some “loquat meat”, and some tea, sugar, or wine to pay a visit to those of the female party. Once an agreement is obtained from them, an Axia (spouse) relationship is established for the two. However, such a relationship can also be fixed without going through the above procedure.

After this, the two parties continue to live in their own homes. The male “Axia” labors for his home in the daytime, and goes to the female “Axia” at night for cohabiting with her in her bedroom. The family of the female “Axia” looks upon the male as one of its own members. During the busy farming season, the male “Axia” goes to the home of the other party to help with farm work. Those who have fixed their “Axia” relationship call each other “Azhu”, which means “dear companion”, but never husband or wife. Therefore, it is not appropriate to speak of “father”, who instead is only referred to as “maternal uncle”. The female is predominant and is, therefore, the leader of a family. All family members are descendants of the same matriarchal lineage.

Scholars have come to the conclusion that the Mosuo matriarchal culture has, to a certain extent, solved major problems troubling today’s modern society, such as social positions of both sexes, sexual harassment, deterioration of relationships, family feuds, the maltreatment and loneliness suffered by old people, and last but not least the harmony between mankind and nature. With the Mosuo’s goddess worship and the remnants of the matriarchal period, the Lugu Lake area is indeed one of the rare specimens of “the Female’s Kingdom” in the world and a “living fossil of the matriarchal society”.

Words and Expressions

the Females’ Kingdom 女儿国
the “pig-trough boats” 猪槽船
fine-scaled fish 细鳞鱼
to reciprocate “tokens” 交换信物
loquat meat 琵琶肉
“Axia” relationship 阿夏关系
“Azhu” means “dear companion” 阿注即“亲密的伴侣”
the remnants of the matriarchal period 母系社会遗风
“living fossil of the matriarchal society” 母系社会活化石

Images: Oliver Huang

Post Author


The Tiger-leaping Gorge, Lijiang

Catalogue of Chinese Manuscripts and Rare Books


Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.