The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China's Hidden Mountains

On the shores of the picturesque Lugu Lake, bordering Yunnan and Sichuan in western China, is a village belonging to the Mosuo tribe, the last known group that follows a matrilineal hierarchy. Daughters and granddaughters share homes with the eldest matriarchs, who preside over the residences in a special grandmother room. When Choo Waihong set out on a tour across China to discover her roots, she visited this special community by chance after reading a travel article on the area. Intrigued by the concept that a society ruled by women still existed in the 21st century, particularly in male-dominant China, Waihong made the arduous journey over mountain trails to the remote village.

What she discovered on that first trip so changed her life that she had a house built near the lake, and over the course of several years, became a welcome addition to the society and godmother to several Mosuo children. In The Kingdom of Women, Waihong incorporates information about the Mosuo's nonconformist society into her personal experiences of living with them: the building and blessing of her home, the festivals she attended, the difficulty adjusting to the concept of common property, and the non-marriage, lover arrangements that allow the women to live together while the men return to their mother's homes--to name a few. She also explores how the Mosuo relate to the modern world, with its technology and rules encroaching on this tiny oasis. Ultimately, readers are left to ponder what it means to be an enduring society--regardless of whether men or women rule. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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