The Mosuo in China – Where women rule | DW Documentary


In southwestern China, women have led families for centuries. Here, at the foot of the Himalayas, Lizajui is one of the last villages where matriarchal Mosuo traditions still rule.

A father’s role is much more limited here among the Mosuo, an ethnic minority in China. Although they father children, they do not live with them. There are no husbands. A man only shares a bed with his partner at night, heading home in the morning.

18-year-old Naka faces a tough decision: Is she ready to become the next Dape, the female head of the family? Or will she chase her dreams of joining a folk dancing group? In accordance with Mosuo custom, she lives with her maternal aunts and uncles. Tradition dictates that Naka should spend her whole life here. Her father, who lives with his own mother, is not part of the family. Just like other Mosuo couples, Naka’s parents only see each other when night falls.

Naka’s aunt serves as the head of the family. The aunt hopes that her niece, along with the entire family, will carry on the tradition. There is a lot of pressure: Naka is the last young girl of her generation left in the village. But is Naka ready to take on this traditional role? Or will she leave it all behind to start working as a dancer in the growing tourist industry near Lake Lugu? She is planning to make her decision on New Year’s morning.

Naka talks to Duma, who recently faced the same dilemma. Her friend decided to carry on the Mosuo tradition. She does not live under the same roof as her partner and is preparing for a life as the Dape of her family. Naka’s cousin Lamu, on the other hand, left the village and is now living in a tourist area. She broke with tradition by getting married. Against a backdrop of simmering cultural tensions, Naka is finally ready to make her decision.

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