Modernization and the the Mosuo: An interview with Choo Waihong

The book positions the Mosuo as one of the only, if not the only, matrilineal culture in China. What brought you to that region of China in the first place? And what does it mean in practice for the Mosuo to be one of the only surviving matrilineal cultures in the world?

 I was traveling China, and I stumbled across the idea of a woman-centric community. Although there’s a lot of Chinese literature on this group, very few English writers write about it. That’s what drew me there, and I went back again and again.

I would say that over half the families are still organized in the old matrilineal way. What this means is that families are not organized the way we know it: man and woman, a new family. Women instead stay in the same house where their mother and grandmother stay. That means only female bloodline-related persons view each other as family. That is such a dramatic change from our idea of a family. Every person who is related to the mother’s bloodline, the grandmother’s bloodline are the real relatives. They don’t see the “relatives” of the male partner of a woman as anywhere close to this big group of female-related relatives.

When the Mosuo say “oh my sister” or “oh my aunt”, you have to figure out who it is because, in our world, they would not be relatives. It’s a huge connected world that we have no clue about.

This is an excerpt from an interview with Choo Waihong, published on the Asian Review of Books on December 24th, 2017. The full interview can be found here.