Lugu Lake and Lejiazui: The Land of the Mosuo

Lugu Lake – The land of the Mosuo People

The reason Colleen and I were heading towards Lugu is because Colleen’s Fulbright research is about the Mosuo people. She is studying the affects of tourism on minority groups, focusing mostly of the Mosuo. Knowing this, from Lijiang, we took a 7 hour bus to this beautiful part of Yunnan. We got into Lugu by the afternoon and we were told it only took 2 hours to walk to a village across the lake called Lige. We thought, “Man, we just hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge, but we can hike 2 hours more!“ So, we hiked along the lake and holy cow is the lake pretty!!! It was soooo blue. We even spent a short while on a dock, enjoying the warm day.Colleen leading the way to Lige. That is Gemu Mountain and the village is right beneath it.
The highest point on our short hike and a shot of the lake facing the other way.

We walked through villages and under Buddhist peace flags until we found Lige. We came to Lugu on the tail-end of tourist season, so all the hostels were full. We luckily found an open room that was very nice. It was also very romantic. It was a little bit more expensive than we wanted, but to have a nice place to sleep after sleeping on trains and buses the last couple days was a treat.

We explored the village and found a barbecue restaurant. It is common to roast your own meal in Lugu, so we ordered potato and chicken. We got invited by other travelers from China to eat with them, as well. I ate so much food! The exciting part of the night was being introduced to some locals. I decided to head out early so Colleen could really get to know them, since she had to translate for me so much. In the end, Colleen made some good friends and we were invited to join them for a car ride around the lake. We thought, “why not?” and jumped in the car.

The next day we visited a famous tree called the sister tree and the lover tree. (Colleen and I got a picture with both. Ooooo). We also saw a couple shrines. At one of the shrines, Colleen and I met a French woman named Pascale-Marie. She is an anthropologist who studies the Mosuo. How wonderful, right? We decided to meet up the next day to meet her friend Lidy. So, Colleen, our Chinese friends, and I continued on around the lake. At the end of the day, we went to the Walking Marriage bridge. Here’s a cultural note; something that is different in the mosuo culture is that there is no marriage. There is only a walking marriage, which is pretty much exclusive dating. Mosuo couples do walking marriages to prove their love for each other, similar to Western culture.One of the local tourist businesses is a boat ride. The Mosuo are known for their handmade canoes.
The lakeshore.

We said goodbye to our new friends and got dinner at the same barbecue place. We made friends with a Chinese girl who ended up being Lidy! She brought us to a local bonfire to witness the local song and dance of the Mosuo. Colleen even sang in front of everyone! She is so brave. It was very fun to breath the bonfire smoke and watch the spectacle. Sometime during the night, Lidy told us of Pascale-Marie (PM) and her plans to go to a Mosuo village called Lijiazui. Colleen and I exchanged looks and I could tell she was thinking the same as me, “I hope we can join them!!!”

Luckily, it all worked out and Colleen and I were invited to visit the Mosuo village with (PM) and Lidy. We hitched a ride to a town and hitched another ride to the remote village. It was a long bumpy ride to Sichuan. We had to stop a few times to drop off supplies for people who had asked the driver to pick up for them. We even had to help transport roof tiles from a house to the truck itself. Those Asian tiles on the top of houses are heavy! It took an hour to move all the tiles to the back of the truck and we were rewarded a large bottle of beer. It tasted very good after a long work out.

We entered the village in the evening and were welcomed with open arms to our new host Moms. They had cooked us dinner already and offered us their local alcohol. This village has no electricity, so we ate under the light of a fire pit and had hot tea from their local stream. While eating, I could hear the cows and pigs through the walls, eating their own dinners. The smells of Chinese spices and wood smoke filled the whole house. It smelled good.

Sadly, Colleen got very sick that night. Probably from the local alcohol or the dried pork we ate. I woke up fine and helped on the farm, while Colleen slept. I helped feed the pigs and chickens. I also helped do field work. I pulled out corn stalks and burned the plants, to return the nutrients back to the ground. After our hard work, it was lunch time. During lunch, the host moms were talking to one another and PM told me they wanted to dress us up in Mosuo clothing. So, we did!Here is Lidy (Right) and our host mom pulling up corn stalks and burning them.Our host mom and PM
Lidy and myself!
Colleen got out of bed for a short time to join the festivities.

By late afternoon, I also started feeling a bit upset in the stomach. I ended up getting very sick, as well. I won’t get into detail, but anyone who has gotten a bad case of food poisoning will know my pain. bleeeeh! I slept for a whole day and read Clash of Kings. I think I read 200 pages in 3 days while at the village. I spent 1.5 days sick in bed. The last day in the village I felt better and helped build a house with the locals. I packed dirt to make large blocks of hard dirt. I then sifted through more dirt and dumped it back into the block making area. I repeated this for a long time, with the occasional green tea break.

Throughout my trip to Lugu, I gotta say that the biggest culture shock was my  interactions with boys. Generally, the men are very shy during the day. It can even be considered taboo for women to speak to men too much during the day. But at night, it’s a different story. The Mosuo believe in “walking marriage,” (I told you before) which is pretty much exclusive dating. So, the way men show interest in women is by going to their bedroom through an open doorway or window and flirt with them. Well, Colleen and I were in bed and we heard footsteps. We then heard our door slowly swing open. We looked up and to see 4 boys. We let them in and we talked for a bit. Eventually I made them leave, but Colleen found this a great opportunity for research and followed them out to talk further (She only talked with them!!! You perverts.) In the U.S., a boy walking into my room uninvited would have a lot of explaining to do. Or I’d scream a bunch. Or kick his ass. Maybe a little of both.
We stayed in the village for 5 days and then we went back to Lige by the same truck, but this time we sat in the back with the supplies. Now that was one hell of a bumpy ride. My butt was numb for 1 hour after that one. Here is our host grandma making rope. Whenever we saw her, she would tell us to come over and then she would give us candy. Sweetest lady ever.
Lidy, PM, and Colleen walking through the village. We were walking towards a family who needed help building a house.
We said goodbye to PM and joined Lidy back to Kunming. We stopped by Lijiang and met up with a friend we made in Lugu Lake (the day we drove around). We then took the night train to Kunming and Tah dah, we were back home!
Colleen left for Taiwan and I stayed for 2 days and hung out with a cool cat named Erin. She let me stay at her place. I even spent one of the nights partying with Kunmingers! We played board games and drank beer. A very nice night. My favorite part was making pancakes and fruit smoothies the next morning. yuuuuuuuum! Then I was off to Tokyo, Japan!
K, well I gotta go make dinner with my French friend, Anne. I’ll talk about Japan later. Maybe tomorrow?
Much love,
-MollyMount Gemu and all her glory.

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