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Rough Cut
The Women's Kingdom
In China, how free can a woman be?
 

 

Xaioli Zhou

Xiaoli Zhou comes from Shanghai, China. A graduate of the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Zhou has worked for Chinese television outlets and The Wall Street Journal's Shanghai bureau. She specializes in international reporting. Among the recent video projects on which Zhou has worked are a documentary profile of Asian American actress Joan Chen and a television feature about China's emerging environmental movement. Zhou has just started a production company, German Camera Productions, with her husband, Brent Huffman. She lives in Oakland, California.

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Broadcast Version
Length: 9:36

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Web Version
Length: 20:00

"I enjoy being a girl," beams 16-year-old La Mu. "Girls can do anything. Isn't that great?"

It's an unusual sentiment to hear in China, a country whose traditional preference for boys combined with its stringent population control policy limiting urban couples to one child has resulted in an inconvenient shortage of women and wives. Male babies in China now outnumber girls by a ratio of 112 to 100; some researchers say it's 117 to 100. But La Mu lives beyond the strictures of mainstream Chinese society. She is part of the Mosuo, an ethnic minority that has a matriarchal society, one of the last in the world.

On Rough Cut this week, you'll meet La Mu and several extraordinary Mosuo women as we travel to "The Women's Kingdom" in southwest China, not far from the Tibetan Buddhist city the Chinese have renamed Shangri-La. Reporter Xiaoli Zhou, who comes from Shanghai, told us she had always wanted to visit the Mosuo region to see for herself how much freedom a woman might enjoy in China. In 2004, we sponsored Zhou on such a trek as part of our FRONTLINE/World Fellows program for promising journalism students. Zhou graduated from the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in May 2005.

In the 1970s, a road was built into the mountainous area where the Mosuo live. Before that time, the region was very isolated. But, since then, it has opened up to the outside world, and in recent years, the Chinese have marketed the area -- particularly the beautiful Lugu Lake region -- as a tourist destination. Now it draws tens of thousands of visitors each year, attracted in part by tales of "free love."

"Why would you want the marriage license to handcuff yourself?" a blunt-spoken Mosuo woman named Cha Cuo asks Zhou. For Mosuo women, it is not an idle question. In their matriarchal society, they do not marry. They practice what they call "walking marriage" in which a woman may invite a man into her hut to spend a "sweet night," but he must leave by daybreak. If a pregnancy results from this union, the child will be raised by the woman and her family.

"You Han people [the majority Chinese] are so different," Cha Cuo tells Zhou in the film. "If the kid doesn't have a father, only a mother, and lives in the city, people would call him a wild child. Who would ever say that here?"

The 27-year-old Cha Cuo is one of the most memorable characters you are likely to meet on screen. Self-assured, physically strong, emotionally direct, we see her singing and dancing, and rowing across a deep blue lake. But in frank conversations with Zhou, she also reveals the strains in her life and her doubts about the future of Mosuo culture.

About FRONTLINE/World Fellows
This week's Rough Cut -- Xiaoli Zhou's "The Women's Kingdom" -- is a production of the FRONTLINE/World Fellows program, our ongoing effort to identify and mentor the next generation of video and print journalists to report international news. This story from China completes our most recent round of Fellows reports, which also included journeys to Guatemala, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Haiti and across Europe by train from Istanbul to Paris. You can see them all here.

We recently awarded travel grants to another group of journalism students from U.C. Berkeley and Columbia who are setting off to Italy, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, China, Pakistan and Uganda. Watch for their work in coming months.

REACTIONS

Carolin McManus - Dowell, Maryland
Zhou has created a well-balanced and beautifully presented cultural story here. I can't image better chosen subjects to interview. Camera angles, lighting, editing is superb. Kudos to Zhou and her journalism instructors. This will be remembered by viewers for some time.

Clovis, CA
I wish America would be more like the Mosou peoples. As a single mother, I am tired of being treated like I am somehow damaged goods. The two parent family is an ideal -- one of many. But certainly it is not the only structure for raising healthy and happy children. Thank you for a wonderful broadcast Frontline!

Samuel S. H. Lee - Mililani,, Hawaii
Thank you for such a wonderful story which I saw a few weeks ago on our PBS. I just discovered your site, and I am going to email the story to my daughter and her three brothers. Mahalo and Aloha, Sam Lee

(anonymous)
I'm wondering that although Chenese girls are so pretty and smart, can they make correct choice between traditional culture and the industrial civilization?

OAK HILL, florida 32759
I HAVE TWO GROWN DAUGHTERS AND HAVE RAISED THEM TO BE STRONG AND INDEPENDENT. I WAS EXCITED TO E-MAIL THIS DOCUMENTARY TO THEM. THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS.

Michelle Jones - Walker, Michigan
I was intrigued by the Mosuo people, mostly women for many reasons! It definitely made me smile. I am married-very happily-but the Mosuo people have figured out a way to keep their live peaceful and women are praised! Not only that, but the women love to work and want to and not a sad face in the bunch! What made me the happiest was to see a part of China where girls are welcome and no female infant has to be abandoned! It hurts my soul to see so many beautiful baby girls abandoned and left unloved due to the archaic laws of a country that has no respect for all human life!

Jutta Ried - Budingen, Germany
I was very pleased to see this film and came across it by visiting matriarchy.net. I have seen a few documentaries about the Mosuo, mainly produced by Europeans, but this one really portrays the strong women and the challenges tourism brings to their way of life. I have sent the link for the film to all my English-speaking friends.

(anonymous)
This short video showed a way of life that I did not know existed anymore. I had read about the Amazons but I did not know that a society/culture so similar to the Amazonians' still existed in the world we live in today. However, when we look at the daily lives of the Musuos, it is hard to relate to because of how simple their lives seem. I would assume that living in a village and managing a family in a small village could not be as difficult as managing a family in a big city today. The matriarchal way of life seems to work for Musuo woman (which live in small villages) but would it work for women who have to manage their own and their family's lives in big cities? Musuo women have proven that a matriarchal society is as efficient as when a male dominates the household and everything that revolves around a family. The question is, could our lives in a big city be affecting the way we manage households? Due to the advancements in technology and electronics and due to our busy lives, we cannot seem to manage an entire household on our own. Partnership and equality among men and women seems to be the most efficient way to run a household these days in a big city (or rather not in a small village).
Another interesting aspect about the Musuo women is that they cherish love. Love and emotions are important to them even though they do not value marriage and consider it "handcuffs". My first reaction to zouhun (or "walking marriage") was that Musuo woman only valued reproduction and child bearing. However, the video was in contrast to my initial idea.
It was astonishing to realize that societies like the Musuo still exist in the modern world we live in today.

Raleight, NC
I think the article was very interesting and i love to learn about different cultures so this really changed my thinking about young women.

Katy Hoffman - Eatonville, WA
This is an awesome video. I would like to learn more about the society from a man's perspective. How much power do men have? Do fathers ever regret not having much to do with their children, or does the ability to help raise their nieces and nephews like fathers raise their own children in a nuclear family replace that desire?

(anonymous)
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(anonymous)
Beautiful work, beautiful minds, beautiful women. One can almost physically feel the strength of these girls and women. They are happy, content, beautiful, confident in their sexuality and they radiate like suns. They make everyone else happy. This is what free unsuppressed women do, they make kids and men, young and old, everyone, feel happier, content and well. Interesting piece was the part when she told that a Han tourist man offered her money for "walking in". And she laughed that did he really thought he is so special and she wants her?! Very typical clash between patriarch and matriarch point of view when the patriarchal man honestly believes that "I have chosen you, therefore you must be happy" and "I can pay for you being sexual with me". While her view is woman-in-the-center-of-the-Universe one,which is she IS and CAN BE sexual when she pleases, not for money only. And she is and can be sexual with whom she wants to, has feeling with, is in love with. We found out in the end that she is actually in love with a Han man with whom she lives! So she has freedom to do against society rules too. And the girl in upper village said, she has her own room and the key but is not in love yet with anyone. She waits. Flexibility and personal freedom.And what goes with the meager jobs and statuses for men in this village.. hey.. this is rural village, back in time and is just one type of model for matriarchal family, there can be many different ones, but main thing remains.. just imagine nowadays world with strong - unsuppressed in their personalities and their sexuality - happy women ... and happy men... and happy children.

(anonymous)
The idea of walking marriage should be very appealing not just for women but for men also. The intrusion of government into forcing women to leave their families, give up their names, etc. needs to stop. AS weel as forcing men to play a certain role. The social engineering is an abomination. There should be a place were people desiring to live this lifestyle can live together. Setting up a community based on these traditions would be great.

Scott Thomas - Houston, Texas
It's a great report!

Will Coats - Newberry, SC
Let's see, while women are "self-actualizing" and having the most fulfilling time of lives, the men are emasculated, directionless and inebriated with too much time on their hands!? Girls are raised to think they are kings and boys are raised to see their futures of misery. And matriarchy is the model society you want? I call for a return to patriarchy!

muhamadu osumanu - sao paulo, brasil
nothing but true love and understanding can make the world a better place for humans to live peacefully.

Davis, CA
Having visited China twice in the past year, I realized that the country is made up of 58 tribes, with the Han making up the largest part of the population at 92%. This is the first time I hear about the Mosuo and am very excited that these people cultural traditions have been maintained unmolested to the present day. Obviously we have much to learn from this large country and I hope that the women of Mosuo will continue to maintain their cultural identity in the face of the changes brought on by the explosive growth of tourism in China. One encouraging fact is that the one child per couple policy only applies to the Han population. The minorities are allowed as many children as they wished to have and this is a step in the right direction to encourage these unusual cultural groups to survive successfully as a smaller ethnic group with the predominant Han population.

Stillwater, MN
i think that Mosuo culture is completely different than ours. It's weird how the women's husbands take care of their sisters' children, it's like they have two completely different families. Here the women are mainly in charge of taking care of the family, and marriage is a huge deal, unlike the Mosuo culture.

Evan Zimmerman - Stillwater, MN
The Mosuo have a weird way of showing companionship, this is culture and I respect that. I don't think any one around where I live would stick to this. This brought a new way of thinking, I will always think about other cultures and different ways of looking at things.

(anonymous)
I think that it is kinda weird that girls just leave their doors open if they want someone to come in.

woodbury, mn
I think that it is nice that woman is the leader but it's hard. I think that the women who feel in love should move in or have the male move in (as marriage) so the family would get to know the person.

Ty Murphy - Stillwater, Minnesota
The Musuo culture is very interesting but I don't think i could ever follow a religion like this particular one. I also strongly disagree to the fact that some Musuo babies are killed/discarded upon birth for the simplicity of being a male rather than female.

stillwater, minnesota
The Mosou culture is very different than ours. The women just choose whether they want to sleep with a man they like and the men just show up not knowing if they're getting some. I think it's a little weird that the men are doing all the work and can't choose if they want to have sex or not and the women have more control.

Stillwater, Minnesota
I think that the Mosuo culture is very different from ours because when you get married there the father doesn't raise the child; the mother and her brother do, and the child takes the mother's clan name. The woman pretty much runs the whole village and that would never happen in America. I could never live in a place where women run everything.

Pepper Price - Springfield, Missouri
What a wonderful piece. I would like to see more related pieces in the near future. Thank you.

anna - boston, MA
It is so interesting to see the strong, visible changes for women today in China.

(anonymous)
I find this culture highly intriguing. With its matriarchal format, it seems very empowering for women, which would be a huge change from the rest of China. I find myself wondering why more women would not move there from the cities (or at least visit) just for the freedom of it or for a vacation from oppression and expectations. It appears to be the realization of feminism, practiced daily without depriving men of rights, just with different initial expectations than in other cultures; rather than being like pastoral amazons, the women simply live in equality, or with the roles slightly reversed but without being tyrannical. While I do not agree with the concept of walking marriage--it seems to me to make sexual relations more casual, less sacred, and less likely for relationships to last for extended periods of time, which makes a strong biological family base essential--, if it could be practiced with the two parties always separating from a consensus of sentiment, without one still being in love and the other having become disenchanted, it does seems refreshingly less complicated. As for the feeling that tourism is changing the culture in the larger cities, this seems highly likely to me, as it has happened so many times before and seems to be the unavoidable result of the sharing/contamination of societies.

Ashley Fuqua - Allen, TX
The community of Mosuo, both intrigued and perplexed me in its drastically different nature and complexity than I would have expected a simple summary of the community to be like. The matriarchal government is so rare and this should definitely be put on notice that some of these traditional views of female's place in society is obviously thinning out. I think it is very honorable and shows their great independence levels by not feeling the common need of getting married to a man in order for the female to be taken care of and protected. Fending for themselves, financially supporting their family, while still making time for family time at night is very commendable. This working-mom philosophy in China is something to be put on note for those in America not sure if they can accomplish and fulfill both roles as mother and businesswoman. On the other hand, this ultra-extreme feminist view of totally deleting the father as part of children's lives might be hampering young females' views without first letting them decide their own perspective on marriage first. With most viewing that marriage can only lead to fighting is somewhat judgmental and biased since the vast majority have never had a serious, long relationship with men, let alone actually committing to a marriage. As the video pointed out, as in most things in life, every circumstance comes with both positive and negative aspects, such as the independent lives females in Mosuo lead but by trading off the experiences of marriages, city life, and an independence away from your core family.

Allen, TX
This article is very intriguing to see what the Mosuo life is like for both men and women. However, I find it very hard to see myself live the lives of these very women. As one women said, she would not marry the man she was in love with. It seems very hard. And the fact that she would not leave her family as well is all very fascinating to see the bonds between one's family life there.

Dennis Gabil - Resu, Meghalaya
The Garos living in Meghalaya are originally not a matriarchal society when they came down from China. There are well-documented facts taken as lessons even in school syllabus some years back that it's only at one point of time they gather together and made a decision with their Khasi-Jaintia brethen to adopt matriarchal system.

palma de mallorca, spain
I think that this culture is going to disappear with the influence of the tourism. at least it's never going to be the same as it used to be. From my point of view, this culture is not so different from ours. In fact I think all around the world women are the main piece of a family and the ones who face the problems and give solutions working much harder than men. I don't know if there is just a genetic reason, but this is the fact, at least this is what I think.

(anonymous)
Today, I will do a presentation about gender gaps. the Mosuo are one of my examples. thanks to your resource. i will visit there when i go back China.

Norbu Lama - Berkeley, CA
Thanks for sharing this wonderful information about Mosuo cultures. I am from Luku lake, and also a Mosuo man. Hope to hear more things from you. Peace and love.

Thomas Andrews - Seelbach, BW Germany
It's such a shame that these people are condemned by their very own open nature to be yet another victimized indigenous people on the verge of assimilation and therefore elimination as nothing more than a token attribute of a lost culture. The Mosuo culture itself has been degraded to a Disneyland product and the people are no more than chattel to a regime of industrial exploitation.

mabanga godfrey - mbarara, uganda
There has been a similar tale in our culture where long ago there was a women kingdom [Kitami kya Nyawera] where only women lived without men and one time a man strayed in their kingdom which forced women to gaze at his strange bodily fixtures. I am therefore impressed by this Mosuo society. I wish I could one day visit this matriarch kingdom !

davin hellstrom - montreal, quebec , Canada
Superb, it is refreshing to know this mind-set is awake and flourishing in China. I adored the story. Great Job!!

Mike Yamate - Richmond, CA
A follow up visit to Mosuo seems an absolute necessity! How does a minority culture survive the age of globalization, especially in a totalitarian nation? How long will it take for Starbuck's, McDonald's and Mickey Mouse to plant their flags there?

(anonymous)
Many comments have been made about the lack of the father's involvement in the child's upbringing. I think these comments miss a vital point - the children DO grow up with the care and guidance of older males. Rather than having 1 father, each child in the mother's family has many uncles to bring them up and care for them. The men do not 'skimp' on child rearing responsibilities - they look after their sisters' children.
Although I would like to have seen more interviews with men in this society - especially since the many doning cow-boy hats and jeans must have a thing or two to say about Han girls coming to pursue bronzed singing-dancing Mosuo men. But overall, still an excellent piece of documentary film making!

(anonymous)
We should respect every culture, but the whole world would be a mess if all cultures were Mosuo-like. Thankfully, this culture only makes up essentially 0% of the world population. Yes...the existence of this culture is due to the fact that China has traditionally been a country which prefers boys. That it's totally against the statement "men and women are equal" should make people ponder. The guys there have essentially no power. Can you imagine living in a world that is like this? The people in Mosuo claim these are lovers with no restrictions. It is ashamed they don't have freedom and that they must obey to what their mothers and grandmothers say. Men there don't need to take any responsibility (even a guy from Mosuo publicly says "I am the king of walking marriage"). They can rarely see their children, especially whey they get old. Women can have sex with as many guys they want and they can turn back the guys whichever nights they want. They claim this is love, but how can true love happen only in the bedroom? How can they love and support each other when they are not allowed to see each other during daytime?

ALEXANDRA ACZON - AIEA, HAWAII
I am reading Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu, LEAVING MOTHER LAKE, and I have to stop reading to "google" topics about Naxi and Mosuo culture. Thanks to your report, I was able to clarify, verify the truth of my newly acquired knowledge on matrilineal families of the Naxi and Mosuo groups. I hope you will go on to develop a series--for more broadcasts in the future.

John Nevens - Vancover, BC
It's refreshing too hear that such a matriarchal society exists in the world. I've always felt good with strong, caring women around me. Women have been vastly undervalued in male dominated cultures. If it weren't for woman we wouldn't be here.

Becca Cheskett - Toronto, Ontario
You should really read the book "Throwaway Daughter" if you are interested in this topic. It's meant for a more young adult audience, but it's a very emotional and informative read. I personally recommend it. It's about the one child policy in China, and a young girl named Dong-mei who was adopted into Canada after being abandoned by her mother as an infant. READ IT!

Jutta Ried - Bdingen, Germany
November 2006
Hi everyone,
can't remember when it was I put my first message here, (must have been 2005) but it is very encouraging to see so many people respond to you. Expecially people from other matriarchal societies. If only more of them could realize how wonderful and special they are so their selfconfidence could grow and help them to stand up for their values and lifestyles and thus help them to survive.
Good Work
Jutta

San Francisco, CA
I also found this interesting as a student studying anthropology and Asian American Studies. However, I wonder about the contrasting endings of the TV and Internet versions. "Even in the woman's kingdom, freedom comes with painful choices" has two every different meanings. The TV version ends on a note about Cha Cuo's new relationship, while the Internet version ends with a critical insight about the relationship between the Mosuo people and the outside world. Of course I liked the Internet version better. Excellent work!

Kara Smith - Boston, MA
This broadcast helped reinforce, redefine, and reimagine my own image of myself, my personal Kingdom, and how I want to rule in my life. In this way I can keep the spirit of independence alive in myself, in relationship with my soul mate, and raise my children with these values for future generations.

Gloria Kan - Toronto, Canada
This documentary was very interesting. Chinese society tends to have a very traditional view of marriage and gender roles and so it is very refreshing to see a society that has taken different paths of thought about such politics.I would like to address a comment here made by Joy Jiang from Shanghai, China. He made some comments that might have unintentionally been rather backwards in terms of feminism. It isn't very correct to term a woman a "girl." It is doubted that one would refer to a similar aged man as a "handsome boy."I find this a very fascinating society. A matriarchal household structure to the modern common Chinese is rather frowned upon. I do not view the "walking marriage" as a good system since there is the possibility of rampant sexually transmitted diseases, and I do not think that marriage would necessarily be unpleasant for the wife or the husband. For myself, I would support the social perspective where women have their intellectual, emotional and physical liberty unrestrained. I feel like this is not how it is in most all of the patriarchal societies dominating the nations of the world.

Paul Threatt - Raleigh, NC
Critics would point to the lack of progress and describe their culture as backwards, but what exactly has our progress gained us? Traffic, pollution, greed, larger wars. How peaceful to paddle across the river listening to your proud, confident partner sing beautiful songs that echo across the glassy water. What are we "progressing" towards if not more moments like that one?

Mary Hunt - Orange, CA
I found the notes on their language more interesting than the walking marriages. To be a "stable" society for thousands of years is amazing. To have no words for war, murder or rape is stunning. That says more about the values that women leaders give the society than what male leaders bring.

Pat Madden - Denver, CO
Fascinating video! Delightfully informative and intriguing. Show more.

Paul Ward - Brooklyn, NY
I certainly hope this pristine and ancient culture and the surrounding ecosystem is not damaged beyond repair due to the large tourist influx. I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary and thought the traditional costumes were extremely beautiful.

Tracy Watson - Oakland, CA
I was thrilled to learn that such a society could exist today! It is invigorating and deeply provocative to see women living on their own terms and men respecting that! Yes, Virginia, there is more than one version of "And they lived happily ever after."

Amanda Miller - Painesville, Ohio
As a student of anthropology I found this Frontline report to be extremely informative and interesting. Watching such strong assured women made me wish that I had been born into such a society. To be able to say, 'I love being a woman because I can do anything' is an amazing statement that all women should be able to say, but can't. Maybe one day other societies can learn from the Mosuo people.

Ryan Broderick - El Segundo, CA
Very interesting piece. The most important implication that I got from this video is that gender relations in society are in no way "natually" patriarchal--"gender" really is a social construct. One might hope that societies containing variegated social/sexual gender structures proliferate while not encapsulating patri- or matriarchal structures in order that people may gain more insight into different gender roles available to people. I'm sorry that that, as Zhou predicts, the Mosuo will eventually lose their status as indigenous peoples and become a bastardized version of their former selves as they are absorbed into Chinese society at large (especially through tourism), though the erosion of matriarchal (and of course patriarchal) gender relations in favor of egalitarian gender relations is not something that I am particularly sad about insofar as those labels indicate that one gender has more power or some other advantage over the other. Very eye-opening piece, keep it up!

Leah Kimmerly - Arlington, VA
What a fascinating cultural study - China's ethnic minorities are all so unique - I haven't seen much about the Mosuo, and this has really piqued my interest! Very well done - I would love to visit there someday.

Reena Geevarghese - Queens, NY
I really enjoyed watching this program as it shows us that women's rights or empowerment are not western. It is amazing that you find women who share innately similar belief systems whether they are the Mosuo or elsewhere. Often times our prescribed roles in patriarchal cultures, western and nonwestern, makes those of us who haven't followed the same route as other women outsiders. I look forward to watching more of Frontline World and hearing about lives I wouldn't normally have the privilege of seeing. Thank you.

Tawei Li - Shanghai, China
Great piece. The matriarchy system seems to have serve them well. There is a new genetic theory that males evolved in the evolution to provide faster genetic mix and later become warriors because males are dispensable. Looks like the matriarchy system in Mosou has developed very well and built a great community around. One thing that I haven't seen mentioned is the attitudes of Chinese (Han) toward the minority groups. From the language, Mandarin is taught to the Mosou but Han traditions have not been imposed on it. Chinese have not tried to "civilize" them. This may also reflect the Chinese attitude towards the world.

(anonymous)
I was struck by how happy and self-assured these Mosuo women were. For me, it was their fierce self-loyalty that was so beautiful. I just found it a bit sad that the girls thought that the more "modern" women were more beautiful. There is nothing more beautiful than self-loyalty in action.

Hefei, Anhui
Baiyang, a Chinese author, has written a novel which gives a vivid illustration of this matriarchal society. In my opinion, during the recent years since the 1980s, the Mosuo society in southwest China has been greatly influenced by the outside world and especially affected by tourists which would gradually undermine it.

Ian Gooding - Bronx, NY
I had previously seen some brief footage about the Mosuo on a Discovery Channel program but this piece offered much more detail. I was amazed by the confidence and natural beauty of these women; they appear to be assertive but not abusive. It seems like they hate the idea of marriage but don't necessarily hate men. I hope that their culture and way of life won't be corrupted by curiosity seekers or sexual deviants. Finally, I just love their traditional clothing.

Samantha Berk - Aurora, OH
It may be a matriarchy, but the women still work hard and the men get to play around. How's that for women's rights?

Montreal, Canada
Very interesting piece. I was surprised to see that these people could practice their religion in China today. They seem to be more like Tibetans than Chinese. Would love to visit this place called Shangri-La.

Nan Garcia-Wood - Venice, CA
I was instantly struck by the parallels in societal structure between the Mosuo culture and Navajo and Apache traditional structures. Among Navajo, the house is the property of the woman who built it (men do help with the heavy lifting and pole setting). Maternal uncles, rather than fathers, are responsible for their sister's children (as in Apache custom). Most women can marry, except the youngest daughter who can have as many lovers and children as she likes but cannot marry and care for a husband as she is to care for her parents in old age, inheriting her mother's house after her parents die. I am myself of Apache heritage. In my gene scan (done as a bone marrow donor) I have a gene group common to Chinese and Japanese. Athapascan people, which include the Athapascan of Alaska, Navajo and Apache, are believed by many, especially Native American Studies University Faculty, to be the only indigenous Americans to arrive from Mongolia via the Bering Straight land bridge. I find this an interesting connection. I would welcome suggestions for further research. Thank you. This was a fascinating piece.

Dave Green - Renssselaer, NY
Looks like this system is as efficient in releasing a man from the responsibility of caring for children as is our welfare state. Even in a "matriarchy," it's a man's world!

Martin Padilla - Barker, NY
Marriage has become unnecessary in a society that works like a community to raise children and care for the sick and elderly. It really does take a village! We are all potential "uncles."

Ashley Brennan - San Antonio, TX
I was intrigued by this story because I have never heard of this type of society before. I don't mean to say that matriarchal societies have never existed, but none that I know of today. Honestly, I am against this lifestyle because I believe that both men and women are important and should embrace that. That a girl should say a father is not important is terrible. I am not saying that children are defective if they have one parent, but I believe that if they are two parents there then they should raise their child whether married or divorced. We need to stop separating ourselves as if we don't need one another.

(anonymous)
I am heterosexual, but am very happy to see an expression of the unrepressed female archetype. This is much needed in our societies worldwide. Change is inevitable. Observe the animal kingdom, which in many circumstances is a queendom.

Day Brown - Clinton, AR
Matriarchy has been subject to vigorous debunking in archeology. One of the best documented examples is the Tocharians of what is now northwest China, which PBS has done some video with. It'd be interesting to do a comparative analysis with it and the other still extant matriarchies mentioned here.

Antolin Du Bois - Flushing, Queens
Sounds like an ideal society to all liberals, feminists, and flaky men who think only of themselves.
Yet I wonder how well this society will do when confronted with AIDS, child-kidnapping, and the demands of a modern society. Sure, it might be Shangri-La to those needing to shed modern society and traditional values, but to those of us living in the modern post industrial society, a two-parent family only then supported by an extended familial relationship. Or we can continue to have single mothers on welfare in our modern society, where unwittingly, we are the 'uncles' of the film, without the 'sweet night' benefit.

(anonymous)
It was thrilling to see the eyes of women who had grown up within a genuine matriarchy. This is what the ancient Celts were like. This is the dream that feminists aspire to. Thank you so much for showing this.

North Billerica, MA
Great report! I agree with some of the comments posted on this Web site, especially the one about China's ethnic minorities not getting as much attention by the media as the Han majority. There's a lot of diversity in China and I am glad Frontline is presenting this aspect of China to the world.

Jenemejayan Shivan - New Delhi, India
Very interesting to read about the Mosuo people of china. The Nair community in the southern Indian state of India have a long tradition of matriarchy, which has improved the rights of women of this community and in turn helped to better the lot of women in that state (one of the few states in India not having an adverse female - male ratio).

Rolly Bain - Newburgh, NY
I have found learning about different Chinese women's behavior most interesting. What I don't understand is why more than 90 percent of them seem to have such high energy and great ambition. This makes me want to spend some time intermingling with Chinese people in China, so I can know what it is really like to work and play with them. What is it like to have fun with them? I would like to spend a year in China and write about my experiences in a compare and contrast essay

(anonymous)
Great work!

(anonymous)
I'm a Anthropology Grad student in the US. Recently I was asked to give a lesson on varying kinship systems to a group of ANTH100 students. Trying to explain to a class of 18-20 year olds that nuclear families are not the norm in all cultures was daunting. I ended up suggesting that they watch this documentary. Not only did the film give a human voice to the terminology I was throwing out, it also encouraged them to consider issues of subjectivity, authenticity and cultural change.

Tse-Sung Wu - Berkeley, CA
II saw this film as part of the San Francisco International Asian-American Film Festival. In a small film Zhou has captured the essence of modernity with all of its problems and longings. In mythologizing aspects of Asian civilizations, Westerners have long looked to the east for something to fill their lives. But this film shows that the Han Chinese from the large eastern cities suffer from the same modernist malaise that westerners suffer. The fashionably coiffed woman from Shanghai who lamented the emotionally repressed dating scene in her hometown; the Han Chinese man who "married" into the Mosuo, who complained of how women care only about a man's status and earning potential- are people I could've met here in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC.
One can only be struck at how self-possessed, straightforward and happy the Mosuo women and girls seem. At how the men feel their basic needs are met (people to care for them in old age, among other things). And how sad it is that the women now are feeling less satisfied about their bodies, and feeling less free with their flirting or to sing in the streets outside of Lugu Lake; or how the lake has become polluted.This film makes me care deeply about this matriarchy, yet I am completely uninterested in visiting, largely out of fear of changing them by contact with a Westerner.I wish that we could think of a kind of "responsible tourism," to preserve cultures the way we would preserve nature. It is only because we industrialized peoples subscribe to the inherent superiority of the modern, materially rich life, that we feel we cannot criticize some members of the Mosuo for wanting to modernize, for wanting that more materially rich life, possibly at the expense of their own culture.My hope is that cultures like these can still flourish, and, if they must come into contact with us, that they can teach us a different way of being, before that way of life is made extinct.China's civilization and natural environment are changing in unprecedented ways and it's vital for people, including this filmmaker from China, to document these changes and hopefully make us all ask critical questions about progress and modernization.

Serena Xie - Toronto, Canada
Very interesting story and I really enjoyed it! It's the everyday dilemma that we are facing: balancing the development and the originality (maintaining the old way of living before tourism flourished). Hope to see more of the film.

Amanda Darren - New Orleans, LA
This is a wonderful story! I have never seen anything quite like it. I am new to the Frontline/World website and have never been to China, but I found this story to be so wonderful I wanted to post something. I teach history at a small primary school in New Orleans and will pass this on to my students. Thank you!

Ting Shi - Los Angeles, CA
I've heard of the Mosuo since I was a little girl and also many versions of their "exotic" traditions later on, but it took this 20 minute documentary film from the unique perspective of a female Chinese journalist to finally unveil the true story of the "Kingdom of Women." I'm particularly interested in the increasing tension between the Mosuo tradition and the commercial pressure from the outside world. It'd be great if the filmmaker can return to the Mosuo, say, some ten years later, and shoot a sequel.

Beijing, China
Wow! This was my first time to watch your work. It's great! It deepens my understanding of Mosuo women and its culture. Now more work has been done to improve the water resources there. Heard there's a relocation project, which is invested by Shanghai Hualian. Looking foward to seeing more of your productions!

Joy Jiang - Shanghai, China
What a peaceful place, what a pretty girl, what an adorable lifestyle, what an excellent documentary, and what a great reporter!

(anonymous)
Fascinating!

Andrea Thomas - Winston-Salem, NC
A fascinating piece by a talented young reporter! The interview with the reporter on her perspective on Chinese journalism was particularly interesting.

Yao Yu - Shanghai, China
Quite interesitng story it is. I know it is all true, for when I was in Kunmin some guys told me about this -- of course not in detail. It is just great work to make this video to let people out there know the amazing place and culture in China. Even being Chinese, not everyone has heard about this. I will show this web site to all of my friends for sharing the story.

Ricky Tong - Shanghai, Xuhui
I've been to Yunnan ,and I heard that the story about "The Women's Kingdom" is the truth. Different culture background from us, but I think "walking marriage" is just like another style of "one night stand." Just my opinion.

Jin Zheng - Shanghai, China
I like this program which introduces the unique customs and culture of the Mosuo. Changes may be inevitable to the tribe, so maybe I should go there to take a look before it's totally changed.

Kevin Han - Syracuse, NY
I should say I love it! I could not imagine those ladies who were interviewed are so confident and sophisticated. They expressed themselves so clearly and subtly in front of the camera. I bet not only Americans, but also Chinese, especially Han will be interested in it. I am curious about why they don't like Han, but one of them is dating a Han
man. Why don't they like tourists who break their daily life, but bring them with new
things? I think the love-hate relationship existing in mountains is really meaningful.
It worth broadcasing it at PBS so more people can share such a wondeful story.

(anonymous)
What an amazing story. I will let others know it's out here.

Yikong Keung - Winston-Salem, NC
I also enjoyed the video. However the documentary should be viewed in perspectives. The following article has been enlightening for me too:
"From N Guo to N'er Guo: Negotiating Desire in the Land of the Mosuo" by Eileen Rose Walsh. Modern China, Vol. 31, No. 4, 448-486 (2005)

Sarah Thompson - Toledo, Ohio
I really enjoyed learning about another culture. I think that the whole idea of not forcing marriage on young women is a wonderful concept, since in America it is constantly everywhere. Everything has a downside, but the Mosuo have a good concept of avoiding divorce.

Frank Smith - Stamford, CT
This is fascinating but it seems like a culture likely to be transformed through AIDs. Maybe I am old fashioned but monogamous relationships are still the safest. Multiple sex partners, and now with tourists? Uh oh.

Dennis Surrarrer - Chippewa Lake, Ohio
This is a fascinating piece! I hope to see more. It is very interesting to see life in other parts of the world.

Dave McMurtry - San Francisco, CA
Professionally made and infinitely interesting; this movie will no doubt raise conservative hackles but it does so as an invaluable service to those with open minds who crave information about life outside their own regional and political environment.

Cleveland, OH
I have four daughters and shared this film with them. It sparked a lively conversation among us. It's interesting to learn of other cultures. I'd like to see a long, more indepth film on this aired on TV.

Mark - Medina, Ohio
After every good film you look for a sequel. I hope in this case it may happen. I was captivated by how real people opened their lives, told their stories and you brought it back in film. Thank you.

Carla Tucker - Moundsville, WV
This piece was very informative for my family. To see how their culture is so very different from ours but works so very well for them. I would like to see the whole documentory broadcasted on television so more people can see it. It was very informative. Keep up the good work.

S. A. Backer Jisthi - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
I am Jisthi again. I object Mr.Abdulla Al Rarim's letter regarding the matriarchal system. In a matriarchal society men and women are looking after the children. The difference from a patriarchal society is that in a matriarchy instead of the father, the mother's brother is looking after the children.

Rob Andrews - London, UK
I am so sad that the pressures of money and tourism along with do gooders and preachers of all sorts will destroy the way of life of the Mosuo people who live a happy life. (I have never seen so many happy looking faces in documentaries around the world as that of the Mosuo). Something ought to be done to protect them from the evil outside world of greed and lust. These people live with love and hard work.

S.A.BACKER JISTHI - DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Matriarchal system is a normal thing. From ancient times it existed all over the world. I myself got married to a lady from a Matriarchal tribe called GARO. Garo language belongs to the Sino Tibetan language family. Garos, along with their sister tribes, came from China. And I am sure that this Masou tribe must be a distant cousin tribe of Garos. Garos are living in Assam and Bengladesh. My wife is from the clan called Chambugong. One interesting thing is that even before 35 years they were adopting a system called bride-groom capturing. It means if a Garo girl proposes to marry a boy and if he rejects her, her clan will capture and give him to her and make him married forcefully. They keep their mother's clan name in their title. Even my daughter is keeping her mother's title.

Marius Dumas - Cape Town, South Africa
I'm a... year old man from South Africa and I strongly believe that this culture the Mosuo's have must be sustained. I strongly believe that this concept will make the world a better place. Politicians across the world agree to empower women. But why don't they want to step down and let women rule the roost for a chance. I have much confidence in women that they would know what is best. I think men have suffered more under male dominant society than with the sacrifices they will need to make for a female society. Feminism is on the right track and must keep it up. No matter how much power women have the world will still be a better place for both women and men.

Liz Niven - Dumfries, Scotland UK
A fasacinating programme. Centuries ago Scotland had matriarchal societies too.

Richard Williams - Manila, Philippines
I am very impressed by this society where women have such strong and persuasive ways. In my present home location women seem so submissive though I have seen an inner strength which I know will one day emerge. I truly hope to one day occupy my deserved and rightful position under strong female rule.

Francesca Letterly - Seattle, WA
What an amazing story. The story of the Mosou people was truly inspiring and liberating to see. It is refreshing to learn about cultures that challenge the dominant sexual roles of women in society. Well done!

Jennifer Miller - North Ridgeville, Oh
AWSOME video, very touching.

LaRue Surrarrer - Chatham, Ohio
This was a beautiful piece - we'd love to see more!

Kim Winemiller - North Olmsted, Ohio
My husband and I watched the film. We were fascinated by the lives of the Mosuo women. It interested us to see how tourism has changed the lives of these amazing women. This was a beautiful film which stayed with us long after we watched it the first time!

LIU YU - NANJING,JIANGSU, CHINA
I've heard of the "women's kingdom" story. I hope I will have a chance to visit this blessed kingdom.

Edith Pickford - Augusta, Maine
It would be nice to see a story like this on television. It is a shame to only run it in a compressed form on the Internet. One rarely sees stories about China's numerous ethnic communities on tv. Plus, this piece is so lively and beautiful-it deserves to be aired.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
We're glad you liked it. We share your enthusiasm and we may indeed be able to air "The Women's Kingdom" as part of our television series sometime this year. We began "Rough Cut" on our web site as a way to develop stories for possible broadcast. The bottleneck right now is that FRONTLINE/World only airs 4-5 times a season on PBS. We wish it were more often. One of the other reasons we launched "Rough Cut" was to provide a weekly outlet for all the great stories we commission and acquire. We also appreciate your interest in China's ethnic minorities. In our January 2005 episode we aired a story, "China: Silenced" about the Sufi Muslim Uighurs in western China.

lilian lee - guangzhou, china
Although I 've heard about the matiachy system before, but through this [video] I've learned more about MOSUO things. I'm interested in this system's future and the statement of living in modern society.

abdullah al-rahim - phoenix, arizona
Althought this type of life style appears interesting and seems to work out ok for some people in Asia or America, I still think that it is best for children to be raised by a mother and a father. Two parents of different sex.

Endy Sangma - New Delhi, India
I myself am Garo tribal by birth and our society is also matriarchy system. I want to know more about Mosou culture and heritage.

Wesley Wilson - Olympia, WA
I visited the Mosuo in the Eastern Girls Kingdom, and Lugbu Lake, in 1998, and found it to be fascinating! I report some of its customs in my book, "Curious Customs & Bizarre Beliefs Around the World."