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Daily Life

The Mosuo are primarily an agrarian culture, and their daily life reflects this. Most work centers on raising crops (grains, potatoes, etc.), and caring for livestock (yaks, water buffalos, sheep, goats, poultry, etc.). So far as dietary needs go, the Mosuo are largely self-sufficient, able to raise everything they need for day-to-day life. Meat is a significant part of the Mosuo diet, but lacking refrigeration, most meat tends to be salted/smoked, to be preserved for future use.   In fact, the Mosuo are somewhat famous for their preserved pork, which is really a large slab of a pig's carcass that is preserved and can be kept for 10 years or more, used when needed.

Local economies tend to be more of a barter economy, with people simply trading for what they need with each other; however, as interaction with the outside world becomes more common, there is also greater use of a cash-based system of trade. As average incomes are quite low (as low as $US 150-200 in some areas), there are severe financial restrictions when cash is necessary (such as for education, travel, etc.).

The Mosuo also have their own local alcohol, called Sulima, which is kind of like a strong wine.   It is drunk quite regularly, and almost always offered to guests. It will also be drunk at all important ceremonies and festivals.

Mosuo homes are generally designed as four rectangular structures, built in a square, with an open central courtyard. Animals and humans will live together in this home, with much of the first floor dedicated to housing for the livestock (water buffalos, horses, geese, poultry, etc.). It is, in fact, not uncommon to have animals wandering in and out of the house all day.   The first floor will also have the main cooking area, and the main eating/visiting area. The second floor is used most commonly for storage, and for the private rooms for Mosuo women (the rest of the family will sleep in communal quarters).

Electricity has only recently been introduced to Mosuo communities; in fact, many villages still have no electricity. And running water is almost non-existent, tending to rely more on local wells or streams. So living in a Mosuo village can be quite an experience for those more used to “modern luxuries”. But, on the other hand, things are changing very quickly, and it is not that uncommon to find at least one or two homes in a village that will have a satellite dish in their courtyard, and a karaoke machine hooked up to their TV.

As would be expected, change is very rapid, and has a significant impact on Mosuo culture and daily life. Many younger people seek to leave home to work in larger cities; and many younger people are forgetting their language/culture in the face of “modern” development. On the other hand, many Mosuo are very proud of their culture, and still practice many of their traditional beliefs. This mixture of modern and traditional is very interesting to see, and an experience not to be missed.

 

 


© 2006 Lugu Lake Mosuo Cultural Development Association

photos taken by Danny Gawlowski and Josie Liming