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  • Writer's pictureRick

China #20: Last Kingdom of Women, Lugu Lake (女儿国泸沽湖)

Sights: Scenery of Lugu Lake (泸沽湖)

Region: Ninglang Yi Autonomous County, Lijiang Prefecture, Yunnan


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A "Kingdom of Women (女儿国)" is a fairy tale where there are only women in the kingdom and they produce new generations by kidnapping men from outside their kingdom. In real life, it refers to a matriarchal society (母系社会) where women hold the controlling positions or important roles rather than men.

Lugu Lake is where the Mosuo minority (摩梭族) people live. Their traditional culture is of the matriarchal system (走婚习俗) where males and females are usually not married. Under the system, a man of age will sneak into the room of a girl he fancy and has a romantic affair. But they will not get married. The girl will then give birth to the next generation and probably bring them up herself.

It is a unique tradition that attracted travellers to Lugu Lake, especially male travellers who wish they can be one of the "lucky" guys and shoulder no responsibilities. However, the tradition is among the Mosuo people only unless a Mosuo girl take fancy to an outsider.

Since the Cultural Revolution in China, this tradition was discouraged by the Chinese government and most Mosuo people have considered — or already started — to get married and start a family. It is the last existing matriarchal society in China. In future, the tradition may probably be continued in folklore museums.

Apart from the unique Mosuo tradition, Lugu Lake also boasted beautiful scenery with a lake that covered 50 square kilometres and surrounded by hills and mountains. Half the lake is in Yunnan and the other half in Sichuan (四川).

Getting from Lijiang to Lugu Lake

From Shuhe Ancient Town (束河古镇), in Lijiang Ancient City, we took a bus to the entrance of Dayan Ancient Town (大研古镇) and boarded the Tourist Special Express bus to Lugu Lake at the Yunnan-Sichuan boundary. It took about 5 hours with couple of stops for passengers to take photos in Lugu Lake. At the entrance to Lugu Lake Scenic Area, we paid CNY100 for the ticket.

The bus stopped at an observation platform (泸沽湖观景台) and I snapped a wide view of Lugu Lake.

We alighted at Ligen (里根), a small town area just beside Lige Peninsula (里格半岛). But the whole area was generally known as Lige (里格).

Our return trip was already reserved with the express bus company — we just needed to make a call to the driver at least one day before our departure to confirm pickup location and seats.

Where I Stayed

Xiaoqi and I lodged at Lugu Lake Lao Shay Youth Hostel (泸沽湖老谢车马店). Staying with Lao Shay Youth Hostel had been easy from Shangri-La to Lijiang to Lugu Lake. We did not make any bookings since it was off-peak season.

We spent 2 full days in Lugu Lake.

Scenic Lugu Lake

We started the first day with a trip on the lake to see the sunrise. While waiting, we fed the seagulls.

The sun peeped over the mountain at about 8:23am.

The number of seagulls in Lugu Lake was far lesser than in Kunming City (see Story #8) probably because it was colder here.

More scenery along the lake in Lige.

Lige Peninsula (里格半岛) with some accommodations, restaurants and shops in a short street. There was a small hill on the peninsula where we walked to the top. This would be a good spot for catching sunrise too if it were not for the trees.

Lying just beside the lake was Gemu Mountain (格姆山), or Goddess Mountain. The locals believed the mountain to be the transformation of their goddess, Gemu. On 25th of July of the Lunar Calendar, the locals will hold a Torch Festival (火把节) to worship their goddess. They will circle the mountain with lighted torches in hands.

Lige was right below Gemu Mountain.

Walking along the road above Lige, there were more beautiful scenery to see.

We walked for several kilometres till we reached Xiaoluoshui (小落水). There was actually a youth hostel located here and some restaurants. We went into the hostel for a short break.

After Xiaoluoshui, it will be another several kilometes walk to the next settlement, so we headed back from here. This "road tour" took us 6 hours to-and-fro.

Although we did not cover the whole Lugu Lake Scenic Area, the beautiful scenery along the short stretch of road to Xiaoluoshui was enough for us.

On the day of our departure from Lugu Lake, the Tourist Special Express bus to Lijiang made a stop at Mosuo Folklore Museum (摩梭民俗博物馆) in Shangluoshui (上落水) for its passengers to learn a little more about Mosuo history and culture. It was a small museum and was free-entry.

Unfortunately, I did not take any photos at the museum — a habit of mine. Anyway, it was too sudden. A Mosuo young man climbed up a wall and leaped through a window into the room of the girl he fancied and both of them waved at the audience below before disappearing behind the window. A narrator explained that this was the matriarchal culture (走婚) of the Mosuo people.

After the short stop, we were back on the bus to Lijiang Ancient City.

We stayed in Dayan Ancient Town for one night before making our way to Shaxi Ancient Town of the Bai minority people in Dali.

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