The other day, A and I were talking about our kids. One thing led to another as it does, and soon we were talking about patriarchy and matriarchy. A, who has an encyclopedic knowledge (his nickname is Mr. Peabody though he is much cuter), told me about the Naxi (also spelled Nakhi) and the sub-group Mosuo. Among these people women are the heads of households, raising their children with support from brothers. They have boyfriends when and how they wish, but these men have no authority over them or their children. Historically, male authority was founded on anxiety over the paternity of their children. Control of women assuaged that anxiety, but it’s irrelevant when the nuclear family is composed of mother, children, and uncles.
Fascinated, I googled the Naxi and Mosuo. One thing led to another as it does on the internet, and I came across a wonderful travel book by Peter Goullart. He lived in China for about 25 years from 1924 to 1949, and throughout the 40’s he lived in the territory of these peoples in Yunnan province in the south-western corner of China near Tibet. He lived in the same town (Lijiang) as Joseph Rock, whose writings on this part of China formed the basis for Lost Horizon. I’ll write a review when I finish the book. But I can tell you that so far it is entirely delightful.