Exploring Yunnan: First Trip to Lugu Lake — “The Kingdom of Women”

The Monkey King, Sun Wukong, ashamed for disappointing his master, yet excited to head back to his home, travelled by somersault cloud to the Bird and Flower Mountain. Upon arriving home, he found his once peaceful, beautiful home infested with demons. The monkeys had been forced to worship the new intruders. Sun Wukong took advantage of his new powers to dispel the evil beasts and once again was given the throne. He contently lived with his monkey brethren for hundreds of years and never shared with his kind who taught him “the Way.” Without him knowing, some gods from Heaven kept wary eyes down to the small island…”Who is this powerful monkey?”


Representing the Fulbright with Pigtails and a Goofy Grin — in Lugu Lake

From Lijiang, Molly and I took a 6 hour bus through the winding Himalayas. We finally crossed over the last mountain range and approached a crystal blue lake. The water is really as blue as the tourism websites make it out to be! We were dropped off at Big Luoshui with the rest of the tourists. I was told by an anthropologist who also studies the Mosuo that we should visit the small town, Lige. I asked around to see how far it was by foot–the bus driver said about two hours. Molly and I decided we can do one more hike before calling it a day. We walked along the lake, stopping at a dock in the middle of the hike to enjoy the water (pictured above). We came on such a beautiful day.


Mount Gemu — the Mother Goddess

Along the trail, we were walking towards Mount Gemu, a spiritual mountain that is involved with much Mosuo folklore. Supposedly, Mount Gemu is the Mother Goddess of the area and is in “walking marriage” relationships with other geological parts of the lake. “Walking marriages” are relationships where there is no contractual form of partnership, rather a couple meets at night to see one another for romantic reasons. The male partner returns to his natal home the next morning, but will return to his lover’s household most likely the next night and thereafter. These relationships are very much committal  especially into old age. The small town of Lige is perched alongside Mount Gemu by the lake. It was a nice walk to the town.



We arrived at Lige before sunset, just enough time to find an open room in a nice hostel. We went during the Spring Festival, so lots of hotels and hostels were filled to the brim with people. We were lucky to find a place and strike a deal with a nice boss to get a discount. Lige is one of the most touristy places around the lake, so the buildings were all recently renovated and owned by outsiders. The hostel we stayed at was owned by Han Chinese from Guangdong Province. After filling out registration forms at the hostel, we then went out for some dinner. We found a happening barbecue place and ordered some chicken and potatoes. We planned to cook them ourselves, but then a neighboring table beckoned us to come over. For the rest of the night, we were going back and forth with tables. We got to know Chinese tourists, the shop’s boss, his brother and fellow monks, and the town’s best singer.


Hanging with the Boss, his brother, and the other Monks 


Hanging with Lige’s Best Singer (next to me in the hat) and some Chinese Tourists

That night, I got to know a Han Chinese that works in Lijiang. He brought his car with him and asked if Molly and I would be interested in driving around the lake with him and his friends. I agreed whole heartedly. Later on, my new friends asked Lige’s best singer, Anu-seno, if he could sing for us. He said only if I would duige with him, which is more or less a singing competition where the two parties sing back to one another. He began with “Duimian de Nvhai Kanguolai” (Young Lady Look Over Here). Thank goodness I know that song’s melody!

He started:


Translation: Young lady look over here, look over here, look over here/this performance is wonderful/please do not fake not being interested!

I responded with lyrics I made up:


Translation: Young man look over here, look over here, look over here/although I look a little strange/I’m actually quite cute!

The singer was not expecting me to be able to sing in Chinese, neither did my friends, so everything cheered for me. The singer laughed, but also didn’t want to lose just yet. He continued with a popular song about the moon representing his love for me. I then responded with a popular Chinese song about how he exists in my heart. We went on and on until I ran out of Chinese pop songs and started singing English ones. In the end, I got the crowd cheering for me, but really no one won or lost, it was all for fun.

I decided it was getting late, so I headed back to the hostel to meet with Molly–she had left early. I planned to meet my new friends the next morning to drive around the lake.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Exploring Yunnan: First Trip to Lugu Lake — “The Kingdom of Women”

  1. Meg

    You had an old-fashioned sing off with the best singer in Lige! I’m going to write that into a play.

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