Documenting Mosuo Culture: Day 4 in Remote Village–“The Meaning of Life”

We planned to leave after lunch. After eating breakfast, the team asked to interview the wife of the household. We sat in the living area, streams of light shone through holes from the ceiling in front of her. As we conversed, we learned more about her past: She grew up in Ninglang in a Han family and moved to LJZ after getting married to her now Mosuo husband. The husband entered the room soon after and joked about how she was the one that pursued him. She was trying to defend herself, but only ended the spat with laughter. She also described what life was like for her in the village over ten years ago. She said the village was much more underdeveloped. At first she couldn’t bare living there and often went back home. She didn’t even care about learning the local language until she bore her first son. Through that first child, she gradually became a part of the society because through him, she learned how to speak the language. Now you wouldn’t even guess she is Han when you see her chatting with her neighbors in the local dialect.

We moved outside and talked with the husband. His answers were so matter-of-fact. The one answer that really gave me a deep impression was asked by Daniel: “To you, what is the meaning of life?” He laughed, “I don’t know, what meaning does life have? I work in the fields everyday. I was born, had kids, and took care of the old. Life is like that. I don’t think of anything else…money isn’t important here. We help each other, unlike the cities or Lugu Lake. Here I live my life like this and don’t think about anything else outside of this way of living.” He didn’t say this sadly, rather with frank honesty.

The people of Lugu Lake have been introduced to the outside world beyond the Himalayas through tourism. The desires of the locals have expanded to things now being introduced to their society: fortune, travel, and higher education. The biggest reaction to tourism development being the thirst for profit. This desire for money is not present in LJZ. The husband is representative of this way of thinking.

We had lunch and wished the family goodbye. I would be back again to finish Daba ritual tablets for a local family in the summer, but the film team didn’t know when they’d be back. Being in the village was a profound experience for the lot of them. They decided to come back in the future. There’s something magical about the place.

IMG_1465Family Photo

I’m glad I went to LJZ with them because I saw the place in a completely different light. I got a deeper understanding of some villagers’ backstories and ways of thinking, learned more Mosuo language, and made a new set of friends. We bounced along wet roads back to Yongning where we’d reach our second home–Lugu Lake.


One Last Scene Before Hitting the Road

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