Documenting Mosuo Culture: Story of a Mosuo Orphan

A-Pu was born in a village outside of Lugu Lake in 1990. His mother soon left him with his grandmother and never returned during A-Pu’s childhood. He grew up embarrassed for being motherless, which led to him being very introverted. When he turned thirteen, the year one goes through their “coming of age” ceremony, his mother appeared for the first time to witness it. For being nonexistent during his entire life, he barely talked to her during the week she visited. She left soon after. When he was fourteen, a male tourist stayed in his home during his travels. The two became very close, becoming A-Pu’s first parental figure. He asked A-Pu if he’d like to join him back to his hometown, Hangzhou, and work at his bar. He agreed. He packed up his things and left Lugu Lake for the first time. He spent most of his teenage years in Fujian province working as a bartender and ethnic performer, as well as experiencing modern society outside of Lugu Lake. He then moved to Kunming and performed for a couple years before moving back to Lugu Lake to develop his home into a guest house. He grew through these experiences. He got past his unfortunate past and has become a very out-going, friendly person.

I got to know A-Pu while he auditioned to be a performer in the Lige village theatrical show. His house is currently under construction to be a guest house. He shared with me his dream is to make an international guest house that will attract people from all over the world. Even though he doesn’t know how to read or write, he wants to learn English so that he can be the boss. We will be language partners in the summer, so I can help him live his dream, and he can teach me the Mosuo language.

One night, we visited a bar and invited A-Pu. The bar owner is Han but loves to sing Mosuo songs. He started singing a sad-sounding ballad in the Mosuo language, which I did not understand. A-Pu’s expression suddenly turned sullen, but started singing along with the singer. When they finished, he turned to me and said that the song is about a young boy missing his mother. He sang to a mother that he wished he had, not to one that left him.

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A-Pu Waving to Us After the Performance

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