History and Anthropological Study of the Ancient Kingdoms of the Sino-Tibetan Borderland - Naxi and Mosuo

Author: Mathieu, Christine
This study contributes to Naxi and Mosuo studies, Chinese, Yunnanese and Himalayan studies, and the fields of anthropology, history, ethnic studies, and religion. It is a multidimensional anthropological study devoted to the history of Naxi social institutions and the political history of the southwestern Sino-Tibetan frontier. This study presents original data on both matrilineal and patrilineal Mosuo society, and original ethnographic information on patrilineal Mosuo families and marriage system. It also proposes a Mosuo matriarchal history, a significant claim for anthropological theory. It also contributes to the fields of Himalayan studies and pre-Buddhist religions and the relationship between religion and politics in tribal societies. It explains the origins of Naxi Dongba pictographic script in territorial cults and military expansion. On the basis of her own fieldwork, the author also describes the rapidly disappearing Mosuo Daba religion, of which little is known outside China. It presents an entirely original reading of primary and secondary Chinese sources.


“This is a remarkable book on an important and fascinating topic….Its major objective is to recover some of the processes that transformed these formally independent tribes oriented toward Tibet into feudal subjects of the Chinese empire. The secondary objective is to explore the ethnic and historical relationship between the Naxi and Mosuo. Central to this project is a pair of sixteenth-century chronicles on the history of the Mu family, the most eminent clan in the history of Naxi. Mathieu’s interpretation and analysis of these chronicles puts the hitherto obscure Sino-Tibetan southwestern frontier in a new historical light. This makes a significant contribution to Chinese and Himalayan studies….Mathieu weaves her analysis in and out of established theories and disciplines, history, anthropology, religious studies, linguistics and archaeology…. There are significant contributions to theory, especially in the area of state formation, kinship and gender studies.” – Professor Colin Mackerras, Brisbane, Australia

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface by Professor Colin Mackerras
Glossary, Guide to Spelling and Pronunciation; Maps
1. Introduction: Matrilineality and the Making of the Naxi Nationality and Mosuo People
2. Divine Kings and Courteous Vassals: The Genealogical Chronicles of the Naxi Chiefs
3. Between Heaven and Earth: The Lords of Mu
4. On the Origins of the Dongba Manuscripts
5. Rock Art, Pictographs, and the Foundation of Feudal Dominion
6. Love and Marriage: A Comparative Review of Kinship Diversity in Northern Yunnan
7. Marriage and the Transformation of Naxi Polity during the Ming Dynasty
8. Love Suicide, Political Resistance and the Persistence of Custom
9. On the Genealogy of the Naxi Nationality
Appendix: Zi To Co Tu: The Descent of Humanity (Mosuo creation story)
Bibliography; Index