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November 26, 2009

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Airport to ease visits to lake where women rule

CONSTRUCTION of an airport near China's last matriarchal society in the southwestern Yunnan Province has started, authorities said yesterday.

A 10.5-kilometer road to the construction site of Lugu Lake Airport, in the Ninglang Yi Autonomous County of Lijiang City, has now been built, said a spokesman for the provincial civil aviation department.

The airport is 35 kilometers from Lugu Lake. It will cover 1.77 square kilometers, have a 4,000-square-meter terminal building and cost 837 million yuan (US$123 million).

The airport will boost local tourism and promote the area's social and economic development, the spokesman said.

With its wood-frame houses scattered around Lugu Lake, which separates Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, the Mosuo ethnic minority has a population of about 40,000.

Unlike the majority of China's ethnic groups that follow a strong patrilineal tradition, the Mosuo have preserved their ancient matriarchal system and the tradition of "walking marriage."

After puberty, a Mosuo girl is free to receive men. But the men can visit only at night and must go to their own homes in the morning. Any children born from these relationships are raised by the mother's family. Either member of the couple can move on to a new partner whenever he or she wishes.


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