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  • Tony Forder

Man Smart, Woman Smarter

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

What It's All About Blog

By Tony Forder

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to take a 3-week tour of China. The tour was organized by my friend Richard Yue, a third generation Chinese American. He worked with a tour company in San Francisco and was able to custom design this great tour; I knew about 10 of the 30-strong group before we started, but of course we were all well-known to each other after a few days, maybe after that overnight train ride from Bejing to Xian.

Tiger Leaping Gorge on the road to Shangri-la; women of Lijiang (plus tourist); Lugu Lake was dry when we visited, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is peaking in the background.

One of the less frequented locations we visited was Shangri-la, the town formerly known as Gyaitang in Yunnan Province in southwest China. Once part of Tibet, it is located in what is now known as the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. With an eye to promoting tourism in the region the Chinese renamed it Shangri-La after the fictional city depicted in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton.

When we visited in 2012, hotels were beginning to spring up, restaurants were plentiful, and a fast train track was being built; the locals were trading in their yaks for SUVs. Some translational teething problems were evident – all the stationery and signs at our hotel spelled out Original Density, not Original Destiny.

The road we traveled to get there was single lane with a big drop-off on these mountainous roads. The trip up wasn’t bad but coming back was sphincter clenching to say the least. The bus drivers appeared to use it as a racetrack to see who could make the descent fastest and were not averse to trying to pass each other if an opportunity arose.

But Shangri-la, as interesting as it was, was not my favorite stop. The town of Lijiang where we stayed before climbing up to Shangri-la struck me as one of the most evolved towns I’ve ever been in.

The people of the Nashi and Mosuo ethnicity still follow a matriarchal society. The women run the town and government – and the families. So what do what the men do? They are encouraged to indulge in creative pursuits – writing, music, painting and drawing, cooking, and of course drinking beer.

And ain’t that what it’s all about?

Truth to be told though, men are not totally without responsibilities. From the days of hunting and gathering they transitioned to tending the livestock and butchering. But their most important work is to provide seed. “This conception stems in part from one of their beliefs presenting the man as the rain on the grass: it serves to foster what is already there. The reproductive role of the man is thus to "water" the fetus already present in the woman.”

The Nashi and the Mosuo do not marry. They are allowed to have sex with whomever they choose. A man may indicate his wish to spend the night with a woman, and she can accept or decline. Children are raised in the woman’s house by the extended family; the father is not present during the day. If a man visits a woman consistently it is called a walking marriage.

All this made perfect sense to Limetree. Lijiang would be the perfect place to live – my Shangri-la.

Without getting into a discussion about Mother Earth Goddesses and the 2,000+ year domination of certain patriarchal religions, I will just say I long ago accepted that women are smarter, as embodied in the calypso song Man Smart, Women Smarter sung by numerous artists including the Grateful Dead.

“Believe me, it's the people that say That the men are leading women astray But I say that the women today Are smarter than the men in every way.

That’s right the women are…smarter!”

And ain’t that what it’s all about!

PS – According to Wikipedia Lijiang is sister cities with Roanoke, VA. Maybe they’ll adopt some matriarchal practices there?


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