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Genesis of Marriage among the Moso and Empire-Building in Late Imperial China

  • Chuan-Kang Shih

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Marriage has been widely accepted as a universal institution that allows a kinship system to establish and perpetuate itself (Levi-Strauss 1963). Although the well-known case of the Nayar in Central Kerala of India has seriously problematized the anthropological definitions of marriage (Gough 1959), the universality of the institution is still accepted up to this day (Ember and Ember 1999). Since the early 1980s, however, a growing body of literature on the Moso, a matrilineal group in Southwest China, has made available an ethnographic case in which marriage is not the primary sexual-reproductive institution (Zhan et al. 1980; Yan and Song 1983; YNSBJZ 1986, 1987, 1988; Shih 1993; Weng 1993; Guo 1997; Cai 1997). Among the Moso, the majority of adults have practiced a visiting system called tisese (pronounced as “tea-say-say”), which differs from marriage in that it is noncontractual, nonobligatory, and nonexclusive (Shih 1993). Meanwhile, mostly amongst the elites, marriage has coexisted with tisese in Moso society for centuries.

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Genesis of Marriage among the Moso and Empire-Building in Late Imperial China

  • Chuan-Kang Shih

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