Chinese Tribe Without Marriage Points to Future
By Nigel Barber
The Mosuo people of southwest China do not marry and fathers do not live with, or support, children. Do the Mosuo anticipate a global future where no one marries?
 the Mosuo people摩梭族在中国属于未识别民族，所以中国的56个民族中没有摩梭族。本文统译作“摩梭人”。
Whether the Mosuo have marriage depends upon what you mean by marriage. Their mating system is called “walking marriage” where the man and woman do not live together even though they sleep together.
 walking marriage 走婚
As soon as she is sexually mature, a young woman gets her own bedroom and may invite a man to spend the night with her. If babies are produced from these informal unions, they are raised by the mother with the help of her siblings and the father does not provide economic support.
 sexually mature 性成熟。
 bedroom 花楼，即摩梭成年女性的房间。
 sibling 兄弟或姐妹。
So far, it might seem that this is no different from a women in a modern society having one night stands and opting to become pregnant as a result. Yet, walking marriages are not necessarily casual relationships. In general, they seem to be long-standing arrangements that can even last for a lifetime.
 one night stand 一夜情。
 opt to do 选择做某事。
 casual relationship （尤指性方面）关系随意。
Moreover, Mosuo women generally know the paternity of the children and the father is ceremonially welcomed by children on special occasions, such as Chinese New Year. So, however minimal they are, walking marriages include one key feature of other marriages, namely the joining of a kin network.
 paternity 父亲的身份
 ceremonially 礼仪性地；仪式上。
 minimal 极少的；极小的。
 kin 亲戚；家族。
What is conspicuously missing is the economic support that married fathers around the world are expected to provide for their children in return for the opportunity of fathering children of the marriage.
 conspicuously 显著地。
 avunculate 舅权。
How could such a seemingly unbalanced version of marriage come to exist? Anthropologists offer some clues because there are other societies where fathers invest little in children of their marriage. Instead, they become attached to children of their sisters – a phenomenon known as the avunculate.
 invest in 在......投入(时间、精力等)。
 be attached to 对......有依赖；喜爱。
The avunculate likely exists because a husband’s confidence of paternity of children of the marriage is low. Whether this is true of the Mosuo is unknown.
Apart from low confidence of paternity, there is another good reason that men (and women) might choose to care for their nieces and nephews as though they were offspring. It might be a response to the difficult living conditions of the Himalayas. After all, such conditions in Tibet may be responsible for the very unusual marriage system of polyandry where a pair of brothers shares a bride.
 polyandry 一妻多夫制。
Yet another possible reason for walking marriage is that Mosuo men used to be long-distance traders who were absent for long periods in trading caravans.
What it means for the future
Modern marriage may be converging on the Mosuo tradition in the sense that formal marriage may well be on the way out. The key data point here is the fact that in some developed countries, the majority of children are already born outside marriage in a fast-developing trend.
 converge 聚集；交汇。
One of the key practical factors today is that mothers are financially much more independent than was true in the past thanks to near-universal participation in the paid labor force. Another is that women have remarkably small families of just one or two that they may be able to raise independently particularly if they live in a modern welfare state with extensive government supports for children and aggressive collection of maternity payments.
 near-universal 极为普遍的；几乎所有的。
 aggressive 积极进取的；有闯劲的。
 maternity payment 产假工资。
So the Mosuo may either be one of those strange historical holdovers – a marginal group occupying a marginal ecology. Or they may offer a revealing glimpse into the future in which formal marriage suddenly disappears.
 holdovers 残余；遗物。
 revealing 发人深省的。