More Inspiration: The DiRel – Olive

(Photo cred.:

This is one of a series of posts about inspiration for the novel we’ve written, OF GOLD AND FIRE.

The DiRel people – A people ruled by Women

Some of the inspiration for the DiRel society, the group that one of our main characters belongs to, comes from the Mosuo (or “Na”) people, a small ethnic minority in China.

One of the last matrilineal societies in the world, the Mosuo (also spelled Moso) live near a Lugu Lake in Yannan, China. Years ago, I read a book about them called Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World, by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu. I highly recommend it. (Amazon says that I purchased this book in 2007, so I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while.)

The Mosuo have a tradition that is often called “walking marriages.” In fact, they don’t really marry at all, at least in the sense that we do in the West. Also, family structure is very different from the way we organize ourselves. For example, children belong to the family of the mother, and men sometimes have very little involvement in the raising of the children. Women are also the heads of the household, the matriarch being the end all be all in Mosuo families.

One of the things the book mentioned was that you never have any question whether a child is of that mother; there can be no mistake as to maternity…I mean, it kind of makes sense that a society would do that, especially before DNA and so on.

Like the Mosuo and other Chinese, the local people in our story think that the DiRel are promiscuous, which isn’t the case. The Mosuo [DiRel] generally take only one partner at a time, but lack the usual reservations that Western society (or the “local” society in CHAINED) places on women, or men for that matter.

But the DiRel are also markedly different from the Mosuo in many ways. For one, the DiRel are a much more primitive people, wearing skins and hunting for their food. They keep chickens, but no other livestock. The setting for the DiRel Mountain, as mentioned in our blog post, Inspiration for CHAINED: Setting and Slavery, is the Kuwaiti desert and craggy Hindu Kush, specifically in Afghanistan.

To read about the Mosuo, please pick up Leaving Mother Lake, or check out the Mosuo project online.


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