Located at the boundary of Yunnan Province and Sichuan Province, Lugu Lake is just like a crystal diamond hidden in the
mountains. It is 2690 meters above the sea level, also known as the pearl of the plateau. Formed by the downthrows of a geological fault, Lugu Lake is the highest and the second deepest lake in Yunnan. It is known around the world not only for its beautiful natural scenery, but also because it is home to a unique matriarchate well-preserved by the indigenous Mosuo people, who are a branch of the Naxi (also spelt Nakhi and Nahi) ethnic minority group.
One thing people fancy about this place it is not only because the beautiful landscape, but the unique culture of marriage, which is called walking marriage or visiting marriage. Walking Marriage is a tradition of Mosuo people. When a man and a women are in a long-term relationship, it can be regarded that they are in a walking marriage. However, they do not live together or make up a new family as normal couples do. They still live with each one’s family. They usually meet each other at night. When they have children, the children will be raised by the mother’s family, not the father’s. The father will raise his sisters’ children.
With an altitude of 2,685 meters (8,809 feet) and an area of 52 square kilometers (12,480 acres), the average depth of the lake is 40 meters (131 feet) and the deepest point is 93.5 meters (307 feet). Embraced by the mountains, Lugu Lake had been isolated from the world until the 1970s. It is a fairyland which has never been exploited and polluted.
Lugu Lake is long and narrow, like a hoof filled with limpid water. Five small forested islands are interspersed across the surface, three of which are in Yunnan precinct. The smallest island is called Lige Island, and there are only eight Mosuo families living on it. Another island, called Chieftain Island, was named because Ayunshan, the chieftain of Yongning Village, had built a villa and lived here until his death in the Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty. Simultaneously, Joseph Rock, an Austrian writer who was his friend, wrote part of the Ancient Nakhi Kingdom of South-west China (Harvard University Press, 1947) on this island. Liwubi Island, which lies three kilometers (one point nine miles) away from Chieftain Island, is actually a small peninsula extended into the lake by the Holy Gemu Mountain. The mountain is also called Lion Mountain, for it looks like a lion drinking water beside the lake. Mosuo people believe that a beautiful and kind goddess named Gemu lives on the mountain and blesses the residents at all times. A great sacrificial rite is held to worship the goddess on July 25th of each lunar year at the foot of Gemu Mountain.
Lugu Lake is about 300 kilometers from Lijiang, which takes about six hours’ drive from Lijiang. There is no train or airport at Lugu Lake for now. Luckily, an airport is being built at the moment. It may be come into operation in the year of 2015. There are buses travelling between Lijiang and Lugu Lake everyday, usually depart in the morning and arrive in the afternoon. The ticket fare is CNY100 for a one-way ticket and CNY200 for a round ticket.
There are usually three ways to go sightseeing at the lake.
1. Rent a car. There is a road around the lake. You can enjoy the scenery along the way and stop for every scenic spot.
2. Rent a electric motor car or bicycle. Travel around the lake by yourself.
3. Hike around the lake. It is about 76 km around the lake. If you hike around the lake, you should spare at least 2 days for the hiking.