I recently fell down a weird research wormhole about the Mosuo culture of China, an indigenous ethnic minority of about 56,000 people where family names and property are passed down through the women. Women are also allowed to participate in "walking marriages," or marriages outside of the culture. As National Geographic describes it:
Progressively feminist or selectively misandrous, depending on how you look at it, tradition dictates that the Mosuo women's partners only visit them at night, and these partners have very little to do with their children's upbringing. Mosuo children stay with their mother's families for life, and as such, the woman is the head of the household.
This has, unfortunately, lead to some exoticizing of Mosuo women, as creepy Western tourists are all too eager to visit the southwestern lake region where most of the Mosuo reside (which in turn leads to more complications of meddling colonialism).
This, to me, was the most fascinating part of the wormhole I discovered. But I didn't start with googling about indigenous Chinese gender politics. Rather, someone I know shared a photograph of a huge slab of cured pork that was said to last for 10 years, and double as a sleep aid. At least part of this turned out to be true. As explained by HiddenChina:
Meat is a significant part of the Mosuo diet, but lacking refrigeration, most meat tends to be salted/smoked, to be preserved for future use. In fact, the Mosuo are somewhat famous for their preserved pork, which is really a large slab of a pig's carcass that is preserved and can be kept for 10 years or more, used when needed.
Pork plays several important roles in Mosuo society. It is fed to guests, is the obligatory offering at funerals, and used as payment or reimbursement. Hua (2001) insists that it is "a kind of currency and… a symbol of wealth"
There's less reliable information about this pork part—which is curious, considering that's what sparked my discovery of the rest of it—but it does indeed seem that they cure pork en masse, and carry and trade that pork with them for years and years.
I'll admit that my initial curiosity about the pork thing was kind of silly. But it lead me to read and learn a lot about an indigenous culture that I otherwise never would have known about. Here are some links, if you're also curious:
The kingdom of women: the society where a man is never the boss [Hannah Booth / The Guardian]
Where Women Reign: An Intimate Look Inside a Rare Kingdom [Alexandra Genova / National Geographic]
The Place In China Where The Women Lead [Anthony Kuhn / NPR]
Inside a fading Chinese culture ruled by women [Karolin Klüppel / Washington Post]
The Oldest Living Mosuo Woman Tells (Almost) All [Cynthia Barnes / Slate]