Lugu Lake History in Lijiang

Kublai Khan, with his Mongolian army, established his army headquarters south of Lugu Lake. A feudal government ensued when officers and troops were stationed here. Kublai Khan introduced Buddhism and enforced rules of civil administration, coupled with religious tenets around Lugu Lake and Yongning[disambiguation needed] town. It was during this time that the practice of monogamous marriage practised by officials of Mongol army also came into vogue among the ethnic Mosuo people, particularly in the Yankouba and Tuodian villages.

The history of the Mosuo people has been recorded in numerous historical records. Records of the Grand Historian and History of the Han Dynasty referred to them as “Mao Niu Qiang” and “Mao Niu Yi”. In ancient times, the Mosuo were nomadic people. Thus, they also went by the name of yak keepers.

The word Mosuo first appeared in Prefecture V of Volume 23 of History of the Eastern Han Dynasty. The land was described as having salt pits. The people were referred to as Mexie or Moxi during the Tang and Song dynasties, as Mosha and Mexie during the Yuan Dynasty, as Moxi and Mexi during the Ming Dynasty, and as Mosa and Mosu during the Qing Dynasty.

During the Warring States period, the Qiang tribe had a chieftain named Qiong. To evade threats from the Qin Kingdom, he led his clansmen southward to settle in Gansu, and also northwest and southwest to settle in Sichuan province. Later, the migrated to Yuexi (southeast of Xichang in Sichuan province). The Wudu Qiang tribe was called “Wudu Qiang”. The Yuexi Qian tribe was referred to as “Yuexi Qiang”. The “Maoniuy” people, or “Yuexi Qiang” of ancient times, were known as the “Mexie” people during the latter years of the Han Dynasty. The “Mexie” lived in the Dadu River Valley for many years. Some of them moved to Yalong River. Later on, the Mosuo migrated southward to Dingzuo, which is today’s Yanyuan, Ningyong and Lugu Lake in Sichuan province.

As recorded in the History of the Yuan Dynasty • Geography Records, the Mosuo had settled in Yongning for 1,500 years. The Ascending Guide Sutra of Mosuo Daba recorded the Mosuo living in Langqu, having migrated from Waru (today’s Qiansuo township of Zuosuo District in Sichuan province). Sixty-two generations of Mosuo people have lived in this area.

In modern times, the Mosuo people mainly lived along the upper reaches of Jinsha River. Their settlements include Yanyuan, Muli and Yanbian counties of Sichuan province, and Ninglang of Yunnan province.

There are about 20,000 Mosuo people in Ninglang, and in nine townships including Yongning, Labo and Hongqi. Mosuo people also live in Lijiang, Yongju, Huaping and Weixi counties. By the end of the 1980s, there were about 40,000 Mosuo people.


An ancient legend linked to the lake is that a beautiful female spirit by the name of Gemu had many local mountain spirits as her male friends. The young spirit was pretty and also had male friends among the male spirits from other mountain regions. During one of her intimate dalliances with a local male spirit, a mountain spirit from a distant mountain came to her house on horseback. When he found her in the company of a local male spirit, he felt humiliated and quickly turned his horse round and started going back. Gemu heard the neigh of the horse and realized that a distant mountain spirit had come on horseback to visit her. She came out of the house and started running after the visitor spirit. She could only see a large hoof print at the foot of the mountain where the male spirit had disappeared. As it was getting dark, Gemu could not proceed further and she started weeping frenziedly, which resulted in the hoofprint turning into a lake with her tears. When the male spirit heard her crying, and saw that the hoofprint had turned into a lake with her tears, he lovingly threw a few pearls and flowers into the lake. The pearls are identified now as the islands in the lake and the flowers which floated to the lake shore are said to be scented azaleas and other flowers, which bloom every year.

Another legend narrated about the creation of the lake is that Gemu had many lovers. One such lover was a god named Waru Shila. During their first meeting and romance amidst a garden of flowers they were oblivious to their surroundings without even realizing that daybreak had occurred. In order to escape discovery of their affair, Waru Shila fled from the scene on his horse towards the hill, while Gemu fondly looked at him from the shore of Lugu Lake. While trying to look back at his fiancée, Waru Shila was holding the reins of the horse very tight. As a result, the horse stumbled and fell. This caused a deep depression in the ground. Since daybreak had occurred, Waru could not return to his heaven and therefore transformed himself into a mountain, to the east of the lake. Looking aghast at this turn of events, Gemu cried intensely, which resulted in the depression being filled by her tears and eventually turning into Lugu Lake. She then cast seven of her pearls into the lake, which became the seven islands. She also turned herself into a mountain in order to keep a watch on the lake and to look at her lover in the east, who had also earlier turned into a mountain.