Photos: In China’s ‘Zhaba’ ethnic community, one-night stands are getting old

The Zhaba ethnic community in China in the past abstained from monogamous relationships with the men often involving in a traditional courtship ‘walking marriages’ -- so-called since men typically walk to their rendezvous before slipping through their lover’s window.

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST 10 Photos
1 / 10
The Zhaba ethnic community in southwest China deliberately abstain from monogamous relationships for traditional ‘walking marriages’ - so-called since men typically walk to their rendezvous before slipping through their lover’s window.However with the arrival of the internet,smartphones and popular Korean TV shows along with improved transportation and education opportunities beyond the valley have exposed the once isolated Zhaba to other lifestyles as most men today from the village lament that the age old tradition is waning. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

The Zhaba ethnic community in southwest China deliberately abstain from monogamous relationships for traditional ‘walking marriages’ - so-called since men typically walk to their rendezvous before slipping through their lover’s window.However with the arrival of the internet,smartphones and popular Korean TV shows along with improved transportation and education opportunities beyond the valley have exposed the once isolated Zhaba to other lifestyles as most men today from the village lament that the age old tradition is waning. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
2 / 10
Tsultrim Paldzone(L), 30, said that when he and his friends were younger they would snag tokens from girls they fancied on festival or market days, calling cards to be returned that evening during a nocturnal visit to her home. He added saying, ‘If she’s willing, then she’ll run just a little bit less fast. If she’s really not willing, you won’t grab that token no matter how hard you try to steal it.’ (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Tsultrim Paldzone(L), 30, said that when he and his friends were younger they would snag tokens from girls they fancied on festival or market days, calling cards to be returned that evening during a nocturnal visit to her home. He added saying, ‘If she’s willing, then she’ll run just a little bit less fast. If she’s really not willing, you won’t grab that token no matter how hard you try to steal it.’ (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
3 / 10
Children born were raised by their mothers and her siblings in large six storey communal houses with cavernous rooms often too large for much light to penetrate.Fathers provided some financial support but the children were primarily raised by their mother. Vehicles were uncommon and one had to walk over 10 kilometres to reach their lover’s home, starting before sunset and arriving after midnight. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Children born were raised by their mothers and her siblings in large six storey communal houses with cavernous rooms often too large for much light to penetrate.Fathers provided some financial support but the children were primarily raised by their mother. Vehicles were uncommon and one had to walk over 10 kilometres to reach their lover’s home, starting before sunset and arriving after midnight. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
4 / 10
with modernisation including improved transportation and education opportunities reaching the remote village of Zhaba,their traditional culture has undergone a major drift. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

with modernisation including improved transportation and education opportunities reaching the remote village of Zhaba,their traditional culture has undergone a major drift. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
5 / 10
The new policy meant heavy fines for babies born without legal fathers, forcing Zhaba people to obtain government marriage certificates and identify -- on paper at least, a single partner as a spouse. According to anthropologist Feng Min the policy introduced an idea of ‘people as possessions’ which has resulted in rise in notions of jealousy, an emotion once rarely expressed. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

The new policy meant heavy fines for babies born without legal fathers, forcing Zhaba people to obtain government marriage certificates and identify -- on paper at least, a single partner as a spouse. According to anthropologist Feng Min the policy introduced an idea of ‘people as possessions’ which has resulted in rise in notions of jealousy, an emotion once rarely expressed. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
6 / 10
Since then, walking marriage has become less common. Feng’s 2004 survey of 232 households found that only 49 percent of Zhaba households still practised the tradition. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Since then, walking marriage has become less common. Feng’s 2004 survey of 232 households found that only 49 percent of Zhaba households still practised the tradition. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
7 / 10
In contrast to the past, today no one in the small community lives more than a half hour’s motorbike trip away.Trysts are arranged ahead of time on the popular cellphone messaging app WeChat and the coy game of token grabbing has mostly disappeared. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

In contrast to the past, today no one in the small community lives more than a half hour’s motorbike trip away.Trysts are arranged ahead of time on the popular cellphone messaging app WeChat and the coy game of token grabbing has mostly disappeared. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
8 / 10
Most of the families too have moved ahead from their traditional practices and started living on their own as a single unit as it is more convenient and better for raising children. (AFP)

Most of the families too have moved ahead from their traditional practices and started living on their own as a single unit as it is more convenient and better for raising children. (AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
9 / 10
Trinley Norbu, a 37 year old truck driver who is used to the tradition of hoisting himself up a house through the window for a one-night stand says, ‘women have begun to want the same things as outsiders - fixed marriages, and financial assets such as a house or car.’ However a much larger threat looms over the community with the construction of world’s tallest dam which will soon force villagers to abandon their ancestral homes. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Trinley Norbu, a 37 year old truck driver who is used to the tradition of hoisting himself up a house through the window for a one-night stand says, ‘women have begun to want the same things as outsiders - fixed marriages, and financial assets such as a house or car.’ However a much larger threat looms over the community with the construction of world’s tallest dam which will soon force villagers to abandon their ancestral homes. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
10 / 10
Even those who wish to continue with walking marriage resort to paying unmarried acquaintances or strangers to apply for the certificate with them. ‘There’s no challenge anymore; it’s definitely not as fun as before,’ a painter of temple frescos laments. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Even those who wish to continue with walking marriage resort to paying unmarried acquaintances or strangers to apply for the certificate with them. ‘There’s no challenge anymore; it’s definitely not as fun as before,’ a painter of temple frescos laments. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 23, 2017 07:38 PM IST
SHARE
Story Saved