China's domestic tourism industry has flourished since the mid-1990s, spreading wealth and infrastructure from cities to remote villages and presenting new opportunities for cultural exchange. This paper aims to determine the financial and cultural impacts of tourism on inheritance and marital patterns of the matrilineal Mosuo of south-west China. Data from household censuses and personal interviews show that Mosuo residing in tourist-impacted areas deviate more often from traditional matrilineal norms than Mosuo residing in areas removed from tourism. Households more frequently contain bilateral descendants in tourist-impacted areas, whereas they are more often strictly matrilineal in farming areas. Marital patterns also differ more from stated norms in tourist-impacted areas. I interpret differences as adaptive responses to variation in acquired wealth, arguing that cultural assimilation alone is unlikely to account for such differences. I argue that the results are consistent with the general hypothesis that the accumulation of wealth is inconsistent with matriliny and conclude that families remain important to the Mosuo, but in ways different from before.
The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology