The pedigree of the house: The case of Vdra-ba

Bo Chen


Vdra-ba society in western Sichuan, China, has been represented by evolutionist Chinese scholars as a primitive matrilineal society that was in transition to a patrilineal system, and it has been likened to that of the Na/Moso. This is a misleading characterization. Vdra-ba society has no tribal organizations and was critically shaped by the overarching Tú-sī system for many centuries. The kinship system is centered on the “house,” and is better described as undifferentiated. The gá-yì (visiting) relationship, with marriage in rare occasions, and conventions of adoption, allows their ideal of a female line to be practiced and transformed in the house into an undifferentiated form of inheritance and accession. There is no descent group. The Vdra-ba kindred, however, is individual-centered rather than ancestor-centered, with its bilateral character.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/718687