Wu Yingying/Shanghai Daily news
author, cultural ambassador, socialite ... and now Yang Erche Namu has added one
more to the list - actress.
Yang - a daughter of the Mosuo minority and
better known as Namu - is in Shanghai for a month starring in a Sino-US movie,
"Milk and Fashion," with Jeremy Miller (the former child star in "Growing
Pains"), renowned Chinese actor Wang Luoyong and ballerina Hou Honglan. Yang
plays the role of a restaurant owner and Miller is a chef.
Instead of her
typical Chinese-style look in costumes of rosy pink or lime green, she wears a
loose white shirt with tight black pants and a leopard-patterned fur coat while
huge folk-style red earrings and her signature straight black hair show off her
Yang is so confident when talking about her life that one
senses an aggressive core coiled inside her that is ready to burst out at any
Her deep-seated ambition became evident at an early age. Tired of
herding yaks in her tiny village near Lake Lugu in Southwest China's Yunnan
Province at the foot of the Tibetan Plateau, 13-year-old Yang walked away to
Yanyuan, the nearest county. There she joined a song-and-dance troupe and later
won a scholarship to study music at the Shanghai Conservatory of
"Shanghai is my second hometown, and it really opened my eyes. It was
here that I realized how magnificent the world outside was," she recalls.
was also in Shanghai Yang learned to speak and write Mandarin. She now lives in
Beijing and has homes in other cities, including San Francisco in
"Life is a circle. I've been to so many places, but now I am back
again and it's a perfect time to come back," she says.
eventful life began in Yunnan and continued in Shanghai before she moved to
Beijing where she was a well-known lounge singer. She married an American,
divorced him, had a seven-year-long romance with a Norwegian diplomat and became
an author when she decided to write about her adventures.
In 1997, 14 years
after leaving her village, Yang sat down to write what was to become a
bestseller. "Leaving Mother Lake" is an extraordinary memoir and fascinating
portrait of a young girl growing up in a matriarchal society in a remote region
of China who runs away to find her fortune and becomes a star.
openly about her foreign lovers in the book, presenting her love affairs as a
natural part of a sumptuous lifestyle. After all, she belongs to the Mosuo, a
matrilineal tribe with a tradition of allowing women to take several lovers and
bear children without marrying.
A menu of lifestyles
has published a total of 13 books in different languages, and she is a
bestselling author in China and overseas. She is also a cultural ambassador for
both China and the Mosuo culture. She regularly comes to Shanghai to address to
visiting VIPs such as the WPO (World President Organization) and the Nobel Prize
winners during their visit to China. Yang says she is proud to be able to
present her tribal culture, its fashions and lifestyle to the outside
"I accept responsibility for what I've written. Every time I write, I
keep putting my hand on my heart. My books are just like a menu of lifestyles.
It depends on whether you are acute enough to catch the flavor," she
Yang not only writes about her own life but also seeks to teach women
how to be more confident and look sexy - and she's not shy to talk about
"My books have changed many young people's lives, especially those who
live in rural areas or remote regions. My story has inspired people that they
can go outside and win their own fortune," she says.
When she was a little
girl, Yang was well known in her village because her mother tried to give her
away three times since she would not stop crying.
"I was a mature child. I
didn't play with other children of my age. But I liked to stay with lamas who
told me lots of stories," she says. "I was so different in my hometown but now
I'm happy with my life. I have made all my dreams come true."
Yang says she
is glad that through her efforts the Mosuo people are better known in China and
around the world. She says she is always thinking about how she can do more for
Today, the area around Lake Lugu, the Mosuo homeland where Yang
grew up, is a rather chic tourist destination, thanks almost entirely to Yang
and her book. Visitors in growing numbers have overrun the region and are
spoiling the Mosuos' normally quiet life.
But, says Yang, tourism has had
some benefits. "At least, we can see the money to be made from Mosuo tourism.
Now children can go to school and the elderly can go to hospital for better
treatment," she admits.
Yang is also trying to make another dream come true:
She has invited international artists to come to Yunnan to live in an art
museum/guesthouse she has built near Lake Lugu. While staying there, the artists
have been asked to create at least one piece of artwork that will be displayed
in the art museum located on top of a mountain from where visitors can look down
upon the lake.
"It's so beautiful a place. I built it for artists around the
world so they can escape from noisy and packed cities and to get infinite
inspirations there," she says.
Yang spent four years and all her savings on
the construction of the museum/guesthouse. "I have put all my heart and soul
into this project. I had once stayed on that mountain doing painting and
cleaning on my own for 15 days without even taking off my shoes," she
There is a staff of six to take care of the visiting artists and
each one pays US$130 a month to cover costs.
"The museum has mixed tones of
the Mosuos, Tibetans and Indians. There are rooms for coffee, reading and it is
filled with French music. After all, I want to deliver a message that the idea
of this museum is a mixed culture, not limited, not narrow-minded and it belongs
to all citizens of the world," she says.
Artists who are interested in the museum can contact Yang Erche Namu by