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The Land of Women, 600 CE
by Du You (735-812 CE)
from Tongdian, 'Comprehensive Institutions', a 200 volume work written begun in 766 and completed in 801 when it was presented to Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty.
Zhang Lin, Kangxi Zidian, Universal Library of Chinese Literature, Book No.605, pp.665-666.
Translation from Lars Vilgon collection, Maldives National Archives



  coral block incision, maldives national museum, goddess nidhi lakshmi, 9th century
Goddess Nidhi-Lakshmi on 9th century coral block.
The fingers of her left hand gently squeeze her right breast while her right hand dispenses gold coins.
Photo: Maldives National Museum.
Description from Xavier Romero Frias, The Maldive Islanders, Plates 14.

During the Suei dynasty (581-618 CE) there were contacts with the Land of Women. The land was governed by a queen. The name of the queen was Supi. The name of her husband was Jiju. He was not responsible for the governing of the land. The men of the land had only responsibility for its military defence.

In the land there was a city of over 3,000 metres in circumference, and its population was around 10,000 persons. The queen resided in a large house. The queen had one hundred lady attendants. Every fifth day she held an audience.

For the other districts in the land, the queen appointed sub-queens, who together managed to lead the land. By tradition the women were highly esteemed, while the men were less respected. However, there was no competition between the two sexes. Men and women painted their faces. During a single day, it was possible to change sex partners many times. All the men had long straight hair. The women wore their hair plaited and fastened it up on their heads.

When the queen died, and there was no successor, the people gathered and collected a large sum of money that they gave to the deceased's family. In that way they were able to find a successor for the queen and install her on the throne.

Even if the men were in the majority in some place, the women were regarded as superior. They held official duties and work positions. The men served as soldiers. The upper-class women had male servants. The men were never allowed to have women servants. Even the most common woman was head of the family and had several different men. All the sons took the names of their mother.

The land produces much salt, and it was used as a bartering item in their trade with India. The profit was very big, and sometimes they fought wars against India.

When the queen is dead, the women of the community's highest society took the skin off her body. Then her flesh and bones were laid together with gold powder and put in a big pot. It was all buried in an earthen grave. One year later they took the skin, and put it in an iron pot and buried it. There was a tradition that people from other tribes came to pay tribute and make offerings.


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