The Story of Mulan.

The Ballad of Hua Mulan: The Legendary Warrior Woman Who Brought Hope to China

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Hua Mulan is one of the most legendary women of ancient China. Her story was originally described in a poem known as the Ballad of Mulan. There is no archaeological proof that she was a real person, but tales of her heroic actions are told in ancient text. Although her story was documented in literature only, it’s also taught in today's Chinese schools.

In Chinese “Huā” means “flower” and “Mùlán” means magnolia. The magnolia flower is one of the symbols of China since ancient times. However, there is different information about Mulan’s possible roots, and her family name is uncertain. In the text History of the Ming , her family name is Zhu, but in History of the Qing it is Wei. The only sure information is that her story is connected with the history of China in the 4th or 5th century AD.

The Origins of the Ballad

The original source of Mulan’s story came from one folk song in the North Wei Dynasty (386 AD - 557 AD) which was called The Ballad of Mulan . The first known transcription of The Ballad of Mulan comes from the 6th century. Unfortunately, the original work no longer exists and the text of this poem comes from another work known as the Music Bureau Collection . This is an anthology of lyrics, songs, and poems compiled by Guo Maoqian during the 11th or 12th century. The author explicitly states that the Musical Records of Old and New was his source for the poem about Mulan.

Mulan as depicted in the album ‘Gathering Gems of Beauty.’

Mulan as depicted in the album ‘Gathering Gems of Beauty.’ ( Public Domain )

The next appearance of Mulan’s tale came in the late Ming Dynasty. In 1593, the playwright Xu Wei dramatized the legend as The Female Mulan or The Heroine Mulan Goes to War in Her Father's Place. It was a play in two acts. The last of the most important versions of the Ballad was incorporated into the Sui-Tang Romance , a historical novel written by Chu Renhuo in the 17th century. Thus, the folk tale about the warrior woman Hua Mulan stayed alive in people’s memories.

The Story of the Bravest Heroine of Chinese Poetry

The oldest known Ballad of Mulan consists of 31 couplets and is composed of mostly five-character phrases. The legend of Mulan has been written with many variations, but the plot is always the same: Mulan was washing clothes when she heard that the army was recruiting new soldiers. To save her old and ailing father, Huan Hu, she decided to be recruited as his “son.” She knew that her father was too old and too ill to survive the war, so she decided to disguise herself as a man to go in his place.

Hua Mulan goes to war.

Hua Mulan goes to war. ( Kung Fu Tea )

The tale continues with Mulan leaving for the battlefield carrying the sword inherited from the ancestors of the family. She fought for ten or twelve years and gained high merit, but refused any reward and retired to her hometown instead. During the war, she met an officer, who is normally named Jin Yong , with whom she fell in love.

Hua Mulan is arguably China's most famous female warrior.

Hua Mulan is arguably China's most famous female warrior. ( closetprofessor)

Legends say that after 10 years on the battlefield Mulan was promoted to general. When Jin Yong learned that Mulan was a woman, he became more attached to her. In many versions of the story both Mulan and Jin Yong dream about getting married to each other. In time, other soldiers also started to find out that Mulan was a woman.

One day, before a very difficult battle, Mulan decided to go onto the battlefield in women’s clothing so her soldiers would realize her true identity. The reaction of the soldiers was one full of respect and admiration. They were overwhelmed by her bravery, grace, and wisdom. Thus, she inspired her army to win a battle once more.

Mulan in battle.

Mulan in battle. ( Disneyfied or Disney tried ?)

After another heroic triumph, the emperor wanted to reward Mulan. He was surprised that the bravest of his soldiers was a female. However, Mulan asked for nothing but a horse to ride home. Many variations of the story say that when Mulan returned home she discovered that her father passed away. In these accounts, she doesn't feel like a hero, but instead like she lost the love of her life. She is also depicted in these folk tales as haunted by her experiences on the battlefield. Feeling lonely and misunderstood, the legend says that she decided to commit suicide.


Has anyone written a version where Mulan fights the Japanese during world war two?
China and Japan went to war in 1937. After 8 years and 17 million Chinese deaths the war finally ended with the unconditional surrender of Japan to the Allied forces at the end of world war two. (China joined the Allies at the end of 1941 and was represented at the Japanese surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri.)

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