Hua Mulan, also known as Wei Hua Hu, Fua Mulan, and Wei Mulan lived somewhere between 386-581 CE, or the Northern Wei dynasties. She is as well known in China as Joan of Arc is in the west. This is a time of war in China, as it is split into North and South. Hua Mulan means orchid flower in Chinese. Some historians and scholars debate if she ever was a real person or just a character of legend. Really, the only evidence of her is through “The Ballad of Mulan.” The ballad was written first in pieces and then compiled by a Chinese poetry collector named Guo Maoqian. To some historians and scholars, “The Ballad of Mulan” is just a fictional poem, to others, it is a true story of a young woman in 5th century China. Still; her story is an example of women warriors throughout history. The ballad speaks of China’s rulers being referred to as “khan” instead of “emperor”, which gives us the time she may have lived. The area she was believed to be from is known for Kung Fu training, but it is said that Mulan fought on a horse shooting arrows. Several regions of China claim her as their own so she is a part of a lot of folk tales. There are many different versions of her story and they continue to develop (as with Disney’s live-action Mulan film).

 

Ballad of Mulan

The Ballad of Mulan became popular not only for the story but for its gender equality which was very rare for the time when Guo Maoqian compiled the poem in the late Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644 CE) Mulan’s cross-dressing before the twentieth century was a comedic plus for the story as well as more entertaining. It has now become an example of early feminism and rebellion. But in the legend and the poem; Mulan was not trying to rebel or change her society, rather she was trying to save it. She took all precautions to keep her secret under wraps (literally).

 Mulan had trained in martial arts since childhood under her father from his days in the army. Mulan fights well and is made to be a general in the “khans” army. When the war finally ends after 12 years she meets the khan and he offers her whatever she wishes. All she wants is a fast horse to take her home. When she is finally home she goes back to her ways as a woman. There are many different versions of her story and they continue to develop (as with Disney’s live-action Mulan film). In quite a few versions she comes home to a worn-torn area where her family has been killed, including her father who she was trying to save. Her grief in this version causes her to commit suicide. In another version, she also commits suicide rather than be the khan’s concubine. Many versions end in tragedy and rarely are they happy endings.