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In China, the name Hua Mulan (???) has been connected with the term ‘heroine’ for hundreds of years. Hua Mulan has become a symbol of heroic behavior. Her character has inspired many Chinese women to defy traditional gender roles.
Throughout history, there have been many versions of the legend of Mulan. They all have a common storyline: Mulan’s father has received an order to serve in the army. Due to his age and frailty, Mulan decided to disguise herself as a male and take his place. Mulan achieved a lot during battle and was soon promoted into a general because of her great military strategy. When the war was over, the emperor asked her what she would like as a reward. Mulan asked for nothing but to return home to her parents.
The legendary character, Mulan, originated from a Chinese poem, the “Ballad of Mulan (???).” It is one of the first poems in Chinese history to support female equality. In the poem, Mulan seems uninterested in chores and getting married. She is more worried about the draft which calls for a male in the family to serve the army. Near the end of the poem, it is said that Mulan went back to her female appearance and met up with those men she was fighting alongside with. They were shocked to find out that she was a woman. The last four lines quotes how it is impossible to tell the gender difference when they are “running side by side close to the ground.”
This poem was first put into written form in the Musical Records of Old and New in the 6th century. However, the original work no longer exists. The story of Mulan has been passed down through many years in all different ways and forms. During the late Ming Dynasty, the story was expanded into a novel. And as time goes by, the story of Mulan became a popular folk tale among the Chinese people.
The historical setting of Mulan is uncertain. The earliest accounts of the legend state that she lived during the Northern Wei dynasty which was from 386 AD to 534 AD. However, Cheng Dachang of the Song Dynasty recorded that she lived during the Sui and Tang Dynasties, which was from 581 AD to 618 AD. Many others throughout history stated different time periods and places Mulan was from. However, most agreed that she was from a region in China known as the Central Plains.
Mulan is revealed to be a very caring daughter. She sacrificed herself to serve the army in place of her father. She was said to be a skillful fighter and brave warrior. She was away from home and fought in war for twelve years. In the twelve years, she has been promoted to a general and became well-known for her military tactics and strategies. She was said to have saved China and was offered a reward by the emperor. She became a very significant person in Chinese history and a symbol for heroism.
Was Hua Mulan a Real Person? Whether or not Hua Mulan was a real person or based on a real person is still unknown. However, a woman in Chinese history, Wang Cong’er, is believed to be similar to Mulan. Although Wang Cong’er’s story is different from Mulan’s, her bravery and tactics are similar.
Wang Cong’er led the uprising of the White Lotus sect against the Qing regime. She led an army of men and fought with kung fu and acrobatics along with a sword in each hand. The current records of the Qing court stated that “the deadliest of all the rebels are those led by Madam Wang, wife of Qi.” After thousands of men were killed by Qing’s army, Wang retreated forcefully. With nowhere left to go, she jumped to her death. Despite being defeated, Wang has created a precedent for revolts against the Chinese imperial rule. This continued until the mid-20th century when Mao Zhedong and his army eradicated the monarchy.
Besides Wang Cong’er, it was said that Hua Mulan was also based off of a lot of other female warriors. No one knows for sure whether a character like Mulan really existed in real life. Some believed for it to be just a legend, some believed the original creator based Mulan off of a person with a similar background.
Medias Based on Mulan. Many movies have been made about the character, Mulan, including Disney’s version of the story that was released in 1998. Although Disney’s version is less authentic and more westernized, it still brought Mulan’s name to a wider audience. Disney’s version has the general idea of the poem. However, the difference is that in the movie, Mulan is shown to be unskilled with weapons. The Mulan in history is said to have practiced many different weapons and where she lived was known for practicing kung fu and being skilled with the sword. Disney added a wise horse, a cricket, and a small red dragon in the movie to accompany Mulan and help her during battle. Of course, according to legend, Mulan was by herself and no one knew that she was a woman.
According to Disney’s version and other movies about Mulan, it is said that she have fallen in love with somebody during battle. In the legend of Mulan, nothing was mentioned about her falling in love or having a relationship with anyone. It was just stated that she believed she was unfit for marriage.
Other than Disney’s release in 1998, the story of Hua Mulan also inspired a lot of other movies and series such as ‘Mulan Joins the Army’ (1939; film), ‘Lady General Hua Mulan’ (1964; film), ‘A Tough Side of a Lady’ (1998; series), ‘Hua Mu Lan’ (1999; series), and ‘Mulan’ (2009; film). There were also operas and plays based on this legend that were before and after Disney’s release.
Overall, the legend of Mulan still remains a legend. But the name Hua Mulan is known by a lot of people today. Throughout history, a lot of different versions of the legend of Mulan have been created. There are still movies made about Mulan. Whether or not this female warrior was a real person in history, her story has inspired a lot of people.
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