Template:Two other uses Template:Chinese Hua Mulan is the heroine who joined an all-male army described in a famous Chinese poem known as the Ballad of Mulan. The poem was first written in the Musical Records of Old and New from the 6th century, the century before the founding of the Tang Dynasty; the original work no longer exists, and the original text of this poem comes from another work known as the Music Bureau Collection, an anthology of lyrics, songs, and poems, compiled by Guo Maoqian during the 12th century. The author explicitly mentions the Musical Records of Old and New as his source for the poem. Whether she was a historical person or whether the poem was an allegory has been debated for centuries—it is unknown whether the story has any factual basis.

Overview Edit

In the story, Mulan disguised herself as a man to take her elderly father's place in the army. She was later offered a government post by the emperor himself after her service was up. However, unwilling to commit anymore to the forces, she turned down the position so she could return to her family immediately. When her former colleagues visited her at home, they were shocked to see her dressed as a woman. The poem ends with the image of a female hare (Mulan) and a male hare (her comrades) running side by side, and the narrator asking how anyone could tell them apart.

The time setting of the story is uncertain. The earliest accounts of the legend state that she lived during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534). However another version reports that Mulan was requested as a concubine by Emperor Yang of Sui China (reigned 604–617). Evidence from the extant poem suggests the earlier interpretation.

The poem is a ballad, meaning that the lines do not necessarily have equal numbers of syllables. The poem is mostly composed of five-character phrases, with just a few extending to seven or nine.

There are three uses of onomatopoeia in the poem. The sound of Mulan's weaving (or her lamentations) is 唧唧 jī-jī (i.e., "click-clack"); the Yellow River babbles 濺濺 jiān-jiān (i.e., "splish-splash") to her as she departs from it; at the military encampment the horses cry 啾啾 jiū-jiū (i.e., they whinny).

The story was expanded into a novel during the late Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Over time, the story of Hua Mulan rose in notoriety as a folk tale among the Chinese people on the same level as the Butterfly Lovers. In 1998, Disney released an animated movie entitled Mulan very loosely based on the story.

Name Edit

The word mulan refers to the "Magnolia liliiflora". ( by itself means "wood" and lán means "orchid".) The heroine of the poem is given many different family names in the various versions of her story. According to History of the Ming, her family name is Zhu, while the History of the Qing say it is Wei. The Ballad of Mulan doesn't give her family name. The Ming scholar Xu Wei offers yet another alternative when, in his play, he gives her the family name Huā (meaning "flower"). This latter name has become the most popular in recent years in part to its more poetic meaning. Her complete name is then 花木蘭, transcribed as Huā Mùlán in Pinyin and Hua1 Mu4-lan2 in Wade-Giles.

The Disney cartoon film popularised the version "Fa Mulan". This "Fa" pronunciation of 花 is found in various Chinese dialects including Cantonese, while "Mulan" is the phonetic translation from Mandarin.

The Ballad of Mulan Edit

Original Version In Chinese:


Rough translation from Chinese:

The insects chirping happily outside,
Mulan sat opposite the door weaving;
No sound of the shuttle was heard,
Only sighs of the girl.
When asked what she was pondering over,
When asked what she had called to mind,
Nothing special the girl was pondering over,
Nothing special had the girl called to mind.
Last night she saw the military announcement,
The Emperor was conscripting,
There were twelve announcements of conscription,
And Father's name was in every one of them.
Father had no grown son,
Nor Mulan an older brother;
She wanted to buy a saddle and horse,
And from now on fought in place of her Father.
In the eastern market she bought a fine steed,
In the western market a saddle and a pad,
In the southern market a bridle,
In the northern market a long whip.
At daybreak she bid farewell to her parents,
At sunset she bivouacked by the Yellow River;
What met her ears was no longer her parents' call,
But the gurgles and splashes of the rushing waters.
At daybreak she left the Yellow River,
At sunset she arrived at the top of the Black Hill;
What met hers ears was no longer her parents' call,
But barbarians' horses neighing in the Yanshan Mountains.
On the expedition of thousands of miles to the war,
She dashed across mountains and passes as if in flight;
In the chilly northern air night watches clanged,
In the frosty moonlight armour and helmet glistened,
Generals laid down their lives in a hundred battles,
And valiant soldiers returned after ten years' service.
When she returned to an audience with the Son of Heaven,
The Son of Heaven sat in the Hall of Brightness.
A promotion of many ranks was granted for her merits,
With a reward than amounted to thousands of strings of cash.
The Khan asked Mulan what she desired to do.
'I don't need any high official position,
Please lend me a sturdy mount that is fleet of foot,
And send me back to my hometown.'
When her parents heard their daughter was coming,
They walked out of the town, each helping the other;
When the elder sister heard the younger sister was coming,
She decked herself out in her best by the door;
When her younger brother heard his sister was coming,
He whetted a knife and aimed it at a pig and a sheep.
Opened the door of my east chamber,
And then sat down on the bed in my west chamber;
Taking of the armour worn in wartime,
Attired myself in apparel of former times;
By the window I combed and coiffed my cloudy hair,
Before the mirror I adorned my forehead with a yellow pattern.
When Mulan came out to meet her battle companions,
They were all astounded and thrown into bewilderment.
Together they had been in the army for a dozen years or so,
Yet none had known that Mulan was actually a girl.
The male rabbit kicks its fluffly feet as it scampers,
The eyes of female rabbit are blurred by fluffy tufts of hair,
But when they run side by side in the field,
You can hardly tell the doe from the buck!

Hua Mulan in popular culture Edit

English language literature Edit

  • Maxine Hong Kingston re-visits Mulan's tale in her text, The Woman Warrior.
  • Yao Mulan, Lin Yutang's main character in his English novel Moment in Peking, is named after the legendary warrior.
  • In the alternative-history fantasy series Temeraire, by Naomi Novik, specifically, the book Throne of Jade, the legend of Mulan is (indirectly) referred to, as a woman taking her father's place in the military, taking the role of an aerial commander on dragonback. In deference to this honored legend, all officers in the Chinese Aerial Corps are women, which sets it apart from the English Corps, which uses female officers only for Longwings, a dragon breed which refuses male captains.

Films Edit

The story of Hua Mulan has inspired a number of film and stage adaptations without taking into account pre-modern Chinese plays and operas about the subject. These include the following:

Miscellaneous Edit

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. c o n e n t

External links Edit


de:Hua Mulan es:Hua Mulan fr:Hua Mulan id:Hua Mulan ja:木蘭 zh:花木兰

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