History of Mulan

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木兰  Mulan

Mulan (traditional Chinese: 木蘭; simplified Chinese: 木兰) is a fictional folk heroine from the Northern and Southern dynasties era (4th to 6th century AD) of Chinese history. According to the legend, Mulan takes her aged father's place in the conscription for the army by disguising herself as a man. After prolonged and distinguished military service against nomadic hordes beyond the northern frontier, Mulan is honored by the emperor but declines a position of high office. She retires to her hometown, where she is reunited with her family and reveals her sex, much to the astonishment of her comrades.

The first written record of Mulan is the Ballad of Mulan, a folk song believed to have been composed during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–535 AD) and compiled in an anthology of books and songs in the Southern Chen dynasty (557–589 AD). The historical setting of Ballad of Mulan is usually the Northern Wei's military campaigns against the nomadic Rouran. A later adaptation has Mulan active around the founding of the Tang dynasty (c. 620 AD).[1] The story of Hua Mulan was taken up in a number of later works, including the 16th-century historical fiction Romance of Sui and Tang , and many screen and stage adaptations. The Hua Mulan crater on Venus is named after her.Wikipedia contributors. (2021, January 5). 

Hua Mulan. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:41, January 5, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hua_Mulan&oldid=998425913

Ballad of Mulan

The sound of one sigh after another,
As Mulan weaves at the doorway

No sound of the loom and shuttle,
Only that of the girl lamenting.

Ask her of whom she thinks,
Ask her for whom she longs,

There is no one I think of,
There is no one I long for.

Last night I saw the army notice,
The Khan is calling a great draft -

A dozen volumes of battle rolls,
Each one with my father's name.

My father has no grown-up son,
And I have no elder brother.

I'm willing to buy a horse and saddle,
To go to battle in my father's place."

She buys a fine steed at the east market;
A saddle and blanket at the west market,

A bridle at the south market;
And a long whip at the north market.

She takes leave of her parents at dawn,
To camp beside the Yellow River at dusk.

No sound of her parents hailing their girl,
Just the rumbling waters of the Yellow River.

She leave the Yellow River at dawn,
To reach the Black Mountains by dusk.

No sound of her parents hailing their girl,
Jus the cries of barbarian cavalry in the Yan hills.

Ten thousand miles she rode in war,
Crossing passes and mountains as if on a wing.


On the northern air comes the sentry's gong,
Cold light shines on her coat of steel.

The general dead after a hundred battles,
The warriors return after ten years.

They return to see the Son of Heaven,
Who sits in the Hall of Brilliance.

The rolls of merit spin a dozen times,
Rewards in the hundreds and thousands.

The Khan asks her what she desires,
"I've no need for the post of a gentleman official,

I ask for the swiftest horse,
To carry me back to my hometown."

Her parents hearing their girl returns,
Out to the suburbs to welcome her back.

Elder sister hearing her sister returns,
Adjusts her rouge by the doorway.

Little brother hearing his sister returns,
Sharpens his knife for pigs and lamb.

I sit on my east chamber door,
And sit on my west chamber bed.

I take off my battle cloak,
And put on my old-time clothes.

I adjust my wispy hair at the window sill, And apply my bisque makeup by the mirror

I step out to see my comrades-in-arms,
They are all surprised and astounded

"We traveled twelve years together,
Yet didn't realize Mulan was a lady!"

The buck bounds her and there,
Whilst the doe has narrow eyes.

But when the two rabbits run side by side,
How can you tell the female from the male?

Mulan418th-century (Ming Dynasty) depiction of Mulan.

Ink and colour on silk.  School of Qiu Ying


Painting depicting Mulan in the album known as Gathering Gems of Beauty, by artist He Dazi.  Qing dynasty  Album leaf, ink and colors on silk  National Palace Museum, Taipei

mulan epic

Hua-Mu Lan enlists as a soldier instead of her father. Dalongdong Baoan Temple, painted by Pan-Li.

mulan 1700

Scene of Mulan a with horse. Printed in ink, colour on paper. 1867 CE, Dingmao, China

Mulan (“magnolia”) is a legendary character in Chinese literature who is best known in the modern day from the Disney filmed adaptations (1998, 2020 CE). Her story, however, about a young girl who takes her father’s place in the army to help save her country, is hundreds of years old, most likely originating in the Northern Wei Period (386-535 CE) of China before it was developed by succeeding authors. Scholarly consensus is that Mulan is a fictional character, probably developed in Northern China in response to the greater independence women enjoyed there, whose legend was then revised in succeeding eras to reflect the values and challenges of the times.  

  1. Resources
  2. Lesson Plans
  3. Test Your Knowledge

Haynes, Suyin.  (2020, September 04) The Controversial Origins of the Story Behind Mulan. Time Retrieved from https://time.com/5881064/mulan-real-history/

Translation:Ballad of Mulan. (2020, September 11). In Wikisource . Retrieved 21:36, December 29, 2020, from https://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Translation:Ballad_of_Mulan&oldid=10443528  . 

Mark, J. J. (2020, September 07). Mulan: The Legend Through History. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/1596/

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, January 5). Hua Mulan. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:41, January 5, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hua_Mulan&oldid=998425913

before the swordWhen her sister is bitten by a poisonous spider, Mulan travels with a healer to find a flower from which the antidote can be made to save her sister's life.
When her ailing father is conscripted to fight invaders from the north, Mulan dresses as a man to take his place in the army, but an old enemy and an attraction for her troop's commander complicate her mission.
magnolia sword
mulan movie Mulan is a young Chinese woman who breaks tradition and joins the Imperial army, accompanied by a her guradian dragon, Mushu, to battle an invading army.

In Mulan 2, Mulan and Shang are engaged to be married and must journey to a distant city in a valiant quest to save their beloved empire.
When Captain Shang is mortally wounded by Shan Yu in battle, Mulan must travel to the Underworld, Diyu, in order to save him from certain death. But King Yama, the ruler of Diyu, is not willing to give Shang up easily.
reflection a twisted tale
tamano the fox folk talesA collection of Asian folktales retold as comics include vengeful spirits, flying ogres, and trickster tigers from Japan, China, Tibet, India, Indonesia and beyond."--
To save her ailing father from serving in the Imperial Army, a fearless young woman disguises herself as a man to battle northern invaders in China.
Mulan 2020