When I started thinking about taking a year and making a goal of reading at least 12 books on "Women and War," I considered, and set aside several women. One of these was Hua Mulan (Fa Mulan) of China, and I thought I'd give a short explanation of my thoughts here.
You may have heard of Mulan, as I did, through the Disney movie. But of course Disney based their story on a far older (public domain) source. The Ode to Mulan is a Chinese folktale dating from the 4th - 6th Centuries. It's a long-lived and popular story; the Bell Tower of Xi'an, China, built 1384, which has doors embossed with scenes from Chinese legends, includes a door for Hua Mulan.
In the legend, Mulan takes her father's place in the army. She serves for twelve years without being recognized as female, and does well, then returns home to her family. The original story was notable for its lack of magical or supernatural embellishments - small Disney dragons and ghosts being recent additions.
However, the written source for the legend is only the ballad. I've included a link to an on-line version in Chinese and English below. That's pretty much it. There does not seem to be any other historical or written evidence for the story. This year, I'm concentrating more on books with stronger historical sources.
If anyone knows any more about Mulan, especially any articles or books about her historical authenticity, please let me know. If it's in Chinese, that's fine. At least I'll have a starting point.
Oh, and I actually enjoyed the movie, in case you were wondering.
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