Mulan history dates back behind the 1998 Disney film by at least 1600 years! However, many modern kids only know her as she appears in that film and in the 2020 remake. The character represents cultural movements in China’s representation of women in its Northern Wei Period, which took place from around 386 to 535 CE. Mulan’s been converted into a singing soldier, but how much of her original character remains?
Read on to learn Mulan history from her most likely creation date to her use in popular culture today. No matter what you know about the Disney films, this article will teach you about the real Mulan.
Early Mulan History: The Poem of Mulan
The Poem of Mulan is a 6th-century work that demonstrates changes in China’s treatment of women in that time period. As Mongolian and Turkish immigration increased, the Chinese were influenced by their commonly accepted morals associated with women in society. These included virtue and devotion.
The plot echoes the Disney version loosely. A young girl takes her father’s place in the army where she serves her country well and returns to her family with great honor. One huge difference between the poem and the animated film, however, is that Mulan’s gender is never revealed to the other soldiers in the original.
Instead, she serves her country and no one suspects her femininity. After over a decade of decorated service, she returns home. Thus, when she puts her female clothes back on, she shocks the men who had served with her.
What difference does this make? Whereas the Disney version focuses on her ability to fight “against” the standards of her day, the original poem was more about how gender distinctions disappear if we don’t have the symbols that make us think about them.
The Sequels to Mulan
No, I’m not talking about the direct-to-video Disney film, Mulan II. The original poem received several updates, the first from the Tang Dynasty called Song of Mulan. In the 16th century, The Female Mulan appeared on the stage and introduced the idea of Mulan getting married at the end.
The character continued to change throughout the years. This climaxed in 1939 with Mulan Joins the Army, a Chinese film in which Mulan becomes a strict nationalistic warrior who prioritizes the needs of China above everything else. It has only a whisper of the original’s devotion to virtue.
The Disney versions (in 1998 and 2020) mix the preceding ones. Therefore, they contain both themes of piety and of nationalism. In the cartoon, Mulan shows feminine strength and a love of country. In the 2020 version, she surrenders feminine virtues to be a warrior, thus making it similar to the 1939 version.
The character has had surprising longevity for people to still know her name. This testifies to the original and its impact on world culture.
Mulan history begins over 1,000 years ago in a poem that reflected changing standards in the values of Chinese culture. Thanks to numerous adaptations, she remains a well-known cultural figure and literary hero.