In China and Chinese-speaking regions, Mulan is practically synonymous with “heroine”; in the United States, her name is practically equivalent to “warrior woman”. With such popularity spreading across cultures, as well as varying opinions and debates about authenticity, many wonder what the real story is.
The earliest written text of Mulan’s story is a folk ballad dating back to the Northern Dynasties in China (386-581 AD).
In just over 300 words, the Ballad of Mulan tells the story of a girl who dresses as a man and joins the army, taking her father’s place because she has no older brother to fill the role.
After years of military campaigning and service to her country, she returns with honour and gifts from the emperor.
Her parents, sister and younger brother prepare a banquet to welcome her home. Mulan changes her clothes, fixes her hair and face make-up, and greets her shocked fellow soldiers. Fighting side by side for years, they did not know that Mulan was actually a woman.