• Inclusion Advocate

(Poem) Mulan: Symbol of Independent Women in East Asia

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Author: Zhaobo Wang; Chief Editor: Bincheng Mao

Source: Walt Disney Studio

Mulan, [mu lʌn], the much-anticipated Disney movie, has been canceled worldwide due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. As one of the most successful Disney characters, Mulan has accompanied a generation of people.

Mulan became a great icon in the US within past decades, but she has been the symbol of feminism in China for more than 1500 years.

Despite that we have no concrete evidence showing who exactly Mulan was, her literary presence began during the Northern Wei Dynasty (368-534), a regime that once controlled northern China. She first appeared in The Song of Mulan (put in Yue Fu Poetry by Maoqian Guo) in the late Northern Dynasties. According to The Song of Mulan, Mulan was first just an ordinary traditional Chinese woman all of whose duty is to do the housework:

Days go as rooster sings

Mulan stays home spinning

However, with the warfare between the Northern Wei and Rouran Khaganate being more and more fierce, the emperor of the Northern Wei decided to conscript more soldiers, therefore, one of Mulan’s family must serve the Army. For the sake of Mulan’s father was too old and she had no brothers old enough, she decided to pretend to be a man and join the


Last evening Mulan saw the military posters

saying that the emperor was conscripting soldiers

On the list, thousands of names appear

so is her father’s

The poor old man owns no old sons

and Mulan owns no elder brothers

Buying a steed and armours

taking the place of her father

During Mulan’s military career she fought bloody wars and many of her partners never return home:

Through countless fights return few

Mulan the warrior on her way home

Winning great honors, Mulan refused to be promoted to be a powerful officer but went back home to accompany her family:

The great contributor must be rewarded

golds and jewels can’t buy heroine’s loyalty

Khan asked what else you wanted

Mulan said no more she needed

May the steed run for miles

Send me back to see my family

Finally, Mulan could be a girl again: wearing dresses and making cosmetics:

I shall wear the armours no more

dress on my body light the world

Combing my hair by the window

making cosmetics looking at the mirror

Mulan’s beauty astonished her partners who didn’t even know Mulan was a woman:

I step out to see my partners

the beauty of mine makes them bewildered

Having fought against the enemy for battles

they don’t even know Mulan is a girl

This is Mulan’s unusual life described by The Mulan Song, and at the end of the song the author used a metaphor to voice for feminism:

When there are two rabbits running shoulder to shoulder

how can you recognize which is male and which is female


The Song of Mulan

History of Wei Dynasty, Shou Wei

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