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The real story: Mulan


The real story: Mulan

Mulan, a 1998 Disney movie, is actually based on a Chinese legend. The Disney story goes like this: Fearful that her ailing father will be drafted into the Chinese military, Mulan takes his spot – though, as a girl living under a patriarchal regime, she is technically unqualified to serve. She cleverly impersonates a man and goes off to train with fellow recruits. Accompanied by her dragon, Mushu, she uses her smarts to help ward off a Hun invasion, falling in love with a dashing captain along the way (source: IMDb).


What you probably didn’t know is that the story of Mulan is actually based on a Chinese poem known as the Ballad of Mulan (木蘭辭). This poem is thought to be based on Fu Hao.

Fu Hao or Lady Hao, was one of the many wives of King Wu Ding of the Shang dynasty and, unusually for that time, also served as a military general and high priestess.

In ancient inscriptions she is shown to have led numerous military campaigns. The Tu-Fang had fought against the Shang for generations until they were finally defeated by Fu Hao in a single decisive battle. Further campaigns against the neigbouring Yi, Qiang and Ba followed. With up to 13,000 soldiers and important generals Zhi and Hou Gao serving under her, she was the most powerful military leader of her time. This highly unusual status is confirmed by the many weapons, including great battle-axes, unearthed from her tomb.

Fu_HaoIn the original poem, Hua Mulan takes her aged father’s place in the army. She fought for twelve years and gained high merit, but she refused any reward and retired to her hometown instead.

So the truth is actually much more boring than the Disney version.

An interesting fact is that the Hua Mulan crater on Venus is named after her (source: wikipedia).

Listen to the beautiful song – Reflection – as performed by Christina Aguilera – from the Disney movie:

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