Many of us have seen the Disney movie but ... has anyone heard of the ballad of Hua Mulan?
The Disney film was inspired by a 6th century poem, later collected in an anthology, in which a young woman, faced with the war and the requirement that her elderly father join the ranks of the army, runs away from home dressed as a man to fight for her country instead of her father.
It is not known if Mulan really existed or if she is a legend, but throughout history it has appeared in various literary works and with many variations. The truth is that in the earliest version that is known, she returns home after rejecting a position in court and when the army comrades see her as a woman, they cannot believe that in 12 years of fighting with her they didn't notice it.
The ballad ends with a message of gender equality that metaphorically says that "male or female rabbits are not distinguished when they run through the field" referring to the fact that a woman could do the same as men and just as good, in this case fight. A quite positive message in that war time in which sexism reigned, although it responded more to a need for inspiring models for battle as in many other cultures in which we find female figures who have inspired and comforted soldiers in times of war and revolution like the Marianne of France or the Roman Bellum ...
If Mulan really existed, she lived during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 AD-535 AD) but the 98 film does not strictly adhere to any specific dynasty and takes elements from several of them in favor of the drama. The invasion of the Huns, the invention of the gunpowder or the image of the Great Wall as we know it nowadays are things that happened in different periods and dynasties and none of them in the Wei but, as happens many times in Hollywood, the film didn't pretend to be an academic reflection but to transfer the public to an imaginary world inspired by all that and in that world the costumes couldn't be less.
Although we see the characteristic hanfu of the Han dynasties, it evolved and I'd say that, in Mulan, the hanfu is nearer to the Tang dynasty (618 AD-907 AD), the golden era of a China opened to the Silk Road.
Everything would end with the invasion of the Manchu peoples and the establishment of the Qing dynasty that would bring with them other fashions but the "hanfu" had a history too interesting to forget for the legend says that the mythic Yellow Emperor wore this silk garment. Silk that his wife would discover when a chrysalis fell into her tea.
In the end, the film probably disappointed the chinese culture in its references but that legendary heroine was a jewel that had to be known by a world full of girls who needed empowerment.
by The Barbiest