The Ballad of Mulan

Translated by: Gregory Strasser

1.     THE GREAT CALL

When we think of a nation divided, one needs to look no further than the United States. Holding up a magnifying glass reveals a vast red wasteland smattered with bright blue spots, a sort of painting that Pollock may have created. The presidency of Donald Trump illuminated an intense discord between millions of Americans, a division that had been forewarned when George Washington left the presidency way back yonder. The revelation that our democracy is not, in fact, a united state, as much as it claims to be, is not as startling for you or I, but alarming for a number of people whom operated under the notion that the system of checks and balances, protected and upheld by the revered and centuries old Constitution, was impenetrable and functional.

Division is not unique to the United States, though, admittedly, we set ourselves up for that kind of failure anyway. The US was born from division continues to inspire division in numerous ways. Division takes appearance in numerous forms, whether it be a Marxist idea like the working class and the Bourgeoisie, or a racist one like White supremacy. It’s often hard to discern where these historical diversions emerge.

And perhaps that’s exactly what was going on since the beginning of time. When I look at China, the country of origin from which my mother emigrated back in 1994, there was much chaos and political animosity between the Middle Kingdom and the United States. My mother, whom survived the Tiananmen Square Riots, was born at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, and recalled her birth city, Shanghai, as a city of the world. Though her heart strained for her fractured homeland, she felt confident that escaping to America would be an escape to land of unity, peace, and cohesion. She did not predict that she would end up with a gay, left-wing son.

Strangely, my mother has all the qualities of what I would consider progressive. She left China to pursue freedoms that would be given to her, not restricted by her gender. She believes in equality, she is frustrated by censorship, oppression, and is a proponent of the arts and culture. Being a woman and having freedom was important to her. Womanhood in China has always been a dividing issue – from when Mao Zedong promised that “Women held up half the sky,” to the millions of female infants abandoned on hilltops as a result of the One Child Policy. Yet the spirit of womanhood had remarkable endurance thanks to a figure of mythological proportions: the lady of Magnolias, Hua Mulan.

It’s difficult to place where and when Mulan might have lived, or whether or not she ever was truly a real person. The Mulan as depicted in the famous poem, The Ballad of Mulan, would most likely have lived in a territory ruled the Northern Wei Dynasty, back in the fourth century – a very divided time indeed. The Northern Wei were actually descendants of Mongolian horselords, whom emerged from the steppes of Xianbei and conquered most of Northern China, subjugating the Han Chinese. Those who remained fled south of the Yangtze River, establishing a divided land known to historians as the Northern and Southern Dynasties. Our story takes place in the former.

The Northern Wei held a tight grasp over their subjects. Officials were not salaried by their Kingdom, and thus were encouraged to collect monies from their constituents. As a result, corruption was rampant and resentment grew. Chinese Han citizens were frustrated with the dictatorship, which practiced archaic traditions where all men were forced to wear their hair in a single braid, covered by a cap; women had to apply to be empress through a contest of sculpting a statue of gold; and if the empress was lucky enough to have a son, she would be forced to commit suicide so that the chance of a competitor to the throne was eliminated.

This did not bode well with the Han Chinese, however, whom were less than pleased with their Mongolian rulers. Little by little, the Han influenced trickl over the Wei aristocracy: Buddhism flourished, Han products and traditions became a symbol of wealth and power, and gradually the Wei emperors began to call themselves Yuan, a fashionable Han-inspired name. All this, and the emperor, who was a direct descendant of the Xianbei people, started deporting his own people back into the rugged north. The sinicization was not completely successful, however, as those still living in Xianbei became disgusted by their aristocratic cousins. “‘Yuan?’ What horseshit,” one official was rumored to have uttered. “That emperor is a traitor.”

And so it came one evening that the rebellions broke out. They spread like wildfire across the north, and the necessity for men to fight the war between the fracturing Wei clan began to climb. It should be, then, one morning in a tiny village that sat just south of the capital city of Luoyang, we find Mulan sitting by the loom, weaving in front of her bedroom door.

The sound of the loom was of spurting, flowing water, but when her parents arrived at the door they could only hear the somber echo of her sigh.

“Daughter, who are you ruminating over so nostalgically?” They thought that she was heartbroken.

Mulan, who now ceased her weaving, confessed: “I am neither ruminating, nor am I nostalgic,” she said with a bit of indignation – the same indignation most young people possess in the face of a policy they disagree, and in fact, it was a policy that she had found contention with.

Mulan, you see, was not typical of most girls in her village. She was cleverer, more athletic, and far more courageous than her peers. She walked with the pride of a horse, and was as fast as a hare, and of course possessed a beauty unparalleled by the women of the village, and perhaps in all of the Northern Wei territory. She was completely accountable, and her neighbors adored her for the frequent labor she performed on their farms. Despite being a girl, Mulan was often more reliable than the village sons. Thus, she seldom wove, which was why her parents had actually come to visit her, for they were surprised that she was even remotely interested in a loom. Her sighing, unbeknownst to her parents, was a result of fatigue from a long night’s excursion in which she saw a village official carrying a bundle of scrolls into his office. The dimwitted man had left his door ajar when he left, and so Mulan crept into the vicinity to investigate. The scrolls were marked with General Erzhu Rong’s insignia.

This was cause for alarm, as Erzhu Rong was, indeed, an alarming man. His seat was in Luoyang which was over the hills from Mulan’s tiny village, but word traveled fast about him, especially after he murdered the Empress and butchered her body before tossing it into the river. Rong had had a deep resentment with Her Majesty for quite some time, especially towards the way she had handled the rebellions, but probably more so because she was a female. So when it came to light that the Empress had poisoned her son, the prince whom initially had contracted Rong to overthrow his mother, the general – or khan, as they called him – organized a coup. Rong informed Her Majesty that he had discovered the Kingdom’s new emperor through an ancient ritual from Xianbei, and would arrive to Luoyang to install him. The Empress, who did not fear this new man –she was adored by (most) of her constituents, and would easily influence the court without much effort, returned word that she was glad to meet her successor. When they rendezvoused, Rong revealed that he was actually here to punish her for the murder of her son, and subsequently slew her.

So, imagine Mulan’s shock when a dozen scrolls, all bearing General Rong’s insignia arrived at the office. She unrolled one and saw that it was a conscription notice. Immediately her gaze averted to the columns of names, neatly painted in black brush strokes. To her dismay, her father’s name appeared quite plainly on the document. And as it should be, Mulan was devastated. Devastated folk tend to engage in their own devastation, however, as they always return to the source of their devastation to, unwittingly, reap some more devastation. In this case, Mulan was in such disbelief that she began unrolling each scroll to see if they would somehow contradict the plain text that commanded her father’s conscription. Each one furthered her devastation: upon all twelve the Hua family character was drawn, and upon all twelve, her father’s name followed. What also arose was the names of her friends and extended family. Each male, some as young as their teens, others as old as her own father, were called to serve.

So when her parents arrived that morning, surprised to find her daughter weaving at the loom, her sighs so exhaustive they covered the slight ji-ji of the shuttle, it should be expected that when they questioned her about her forlorn state they would hear the response: “Last night, I saw the conscription notice. The Khan has called for the men of our village to serve in the war to come.”

Here, scholars debate what precisely was this “war-to-come.” It could have been, as mentioned before, General Rong’s skirmishes in the fifth century, but it also could have been approximately a century earlier in which the Emperor Tai-Wu had called forth men to serve in thirteen campaigns against a Mongol tribe, the Rouran. Given that, however, the wars which erupted from the former’s folly eventually led to dissolution of the Northern state, and Mulan’s forefathers had extensive history in fighting for the Wei clan, it makes chronological sense for the present conflict to be of the civil war. Thus, we find Mulan here, at odds with her General’s demands.

Yet, what was she to do?

“Father has no elder son; I have no elder brother,” She eyed her younger brother here, whom had appeared behind his parents’ legs. He was still very young, perhaps just past the age of what one would consider a toddler.

And thus, Mulan, in that moment, spoke something radical.

“I wish to purchase a saddle and horse, and from here go to fight father’s war.”

How did she arrive to such an inane idea? that was the question. One might argue that Mulan had always felt exhausted and disillusioned by the demands of the culture that dictated her womanhood. Others might suggest that Mulan had always thought of war. Oral tradition, far more common in those days than the written word, had most likely filled her spirit with the glories and valor of battle. Most likely, it was a combination of the two, and Mulan was one of those individuals who, once she had set her mind to doing something, could not be undaunted.

You have to admire the doggedness in that type of person, and even if you do not, her parents did. They held no protest over Mulan enlisting, though each was gravely concerned. The fact of the matter was, however, her father was old and weary. He and his ancestors had seen battle before, which would explain the century old armor that rested in his closet, the same armor his father and grandfather had worn in the skirmishes against the Rouran, and the same armor that Mulan would don when she set out for the battle. Their household, however, was a simple farming one, and thus did not possess the beast for optimum war play: the horse. That would have to be procured on their own. Being that they were simple folk, a horse was an expensive investment. Still, good parents know when there is a time to talk some sense into their children, and when there was a time to let them go off and learn for themselves. In this case, Mulan was of a certain age where she could no longer benefit from her parents’ teachings, and so they sent her off with some financial support.

Mulan, being the clever girl she was, had waited for this moment for a very long time. She had extensive knowledge of what she needed, the quality of those items, and where to get them. It was only a day’s journey to Luoyang, and when she arrived, she was ecstatic to see how large and expansive it was. Despite the vibrancy and glamor of the city, she was intent on obtaining her necessities, and set about for them. Mulan was no-nonsense when it came to her wares. In the east market, she purchased the finest of horses through skilled negotiation. However, the east market was devoid of pretty much anything else, at least anything of exceptional quality and affordable price, and thus she found herself in the west market where she haggled for a saddle and skirt – two for the price of one.

Feeling exceptional, but also exceptionally frustrated that the west market, too, did not contain much else of merit, Mulan made her way to the south market where she found a beautiful bridle, hand crafted, and sturdy. Just for safe measure, Mulan rode north, where in that market she took hold of a great whip and thrust the last of her change at the peddler. It would be just her and the army now, and frilly things like money were needless baubles.

When she returned home, her little brother and sister delighted at the sight of such a beautiful steed. Mulan, who was skilled in horseback from all of the labor she had worked around the village, was happy to provide lessons. For the last time in a long while, the family was together. Early in the morning, the next day, Mulan took her new steed, her father’s armor, and the sword of the Hua house. She spoke a brief farewell to her parents, she was not one to be emotional. Her parents were fraught with worry, but Mulan was determined. As she left, they couldn’t help but see how mature and dignified she looked in the old armor of the Hua forefathers. And in the distance, as the Hua family looked out across the hills, having bid Mulan farewell, they knew she was destined for heroism. She just had that look about her.

  1. THE CAMPAIGN

Mulan traveled for quite some time. She returned to Luoyang and set her sights north. By nightfall, Mulan arrived at the banks of the Yellow River. The second longest river in China, the Yellow River fed into the basin that was the cradle of Chinese civilization, and ironically, the bane of it. While early Chinese society had flourished there, the river was known as the Scourge of the Sons of Han, for it devoured many great cities from its wild, raging, and frequent floods.

That night, when she found the army encampment just at the edge of the fiery rush of waves, she slept beside it. Back in her home, her parents wailed her name, calling out for her, filled with regret. The sounds of her parents were so agonizing and great, that almost all of China began to mourn. Almost all of China that is, except for the recipient of those wails, Mulan, who slept beside the noisy banks and could hear only the great waves splashing against the crags of the shore. To her, they sounded wicked – almost like a body being splattered with mud, or the sound that the smith had made when he beat her sword. Molten steel went flying, hissing through the air – jian!

Crossing the Yellow River brought the army perilously close to the enemy. Once, it had simply served as a geographical partition of the united Northern Wei Dynasty, but now it seemed to pose a formidable threat as well as a grim foreshadow. How cruel that the river which sustained and bore so much life now signaled the trail to their deaths! Mulan gulped as she and her horse stepped into the rush. The waves, intense and brewing, had washed away many skilled horsemen. Her fear was beginning to show, but to quell it she reminded herself of the ancient legend that was told to her when she was young:

Long ago, a great hero was instructed to find the source of the Yellow River. He sailed it to the end where he discovered a little girl spinning. He asked the girl where exactly it was that he had arrived and she presented him her shuttle, and told him to bring it to an astronomer. When he returned, he brought it to one, whom immediately recognized that it belonged to a constellation of a weaving girl in the heavens. The astronomer later told the hero that while he was away sailing the Yellow River, a new star appeared in the sky near the little girl’s constellation, and disappeared shortly before the hero returned.

Mulan was no longer afraid, for if she perished in the waves of the river, she would simply be washed ashore in the Milky Way. To become stardust, she thought, would not be so bad. Clinging dearly, the steed waded across the tides and emerged on the other side victorious. There were many, who did not, however, and some, Mulan would see, who had perished long before her travels. Brown corpses with cracked ribs and jaws, caught against the sharp rocks, were decaying away. They seemed to stare at her as she trotted by, assisting her brethren to shore. Jian, the waves cried again. The echoes no longer sounded like cries of agony, but a farewell. They were off, and the roar of the Yellow River dulled. What laid before them now was the vast expanse of Mongolia.

For weeks, Mulan and her army marched north, curving slightly eastward, but remaining northbound as adamantly as possible. In the distance, seventeen great peaks smote the landscape, forming an enormous rim. The Mongols called them the Black Mountains, the Chinese, christened them the Yin. The Great Wall, now a symbol of the Han failure to secure the borders from the horselords’ raids, stretched thinly across, like a line of smoke, rising into the air.

Here, the journey turned quite rugged. The Mongolian landscape transformed from a vast grassland into a mountainous trek, and Mulan felt the air thin and the winds grow colder. All around her, she saw nothing but black rock and gray soil. Again, her parents cried to her, sending their long and sullen pleas upon the wind. But Mulan could hear nothing, for the sounds of the barbarian tribes in the neighboring mountains drowned them out. They sounded like little children, lost in a terrifying world, crying for their parents. “Jiu, jiu,” it rang throughout the ravine. For the first time in months, Mulan felt the pangs of homesickness, tugging her southward.

But she pressed on.

The first battle was hard fought, the second saw few casualties. Soon, there were so many battles that one morning, she had realized several years had passed. She sat amongst the men in the encampment, munching on what little game she could seize. It was a sunny afternoon, and the prairie was alive with the music of nature. Unsatiated, Mulan seized her bow and arrows to hunt. A fellow soldier accompanied her, and soon they came across two wild hares, nibbling at the golden stalks of grass in the distance. Mulan nocked her arrow, and her companion instructed her: “Shoot the male, for its flesh is leaner, and thus will be tastier and healthy.”

Mulan raised her eyebrow and released the arrow. Her aim was known to be amongst the best of the men, and with a thwack it killed the hare and sent its friend scurrying away. Mulan retrieved her arrow and returned it to her quiver. She lifted the legs of the slain hare and saw that it was, in fact, a female. She neglected to tell this to her companion, and after they skinned and cooked it, he happily told her: “Do you see? It was so delicious.”

Mulan said nothing, for she concealed that from such a distance, it was impossible to discern which hare was male and which was female. From far away, they looked the same.

For thousands of miles, Mulan chased the battles. She was so formidable, so determined, that crossing through mountains and over rivers was like flying. In the cold north of Mongolia, she witnessed most of the atrocity. The frigid air seemed only to amplify the haunting ring of the night watch’s claps. Each strike, a reminder of a soul who perished. Sometimes, they camped close enough to the battle sites, that the moon’s frosty light illuminated the iron armor.

Sometime during the campaign, General Rong returned to Luoyang. There was a civil dispute that he had to squash, and I know what you’re thinking – another civil dispute? Is not the war that Mulan fighting already the result of one division? Of course, the fact of the matter is that civil war in those days was as common as employees being replaced in ours. Speaking of employees, Rong had returned to Luoyang for the very same issue. He had employed the current emperor, Xiaozhuang, but Xiaozhuang was frustrated with being a puppet, only acting on behalf of Rong’s orders. Xiaozhuang rebelled, and thus Rong had to settle his business. Rebellions seem to have only a fifty-fifty success rate, for in this case, the protégé could not best the mentor. Rong slaughtered the rebels and his clan restored rule.

However, the problem with war is that enemies never truly die, despite the best of efforts. For you see, the cruel paradox is that when one enemy is slain another is instantly created. A sort of metaphor to illustrate this could be the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, where one soul that vacates its body will simply find a new one. In this case, Xiaozhuang’s death enraged Rong’s most loyal lieutenant, Gao Huan. Huan announced to his troops that they had fought ninety-nine battles together thus far, but the one hundredth would be at Luoyang. Mulan was finally going home.

When she and her comrades arrived at the city gates, she saw the ruin that had transpired. The bustling markets were deserted, the city was dull and quiet. She had been gone for only twelve years, but that is truly a long while – even if humans may experience the passing of time quickly. It reminds me of the T. S. Eliot quote: “Life is very long,” where he alludes to the fact that we endure numerous changes over the course of our lifetimes, some changes so significant that as a result, who we were at one instance is not the same person we are in another. Huan and Rong pitted their forces against one another, and the battle ensued. But the tide turned quickly against the empire. Rong was outnumbered. The simple fact was that his clan was despised. In the eyes of the Wei and Han, Rong was the true villain. Huan was able to unite the two peoples and on the eve of their siege, at the one hundredth battle in Mulan’s tenure, General Rong met his end.

  1. THE HOMECOMING

Huan installed a new emperor, whom the people called the Son of Heaven, whose seat was in the Bright Hall of Luoyang. The Son of Heaven was delighted with Huan’s army, which he dubbed “heroes.” In his lush, golden hall, he displayed twelve merit scrolls, each conferring a promotion into the Imperial Cabinet. It was an honor that almost all desired, especially because being an official meant unmatched wealth and power over the court. Few would have passed up such an opportunity, and few did, save for Mulan.

After Mulan politely declined the scroll, she turned to exit the hall, but in front of her stood her general, Huan. He seemed a bit disappointed, for Mulan was the most skilled amongst his soldiers. He had grown to admire her deeply. She was a cunning and bold warrior, and a brilliant strategist. Her skillset was crucial to the new administration. Yet, all Mulan longed for was the quiet little village she had known in her youth. For more than a decade she had endured the wails of barbarians and the crashes of the river, it seemed only right that now that she should return home and be comforted by the sound of cool gushing water that her shuttle made when it glided across the loom.

“You know you won’t get another chance like this.” He warned.

“I know.” She replied.

“You know that the others are extremely jealous of you.” He informed.

“I know.” She replied.

“You know that some will be aghast that you turned up such an opportunity.” He cried.

“I know.” She replied.

“You know all this, and still you reject it?”

“No,” Mulan said. “I do not reject the offer, I am simply following what I meant to do. This is what my heart tells me. I hope you can understand.”

The general sighed, a sigh not quite so different from the sigh that Mulan had once expressed towards her mother and father. He knew there was no changing the mind of his most stalwart soldier. He conceded, and at last he asked her: “You are a hero, boy. If you do not accept this gift, I shall be shamed. At least do me the favor of rewarding you. What do you ask?”

Here, the ballad poses an answer with a bit of difficulty in translating. A gloss reveals that her answer was that she wished to borrow a camel with a thousand-mile hooves, which could mean either she wished for a camel whose endurance was a thousand-miles – or she wished for an escort of thousands of camel feet to bring her home. I am partial to the latter, for Mulan’s village, which historians conjecture to have been one of three places, was at maximum only a hundred miles from Luoyang. The other options were significantly closer. Furthermore, she already had a horse – so why would she abandon the poor creature, a beast she had shared a decade with, to ride home? No, Mulan preferred to be escorted home in a grand display by her fellow soldiers, for she had a plan. Something that her kinsmen would never forget.

So Mulan turned the Son of Heaven’s offer down, and a good thing too – for it came to light that the Emperor was quite inept. Completely unqualified and equipped with a cabinet of officials, all of whom were army veterans with no prior experience in administration or governance, the Emperor had absolutely no clue of what he was doing. It was no wonder that the people rebelled almost immediately. The closest example I can provide here is Scott Pruitt, the secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency, who declared that carbon dioxide could not be a contributor in climate change – as if this were a fact to even be contested. Thus, you can see why the people of Luoyang were pretty pissed at the state of their governance.

Gao Huan, however, still had some sense in his head and a loyal following. The emperor tried to have Huan murdered, but the general prevailed and expelled the Son of Heaven, now the Son of the Dumps, to the west, unintentionally dividing the Northern Wei dynasty once more. The Northern Kingdom became the Western and Eastern Wei States. Thus, now there were two claimants to the Wei throne, but that was an issue that was beyond Mulan now. She no longer cared for petty politics and needless warmongering. War, however, did not come. The Eastern and Western Wei clans settled their disputes without the need of violence, and more akin to how most politics are settled today – with ceaseless blackmail and incriminating threats.

Regardless, even if a call for war came, Mulan would not have answered. For when the camel caravan arrived at the outskirts of her village, she could see that something truly spectacular was awaiting her. It was a sight strong enough to remind her why she had left to fight this war in the first place.

Hearing that their daughter was returning her parents – now old and frail – used every bit of their strength, supporting one another, to walk outside the walls. From the distance, they looked indistinguishable. But Mulan knew, in her heart, that they were the mother and father, whose voices had grown ragged and toiled from the years of wailing. They clutched one another, perhaps in awe of seeing their daughter for the first time in years, or perhaps in fear that their old bones would collapse, or perhaps a mixture of both.

Mulan was greeted with a hero’s welcome, and when she arrived at her door she saw her sister standing aside, looking ravishing. Hearing that Mulan had returned, she donned rich red makeup, though it would not be erroneous to surmise that she wanted to look attractive to the army of war heroes outside her doorstep either. She and Mulan exchanged a long glance, one of nostalgia. Then, with a burst of excitement, Mulan’s little brother, now just a bit younger than Mulan was before she left for war, appeared clutching a knife. It was sharp and glistened in the sunlight. When he had heard big sister was returning, he sharpened it whilst eyeing the pig and goat on their farm.

All seemed well, and Mulan decided that this was the moment to reveal the twist. I am speaking, of course, in a double-entendre. For the twist of the ballad is that the speaker was in fact Mulan all along, narrating her own story. This becomes clear when she uses the noun “I,” though I, the translator/adaptor and NOT Mulan, have elected to retell this story in prose with my own voice, this distinction cannot be made. Thus the second twist is the revelation of her gender. Admittedly, however, this is not a twist for us, rather a bit of dramatic irony for the characters.

She opened her east bedroom door and sat upon the bed in the west end of her room. She lifted off her garbs and stowed the armor – sturdy and polished – in her closet. She pulled on her old dress – hugging her tightly, but fitting nonetheless. In front of the window she combed her hair, as soft and layered as a cloud, and faced her mirror to paste her yellow magnolia ornament. This ornament was essentially her name, for Mulan is Chinese for Magnolia flower. It was both a symbol of femininity and her true identity.

Slowly, but with the same determination as she descended into battle, Mulan came out her house door. She eyed her comrades and they eyed her.

Suddenly, it dawned on them. They were shocked.

“We marched together for twelve years!” One exclaimed, “And had no idea that our brother was our sister!”

Mulan could only grin. The festivities would be starting soon, and the drunken squalor was bound to produce proposals for marriage and confessions of admiration. She knew this, but was unfazed. These men were first, and foremost her brothers. She had fought alongside them, cried by them, mourned for them, and celebrated with them. But even the closest of siblings conceal secrets from one another, though the truth always comes out. She recalled that the unity of her army was frequently challenged, and often broke apart: brothers became enemies, divisions of geography separated them from home. Yet confronted with the truth, it seemed that whatever differences these men and Mulan had had, melded away. Mulan and her fellow soldiers, from far away looked remarkably similar despite being distinctive up close. The truth is, though they were surprised, they still saw her as the same: the brave warrior who could outshoot, outride, and outmaneuver any of them. My explanation, however, is nowhere near as astute as hers, and so I will let her finish the tale. She stared at her brothers and said simply, trustingly:

“The male hare, from birth, hops on its feet. The female hare, from birth, has misty eyes. But when both hares are running along the ground, side-by-side; how can I distinguish which is which?”

 

About the Original:

Mulan is an ancient ballad from the Northern Wei Dynasty.  It first appeared in a sixth century publication, though that version has been lost.  The earliest text is derived from an 11th century musical anthology.  Since then, Mulan has flowered into life in numerous forms, though to be accurate, her presence has long existed as part of China’s mythological and political spirit in various forms.  Mulan has also permeated Western culture, especially via the Disney adaptation.

About the Translator:

Greg Strasser is a senior at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, receiving a BFA in Performance Directing and minors in Performing Arts Management and American Culture.  This adaptation of the Chinese poem “Mulan”  was born from his interest in the main character as a mythical and historical figure.  The national memory, identity, and the process of remembering in which those identities are created are reflected in “Mulan” through the themes of the complex role of women in China, anti-war sentiments, and gender-fluidity that are still relevant today.  This short story interweaves historical context surrounding the poem along with contemporary political musings in conversation with the themes.  He decided to opt away from a direct translation because these elements all operated so vibrantly together and to avoid losing elements from the original poem.  By translating this piece, Greg attempted to capture a more somber and mature woman than the Disney version, as depicted in the original Chinese.

Tagged as: