The 2006 New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV) 2006 Gala will feature a dance that gives a faithful account of the story of the legendary Hua Mulan.
Popular Versions Take Liberties
The Disney movie version of "Mulan" set the record for box office sales in 1998. But successful as the movie was, the history it told seemed to be completely altered. In the movie, there appeared a matchmaker, a grandmother, General Li, Mushu, a "squirrelly" dragon and Cri-Kee, a lucky pet cricket, etc. In the original story, Mulan returned in triumph and was summoned by the emperor. But in the movie, her triumph went a huge step further as she personally "rescued the emperor." And so on and so on. The Chinese audience was very surprised at the alterations of the story, but after all the Chinese Mulan had become widely known.
Recently, another western director, Graeme Murphy, artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company, choreographed a dance opera "Hua Mulan". In the Sydney version, the following plots were added to the original story. Mulan's little brother was held hostage because he showed off his cleverness; a female spy disclosed that Mulan was a girl; Mulan dated one of her comrades in the army. The western audience became even more confused about the story of "Mulan."
The Real Story
The audience may need to review "Ode of Mulan" from Yue-fu, an ancient collection of Chinese songs and ballads to understand the times and the inner world of Mulan. In this way they can better appreciate the popular legend that has lasted for more than 1000 years.
There are many contradictory views on Mulan's surname, where she lived, and her birth date. The more reliable version is in the book "Legend of the Very Sad Ape" by Xu Wei of the Ming Dynasty. The book says that Mulan's last name is Hua. Her father Hua Hu was an officer of the army reserve. She lived in a family of five: her elder sister Hua Mulian, little brother Hua Xiong and her Mom with a family name of Yuan. The book "On the Journey to Kangyou" says that she lived in about 1000 years ago. The Shangqiu County Records of Henan Province say that Mulan lived in the village Song.
The poem "Ode of Mulan" should be given credit for passing on the story of Mulan till today. The long narrative poem sang the praises of Mulan who joined the army disguised as a man in order to serve in her aged father's place. In the poem the emperor is referred to as Kahn and the battlefield is in the north of China. Among the places names, the Yellow River is well known and Black Mountain is called Mountain Sahu in the southeast of Huhhot of Inner Mongolia of China. Mountain Yan is Mountain Yanran, which is also referred to as Mountain Hang-Ai in Inner Mongolia.
The battle that Mulan was involved in occurred between the North Wei and Rou-ran. The North Wei was established by the Tuba Group of the Xianbei Tribe and was extinguished by Fujian of the West Jin. After Fujian lost the battle of Feishui, the Tuba people restored their nation and changed the name of the nation to Wei. Nation Wei ended the turmoil of the Ten Nations Period after sixty years of wars and united the area along the Yellow River. It had been eighty-six years with five emperors when it came to emperor Xiaowen of the North Wei. Emperor Xiaowen highly valued the Han culture in the center of China and he moved the capital to Luoyang and carried out the policy of promulgating Han culture. Most people with the last name Yuan were the descendants of Wei's royal court. Since the nation had enjoyed a long-lasting time of peace, social and economic development were achieved under the "Even Field Order" of emperor Xiaowen. At the time, Rou-rang, a strong country of northern nomads with a history of 158 years frequently invaded the Wei. The Wei regime sent an army to the far north to fight against Rourang.
"Ode of Mulan" describes the military emergency at the time at the beginning of the poem: "Emperor called on the army in an emergency" and "there were 12 scrolls of the enlistment booklets." Mulan's family only had a little brother of a young age. The father and mother were old. At this time of crisis, Mulan bravely joined army for her father. There are descriptions in the poem about how she was in a hurry to buy a horse and other equipment before leaving for the army. She left her parents in the morning, marched with great speed and camped at the shore of the Yellow River. She took part in frequent battles and endured army life for a long time while many of the solders and officers died in the battles. All along Mulan had successfully concealed that she was a girl.
After the army won the war, Mulan returned to her hometown to support her parents. Mulan, with the virtues of loyalty, filial piety, wisdom and bravery, deserved to be regarded as a remarkable girl who had a beautiful character and upheld excellent traditions.
Appendix: "Ode of Mulan"
Anonymous (500 A.D.)
Jie Jie, and more Jie Jie
Weaving, Mulan facing the front door.
Heard not the sound of shuttles,
Heard only her own sighs.
"Who you are missing?
Who you are recalling?"
"No one in my heart.
No one in my mind.
Last night I saw the army enlistment bulletin.
The emperor called for an army for a coming war.
Twelve scrolls of bulletins,
My father's name listed on every scroll.
Father has no grown up son;
Mulan has no elder brother.
I want to buy a saddle and horse,
And Join the army in the place of my father."
Bought a spirited horse from a market in the east,
Bought a saddle from a market in the west;
Bought a bridle from a market in the south;
Bought a long whip from a market in the north.
Said good-bye to Father and Mother at dawn,
Arrived on the shore of the Yellow River in the evening.
Heard not the calls from Father and Mother;
Heard only the crushing sound of water in the Yellow River.
Left the Yellow River at dawn for the north,
Camped atop the Black Mountain in the evening.
Heard not the calls from Father and Mother,
Heard only the crying sound of the nomad horses on Yan Mountain.
Travelled ten thousand li for the war.
Crossed the passes and mountains as swiftly as flying.
Sound of army watchman's knocker brought with cold winds.
Chilly moonlight reflected on iron armor.
Generals died in a hundred battles,
Great fighters returned in triumph after ten years.
Summoned to see the emperor,
The emperor sat in a splendid Hall.
Promotions granted in twelve ranks,
Gifts bestowed a thousand and more.
Emperor asked what else was desired,
Mulan not interested in a minister's post.
"Would like to have a swift horse
To take me to my hometown".
Father and Mother heard of the return of the Daughter,
Came all the way out of city to greet the Daughter, leaning on each other.
Elder sister heard of arrival of young Sister,
Took care of her make-up and dress, facing the door.
Young Brother heard of coming of elder Sister,
Whet the knife and went for a pig and a sheep—a feast for Sister.
Opened the door to the east chamber,
Sat on the bed in the west chamber.
Took off the army gown,
Put on the old dress.
Combed cloud-like hair, facing the window,
Rubbed cosmetic powder on forehead, facing the mirror.
Went out to visit her army comrades,
Comrades all surprised and perplexed.
For twelve years together in the army and fought
knew not Mulan was a girl.
He-hare walks with hops and skips
She-hare sees with muddled and fuddled eyes
If two hares run side by side
How can you tell which is the she and which is the he?
The Epoch Times is proud to join with New Tang Dynasty T.V. and Sound of Hope Radio in co-sponsoring "Myths and Legends," NTDTV's Chinese New Year Global Gala. This article is one of a series meant to introduce this unique and important event.