Hua Mulan is one of the most legendary women of ancient China. Her heroic actions were first recorded in ancient texts, retold in the famous poem Ballad of Mulan, and later popularized in the 1998 Walt Disney film Mulan. Today, her story continues to be told in schools across China.
In Chinese “Huā” means “flower” and “Mùlán” means magnolia. The magnolia flower is one of the symbols of China since ancient times. However, there is different information about Mulan’s possible roots, and her family name is uncertain. In the text History of the Ming, her family name is Zhu, but in History of the Qing it is Wei. The only sure information is that her story is connected with the history of China in the 4th or 5th century AD.
The Origins of the Ballad
The original source of Mulan’s story came from one folk song in the North Wei Dynasty (386 AD – 557 AD) which was called The Ballad of Mulan. The first known transcription of The Ballad of Mulan comes from the 6th century. Unfortunately, the original work no longer exists and the text of this poem comes from another work known as the Music Bureau Collection.
This is an anthology of lyrics, songs, and poems compiled by Guo Maoqian during the 11th or 12th century. The author explicitly states that the Musical Records of Old and New was his source for the poem about Mulan.