Did Mulan Really Pretend To Be A Man for 12 Years?

mulan actresses
Mulan is a classic tale that's been adapted for TV and movies several times with Crystal Liu Yifei taking on the mantle of our beloved warrior girl in the upcoming live action movie. Looking back, there have been other iconic actresses who have given life to the title character. A couple of the more popular ones were Anita Yuen from the 1999 TV series Hua Mulan and Vicki Zhao Wei from the 2009 Chinese film Mulan. 

Everyone probably knows the story of Mulan by now. It's about a woman who pretends to be a man to join the military for the sake of her family. Mulan's story is taught in Chinese schools through the folksong The Ballad of Mulan and follows her as she keeps her identity secret for 12 years. However, there's something that doesn't quite add up because is it really possible for a woman to pretend to be a man for so many years? 

mulan battle
There are a few theories as to why nobody ever found out about Mulan's identity in her 12 years of service in the imperial army.  One explanation is that Hua Mulan was never really a soldier. In the ballad, it was mentioned that Mulan went to the market to buy tools and materials for a horse in preparation for her journey.  There wasn't any mention of her buying weapons, which insinuates that she might've been a member of the cavalry or just a messenger and not a weapon-wielding soldier.  

If she was indeed a messenger that relayed battle reports across the field, then it would make sense that her identity was kept secret since she would've been alone on her horse most of the time and probably had minimal contact with the men of the army.   

mulan
The second explanation involves Mulan's looks and demeanor.  Men and women had long hair back then and their attires were distinct. Mulan wearing men's clothing would probably not raise suspicion if she was careful not to look or act feminine.

disney mulan bath scene
Then again you might remember that bath scene from the Disney movie that was perhaps its biggest plot hole. I'm still surprised that they showed that in the animated version. I mean, how can anybody not notice that she was in fact, a girl?  She was bathing together with other men and nobody every noticed.

Nonetheless, the movie is not about these little loopholes nor the casting of breathtaking beauties in the role of a character that is supposed to pass for a guy. It's a story about strength, bravery, filial piety and so much more. I'm excited to see it in action. 







1 comment:

  1. Wah. I wrote a long post and it didn't post. Here is a shorter one. Just wanted to share that I disagree - I think she went to war for 12 years and fought with men. History is often wrote by men and they always downplay or portray women in one dimension. An obvious explanation is that Mulan was probably very good at her job and the men she worked with help protected her identity or someone powerful allowed it. Both are likely. Yes, Mulan is an exception as most women aren't like her hence they could have allowed it. Women back then were much more active and free than later periods of Chinese history due to all the fighting/wars. Reminds me of Cleopatra. History written by men labelled her as a temptress but in reality she was am intelligent ruler that spoke 7 languages and survived many assassination attempts by her own family. She did more than just her relationship with Julius Caesar is all I'm saying.

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