Facts About Mulan

by Chuck Robert

Mulan is a mythical hero from Chinese legend, a warrior who symbolized heroism. Her story has been passed down from generation to generation in China and has been adapted into several stories, including the Disney film "Mulan." Mulan’s name is sometimes spelled with a hyphen as “Mu-Lan,” which means magnolia. The original story came from an epic poem. No one knows if the story of Mulan is true, so it is regarded as a folk tale.

Mulan's Interests

When Mulan was a child, she enjoyed shooting arrows and often read books about war. The area she lived in, Hú Nán Shāng Chūi Shì, was dedicated to practicing the fighting arts. She joined the army when she was 18. Not interested in women’s activities or marriage, Mulan instead joined the army to take the place of her father by dressing up as a man. Mulan’s father was ordered to fight in the army, but he was too old, according to the poem.

Military Service

After purchasing her own equipment, which included a horse, bridle, saddle and a whip, Mulan joined the imperial army. She fought in battles that occurred between the Chinese and the Tatar invaders. The poem says she received 12 awards over the course of her 10 years of service. The most prestigious award was handed to her by the emperor herself, for incredible courage. She was then offered a government job, which she turned down.

Returning Home

After traveling with the army for 10,000 miles, Mulan met with the khan of the nomadic people she was fighting with. Khan, a word that meant "son of heaven," was a term used to refer to the rulers of nomadic people in northern China. Khan asked her what she wanted in return for her years of service, and Mulan asked to return home. When Mulan returned home, she put back on feminine clothes and fixed herself up before returning to her fellow soldiers. She showed herself to the soldiers, who were surprised to see that she was a woman. The original poem from which Mulan originated ended by mentioning that sex differences are difficult to identify when soldiers are fighting side-by-side.


The original poem about Mulan was written in Yueh-fu poetry by a woman named Tzu-Yeh. She originally wrote the poem sometime between 420 and 589 A.D. It was included in imperial court writings 100 years later.The Yueh-fu style is derived from folk songs, which were read aloud as music played. The style had no formal rhyming system and the lines often had an unpredictable length. Mulan’s story was later developed into a novel during the Ming Dynasty. Mulan appeared as a character in a play by Xu Wei, going by the name Hua Mulan.