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|Oil painting on silk, "Hua Mulan Goes to War"|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Huā Mùlán|
Hua Mulan (Chinese: 花木蘭; pinyin: Huā Mùlán; Wade–Giles: Hua1 Mu4-lan2) is a legendary figure from ancient China who was originally described in a Chinese poem known as the Ballad of Mulan (木蘭辭). In the poem, Hua Mulan takes her aged father's place in the army. She fought for 12 years and gained high merit, but she refused any reward and retired to her hometown instead.
The historical setting of Hua Mulan is uncertain. The earliest accounts of the legend state that she lived during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534).
The Ballad of Mulan was first transcribed in the Musical Records of Old and New (s 古今乐录, t 古今樂錄) in the 6th century, the century before the founding of the Tang Dynasty. The original work no longer exists, and the original text of this poem comes from another work known as the Music Bureau Collection (s 乐府诗, t 樂府詩), an anthology of lyrics, songs, and poems, compiled by Guo Maoqian during the 11th or 12th century. The author explicitly mentions the Musical Records of Old and New as his source for the poem. The poem is a ballad, meaning that the lines do not necessarily have equal numbers of syllables. The poem is mostly composed of five-character phrases, with just a few extending to seven or nine.
The story was expanded into a novel during the late Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Over time, the story of Hua Mulan rose in popularity as a folk tale among the Chinese people on the same level as the Butterfly Lovers. It is one of the first poems in Chinese history to support the notion of gender equality.
In Chinese, mùlán (s 木兰, t 木蘭, lit. "wood-orchid") refers to the magnolia. The heroine of the poem is given different family names in different versions of her story. According to History of the Ming, her family name is Zhu[which?], while the History of the Qing say it is Wei (魏). The family name 花 (Huā, lit. "flower") has become the most popular in recent years in part because of its more poetic meaning.
The story of Hua Mulan has inspired a number of film and stage adaptations without taking into account pre-modern Chinese plays and operas about the subject. These include the following:
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