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When We Talk About Mulan, What Are We Talking About?

Oct 18, 2019

The Mulan legend, about a young woman who disguises herself as a man to go to war, is making its return to the big screen as a live-action Disney remake. The 1998 animated movie version of the story gained worldwide popularity and solidified Mulan's status as one of the most beloved Disney princesses.


Mulan (1988)


The story of Mulan originated from a legendary poem called "Song of Mulan," which is included in the literature textbook of Chinese schools. Many Chinese people have wondered since childhood, "How could Mulan have spent so many years in the army without being discovered as a girl, especially with such a feminine name?"


In China, Mulan's full name is HUA Mulan. Hua is her family name, which means "flower" in Chinese. Her first name, Mulan, is the Chinese name for magnolia. So, in essence, Mulan's name means "Flower Flower."


However, some experts argue that the word "Mulan" had a different meaning in ancient times. According to Adrienne Mayor's book "The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World," a linguistic analysis by Chen shows that Mulan's name means "deer or elk" in the ancient Altaic language of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia.


The Mulan legend dates back to the Northern Wei dynasty in China, as early as around 380 AD. This dynasty was founded by the northern ethnic group Xianbei, who had their own language (Xianbei, not Han, which is the common language today) that was believed to be similar to Turkic. Under this explanation, Mulan's name sounds neutral and not necessarily feminine. There was even a famous male general from the same period with the name HAN Mulan.

Today, people prefer the version of the story where Mulan is a girl with a feminine name who manages to hide in the army and becomes a hero. This exciting and romantic story has increased people's love for the magnolia flower. The flower language of magnolia is "respectful and noble soul," and Mulan's story has given this spirit to the flower, making magnolias a popular element in fashion and jewelry. Wearing items with Mulan designs is a symbol of bravery, difference, and independence, as if Mulan is with us every step of the way.

Light Stone Mulan Collections

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