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Mulan: Five Versions of a Classic Chinese Legend with Related Texts Paperback – 10 Nov 2010
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Idema's scholarship . . . [and his] ability to translate popular texts into comparably idiomatic English are outstanding achievements.--Hugh R. Clark, Ursinus College The plots and the elaborations of the Mulan narratives reproduced (and summarized) here demonstrate the many ways in which the Mulan figure has spoken to succeeding generations with differing heroic characteristics and in the idiom that each audience understood; they offer excellent texts for a deep background for any consideration of Mulan in contemporary culture. For scholars of European fairy tales, the narratives offer striking points of comparison with European crossdressing heroines of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.--Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Stony Brook University
About the Author
Shiamin Kwa received her Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Wilt L. Idema is Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University.
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This book has five full versions of the legend of Mulan:
1) Poem of Mulan (the first recorded version by anonymous, possibly written between 386 and 533 A.D.)
2) Song of Mulan (an imitation written in the 8th Century by Wei Yanfu, a Tang Dynasty official)
3) The Female Mulan Joins the Army in Place of Her Father (a play by Xu Wei, written in the 16th Century)
4) Mu Lan Joins the Army (a Peking opera script from 1903)
5) Mulan Joins the Army (the script from the 1939 film)
The introduction analyses each version and gives some background to each, and they are surprisingly different despite the similar story at their heart. Some versions are more about patriotism and duty to your family, and others have a more comedic tone that have fun with the idea of cross-dressing.
However, sometimes the arguments given in the analysis aren't all that clear, and there is no mention of whether Mulan herself was a real person or not, but this is an invaluable book for people wanting to learn more about the original tale of Mulan.
As well as the five complete versions, the appendix gives summaries of the following pre-1949 plays about Mulan:
1) A Couple of Hares by Yong'en (Qianlong period, 1736-1795)
2) Hua Mulan by Chen Xu (1897-1940)
3) Mulan Joins the Army by Mei Lanfang and Qi Rushan (1917)
4) On Campaign in Place of her Father by Daifu Zheng (no date)
5) Mulan Joins the Army by Ma Shaobo (revised version of the play from 1917)
6) Joining the Army: On the Road by Pifu (1932)
7) Mulan Joins the Army by Ouyang Yuqian (a Guiji from 1942)
and three novels of the Qing Dynasty:
1) Historical Romance of the Sui and the Tang by Chu Renhuo
2) The Story of the Loyal, Filial, and Heroic Mulan/the Wondrous Maiden Mulan/Complete Story of the Wondrous Maiden Mulan by anonymous
3) An Extraordinary History of the Northern Wei: The Story of a Filial and Heroic Girl by Zhang Shaoxian
If you have even a passing interest in the Disney film I would recommend this book, as it uncovers a rich tapestry of ideas and gives an insight into ancient Chinese folklore.
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