Mulan, or ‘Hua Mulan’ is a Chinese legend who appeared in the Chinese poem ‘Ballad of Mulan’.
According to the legend, she fought for 12 years and merited 12 ranks of rewards which she refused and retired back home instead. This isn’t unlike Disney’s Mulan’s actions where she refuses the Emperor’s honours and requests to be able to return home at the end.
Many debate whether this legend was in fact true because it was such a long time ago, it’s hard to be certain. The historical setting of Hua Mulan is unknown but it’s estimated to be during the Northen Wei dynasty (386-534).
‘Long ago, in the Wei, Sui or Tang, depending on who tells it, there was an invasion on the borders of Mulan’s homeland. The barbarious Tujie decided they weren’t happy with what they had and the easiest way to rectify this state of affairs, was to take it from someone else. Quite understandably, the emperor was furious. He demanded that every family provide a soldier for his army. Mulan’s people had already been trained to fight. Sensibly, they had put the work in during peace time, so that when the borderlanders attacked, it was simply a matter of drafting trained soldiers.
Mulan’s father had been a soldier before. He was well trained and had passed his skills on to his daughter. He was retired now and too frail to fight. Her brother was too young. Nevertheless, the emporer must be obeyed, so the old man was called to swell the ranks. His daughter knew he would be killed, so she offered to go in his place. Neither of her parents thought this an acceptable alternative, so our Tang dynasty maiden decided to prove she was able.
One day, a young man challenged Mulan’s father to a bout. The older man was soundly beaten, and amazed to discover, the young challenger was his own daughter. He was convinced. Women with swords were not the done thing in the Tang dynasty army, so Hua Mulan dressed as a male and went anyway.
She bought a horse and riding gear, and trotted off to oust the barbarians. They proved more tenacious than expected and the war lasted twelve years. Mulan was such a good fighter, she rose through the ranks to the level of general. How she hid the fact she was a woman, for such a long time, is the subject of much debate. While in the army, she made friends with General Li and even he didn’t guess.
Finally, an ambush succeeded. With the capture of the enemy king. The war was over. Money was offered to every soldier but our heroine only wanted a camel to get back to her family as quickly as possible. It was over and so was her game of playing the part of a man. She officially resigned and took off. This was mostly because the commanding general had decided she would make a perfect husband for his daughter. She pretended injury from the battle, evaded him and left on her fast camel.
Not to be put off, the commander sent his friend General Li, to her home, with wedding gifts. he was to arrange the marriage. When General Li arrived, the young male general had turned into a woman.
This was a big shock. He did two things about the situation – explained the circumstances to the hopeful commanding general, and claimed the woman’s hand in marriage for himself.
So there we have it. Three provinces claim her birth. Three dynasties vie for her lifetime. There are lots of versions of the story, especially the ending. Even her name is much in dispute. Legend or history – you decide. She is known as one of ancient China’s greatest women with swords.’ from this Source