The myth of Hua Mulan


Caroline Young, artwork and text

QFWF, January 24th 2020 © Source: The art of Caroline R. Young (2002), Heritage Immortals
Courage and Devotion

Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl named Hua Mulan whose father was a powerful general in the Chinese army.

The general had no sons, so he taught Hua Mulan all he knew about martial arts and warfare strategies.

By the time the emperor called upon the general to lead the army to defend the dynasty from invaders, he had become old and weak and unable to go because of failing health.

Being the devoted and dutiful daughter that she was, Hua Mulan disguised herself as a man and took her father’s place on the battlefield.

As the war raged on, Hua Mulan fell hopelessly in love with a fellow officer who had no idea that she was not a man. She fought for twelve years and gained high merit, but she refused any reward. As she had won all the battles, Hua Mulan was awarded the rank of General, and could not refuse the high honor.

After the war was over, the beautiful general retired to her hometown a secret hero. One day, the fellow officer came to visit his former comrade in arms, and Hua Mulan revealed her heart and her true identity to him at last.

Her goodness and beauty were irresistible and the officer fell madly in love with her. They were married, lived to a ripe old age and lived happily ever after.

Hua Mulan’s filial piety is associated with the ram, because when the baby ram drinks from his mother’s teat, he gets down on his forelegs and is said to be kowtowing to her.

In this illustration, Caroline Young shows Hua Mulan looking at herself in a mirror, just before she reveals herself to her true love.

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As an adopted child of Chinese-American expatriates, I have always been intrigued by how the Chinese culture explained the mysteries of the universe.