Hua Mulan Goes to War is a Peking opera based on an ancient Chinese legend about a female war heroine called Mulan. During the Northern Wei dynasty, China was at war on the frontiers and called for at least one man from each family to serve in the military. Mulan saw that her father was old and feeble, and she decided to go to war for him. After 12 years of fighting on the battlefield and serving her country with a hidden identity, she declined the highest award given by the Emperor and returned home anonymously to take care of her family. Mulan’s legend has been highly praised in China for centuries and reproduced into operas, films, cartoons and poems.
The figure of Mulan in Chinese history is not only heroic, but also revolutionary. It helps motivate for Chinese women to realize their hidden strength and capabilities. In ancient China, under the doctrines of traditional Confucian ideas, women received minimal rights and liberties. China was an extremely patriarchal society; women were often categorized as weak and dull-witted. They did not receive any high education or Kung Fu training; instead, their life-long goal was to get married and have children for the family’s benefits. However, Mulan was the first figure to break the stereotype and perform “manly” duty. It was revolutionary for her to take the step and break free from the general opinions that hindered women. In Mulan’s mind, there was no special job division between men and women; and there was no social cast that could stop her from doing what she believed was right. Mulan interpreted the Confucius central belief that “family is the most important component” to the extreme, and rebelled against the society to save her family.
Mulan was a courageous woman not only in the way that she took a man’s job, but also in how she firmly believed in her capability to be as strong as any man to succeed on the battlefield. Before she left home, she did not worry about sacrificing her life or having to endure harsh training in the military. She left alone, fearlessly and hopefully. She had confidence in herself that she was no different than any man, and that her faith could conquer any physical disadvantage that she would face. She raised herself to the same level as men, completely contradicting the patriarchal idea that society tried to implement on its citizens. Even nowadays, many Chinese women have followed Mulan’s legacy and advocated for equality in gender roles (Qian 401). Mulan was the epitome of female heroism and she has proved the power of female agency to the world for centuries.
Qian, Nanxiu. "Revitalizing the Xianyuan (Worthy Ladies) Tradition: Women in the 1898 Reforms." Modern China 29.4 (2003): 399-454. Jstor. Sage Publications, Inc. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3181301>.