Northern Wei (386–534 AD)
The Ballad of Mulan is the oldest known version of Mulan’s story. This one poem ended up inspiring countless retellings for centuries to come.
Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD)
As the status of women began to rise during the Tang Dynasty, an influx of female protagonists appeared in literature. Mulan was one of the heroines emphasized during this time.
As one of the first retellings of Mulan’s story, the Song of Mulan introduces some key elements which became intrinsic to the legend’s development.
This is a short but vivid poem that describes Mulan’s inner struggle. Will she be true to her inner feminine nature or lose herself and become a hardened warrior?
Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368 AD)
A memorial to Mulan, which was discovered next to the remains of a temple on Mulan Mountain, claims to tell Mulan’s true story.
Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD)
As the Ming Dynasty witnessed a decline in intellectualism and a rise in entertainment, Mulan’s story ceased being a tale of virtue and, instead, focused on humor.
Mulan Joins the Army is one of Xu Wei’s most famous plays, and is often credited with bringing the legend of Mulan into the public spotlight.
While addressing the topic of female soldiers, an early historian reconstructed what he believed to be Mulan’s true story.
Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)
During a time when the Chinese endured significant oppression, the legend of Mulan experienced a surge in popularity, as the people longed for such a hero.
Romance of Sui and Tang is a famous historical fiction novel, and is best known for a subplot in which Mulan makes an unlikely friend when she is captured by a benevolent princess.
Biography of Extraordinary Mulan is a Qing dynasty novel that tells the story of how Mulan’s grandfather passed down the wisdom Mulan needed to become skilled in martial arts.
Fierce and Filial is a novel that unites many of the previous renditions of Mulan’s story into a single volume, emphasizing that Mulan’s brilliance and courage stemmed from her virtue.
Mulan Joins the Army is a Qing dynasty play. When Mulan’s cousin, Mushu, refuses to take his adopted father’s place in battle, Mulan joins the army in Mushu’s stead to fight against the Xiongnu.
Post-Imperial China (1912–Present)
After the fall of Imperial China, and especially after Mulan’s story traveled to the West, the legend underwent significant alterations as numerous causes from various cultures all began to herald Mulan as their guiding hero.
Mulan Joins the Army became a classic film adaptation of Mulan’s story, and is the first retelling to introduce romance into the legend.
The film Lady General Hua Mu-Lan tells a story about unity. By themselves, Mulan, Ping, and Li Guang each make small contributions. Together, they achieve something great.
The Woman Warrior was a novel that included the first rendition of Mulan’s story to achieve widespread attention in the English-speaking world.
Disney’s Mulan was a film that became primarily responsible for making the story of Mulan reach legendary status in the West.
Rise of a Warrior is a historical fiction film that retells the legend of Mulan from a Modern Chinese perspective.
Disney’s live-action Mulan, which is yet to be released, will be an American adaptation of Mulan’s story that draws much inspiration from previous Chinese retellings of the legend.