You are about to embark on a journey that will transport you back to imperial China, where you will experience one of the greatest legends ever told. Ever since the Ballad of Mulan was composed over 1,500 years ago, this touching story has gone on to inspire countless generations around the globe. The Ballad was an obscure piece of poetry until the Ming dynasty, when playwright Xu Wei dramatized Mulan’s story. Although Xu Wei's script was relatively short (the twelve-page manuscript can be enacted in under ten minutes), this play began to inspire countless poets, authors, and historians to reimagine the legend of Mulan.
By the Qing dynasty, Mulan's story had grown to the point that it could fill an entire novel. In 1850, Zhang Shaoxian collected numerous versions of the legend and unified them into a single coherent story.
Unfortunately, a perfectly faithful translation of this classic text is impossible. Because Zhang's primary audience was illiterate, he simply penned a detailed outline of the story he intended to tell. Storytellers who had read Zhang's text would narrate the story of Mulan from memory, embellishing it as they pleased. For this reason, the original text is relatively dull; it was up to the storyteller to bring it to life.
Although I have taken great liberties when translating this text, I believe that the resulting story is faithful to how Zhang would have wanted his story to be told.
Next: Chapter 1
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