Although this poem is only four lines long, it is filled with vivid imagery which depicts Mulan’s inner struggle. Deep down inside, she remains a woman. However, her circumstances force her to act as a man. Will she be true to her inner feminine nature or lose herself and become a hardened warrior?
As the poem concludes, Du Mu compares Mulan to Wang Zhaojun, one of the four most beautiful women who ever lived in ancient China. Like Mulan, Wang Zhaojun’s virtue forced her to make incredible sacrifices and endure many years of isolation.
Because this poem employs beautiful rhetoric which is extremely difficult to express in another language, a literal translation is nearly impossible. A paraphrase appears below:
The warrior boldly enters battle and draws her bow.
Suddenly, she enters a trance. Her clothes, hair, and makeup are transformed. There she stands, beautifully adorned as a woman.
Does she dare drink together with the officers?
Deep in the heart of inner Mongolia, they all raise their glasses to the beautiful princess (Wang Zhaojun).
The fact that this poem is titled Mulan Temple seems suprising. After all, the poem itself has nothing to do with a temple. A memorial which was erected during the Yuan Dynasy reveals that this poem was used as a sacred text by a Taoist sect which revered Mulan as a goddess. These Taoists were probably the ones who chose the title for this poem.