A Memorial to the Filial General (孝烈將軍祠像辨正記, 1332 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.
Mulan Temple was once located on Mulan Mountain in Hubei, China. While the date of this temple’s construction is unknown, references to it have appeared in literature dating back to the Tang Dynasty, indicating that it could have been built as early as 700 AD.
During the Yuan Dynasty (1332 AD), a memorial was inscribed into a large stone beside the temple. It reads:
During the reign of Emperor Wen of Han, the Xiongnu invaded the land and (the emperor) ordered that all the men under heaven be gathered together to resist them. The goddess’ [Mulan’s] father was among those who were called upon to resist the invasion. Her father, who was extremely ill and had no son to take his place, lamented his fate.
The goddess [Mulan], in her bedroom chamber, pitied her father. Washing the makeup from her face and stripping herself of her pearls, she donned a military uniform and hurried to join the army. She fought valiantly and returned victoriously after twelve years. For her meritorious service, she was offered a prominent position, which she declined, saying that she wished to return to her home to and serve her parents. Emperor Wen praised her noble aspirations.
This memorial contains the first historical reference to Mulan by name. While earlier works of literature tell of Mulan’s story, they are typically regarded as works which have taken fictional or poetic license. Interestingly enough, this memorial seems to indicate that the Ballad of Mulan is a historical text, which counters the majority opinion among present-day scholars. (For information on why scholars doubt Mulan’s historicity, see the article on the Ballad of Mulan.)
While the fact that this memorial references the Ballad of Mulan is not surprising, it is interesting that Du Mu’s Mulan Temple is also mentioned. Apparently, the Taoist sect which constructed Mulan Temple used Du Mu’s poem a sacred text to facilitate their worship of Mulan as a goddess.