For centuries, it has been believed that the ability to change and rebuild the world is the inheritance of men and that only “stronger sex” could take the leadership and control. Still, women were never left out of the history. There is a special way they influenced the fate of the world. History is cruel to women. There are many spheres of life where females gained equal rights with men only recently. In the old days, the fair sex had to penetrate into these areas for a particular purpose using different kinds of deception and non-standard ways. One of the most popular methods was to wear men's clothes. Very often females preferred going to the battlefield instead of being plain housewives. Many legends, movies, and cartoons illustrate the strength of women within the story of humankind. Different cultures and centuries have their own examples of the strong women that diminished men. However, Chinese history bears one of the most interesting examples.
No other woman in the history of China causes greater admiration than Mulan, which is considered the epitome of piety and respect for parents. In ancient times, it is believed that Mulan went to the military service instead of her aging father. This story is one of the most valuable Chinese legends and it is included in textbooks in Chinese schools. Still, the significance of the history of Mulan lies in her inner strength. She had influenced the development of the whole female gender with her deeds on the battlefield and afterward. The purpose of the study is to prove that women have real power using the example of heroic deeds of Mulan in China. Strong females had always suffered because of the public opinion while working even harder than men, however, they managed to cause great impact on the history.
Expert Opinion about the Role of Women in the History
History remembers many cases of injustice towards females. They were often humiliated and considered as something not worth attention. The only rights women enjoyed dealt with giving birth, parenting, home improvement, and household. However, even at home, they were subordinate to the male authority and also were the objects of male power.
The main question that arises is why the primary division of labor has put women in an unequal, dependent on men position? It is one of the most controversial issues in the mysterious history. After all, women have always had the most valuable quality - the ability to reproduce life. The response appears to be hiding at the time when the process of gender division took place. Specialists have neither consensus nor any precise data about the nature of gender interaction in the past. Some of them believe that the Paleolithic and Neolithic have been gender neutral, that is, the relationship between men and women were not at the time of public concern (Dong, 2010). Others say that at the dawn of history the matriarchy reigned. Moreover, someone defines this fact as a way of domination of women. Some experts, including the well-known American feminist anthropologist Rian Eisler, argue that matriarchy assumed, in fact, a partnership between males and females (Dong, 2010). This partnership was allegedly destroyed with the advent and development of "technologies of war", which established the supremacy of brute force.
Here comes the story about Mulan, who happens to be an extraordinary example of women’s strength in fighting public opinion. Hua Mulan is the full name of the woman who managed to get up for military service in a totally male army. Her adventures were first described in the well-known Chinese musical poem "Ballad of Mulan" written in the 6th century (Dong, 2010). Unfortunately, the original text of this work was lost during the reign of the Tang Dynasty, so the original poem is considered to be the later work of the famous Chinese musician and songwriter Guo Maokvana, who wrote it in the 12th century (Dong, 2010).
Mulan is a legendary figure in ancient China. She was born, according to legend, during the reign of the Northern and Southern Dynasties - between 420 and 589 (Kwa & Idema, 2010). Up to this day, when one and a half thousand years have passed by, the Chinese continue to tell their children stories about her noble deeds. The name "Mulan" means “Magnolia”, and the added name of “Huā” means "flower” (Kwa & Idema, 2010). This fact is very symbolic, as the female with the name that describes tenderness and sweet flower appeared to be one of the strongest women in the history of the society.
"The Ballad of Mulan" very briefly and clearly tells the story of this extraordinary woman (Kwa & Idema, 2010). There is a song, which tells that when Mulan once learned that her elderly father was ordered to go to the war, she got very upset. By trying to save her father from trouble, she decided to join the army instead of him. Since there were no women’s troops in ancient China, the brave girl put on men's clothes, and for many years had been enduring all the hardships of military life, hiding her true gender.
Semiotic Analysis of the Image of Mulan
The ancient secret of beauty lies in the principles that keep the universe in balance. In Chinese culture, the family is seen as the foundation of society, since it is transmitted via the hidden values that are vital for every person. Based on a tradition, Chinese family morals come from Confucianism. Previously, the Chinese believed that marriage is a combination of morality and responsibility. In this holy union, the wife takes a central place. To be respectful, soft, friendly and pleasant – were the most important responsibilities and tasks of the wife, because of her true innermost essence - Yin. In the eastern belief, Yin and Yang are the components of the natural beginning of the universe. As heaven and earth, the sun and the moon, the light and the darkness, a man and a woman must carry out their mission in order to live in harmony with the universal principle.
However, Mulan has taken the side of the resistance. During the ancient times, Chinese women were submissive and subordinate. They understood that if they wanted to be tough, they had to be creative. A woman should be wise to be strong. In order to keep the balance in the family and society, there is a need to be supportive to nature, to act with honor and grace. In ancient China, women have been recognized if they were polite and humble, that was consistent with the universal law. Since then, women wanted to be strong; their positive side began to suffer, and their role as the mainstay of the family began to diminish. At the same time, they started to manifest more of their negative traits.
Probably one of the most difficult tasks when making the film based on the story is the adaptation of the image, which is known to the audience from legends and myths, numerous essays of historians and numerous tales in the literature. As a rule, these characters possess the personality scale, which requires a careful approach and more work on the script, so that the image acquires significant and recognizable features, and thus the interest of the viewer arises. The legendary image of the Eastern woman warrior that dedicates her love for the country was incarnated by the directors Jingle Ma and Dong Wei in the movie “Mulan” (Garnett, 2014). The first mentioning of this character occurs in the 6th century BC in the famous Chinese poem, "The Ballad of Mulan," and after that time there have been many good works that described the adventures of beautiful Mulan, both in literature and in films, and even animations (Discovering China). In 1998 and 2004, an animated film "Mulan" from the famous company “Walt Disney” was released (Garnett, 2014). Due to this cartoon many viewers formed their idea of this character. I must say that even though the film and the legend tell the same story, it will surprise those who care about the fearless girl, who, for the sake of her people Wei, overcame all obstacles and became a legendary national hero. After all, a sense of duty, courage, and bravery enabled her to win the respect and success in her military career. Perhaps this is what attracts the audience to watch such films and makes the viewer think about patriotism and love for the country. These are not the ideological slogans, and human feelings friendship, and love will always be the most valuable and important thing in human relations.
During the Ming Dynasty, the novel of Mulan was written. She appears as a character in a number of other later works. The girl bravely fought in many battles and won numerous military decorations. When she finished her service, the Emperor in gratitude for her feats wanted to appoint Mulan to high office in the state court. However, she refused all honors and asked for permission to return home as a simple inhabitant. After receiving consent, she went back to her family then and there was the most exciting scene - Mulan again put on women's clothing and appeared in her ordinary form in front of the fellow soldiers who accompanied her home (Reid, 2015). They were amazed to find out that they fought with the girl.
The image of Mulan has already been attracting the attention of the Chinese for 15th centuries (Kwa & Idema, 2010). People of every age have created Mulan, on the basis of political, social, and aesthetic needs. However, always it was a model of loyalty to the basic values of Chinese civilization: philanthropy (ren), filial (child) piety (xiao), debt (s), loyalty (syn), wisdom (zhi), propriety (li), as well as the subordination of subjects to the Emperor , which was based not on fear but respect and reverence (Kwa & Idema, 2010).
Personal Experience and Thoughts Regarding the Image of Mulan
Cartoon "Mulan" is based on the myth of the legendary Chinese girl who risked her life to save her father from certain death. The animation of Walt Disney Pictures is, no doubt, continuing heyday of the oldest film studio in the United States. Eleven years after the release of films on the wide screen, "Mulan" was for me the unquestionable classics of the genre, taking the place of honor next to other famous and prominent cartoon creations of Disney.
Directing duo Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft originally coped with the task, showing the viewer harmoniously knit pattern, an excerpt from the life of a beautiful and, at the same time, determined Mulan, who was looking for her place in life (Garnett, 2014). Dry figures showed that people liked the cartoon. After collecting more than 200 million net profit "Mulan" has got fans all over the world (Shen & Sommer, 2011). The cartoon reflects the elements of both comedy and drama elements. Comedy is a mere humor, which abounds here in a variety of gags and jokes, so just picture Shooting Stars diverse, charismatic and most importantly, funny characters. Naturally, from every cartoon children learn something and "Mulan" is not an exception. What is the best person to teach a life lesson? In my opinion, this is best done by means of a qualitative grief and personal drama of the hero, which we deeply sympathize.
In this case, it is a common country girl with a very unusual character of ancient China. She is trying not to disgrace the honor of the family; however, Mulan cannot overcome her violent temper and rebellious nature. The viewer worries with the heroine even when she is violating all precepts and traditions of the ancestors, running away from home. Competent synthesis of drama and comedy - this is what raises any cartoon above the rest animations.
Unlike many of her colleagues, who went to fight in order to get rewards and promotions, Mulan joined the army only for the sake of her old father (Hua, 2015). The only thing that she wanted was to take care of her parents and a younger brother. An innocent kindness, respect for parents, courage, perseverance in overcoming difficulties, and indifference to fame and fortune – are the noble qualities of Mulan, for which she has remained famous for many centuries, and the story of her still exists.
Fabulous, philosophical wisdom, and alluring antiquity - this is what one experiences when watching a cartoon. The viewer sees beautifully recreated ancient Chinese way of life where women give birth to children, while the men are at war. At that time, it was necessary to serve the emperor in peacetime and wartime, as well as to honor the ancestors. Deep century traditions were embodied in a beautifully drawn animation.
In my opinion, the changes that Mulan has caused to the history of humanity are not enough recognized. She influenced Chinese women during the tough times in the country, and with the help of the modern technologies and cinema, the image of Mulan is now influencing the modern culture. Young girls who watch the cartoon understand the importance of family and inner strength, while elder fellows find the movie useful in understanding personal values. Therefore, Mulan proves her significance in the process of development of the women’s power. Men had the possibility to ruin her, but they never succeeded in it.
Mulan no longer belongs only to the nation's history and mythology. The image of women in men's clothes, violating the age-old traditions was in demand in a globalizing world, which challenges the age-old principles of gender inequality. However, in this world, there is still a place for romance, love, family values, a sense of duty, and loyalty. All this is in the legends of Mulan, albeit sometimes not very scientifically verified. People of the XXI century try to correspond to their age, intellect, and outlook.
When a woman is dominated by masculine qualities, her feminine image fades as it appeals to men. After all, the image of women in the representation of men includes social and communication skills, warmth, and emotional support. Therefore, a man and a strong woman do not cause liking. It can cause the respect for the fact that females reached some heights in their professional activities. Nevertheless, somewhere on a subconscious level it causes a pity because these limits are strength from the normal dialogue with men; women typically constrain traits and reduce their attractiveness as a woman. Most men are uncomfortable with a woman, because sex role stereotypes of behavior accepted in the modern society, include completely different feminine traits.