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Hua Mu-Lan

Hua Mu-Lan (花木蘭 hua1 mu4 lan2) is the heroine of a famous Chinese poem written during the period of the Northern Dynasties (420-589) and first collected in "Yuefu," the Song (960-1279) anthology of lyrics, songs, and poems.

The word "mulan" means "magnolia." ("Mu" by itself means "wood" and "Lan" means "orchid.") The heroine of the poem is given many different family names in the various versions of her story. According to Annals of the Ming[?], her family name is Zhu, while the Annals of the Qing[?] say it is Wei. The Ballad of Mulan[?] gives her family name to be Mu. Xu Wei[?] offers yet another alternative when, in his play, "Mulan Joins the Army for Her Father," he gives her the family name Hua (meaning "flower"). This latter name has become the most popular in recent years. Her complete name is then written "Hua Mu-Lan" in both pinyin and Wade-Giles, while the Cantonese transliteration spells it "Fa Mulan" or "Fa Muhk Laahn."

In the story, Mu-Lan disguises herself as a man to take her father's place in the Army. She distinguishes herself as a soldier and is offered a government post by the emperor himself. She turns down the position to return to her family. Later, when her former comrades visit her at home, they are shocked to see her dressed as a woman.

The story was expanded into a novel during the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In 1998, Disney released an animated movie entitled Mulan loosely based on the story.

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