IIAS Newsletter 48 Summer 2008

Re-fashioning the warrior Hua Mulan: changing norms of sexuality in China

Louise Edwards

The story of Hua Mulan – a woman successfully masquerading as a man within the imperial military for over a decade – has entranced and intrigued generations of Chinese. Since the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534), when the original poem The Ballad of Mulan (Mulan shi)1 first appeared, Hua Mulan’s remarkable adventures have been a recurring theme in both elite and popular cultural forms. Louise Edwards examines the various renditions of Hua Mulan’s story and discovers that China’s most famous woman warrior was redolent with sexual significance.

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