Mulan on Page and Stage: Stories of Mulan in Late Imperial China

by Sun, Xiaosu

Abstract (Summary)
The famous cross-dressing heroine Mulan is a symbol of filial piety, a role model of female heroism in Chinese culture. However, most people do not know the story as well as they think they do. Besides the ballad of Mulan, there are at least four versions of the Mulan story. My discussion will be a comparison of various versions of the Mulan story and an investigation of the development of the Mulan story. Through the study of the zaju drama Ci Mulan tifu congjun (A Female Mulan Replaces Her Father and Goes to War) by Xu Wei(1521-1593), I question the commonly-held idea that Ming zaju were not written with an eye to performance. I argue that Xu Wei created scenes that were very entertaining for Ming audiences. This zaju play was not only widely read and may have been staged by household troupes for male audiences in the Ming literati world, but may also have appealed to common people. Though the story of Mulan was familiar to every household, authors in the Qing dynasty continued to add new twists to this old story and create more complex and intriguing images of Mulan. In the novels Sui Tang yanyi (Romance of the Sui and the Tang) and Mulan qin├╝zhuan (Biography of Extraordinary Mulan), Mulan commits suicide either to avoid unwanted marriage or display her loyalty to the ruler. The novel Beiwei qishi guixiao liezhuan (An Amazing Tale of a Filial Woman in the Beiwei Period Who Has Been Through Extraordinary Ordeals) challenges the audience by an explicit depiction of Mulan having sex with her husband. I examine the significance of the authors in the Qing dynasty depicting Mulan as a chaste or a licentious warrior. I argue that Mulan could be a symbol of filiality, chastity, loyalty and sexuality, or even a symbol of a mixture of all above. Her complex image may fulfill male authors' fantasies of a woman who has it all.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Xinmin Liu; Evelyn S. Rawski; Katherine Carlitz

School:University of Pittsburgh

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:east asian studies


Date of Publication:09/26/2008

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