The Ballad of Mulan

The Ballad of Mulan

by Song Nan Zhang, Song Nan Zhang

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
In China it is said that everyone knows the story of Mulan, the mythic woman warrior who, fifteen centuries ago, disguised herself as a man to take her ailing father's place in battle. No doubt due to the Disney film, Mulan, this strong woman role model for filial duty and bravery has become internationally known. Mulan joins the Imperial Army and after years of successful military service, is offered a reward for her dedication. All she wants is to return home to live quietly. When those close to her discover that she has performed all of her military deeds as a man, they are astounded. Mulan says to those who did not think it possible for a woman to face the danger of the battlefield that "... the male rabbit likes to hop and leap, while the female rabbit prefers to sit still. But in times of danger, when the two rabbits scurry by, who can tell the male from the female?" This more formal version of the story, while faithfully translated and researched does not have the same "ear appeal" as a Robert San Souci's livelier version, Fu Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior. Distinguishing features of Zhang's version are the endpapers—a map documenting the nation, Mulan's warrior journey and the Great Wall; plus side frames of cultural artifacts of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Historical notes, the original ballad presented in Chinese characters, artifact labels in both Chinese and English, and Zhang's paintings make this an elegant version compared to Jeanne Lee's The Song of Mulan, the Jiangs' Legend of Mulan: A Heroine of Ancient China, and San Souci's version. 1998, Pan Asian Publications, $16.95. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Darcy H. Bradley
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-The poem about a girl who dresses as a man and becomes a soldier to save her ailing father from conscription has long been known in China. This bilingual edition, translated into third-person narrative prose, is set firmly in the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534), when the poem may have originated. Mulan puts on armor, takes up sword and spear, and fights with the army for 10 years. She is so successful that the emperor offers her a rich reward, but she asks only to return to her village. Once home, she puts on women's clothes, convincing her former comrades that courage and fighting skills are not the province of men alone. Zhang's literal interpretations of classic Chinese landscape paintings are stiffly formal, lacking the freshness, spontaneity, and strong sense of composition that distinguishes his work in Little Tiger in the Chinese Night (1993) and Cowboy of the Steppes (1997, both Tundra). In contrast to Jeanne M. Lee's The Song of Mu Lan (Front Street, 1995), this book shows human characters as heroic but cold, while the backgrounds are so cluttered that the main artistic narrative is hard to follow. Lee's text, mostly first-person narration by Mulan herself, is also more immediate and vivid. A detailed historical note is appended, along with the text of the poem in simplified Chinese characters. Libraries with extensive Chinese collections will want this new title, but Lee's version remains the first choice.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams

Product Details

Pan Asian Publications (U S A), Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.84(w) x 11.33(h) x 0.38(d)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

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