Li Dandan as Mulan on horseback in Mulan congjun (Mulan Joins the Army) (Minxin, 1928)
Mulan is a story without a single historical precedent. From a medieval ballad to early modern narratives to plays and operas, it’s been told over and over again. Mulan’s exploits are always presented as having happened “once upon a time,” anytime from the Han dynasty to the early Tang period. These stories about a fierce heroine and her loyalties tell us a lot about changing ideas of gender and cultural identity in China.