To help right some of the wrongs done by Disney in depicting Mu Lan, Victory Press has published an historically accurate Mu Lan doll with cassette and book.
A Mu Lan removed from Disney discrepancies
By Natali T. Del Conte, Staff Writer Oakland Tribune
(c) Alameda Newspaper Group, February 3, 2000
reprinted by permission
When Eileen Hu's father went to Hollywood in the 1950's to pursue a movie career, he was told that despite being Chinese, he was too tall and did not look enough like a gangster to play a Chinese man.
Though stereotyping similar to what her father experienced has decreased in 40 years, there is still along way to go, Hu says.
Among her disappointments is the way the girl warrior Mu Lan is depicted in the 1998 Disney animated film.
"At first I thought it was fantastic that Disney was willing to do something to expose a different culture," Hu said in a recent interview from her office in Monterey.
But Hu, in Oakland's Chinatown last week celebrating the Chinese New Year and talking about the Mu Lan legend, added that she was "disappointed when I saw the Web site before the movie . . and (when) the doll came out, I noticed that they had dressed her in a Jpanese kimono from the early 1800s and 1900s. "I think if they're going to spend all of that time in research, I would hope that they would spend a little more time and be accurate." Mu Lan was not Japanese. She was a Chinese woman who lived in the fifth century, according to Chinese archaeologists. Her grave is (near) the city of Luoyang in the province of Henan.
To help right some of the wrongs, Hu's publishing company, Victory Press, has published a Mu Lan gift set. The set includes an accurately depicted Mu Lan doll, an audio cassette tape and a fully-illustrated book that tells Mu Lan's tale in both English and either Chinese, Vietnamese, French or Spanish.
Hu says the story of Mu Lan has been told for centuries in various forms: oral tradition, poems and now movies and books.
Mu Lan is famous for disguising herself as a man to represent her family in battle in place of her infirm father. She fought in bloody campaigns for several years before she returned home. After the war, she was summoned to the court by the emperor who wished to appoint her to high office as a reward for her outstanding service. She declined . . . Her former comrades didn't learn she was a woman until much later, when they visited her at home.
Victory Press' version of the legend was written and illustrated in Beijing by a well-known father-daughter team, Cheng An Jiang and Wei Jiang, who have written other books about ancient China and East Asia for the publishing house.
Victory Press' Web site also features a lesson plan written by home-school teacher Terrie Bittner. The plan includes links to history lessons about China, Disney, Mu Lan and other famous women in history. "I think history provides a good basis for any subject you want to teach," says Bittner, who has her own education Web site for home-school teachers.
Hu encoruages teachers to take advantage of the Chinese New Year to introduce their students to Chinese culture, whether with the story of Mu Lan or through arts and crafts and other activities. For more information, visit the Victory Press Web site at www.heroinesinhistory.com or Terrie Bittner's home-school Web site: www.suite101.com.
You can e-mail Natali T. Del Conte at firstname.lastname@example.org.