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Mulan: Rise of a Warrior (2009)

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Nira Sun
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Mulan: Rise of a Warrior (2009)


I chose to watch a movie called Mulan: Rise of a Warrior presented by a Hongkong director along with several famous Chinese actors in 2009. The Disney version of Mulan has always been the top choice of our Mandarin students to learn about Chinese legend. However, this Chinese made movie provided a new angle for students to truly understand some of the basic moral standards in traditional Chinese culture.

Since both movies are about 2 hours long, it would be unrealistic to plan 4 class sessions to just watch the movies. My plan to choose excerpts from both movies to help students compare from following perspectives (Chinese/American):

  1. The reasons of Mulan’s decision of going to war under disguise
    1. Fighting for the country & taking the responsibility of helping parents
    2. Proving her worth to the family / redeem herself
  2. The personality / skills of Mulan in both movies
    1. Knows martial arts & mature / confident
    2. No knowledge of weapons / outspoken / disappointment to her parents
  3. How personal feelings were expressed in both movies
    1. Subtle / Sacrifice of personal feelings to fulfill a bigger need (country)
    2. Personal feelings are growing along with the main line of the story
  4. The music from both movies
    1. Tragic but encouraging military music
    2. American’s favorite: Musical
  5. The main moral standards – ending of the movie
    1. Loyalty to the country & filial duty to the family
    2. Finding and building stronger self

According to Confucianism, the basic ethnics that rule the society, which are also known as four virtues, are loyalty, filial piety, contingency, and righteousness. All these four virtues are associated with five relationships: ruler and minster, parent and child, husband and wife, elder and younger siblings, and friendship. The Chinese version of the Mulan had all these concepts deeply carved inside the storyline.

The benefit of country:

  1. The Han citizens will join the army to protect the country from minority intruders no matter how old you are. Mulan’s dad still planned on going to the war even though he couldn’t fight or even walk anymore.
  2. All the soldiers held the most important entrance to their country, a canyon, till their death. They rather died for the country than giving it up.  
  3. The seventh son of the emperor also went to war to protect the country. He traded himself as hostage so that the rest of the army could go back home.
  4. The same son was also going to have a political marriage with the daughter of the minority King. He sacrificed his own feelings about Mulan in order to avoid war and bring peace to the country.

The filial duty

  1. Mulan didn’t want her Dad to suffer from war anymore. That was the main reason that she decided to go under disguise so that her Dad was able to rest at home.
  2. Mulan gave up honor titles after coming home 12 years later. She told the emperor that she wanted to go home and take care of her very old father.


  1. Xiao Hu, who came from the same village as Mulan, has protected Mulan from being exposed of her female identity from the very beginning. He also died for the country so that Mulan could take the rest of the army back home.
  2. After each war, Muland and Wen Tai, the emperor’s son, would pick up every dead soldiers’ ID tags and wash off the blood. They brought back the tags to the relatives of those dead soldiers. 
  3. To help Mulan grow as a stronger soldier, WenTai also faked his own death in hopes that Mulan would give up personal feelings and focus on wining the war.


Michelle Levy
Topic replies: 32
Topic Posts: 3

Your film review actually gave me a good idea for a lesson on juxtaposing this movie with Disney's version. I think the students would be interested, and motivated to compare these two versions. I loved your ideas about taking certain parts to show my students. Having the students understand the basics of Chinese morals. This could segway into other culture's fables. I appreciate you taking the time to list out the different topics that could be presented. I definitely will take some of your ideas into my integration of China in the classroom!

Nira Sun
Topic replies: 94
Topic Posts: 11
Comparison & Connection

Thanks for liking the idea. The challenging part of teaching a foreign language that's quite different from students' home language is to find ways for students to truly embrace the differences in cultures. Finding connection sometimes helps students to "accept" the facts that "there are always differences". Even though students will tend to choose their favorite out of these two movies, I still think this will be a great oportunity for them to be exposed to some authentic Chinese cultures that are embeded in the movie. It depends on how we guide them to take the first step towards appreciating and embracing the culture, doesn't it? : )

Valerie Doby
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Valerie Doby's picture

I really like the idea of watching a different Mulan.  This year I want my students to read the poem about Mulan and now I want them to watch this movie as well.  It sounds like it might be a bit violent for a 7th grade class so I might need to use excerpts for them to compare to the Mulan (Disney).