Teaching Materials

Mulan (1998)


To save her father from death in the army, a young maiden secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process.

Early Middle Ages, China.

  • The animation is based on a 6th century ancient Chinese poem called The Ballad of Mulan. The literary text tells the story of a girl who, instead of an elderly father, enrolls in the Chinese army to fight against nomadic tribes. Despite the fame achieved in battle, she relinquishes her secular position at the Emperor’s court and returns to her own village and father.
  • This period of Chinese history (reflected in the animation) is known as the “Northern and Southern Dynasties”. Jin dynasty fell and the rule of nomadic tribes was established in northern China.
  • “Mulan” reflects the historical reality, but the love story between Mulan and Shang is found only in Disney animation. Apart from this, there are many differences between the literary source and the animation: in fact Mulan did not survive the emperor, she gained recognition during her many years of struggle during her stay in the North. In the poem, Mulan’s comrades-in-arms learn that she is a woman after returning from battle, and in animation, vice versa, on the battlefield!
  • The release of Disney Animation has caused dissatisfaction among many people, activists and social groups in China, including feminists.
  • Mulan is a headstrong and carefree girl at the beginning of the animated film. She is worried about nothing but fun. Family members are constantly nervous about her. Every girl her age is thinking about starting a family, and she is looking for adventures instead. What is the reaction and attitude of her mother and grandmother to all this?
  • The invasion of the Huns gradually weakened the powerful Chinese empire. The emperor’s army needs new strength. Mulan’s father, unable to fight due to physical condition, but still enlisted in the army. What personality trait does his behavior indicate?
  • What is the attitude of Chinese soldiers in the army towards Mulan?
  • How does the relationship between Mulan and the captain change after the truth is found out?
  • After the survival of the Chinese emperor, she returns to her family, for her home and parents are most important. If you were a director, would you change the ending of the Disney animation?

Write about this film
Given the epoch-making context and the issues raised after the discussion, write a review about the Disney animation. Describe the protagonist. What difficulties does she face in the world ruled by men? How difficult is it for a woman pretending to be a man, how and in what ways does Mulan establish herself? When writing about a film, try to go beyond a simple story line and reflect on animation in its historical context as well. How difficult it was for women to establish themselves in a patriarchal culture. When writing a review, use the issues highlighted during the individual work.

Individual activities
Culture and historical practice have brought it to the present day: “The work of women” and “The work of men”. The stereotypes professions and gender continues to this day. Mulan is exactly like that in the animation, fighting is only a man’s business and a woman has nothing to do with it, even if she is more nimble and insightful than men. In medieval China, this attitude is the “norm”, but historical reality has shown that women in different countries and cultures often wore men’s clothes and did not spare themselves to protect their family, the country. When working individually, look for literary works (Georgian, foreign) and films, where the mentioned topic is presented.

Group work/additional activities
According to an ancient manuscript, the history of China began 3500 years ago. It is one of the oldest civilizations in the world that continues to evolve. As a result of group work, find out more about Chinese civilization, Emperor Qin Shi Huang and his reforms. It is historically known that China was ruled by dynasties (Xia, Shang, Zhou, Qin). Discuss the reforms carried out under their rule.

Additional activities:
After discussion and group work, students can visualize the narrative material. Create a wall newspaper or electronic presentation where you present the material you have individually or in groups about the Great Wall of China. During which dynasty was the Great Wall of China built? How much time and human resources did it take to build? In addition, during the presentation, present visual materials about the outstanding examples of Chinese architecture.

Expected Results

As a result of the subsequent discussion and review of the film, in which it is necessary to use the epoch-making contexts and the above recommendations, the student will learn more about the history of medieval China.


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