|[a] Transition RF|
I should not have to point this out, but I shall do so anyway (such is the climate in which we live). By maintaining that the Ballad of Mulan's narrative direction leads toward a restoration of the traditional patrilineal order...I am not advocating this as a way of orienting our lives today. This should be obvious, but I have been watching cable television lately, and suspected that misunderstanding might be burbling and frothing in our otherwise civil waters.
|[b] En petit RF|
Mulan has reentered the household, and the whirl of highly gendered activities around her has begun. As the protagonist in this ballad, she has a role as a miniature son of heaven-like figure. The universe (the domestic order) is integrating “on its own,” but it is imperative that she both mimic and regenerate the larger order. As any good student of Granet’s thought would note, she must proceed as though in a mingtang—a Hall of Light built for circumambulation of the realm…en petit—linking her activities with the directions that give shape to the calendar, as well as the rising and setting of the sun. The seeming impracticality of opening the gate leading to the eastern tower, only to sit on her bed in the western tower, matters not at all. The rising and setting of the gendered son/sun is all.
She opened the gate that leads to the eastern tower,
She sat on her bed that stood in the western tower.
She cast aside her heavy soldier’s cloak,
And wore again her old-time dress.
She stood at the window and bound her cloudy hair;
She went to the mirror and fastened her yellow combs.
|[c] New day RF|
The ballad ends with the shock of gender transformation. She returns to meet her messmates on the road, startling them. This is not the kind of shock that comes with realizing that the tough young man they had known was, in fact, a beautiful young woman. This is post-transformation (the second transformation, of course) realization. She reentered the domestic order, became re-gendered, as it were, and reemerged to show a highly cultivated beauty of the inner quarters to her companions. It also reopens Mulan and her family to the social structural necessity of marriage.
She left the house and met her messmates in the road;
Her messmates were startled out of their wits.
They had marched with her for twelve years of war
And never known that Mulan was a girl.
For the male hare has a lilting, lolloping gait,
And the female hare has a wild and roving eye;
But set them both scampering side by side,
And who so wise could tell you “This is he”?
|[d] Side-by-side RF|
Mair, Victor. The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.