|[a] Outer-inner RF|
|[b] Homeward looking 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.
Reintegration and Domesticity
When her father and mother heard that she had come,
They went out to the wall and led her back to the house.
|[c] Reunited RF|
Now the trio is reunited, and its completion assures far more than human happiness. It remakes the sacred domestic trinity of father, mother, and eldest (son). It remakes the order at the heart of social life.
Adding siblings to the mix (but not as many as had been hinted at early in the text), we have a further integration of the domestic order. Since Mulan is the oldest child, and she has reunited with the parents who gave life to the domestic order, it is now incumbent upon the siblings to perform the functions that give classificatory meaning to their genders and reorder the household. Mulan has been the quintessential eldest “son” in her travels and her responsibilities.
|[d] Domestic RF|
She has also tipped the domestic order out of balance. It needs to be repaired and restored.
Reintegration is necessary, and that is done in gendered spheres of activity. The sister’s activities represent and remake the inner quarters. The brother's activities represent and remake the outer world—reasserting the responsibility of men to provide sustenance for the women in the family.
When her little sister heard that she had come,
She went to the door and rouged her face afresh.
When her little brother heard that his sister had come,
He sharpened his knife and darted like a flash
Towards the pigs and sheep.
Mulan, in spite of her superior slaying abilities (at least we presume them to be thus), does not head for the pigs and sheep (and not only because she is the newly welcomed prodigal “son”). Didi—little brother—assumes his role as heir apparent. Mulan has left the world of men and is about to recreate herself anew. Her little sister and little brother have pointed the way with their integrative, though gender-divided, domestic activities.
 Victor Mair, editor, The Columbia Traditional Chinese Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 474-476. In the interests of consistency and with an eye to the kind of audience that first read the Ballad of Mulan, I have used the Arthur Waley translation for this treatment. Further posts (down the road, as it were) will explore other ways to look at individual lines and terms. My concern for now is the flow of events from household to war camps and back again. Arthur Waley (1889-1966), being a relative contemporary of Marcel Granet (1884-1940), seems perfect for this particular exercise.
Mair, Victor. The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
|[e] Ordere RF|
We wrap it up with the big finish from the Ballad of Mulan (and the full transition from martial...to marital).