Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Hua Mu-Lan

5th Century A.D.-5th Century A.D.
From: China
Fields: Military and Warfare
 
China's most famous woman warrior lived and fought in the fifth century AD. Her father was conscripted to go to war, but he was too sick to fight, so Hua Mu-Lan offered to go in his place. Her father rejected the offer, but she insisted. She suggested they have a sword fight and if she won, she'd go. Mu-Lan won the fight.

She cut her hair, put on her father's armor and joined the emperor's troops using her father's name. For over ten years, she fought as a man without her true identity being discovered. Her bravery at the front lines and extraordinary fighting skill so impressed her general that he offered this soldier his daughter's hand in marriage. Somehow, the marriage never took place and Mu-Lan returned home and became herself again. A play written in her honor, the Mu-Lan Play ends with the following lines:

She had much fighting ability, and could act the leader. Her body passed through one hundred battles, always at the front, and compared to the fiercest soldiers, she was still better.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1998.

Bibliography:
Women Warriors: A History by David E. Jones, Brassey's, 1997

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