Disney's film "Mulan" sparks heated debate in China

China Plus Published: 2019-07-12 11:47:47
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A still picture of Crystal Liu in the leading role as Mulan in Disney's live-action film "Mulan" [Photo:weibo.com]

A still picture of Crystal Liu in the leading role as Mulan in Disney's live-action film "Mulan" [Photo:weibo.com]

The first trailer from Disney's live-action film "Mulan" has recently sparked a heated debate among Chinese netizens.

A person called "Yufan" (北朝网友@予凡) commented that today, the Chinese culture and entertainment market is huge and full of excellent TV and film works, so Chinese people may show little interest in a foreign version of 'Mulan,' complaining that Disney is unaware of customs and traditions in China.

The complaint mainly centers on Disney's lack of knowledge about Chinese history. For example - the trailer shows Mulan's home is a round, earthen building. The construction looks quite like the Fujian Tulou, a famous historical site in southern China listed on the world cultural heritage list.

But the movie detail contradicts the fact that Mulan lived in the era of The Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), which mainly controlled territories in northern China.

According to Ye Weizhang, (叶蔚璋) a curator of the local Mulan culture museum in Mulan's birthplace - Huangpi district, Wuhan - places like Sichuan and Fujian are also known to have had homes that were built in this fashion.

Earlier, veteran Hollywood filmmakers, including creators of the 1998 animated film Mulan, were reportedly on a trip to the legendary Chinese heroine's birthplace to learn from Chinese history.

Mulan is based on the tale of Hua Mulan, a legendary female warrior from ancient China, who disguised herself as a man in order to sign up for the army, replacing her father.

She is also Disney's first Chinese "princess."

Chinese netizens' complaints also go to the makeup of Mulan. They complain that the girl looks like a Geisha rather than a brave heroin. They call it another form of cultural deformation in the English version.

Famous Chinese author Ma Boyong also joined the debate, posting a message joking about the powerful film cast. He asks, with martial arts superstars Jet Li and Donnie Yen respectively in positions of emperor and general, why bother to have Mulan join the army?

But there is also lots of praise going to Chinese actress Crystal Liu Yifei, after netizens watched her fighting scenes in the film.

People say Crystal Liu not only demonstrates that Mulan is good at horse riding, archery, sword fighting and so on, but her eyes and facial expressions all well interpret Mulan as a strong-willed and determined girl.

Despite all the flaws the Chinese netizens have complained about, the trailer for the live-action version of Mulan generated quite a stir.

In contrast, there are several versions of Mulan in Chinese film and TV works that domestic audiences have no idea about.

In recent years, Chinese elements and traditional stories have been increasingly adapted by international film and television companies. With the help of advanced technology and large investment, these works have gained considerable profits and made Chinese culture better known in other parts of the world.

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