Warning: Choking Hazard !
The legend of Mulan has been told in countless iterations and bandied about in poems, stories and songs. It tells the tale of how a young girl took her ailing father's place in the army to defend her kingdom (and her father) and who eventually returned victorious.
Recently discovered scrolls and paintings believed to be the private journals of Sima Qian (the first Chinese Historian), has provided historians with new evidence that Mulan was no mere village girl but much more than that. In an attempt to supress the true extent of her scandalous deception and safeguard her reputation, the ailing Emperor Fa Zhou, while on his deathbed had issued a decree that after her return, his only daughter and heir apparent to the Ming dynasty was forbidden to use her given name outside of the palace. Uttering her name in public would be a crime punishable by death. When he passed, she was only known to her subjects as The Empress Supreme, Ruler of the 3 Kingdoms and Eternal Guardian of the Silk Road. This was most likely the cause for her tale ending in suicide when she returned because to many - Mulan had suddenly vanished.
With the latest advances in modern technology, these new paintings have now been converted into super realistic photo-like pictures presented here today. According to the scrolls, they were commissioned a year after she came to power and she is said to have reigned over the 3 kingdoms with kindness and compassion. She still participated in several (smaller) military efforts but eventually hung up her armour to fully focus on her kingdom.
These never before seen pictures offer a glimpse into the world of the Empress Supreme.
Experts say that based on analysis and historical research, she would have been in her mid 20's when the paintings were commissioned and as seen here, with core members of her royal council.
Although royal blood courses through her veins, and with shoulders heavy with the burden of keeping her kingdoms safe and prosperous, the Empress Supreme was in essence, just a regular young lady still learning about life.
A strong willed nonconformist, she did not like wearing the usual ceremonial ornaments and only unless really necessary (much to the dismay of the more traditional palace officials).
She was much more than just a battle hardened warrior and successful ruler - Mulan was also an extremely talented artist and musician, with a free spirited (and sometimes rebellious) soul, who had a seemingly limitless capacity to carry out countless acts of kindness and generosity in service to her kingdoms. Her stone throne is one such example.
When her people suffered from poverty and her kingdoms were in economic turmoil, she had ordered for (almost) all the gold in the palace melted down and used as a gold standard to weather the crisis and sustain her kingdoms - even the throne was not spared. At the request of the palace elders, she did however; retain several ceremonial items (for official purposes only). In return, her people built her a new throne made of stone - representing her strong will and yet like river rocks, soft and smooth like how she addresses her people.
In the eyes of her people, she was simply stunning - something radiated from within her that rendered her irresistible to both genders. Men desired her and women would court her friendship.
To be in her company was to feel that you too were someone, and that you had been warmed in summer rays regardless of the season.
She wasn't just flawless in her bone structure but her skin was like silk over glass and she radiated an unrivalled intelligent beauty. She was highly beloved by her subjects and was considered to be of divine origins.
The legend of Hua Mulan comes back to life every time China needs hope and inspiration for there is nothing more powerful than a woman with something to fight for. She is a symbol of both bravery and honour with many still believing that she was a real person. As long as she continues to inspire people - the truth may not matter after all.
A list of the other members from the Royal Council were also noted in Sima Qian's scrolls, with a brief description of the roles each had played under the rule of the Empress Supreme and although there were many - he only focused on her inner circle.
These 'guardians' will be covered in the other chapters of this pictomentary.