What Kind of Heroes are Chi Li and Hua Mulan?

What Kind of Heroes are Chi Li and Hua Mulan? Given how many male heroes we’ve encountered this semester, we might start to wonder whether there are any female heroes out there in the world… but, of course, there absolutely are! Just when we might be tempted to ask if girls get to be heroes at all, China steps up and makes the question redundant: Chi Li and Hua Mulan absolutely are heroes, the stories make that clear, and they are just two examples from a long tradition of female-centric heroic myths that have existed in China for thousands of years (Mulan is at least 1500 years old, Chi Li is 600-1000 years older even than that).

Hero Questions: What Kind of Heroes

  • which of our hero definitions applies to Chi Li and/or Hua Mulan and how well does each actually fit the definition? Are there parts of it that don’t apply?
  • Why not? Does that exclude these characters from those heroic definitions or does it reveal that our definitions have been too limited? Explain thoroughly!
  • is Chi Li and/or Hua Mulan a monomythic hero, with the traditional heroic quest? Where is do we see the necessary change of consciousness?
  • Do they work as an example or role model for this process of learning and growth or is the psychological function somewhat different with these heroes? How/why?
  • (Hint: this is a good opportunity to look at how the social expectations of the culture try to limit these women and how they choose to react to that attempted limitation;
  • sometimes growth happens as a pushback against control.)
  • what does the cultural of origin seem to admire about Chi Li and/or Hua Mulan (cultural hero) vs. what do we admire about them (modern hero)?
  • Do they work as both? What kind of role models are they and what behaviors do we see that the audience (either cultural or modern) is encouraged to emulate? 
  • (Another hint: look at what each hero chooses to do at the end of her story, what her “rewards” are for heroic behavior, in order to clarify the culture of origin’s perspective.)
  • what lessons are these stories clearly trying to teach? (You may expand your functional analysis beyond just the psychological here, if you wish;
  • sociological function might be particularly useful for that expansion.)
  • To whom are they speaking (target audience) in particular? And are those lessons similar to the heroic purpose we’ve seen in other cultures, or do we see different lessons at work here? Why?

 

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