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The Symbolism Behind Mulan’s Legendary Sword

Written By: Abigail Cambal
Published On: April 17, 2023
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

One of the most iconic images from the classic Disney movie ‘Mulan,’ is the heroine’s sword, engraved with three simple words that hold a great deal of meaning. These three words are ‘Loyal,’ ‘Brave,’ and ‘True,’ and while they may seem simple, they represent the virtues that Mulan embodies throughout the film.

In this article, we will review these sword inscriptions and unearth their deeper meaning.

The Story of Mulan

To understand the meaning behind the sword’s inscriptions, we must first look at the story.

The story of the young heroine Hua Mulan was first told in a 6th-century Chinese ballad. It has been adapted into countless films, books, and plays ever since, with the most famous being the aforementioned Disney animation and Disney’s live-action adaptations.

The story follows the journey of Mulan, a young woman who lives in ancient China. In her society during that time, women were expected to be obedient and submissive, marry well, and bear children. This is why in both adaptations, Mulan was supposed to bring “honor to the family” through her marriage, arranged by the matchmaker. 

However, Mulan was not content with these limitations. She was strong-willed, independent, and had a deep sense of duty to her family and country.

When the Huns, also known as Rourans, invaded China and threatened to conquer the land, the Emperor called for one man from each family to join the army and defend their country. Mulan’s father, an elderly man, is the only male in their family and is too frail to fight. He also walked with a limp due to a leg injury sustained from a previous war. 

In an act of selflessness and bravery, Mulan disguises herself as a man named Ping and takes her father’s place in the army. Despite the challenges of concealing her true identity and living among the soldiers, Mulan perseveres and becomes one of the best warriors in the army. With her wit, courage, and resourcefulness, she defeats Böri Khan and helps save China, earning the respect of her fellow soldiers and family.

Throughout her journey, Mulan learns important lessons about herself and the world around her. She discovers her true strength and potential, gains a deeper appreciation for the value of honor, and comes to understand the importance of loyalty and sacrifice.

Sword Inscriptions

Mulan with her jian sword
Mulan with her jian sword with inscriptions – Credits: Android Central

Throughout the story, Mulan carries an ancestral jian sword that belongs to her father. The blade of this sword bears three characters that read ‘Loyal,’ ‘Brave,’ and ‘True’ (忠勇真) – each conveying an important message regarding the values she is expected to have. 

Loyal

The word loyal refers to Mulan’s devotion to her family and country. She is willing to risk everything to protect them, even if it means putting herself in danger.

Her loyalty is reflected in her commitment to the Imperial Army as she fights for her country. Although she is risking her life, her dedication to her family is reflected in her decision to volunteer to take her father’s place in the war. When it comes to her friends, her loyalty is further emphasized when she returns to aid her fellow soldiers, despite being branded as an imposter and banished from the army once her true identity is revealed.

Brave

This inscription represents Mulan’s courage in facing danger and adversity. Mulan’s bravery is evident throughout the movie as she takes on the challenges of training and battles in the army. She faces discrimination and obstacles due to her gender, but she never backs down and proves herself to be a skilled and fearless warrior.

True

This inscription represents Mulan’s commitment to her own values and beliefs. Mulan struggles with her identity throughout the movie, as she feels torn between her duty to her family and her desire to be true to herself. Ultimately, she chooses to be true to herself and reveals her true identity to the army.

Mulan’s commitment to her values and beliefs is also evident when she stands up against the unjust actions of her commanding officer and ultimately saves the Emperor.

Significance of Sword Inscriptions in Ancient China

Sword inscriptions were an important part of the Chinese sword-making tradition for thousands of years. These inscriptions often contained poetic verses or historical references, enhanced the sword’s aesthetic beauty, and conveyed important cultural or political messages.

Chinese sword inscriptions were highly valued for their aesthetic beauty and cultural significance. They were seen as a reflection of the skill and creativity of the sword-maker, as well as the cultural and historical context in which the sword was produced.

Mulan’s Sword

The sword of Mulan resembles a traditional jian, commonly used amongst warriors in ancient Chinese culture.

Blade

3D replica of Mulans sword
3D replica of Mulan’s sword – Credits: Jared Haley

Like other jian swords from that time, Mulan’s sword features a straight, double-edged blade. Since Mulan is believed to have originated from the Northern Wei province of ancient China, it is safe to assume that the sword’s length is 5.9 inches (15 cm) longer than the arm’s length.

It is believed that this is how Northern Chinese swords were typically crafted since Northerners were usually taller than Southerners and thus required longer weapons.

The blade’s most notable characteristics are the three engravings mentioned above, representing Mulan’s virtues.

Guard

Guard of Mulans sword
Guard of Mulan’s sword – Credits: Jared Haley

Mulan’s jian features a circular brass guard adorned with an elaborate design and intricate patterns. The guard also extends into a ­chappe, or as it is more commonly known, a rain-guard. It allows the sword to rest more tightly within the scabbard and, as the name suggests, prevents rain from coming into contact with the high-quality steel blade.

Handle and pommel

Handle and pommel of Mulans sword
Handle and pommel of Mulan’s sword – Credits: Jared Haley

The handle of the jian was typically made of hardwood. Additionally, the handle of Mulan’s sword features brass fittings with a bronze finish that follows the same decorative design pattern from the guard to the pommel. It is also wrapped with a thin, red rope to provide a better grip.

The pommel itself extends from the base of the handle to form a small ring adorned with a red tassel that fits the handle wrappings. This is by far the most notable characteristic distinguishing Chinese swords from other swords, and it has been applied in several martial arts.

Scabbard

Scabbard of Mulans sword
Scabbard of Mulan’s sword – Credits: Jared Haley

During ancient China, swords were typically accompanied by wooden scabbards, and it was common practice for scabbards to bear elaborate ornaments and decorative patterns. The scabbard of Mulan’s sword is no exception, and similarly to the other parts of the sword, the wooden scabbard features a beautiful crimson finish adorned with brass and bronze fittings.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the inscriptions on Mulan’s sword are a powerful reminder of the values and qualities we should all strive to embody. They speak to the importance of loyalty, bravery, and truth and the impact these qualities can have on our lives and the world around us.

Whether watching the Disney princess in action or reading the original ballad, Mulan’s story and her sword serve as a timeless reminder of the power of courage, determination, and resilience.

Sources Cited

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