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To help right some of the wrongs done by Disney in depicting Mu Lan, Victory Press has published an historically accurate Mu Lan doll with cassette and book.

by Natali T. Del Conte, Staff Writer Oakland Tribune
(c) Alameda Newspaper Group, February 3, 2000
reprinted by permission

When Eileen Hu's father went to Hollywood in the 1950's to pursue a movie career, he was told that despite being Chinese, he was too tall and did not look enough like a gangster to play a Chinese man.
Though stereotyping similar to what her father experienced has decreased in 40 years, there is still along way to go, Hu says.

Among her disappointments is the way the girl warrior Mu Lan is depicted in the 1998 Disney animated film.
"At first I thought it was fantastic that Disney was willing to do something to expose a different culture," Hu said in a recent interview from her office in Monterey.
But Hu, in Oakland's Chinatown last week celebrating the Chinese New Year and talking about the Mu Lan legend, added that she was "disappointed when I saw the Web site before the movie . . and (when) the doll came out, I noticed that they had dressed her in a Jpanese kimono from the early 1800s and 1900s. "I think if they're going to spend all of that time in research, I would hope that they would spend a little more time and be accurate." Mu Lan was not Japanese. She was a Chinese woman who lived in the fifth century, according to Chinese archaeologists. Her grave is (near) the city of Luoyang in the province of Henan.

To help right some of the wrongs, Hu's publishing company, Victory Press, has published a Mu Lan gift set. The set includes an accurately depicted Mu Lan doll, an audio cassette tape and a fully-illustrated book that tells Mu Lan's tale in both English and either Chinese, Vietnamese, French or Spanish.
Hu says the story of Mu Lan has been told for centuries in various forms: oral tradition, poems and now movies and books.

Mu Lan is famous for disguising herself as a man to represent her family in battle in place of her infirm father. She fought in bloody campaigns for several years before she returned home. After the war, she was summoned to the court by the emperor who wished to appoint her to high office as a reward for her outstanding service. She declined . . . Her former comrades didn't learn she was a woman until much later, when they visited her at home.

Victory Press' version of the legend was written and illustrated in Beijing by a well-known father-daughter team, Cheng An Jiang and Wei Jiang, who have written other books about ancient China and East Asia for the publishing house.

Victory Press' Web site also features a lesson plan written by home-school teacher Terrie Bittner. The plan includes links to history lessons about China, Disney, Mu Lan and other famous women in history. "I think history provides a good basis for any subject you want to teach," says Bittner, who has her own education Web site for home-school teachers.
Hu encoruages teachers to take advantage of the Chinese New Year to introduce their students to Chinese culture, whether with the story of Mu Lan or through arts and crafts and other activities. For more information, visit the Victory Press Web site at www.heroinesinhistory.com or Terrie Bittner's home-school Web site: www.suite101.com.

You can e-mail Natali T. Del Conte at delcon1@angnewspaper.com.

by Selicia Kennedy-Ross, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
(c) Friday, April 2, 1999
reprinted by permission

Magnolia Junior High School seventh-grader Marcia McGuire proved last week that the spirit of Mulan is alive and well in the Chino Valley.
Marcia, a Chino resident, was named the grand prize winner in Victory Press's national essay contest March 22nd for her essay on her grandmother. The paper compared her grandmother's spirit to the 2,000 year-old legend of Mulan.

Victory Press, publisher of The Legend of Mulan: A Heroine of Ancient China which was published in 1992, sponsored the true "Spirit of Mulan" essay contest.

"My grandmother recently passed away," said Marcia, 13. " She wrote about her life in a letter and I read it. Her life reminded me of Mulan's in certain ways."
"I'm excited and surprised about the award. I'm glad that all I learned in my English classes paid off and I was able to honor my grandmother."

Entrants selected a theme from seven different topics. Marica chose to write her essay comparing the general spirit to Mulan in the 20th century to the spirit of her grandmother, Pansy Wong.

From the rich history of ancient China, the legend of Mulan has passed through generations and dynasties. The story of Mulan is based on a 2,000 year-old Chinese poem about a girl who disguises herself as a man in order to join the army in her father's place.

Disney released a widely popular film last year based on the legend of Mulan. Children from 7 to 15 were eligible to enter the contest.

Marica's essay was chosen from more than 100 entries. Entries were judged according to content, writing style, grammar and punctuation.

Eileen Hu, publisher of Victory Press based in Monterey, which publishes multicultural children's books, sponsored the contest to insure that the story of Mulan was correctly portrayed.
"We were a little concerned about the Disney version, which featured several historical inaccuracies," Hu said. "In the film she runs away. The historical Mulan represents filial piety or honoring one's parents, she represents strength and bravery in one's self."

When Disney's Mulan opened in Hunan, China, on Feb. 23, its reception was cool, according to China's Xinhua News Agency. The film closed in China's Hunan province after taking in only $30,000 in less than 22 days.
Xinhua ran a story last week in which it quoted Chinese moviegoers airing their feelings about Disney's version of Mulan.
The Xinhua story quoted a viewer in Hunan, China, describing the film's heroine. "Her complexion, disposition and manner of behavior were different from the Mulan of Chinese poems and folk stories," the story stated. It was the true spirit of China's ancient heroine which Hu hoped to bring to light in the essay contest.

"We wanted to give the youth an opportunity to capture the essence of the poem which has lasted throughout generations," Hu said.

The film will open in Beijing on Sunday.

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