The original story of 木兰 Mùlán (‘Magnolia’) comes from an 11C anthology— The Ballad of Mùlán (Mùlán cí)— though the actual source is probably centuries earlier. I had the whole thing in my book but decided that the full Chinese translation was overkill there, so it’s going here instead.
The illustration is of 侯梦瑶 Hóu Mèngyáo in a Chinese production, The Legend of Huā Mùlán— she acquired a surname in a Míng play. Mùlán doesn’t belong to Disney!
Jījī fù jījī, Mùlán dāng hù zhī.
(onomatopoeia) again (onomatopoeia) / Mùlán at door weave
Spin spin, again spin spin, Mùlán, facing the door, weaves.
Bù wén jīzhù shēng, wéi wén nǚ tànxī.
not hear machine-shuttle noise／ only hear girl sigh
The loom’s sound is not heard, only the girl’s sighs.
Wèn nǚ hé suǒ sī? Wèn nǚ hé suǒ yì?
ask girl what SUB think / ask girl what SUB remember
Ask her, what are you thinking, what do you recall?
Nǚ yì wú suǒ sī, nǚ yì wú suǒ yì.
girl also not.have SUB think / girl also not.have SUB remember
She does not think, does not recall anything.
Zuóyè jiàn jūn tiě, Kèhán dà diǎn bīng,
yesterday-night see army notice / Khan big point troops
Last night she saw the army notices:
the Khan is mustering a great army—
Jūn shū shí’èr juàn, juànjuàn yǒu yé míng.
army book 10 2 scroll / scroll scroll exist father name
The muster fills twelve scrolls, Father’s name is in each one.
Āyé wú dà ér, Mùlán wú zhǎng xiōng,
honorific-father not.have big son / Mùlán not.have extended older.brother
Father has no grown son, Mùlán has no elder brother.
Yuàn wéi shì ān mǎ, cóngcǐ tì yé zhēng.
will serve city saddle horse / from this replace father levy
I will buy saddle and horse in the market, and take his place.
Dōng shì mǎi jùn mǎ, xī shì mǎi ānjiān,
east market buy spirited horse / west market buy saddle
In the east market she buys a fine horse, in the west a saddle;
Nán shì mǎi pèitóu, běi shì mǎi chángbiān.
south market buy bridle / north market buy whip
In the south market a bridle, in the north a whip.
Dàn cí yéniáng qù, mù sù Huánghé-biān.
dawn from father-mother go / dusk lodge Yellow-River-side
At dawn she leaves her parents,
at dusk she camps at the side of the Yellow River.
Bù wén yéniáng huàn nǚ shēng, dàn wén Huánghé liúshuǐ míng jiānjiān.
not hear father-mother call girl sound / but hear Yellow-River flowing-water sound (onomatopoeia)
She doesn’t hear her parents calling to her,
only the splashing of the Yellow River’s water.
Dàn cí Huánghé qù, mù zhì Hēishān-tóu.
dawn from Yellow-River go / dusk arrive Black-mountain-head
At dawn she leaves the river, reaches the Black Hills at dusk.
Bù wén yéniáng huàn nǚ shēng, dàn wén Yān-shān hú qí shēng jiūjiū.
not hear father-mother call girl sound / but hear Swallow-mountain barbarian-rider sound (onomatopoeia)
She doesn’t hear her parents calling to her,
only the sound of the nomads riding on Mt. Yān.
Wànlǐ fù róng jī, guān shāndù ruò fēi.
10,000-mile go military moment / cut mountain-pass like flying
10,000 miles of riding to battle,
dashing across mountains and passes as if in flight.
Shuò qì chuán jīn tuò, hán guāng zhào tiě yī.
new.moon energy transmit metal watchman.rattle / cold light shine iron armor
The watchman’s clapper rings in the icy wind,
a cold light shines on iron armor.
Jiāngjūn bǎi zhàn sǐ, zhuàngshì shí nián guī.
general hundred battle die / warrior ten year return
Generals fight to the death in a hundred battles;
warriors return after ten years.
Guīlái jiàn tiānzǐ, tiānzǐ zuò míngtáng.
return-come see heaven-son / heaven-son sit bright-hall
She returns to see the Emperor, seated in his bright hall.
Cè xūn shí’èr zhuǎn, shǎngcì bǎi qiān qiáng.
plant merit twelve turn / reward hundred thousand power
He bestows the highest honors on her, and countless sums.
Kèhán wèn suǒ yù.“Mùlán bù yòng shàngshū-láng,
khan ask SUB desire / Mùlán not need honor-book-scholar
The khan asked what she wanted. “Mùlán does not need an appointment to office.
Yuàn jiè míng tuó qiānlǐ zú, sòng ér huán gùxiāng.”
will borrow bright camel thousand-mile sufficient / send child return home
I want only a camel capable of a long journey,
to carry me back to my home town.”
Yéniáng wén nǚ lái, chū guō xiāng fújiāng.
father-mother hear girl come / go.out city.wall mutual support
The parents hear that their daughter is coming;
they wait at the city wall, holding each other up.
Āzǐ wén mèi lái, dāng hù lǐ hóngzhuāng.
honorific-older.sister hear younger.sister come / at door arrange red-adornment
The older sister hears that her younger sister is coming,
she waits at the door, applying red makeup.
Xiǎodì wén zǐ lái, mó dāo huòhuò xiàng zhū yáng.
little-younger.brother hear older.sister come / grind knife (onomatopoeia) to pig sheep
The younger brother hears that his older sister is coming,
he quickly sharpens the knife for the pig and sheep.
Kāi wǒ dōng gé mén, zuò wǒ xī gé chuáng.
open I east chamber gate / sit I west chamber bed
“I open the door on the east side of the room,
sit on the bed on the west side.
Tuō wǒ zhànshí páo, zhuó wǒ jiùshí cháng.
remove I battle-time robe / dress I former-time skirt
I take off my wartime gear, put on my old clothes.”
Dāng chuāng lǐ yúnbìn, duì jìng tiē huā huáng.
at window arrange cloud-hair / facing mirror stick flower-yellow
At the window she arranges her flowing hair;
before a mirror she applies a flower decoration.
Chū mén kàn huǒbàn, huǒbàn jiē jīnghuáng.
go.out gate see fire-mate / fire-mate all shock-fear
She comes to the gate to meet her fellow soldiers,
who are all utterly shocked:
Tóng xíng shí’èr nián, bù zhī Mùlán shì nǚláng.
with go twelve year / not know Mùlán be girl-youth
Her companions for twelve years didn’t know she was a woman.
“Xióng tù jiǎo pū shuò, cí tù yǎn mílí;
male hare foot push north / female hare eye blurred
“[Held up,] the male rabbit’s foot kicks quickly;
the female rabbit’s eye is nearly closed.
liǎng tù bàng dì zǒu, ān néng biàn wǒ shì xióng cí!”
both rabbit close earth go.along / how can distinguish I be male female
But if both are running on the ground,
how can I tell which is which?”