From context provided in the poem, it’s clear that the story is meant to take place during the Northern Wei Dynasty, one of the minor warring states that competed to reconquer China between the Han and Tang Dynasties. Of the two movie adaptations I’ve seen, the live-action Chinese movie is the only one that gets the time period right. What neither the live-action nor the Disney version chooses to deal with* is the fact that (at least according to the poem) the state of Wei isn’t defending a unified China from the Huns or the Rouran or some other nomadic nation. Mulan’s aging father is drafted to fight in a war against the state of Yan, which has as much claim to dynastic ascendance as Wei, if not more (given that the ruling dynasty in Wei is not Han). Yan hires nomadic mercenaries to fight their war, but Wei is a Han army ruled by nomadic kings. I feel like perhaps Mulan’s motivation here is more about filial piety, i.e. doing right by her parents, and less about upholding the unity of China.

Oh and those draft announcements? They were mass-produced using woodblock printing– an impressive technology considering the time period.

Don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter for the anthology this story will be in! It’s nearly at its goal!

*- Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love about both of these movies, but the poem! You must read the poem.