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Historically Accurate Mulan by Wickfield Historically Accurate Mulan by Wickfield
Being the history geek that I am, I guess it is kind of surprising that I haven't really done a "historically accurate" animation series before, but after seeing that awesome Buzzfeed Disney Princess video, and of course all the amazing art on here, I was inspired to make my own.  I guess it is better late than never!

As I've said before elsewhere, from an artistic standpoint, I'm not at all bothered by the animated designs of the characters in Disney and Dreamworks films. They weren't documentaries after all so in most cases they didn't need to be accurate, and in animation in particular, it is more important to convey character and style in the designs.  I am not trying to "fix" anything because I don't think there is anything to fix!  That being said, it can still be fun to learn how your favorite characters might have looked if they had existed in real life.  :) (Smile)  

For my series, I am trying to be as accurate as I possibly can.  I'm taking the country of origin, the social class, the culture, and the specific decade into mind (instead of just a general sweep of multiple decades), and also adapting the colors and styles to fit what was available and worn everyday.  I will try to keep the characters recognizable where I can, but I want to make my pictures realistic and so some elements of the original designs might be altered in the process.
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Okay, if you are having a feeling of deja vu, it is because I already uploaded a version of Mulan for this series.  Since there was never a real war between the Huns and China, I assumed that the Song dynasty, during the Mongolian war, would be the best fit.  However, Myrth1 pointed out that Mulan could also take place during the Han-Xiongnu War, during the Han Dynasty of China.  At first I thought that was way too early, but when I researched it, it turned out it was actually the perfect fit for Mulan's time period!  When you look at the art and artifacts from that period you see tons of elements that were incorporated into the movie - so, I needed to do a remake that was even more historically accurate than the first time!

The Xiongnu War took place during the Han dynasty, which lasted from 206 B.C. to 200 A.D.  There are some differences between the first half of this period, the "Western Han" period, and the latter half, the "Eastern Han" period.  I guess Mulan would be from Eastern Han, assuming she helped to end the war with the Huns in 89. A.D., although conscription into the military was more typical of Western Han.  Also, most of our knowledge of this dynasty comes from artifacts dating to the earlier Western Han.  So in this picture Mulan is definitely dressed in Han Dynasty fashion, but it may not be from the exact precise era of 89 A.D., although I tried to get as close as I could.

Anyway, about her fashion.  I wanted to draw her in the outfit she wears near the end of the movie, where she is presumably dressing up as an attendant to the royal concubines (her fellow soldiers).  Most of the knowledge of female clothing comes from terracotta sculptures, and there are many surviving statues of female attendants.  The vast majority of them are dressed in a wrap dress with large sleeves called a "shenyi."  There are a few different styles of this dress, I drew her in a slightly simpler style which I thought fit the status of a servant.  Because most of the statues are very stylized, I referenced some of the costumes created by historic Chinese reenactors for a more realistic look, particularly this example of a late Western Han woman, and this one of an early Eastern Han woman.  Although "hanfu" refers to traditional Chinese dress developed in the Han era, not all hanfu is historically accurate, and until the end part of the Han era most women wore this form of wrap dress.  I looked at the artifacts from Lady Dai's tomb for additional inspiration, where I found a similar dark dress with colored trim. 
I couldn't find much info on colors, but it seems like a lot of the Han fashion and artwork incorporated the five auspicious colors of black, green, red, yellow, and white.  Many of the textiles have a vine like pattern, too.  I felt I got a pretty good match for her original costume!  Judging from the existing statues of servants and attendants, it appeared they wore makeup as well, so I gave her lipstick and a light dusting of powder in the Han dynasty style.

Also, it is unlikely that Mulan would have cut her hair in the way she did in the movie.  Confucianism dictated that adult men and women needed to let their hair grow as a demonstration of "filial piety."  Men would have kept their hair long like a woman's, but they wore it in a topknot, so in order to blend in as a soldier Mulan would have only had to wear a topknt.  Cutting your hair was a punishment and no one would have done it voluntarily!  To mimic her shorter hairstyle in the movie, I referenced the hairdo worn by some of the female statues.  

She is also holding Shan Yu's sword - I couldn't find a great match from this era for the one in the movie, but I figured Shan Yu could have a Chinese sword, and I drew his as a "dao," or ring-pommeled saber, in contrast to Mulan's more classical "jian" sword.  The Xiongnu are sometimes considered the forerunners to the Huns, and their leaders were called "Shanyus/Chanyus."  Sounds familiar, huh? :)



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:iconspider-bat700:
Spider-Bat700 Featured By Owner 1 hour ago
You know I have to say it's nice to meet someone here who is at least as much of a history nut as I am. There's a lot of stuff there *I* didn't know!
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner 1 hour ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Awesome, thanks!
Reply
:icontraumatosis:
Traumatosis Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2018
Very Good indeed. But after Watch the movie of Mulan, Rise of a warrior, that´s for me the actual portrait of Mulan. But this it´s pretty good.
Reply
:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks!
Reply
:iconjbriskin:
jbriskin Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2018
Happy 20th anniversary to this amazing film! Birthday cake  icon 
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I know! I wish I'd known earlier, I would have drawn something!
Reply
:iconannaechang:
AnnaEChang Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2018  Hobbyist Artist
omgggg thanksss ive been looking for something more historically accurate than the movie
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No problem!
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:icononefromchina:
OneFromChina Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2018
In fact, "han jian" were also used in han dynasty, but Mulan's sword in movie is not "han jian", more like "qing jian".But qing jian never used in war.
Reply
:iconmoonlitinuyasha1985:
moonlitinuyasha1985 Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2017
Huh. I always thought that cutting your hair was honorable in Asian culture. :|
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Maybe in other countries that don't follow Confucianism it has a different meaning....
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:iconmoonlitinuyasha1985:
moonlitinuyasha1985 Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2017
Could be.
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:iconladydaliena:
LadyDaliena Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2017
The detail of the bloody sword makes her look much less inoncent. I love it! :3
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I noticed that the poses for Han Chinese women were very modest and demure, so I thought adding the sword would be a great point of contrast.  I also noticed that Disney never actually had Mulan stab or hurt anyone in the course of the movie, probably due to censoring reasons.  In real Han China gunpowder hadn't yet been invented so she'd have to rely on her sword a lot more! :D
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:iconshadow-dj:
Shadow-DJ Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Maybe Shan Yu's sword was damaged to explain its odd look? Or custom made
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:iconcjbolan:
cjbolan Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Cool! Looks like an Ancient Chinese painting.
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you!
Reply
:iconuyr-uka:
Uyr-Uka Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2015
Ha, great! She looks very much like an austere attendant! Sneaky them! :) Ah...this series makes me want to go rewatch some movies!
Reply
:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, when I was originally watching the movie I was like "why isn't Mulan wearing makeup if she's supposed to be a concubine?" but when I started this series I realized she probably wasn't supposed to be a concubine at all!
Reply
:iconthief-in-darkness:
Thief-in-darkness Featured By Owner May 22, 2015  Student Writer
This is pretty close to the movie outfit
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner May 22, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, Mulan was fairly easy to get a close match.
Reply
:icongoblindreamer:
GoblinDreamer Featured By Owner May 21, 2015
I love how you've covered the sword in blood. It makes the image so much more dramatic! :)
Reply
:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner May 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, since fireworks weren't actually invented until after the Han period, Mulan would have to kill Shan Yu the old fashioned way. ;)
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:iconniobesnuppa:
Niobesnuppa Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015   Digital Artist
Supposedly, the original legend of Mulan most likely took place in the Northern Wei dynasty. The movie clearly takes place in the Han dynasty, though, so this is very accurate if we're going by the movie setting (and let's be honest, the movie is pretty different from the original legend).
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, for this series I'm sticking to the Disney version, so it had to be Han.  It's kind of a pain figuring out the era though when Disney changes their time period from the source material!
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:iconburningresurrection:
BurningResurrection Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2015
you know, this actually looks allot closer to the movie
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:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Edited Mar 15, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I know, right?
Reply
:iconaniek90:
aniek90 Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2015
Wow, you work quick =P Amazing again! I love the colors you chose and her hairstyle is really fitting. It's not too manly, but not too feminine either; just like Mulan herself :)
Reply
:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Eh, not really - it usually takes me around 8 hours to finish one of these from sketch to finish. :faint:
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:iconaniek90:
aniek90 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
Well, in my book, that's pretty quick =P
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:iconmyrth1:
Myrth1 Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2015
Now I feel guilty ^^;

At least I hope you had fun while doing research and drawing it
Reply
:iconwickfield:
Wickfield Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hehe, don't feel guilty!  I want to make this series awesome, and any excuse to draw Mulan is fine with me. :)
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