Xi Chen

Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau SAR

Translating the Chinese Classic Mulan into Contemporary Children’s Picturebooks: A Multimodal Perspective

Mulan is a Chinese legendary heroine who impersonates a man to takes her father’s place in the army. “The Ballad of Mulan” dates back to the Northern Dynasties (386-581 C.E.) and gradually becomes a significant part of Chinese classical literature. The Chinese American writer, Kingston, introduced Mulan to Western readers in 1976. Since the 1990s, a number of adaptations of the ballad in children’s picturebooks have been published in America, and Disney’s animated films Mulan (1998) and Mulan II (2005) made Mulan a heroine in the West.

This paper investigates different translations of Mulan in children’s picturebooks via a multimodal approach, with a special focus on the cultural transplantation of Mulan’s images in the book covers. Based on the theories of multimodality (Kress and van Leeuwen, 1996, 2006; O’Toole, 1994; Painter, Martin and Unsworth, 2013), a framework is proposed for the visual analysis of images in picturebooks. Five bilingual picturebooks are selected as the data: The Legend of Mulan: A Heroine of Ancient China (1992), China’s Bravest Girl: The Legend of Hua Mu Lan (1993), The Ballad of Mulan (1998), Song of Mulan (2010) and Mulan (2012). It first makes a textual analysis to explore how Mulan’s legend is built or rebuilt in the five picturebooks, and then conducts a visual analysis on the five book covers to examine how Mulan’s images are presented or represented in these contemporary children’s picturebooks. It is expected that this research can shed light on the translation of picturebooks via a multimodal approach.



Xi Chen is an assistant professor of University International College at Macau University of Science and Technology. She has gained her PhD in English Linguistics at the University of Macau. Her research interests include multimodal discourse analysis, translation studies and intercultural studies. Her recent publication is “Representing cultures through language and image: a multimodal approach to translations of the Chinese classic Mulan” in Perspectives: Studies in Translatology.