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The term "China" is used only once in Mulan (2020), in a caption describing the capital city as being in central China. All other places it could be mentioned, the term "the dynasty" is used.

Given that this movie was designed to appeal to China/the Party and be one of the few American films allowed into China each year, was there a political reason for avoiding it?

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Answer: Advice given by Chinese authorities advised against being specific when it came to referring to China and Chinese dynasties.

Background The 1998 version of the film was not received positively in China, and was almost barred from release. In order to see that this did not happen again, Disney worked with both the Chinese public as well as the government of China to refine the movie.

One of those steps included working with Chinese authorities to review the script. The outcome of those conversations included being advised to not be specific when referring to dynasties in the film as stated in the following article:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-disney-enlisted-mulan-a-200-million-folktale-to-court-china-11599050642

"Input from China’s film board included cautioning against focusing on a particular Chinese dynasty, according to people familiar with the matter."

So, being safe they chose to be as general as possible leading to the few direct mentions in the movie.

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    Welcome to Movies.SE! I'm afraid I don't see how being advised against mentioning specific dynasties would preclude them from mentioning China itself. – F1Krazy Sep 8 '20 at 14:13
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    Did the term "China" come into use during a particular dynasty? As someone unfamiliar with the history behind the name, it seems like simply using "China" would already avoid focusing on a particular dynasty. – Nuclear Hoagie Sep 8 '20 at 14:13
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    The term China is not actually a Chinese word. Its earliest European usage is in Italian, by Marco Polo, circa 1550s, probably ultimately from Sanskrit Cina, from Ch'in (Wade-Giles), Qin (Pinyin) dynasty (3c. B.C.E.) The Chinese word for their current country is Chung-kuo (Wade-Giles), Zhongguo (Pinyin). – A. I. Breveleri Sep 8 '20 at 14:33
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    @F1Krazy 1st sentence: "...advised against being specific when it came to referring to China...". I assume the rest about Dynasties is merely reinforcing that -- if you're in Chinese dynasty X, that means you're in China. I suspect the issue is not contradicting some official bit of Party history. – Owen Reynolds Sep 8 '20 at 14:52
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    … including bits of party history that may not even have been (re-)written yet. – Jörg W Mittag Sep 8 '20 at 21:21
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Technically, the country that the story is set in was not known as China; instead it has been known as Bei-Wei, "the northern Wei"(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Wei), to its later generations.

The capital city of Bei-wei was Luoyang(洛陽) instead of the modern-day Chinese capital Beijing(北京).

Given that not every Chinese knows the historical details of the Ballad of Mulan, which the movie is based on, let alone foreigners, it is a difficult decision for the writers to find a balance between making a movie that appeals​ to as many people as they can AND reflects all the historical details/accuracies.

Most of the details in this movie are off-the-chart wrong, such as:

  • Mulan's family home, a dome-shaped structure, a tulou. As this kind of dome-shaped houses were predominately seen in the South, which was not part of Bei-wei.
  • The supreme leader of Bei-wei would have been referred to as a Khan rather than an Emperor.
  • The catapults were way ahead of its time.

What this movie got right:

  • There are two direct references from this movie where they quoted from the Ballad of Mulan; 1st time is Mulan talks about there is little difference between a running male bunny and a running female bunny; 2nd time is Mulan and her fellow soldiers talk about their fiancees, they describe their fiancees as having spring-onion shaped fingers and etc.
  • When Mulan and her fellow soldiers arrive in their camp for the first time, we see the name of the camp as 折衝府, which is more or less accurate for that era.
  • The enemy Mulan fights against are Rouran (柔然), as accurately stated in the movie.
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    It would be interesting to know if the current state of China has rules against referring to pre-existing states within its bounds? – Yakk Sep 8 '20 at 14:01
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    As to the "Khan" vs. "Emperor", I think that's forgivable if you consider the other thing that is blatantly wrong but we're okay with it - everyone is speaking English. If you consider that the whole thing is a translation from the ancient Chinese they would really have been speaking, how any one given word gets translated is kind of a subjective matter. – Darrel Hoffman Sep 8 '20 at 14:37
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    One thing should be noted, the "Northern Wei" or "Later Wei" are names given by historians of later times. The people of that country wouldn't have called themselves the "Northern Wei". Just "Wei". I have just proposed an edit with this correction and some minor grammar fixes. – Eddie Kal Sep 8 '20 at 17:59
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    @Darrel Hoffman Would the supreme leader of Northern Wei be described as Khan instead of Huangdi? The Wei leader who defeated the Rouran in 391 was Touba Gui, who reclaimed the title of Prince (or King) of Dai by 386. Thus his title would have beek king or prince and not khan, when defeating the Rouran. – M. A. Golding Sep 8 '20 at 20:35
  • @DarrelHoffman, agreed. I was not picking on this movie for its inaccuracies. – Yu Zhang Sep 9 '20 at 0:39

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