Stories of Two Modern Day Hua Mulans

Modern Day Hua Mulan
AAMA News, October 1998

Records from the Sino-Japanese War revealed that fighting for the Chinese side was a real-life Hua Mulan. Her name was Wang Zhongxiu. Starting from 1943 she fought for two years with exceptional distinction and her gender escaped detection by her fellow soldiers.

Her father died when she was still young. Her mother, elder brother and she drifted to the outskirts of Yichang in Hubei province of the war torn China. Hubei was hotly contested and many battles took place nearby Yichang.

The Chinese side often resorted to forced conscription of able bodied men as part of the effort to stem the Japanese tide. In order to allow her brother to avoid the draft and stay behind to take care of their mother, Wang cut her hair and took her brother's place. Having a male heir to pass on the family name was essential in Chinese tradition and most likely figured in her decision.

At the time, the Chinese tactic was to delay and stall the Japanese advances by digging ditches and blowing up roads. Wang even volunteered to masquerade as a woman to avoid detection while planting land mines at night on key intersections.

She fought with distinction and attained an outstanding war record. Even though she lived, ate and slept next to her fellow soldiers, none found out that Wang was actually a comely young woman.

In 1945, just before the end of the war, upper command sent the medical corp. to check the physical conditions of the troops. At this point, Wang sought out the attending physicians to apprised them of the situation. She was promptly reassigned to duties away from the front line.

After the war, Wang married an officer and received official commendations for her wartime service. No one knows what has happened to her since. If she is still alive, she would be in her 70's today. If she is found, she would owe her sudden fame and attention to the popularity of Disney's version of Mulan.

(Arthur Chin, a W.W.II American Ace)

The Rough Road Taken by Guo Junqing

(Materials collected from various Chinese websites. Edited and translated by Jane)

Known as a "Modern Day Hua Mulan", Guo Junqing is the only woman who has ever been honored with a "Special Class Combat Hero" award in the history of the Chinese People's Army.

Guo Junqing was born into a very poor farming family in Liaoning province (in northeast China). Her father died when she was young. As the oldest child in the family, she cut her hair short and disguised herself as a boy to look for work.

In 1945, the then 14 year old Guo Junqing lied about her age and joined the army. She dressed as a man and changed her name to Guo Fu. In the following several years, she was in the thick of the Civil War battle field with her fellow soldiers. During all of this time, no one discovered her real gender.

Starting from her second year in the army, Guo Junqing held leading posts. Once, during a May 1948 battle, a severe abdominal pain caused her to fall onto the ground that turned out to be the result of her having her period. Despite the intense pain, she got up and continued to lead her team to fight. They won the battle and she received two merit awards for her continuing to fight with even while being "ill". In the fall of 1948, she took part in the famous Liao-Shen Battle. Once after three continuous days and nights of battle, the heavy casualties left only 500 people from her 2000 person battallion. When all bullets were gone, she and her men resorted to fighting with bayonets...

She exhibited no markedly different behavior from her fellow male soldiers, bar for the fact that she never went to the restroom with others and she was apt to get emotional. Once at a military performance, she put on a wig and dressed in cheongsam. Everybody cheered at her yangko dance: "He really danced like a woman!"

Five years of military life caused her to develop serious gynecological disease. In 1950, Guo Junqing was admitted to a hospital with a bad fever. She was afraid that her real identity would be exposed. She covered her abdomen and refused to let the doctor throughly check her. The doctor suspected that she was a woman because of her possessing smoother neck and less hairy legs than most men. He reported his suspicions to the higher official.

When confronted by the higher official, Guo broke into tears and revealed the truth.

The news of Guo Fu being a female shocked the whole army. There were some people who thought this should be considered as cheating. But the army commander soon delivered his conclusion that: "Guo Junqing is a heroine. She is our modern day Hua Mulan and the pride of our Force No.48!"

Guo Junqing was awarded with the highest honor at the time - i.e., she was named as a "Special Class Combat Hero". In September 1950, she boarded the train to Beijing to attend the "Combat Heroes' Representative Assembly". On the train she met another "Combat Hero", Zhao Xingyuan. They went to Beijing together and were honored by the highest officials of China. Afterwards they were sent for a friendship visit to the then U.S.S.R as members of a Youth delegation.

Zhao Xingyuan was five years older than Guo Junqing. Zhao was brave and kind. He was like a big brother to her. Guo Junqing admired Zhao Xingyuan and liked to be close to him. Gradually, she started to fall in love with him.

Zhao Xingyuan knew the stories of Guo Junqing. The woman jogged, swam, and learned to ride a bicycle with men. Her face was bandaged due to her sustaining an injury after falling from a bike. And she smoked. Additionally, she liked to chat with men.

Her character and behavior was male-like. "You can't tell she is a woman unless she wears a woman dress", according to Zhao Xingyuan.

One evening, Guo Junqing asked to exchange watches with Zhao Xingyuan. "For memory," she said, and took his watch. Zhao Xingyuan knew the meaning of the "memory" and he didn't want to give Guo Junqing a false message. "Guo, I'm going to Korea War. I'm a leader and I need my watch. Please give it back to me."

She refused to give it back. He kept begging.

"Alright!" Guo Junqing threw the watch on the ground. The watch broke. She cried.

"If you want a good friend, look at Guo Junqing. If you seek a good wife, don't look to Guo Junqing," said some people.

Returning to Beijing from Moscow, she took a vacation to her hometown to see her mother and younger brother. She was only 20 years old. She wanted love. Why can't a good friend be a good wife?

But she also wanted to be a man! She had been a man for five years. She had manly courage, boldness, and hobbies.

Due to her gynecological disease, her womb had to be removed. She asked doctor to let her become a man. A famous hospital did an operation for her. She (or he) changed her name to "Li Min" and went back to the society as a man.

"He" was sent to study at the People's University in Beijing. While there, "he" and a female student fell in love. But they separated after a while, "he" was not a real man after all.

Actually though, there was one person who was deeply in love with Guo Junqing. He was the old platoon leader of Guo when they were in the army. They had fought together for years. They had shared life and death experience. They had gone to the evening classes together to learn reading.

At some point, the old platoon leader expressed his love to Guo Junqing. But Guo rejected him, saying that: "I can't be a good wife." The man said: "Guo, it doesn't matter that you can't have children. We had so many friends who died on the battle field. I love you. We can adopt a child."

He wrote many letters to Guo Junqing but she never wrote back. He kept looking for her until in the early 1970s, he found Guo Junqing, who was working in Shandong under another name. He invited Guo for a walk. But Guo excused herself to the bathroom. She didn't return for a few hours. She didn't want to encumber him.

After finished studying at the People's University, Guo Junqing left the army. She changed her name back to the name she used in army - Guo Fu. She worked in a few places and eventually was the supervisor of a factory in Qingdao, where she changed her name back to her original one of Guo Junqing.

She rarely stayed in her designated office. She liked to be with the workers. She would work and eat with them. She also would sing and dance together with them. She played Er-hu (a Chinese string instrument) very well and liked to sing opera songs. Sometimes she was invited to schools or other factories to give presentations. She would tell her old stories and show the scars on her arms that she had come by on the battlefield.

She adopted an daughter from an orphanage. She turned out to have a woman's nature, after all. She loved children.

When the Cultural Revolution began in the mid 1960s, she was condemned by some people as "fake Hua Mulan".

To protect her, the higher officials transfered her to another county. She was appointed as a local officer. Her name was once more changed to Guo Fu. From the records, She was a very caring person who often helped poor people by giving away her own money and even clothes.

In April 1981, just before her retirement, she asked to change her name from Guo Fu back to her birth name, Guo Junqing, and publicly go back to having a female identity. Her request was approved and her story was no longer hidden.

On September 23, 1983, Guo Junqing passed away. The most expensive items she had with her were an old suitcase, a comforter, and a blanket. She couldn't afford a TV. A radio which was more than 10 years old was her only link to the outside world.

The "Modern Hua Mulan", Guo Junqing, was buried at the Changzhou Graveyard of Revolutionary Martyrs. She was 52 years old when she died.

Based on the story of Guo Junqing's earlier life, a movie entitled "The Youth in the Flames of War" was made by Changchun Film Studios in 1959.

Some pictures from "The Youth in the Flames of War" (which starred actress Wang Suya):

(thanks Yvonne for the help with text editing.)

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