Who would win in a fight: Mulan or Emmajin Beki or Teenage Angst, Mongolian-style? “Can you imagine, a mere girl fighting on the battlefield?”
The role of females in combat is a debate as timeless as war itself, and one that remains divisive and unresolved to this century.
While present-day arguments for and against allowing women in the military revolve around psychological and biological issues, back in olden times, one needed only cite “tradition” and “familial roles” to silence the detractors.
The teenaged heroine of Dori Jones Yang’s new 13th-century historical fiction novel, Daughter of Xanadu, is one such detractor, albeit immutable.
Often imagining herself on the battlefield, “the son my father never had,” Emmajin Beki, the granddaughter of Mongolian king (and emperor of China’s Yuan Dynasty) Khubilai Khan (1215-1294), learned to ride a horse before she could walk and can outshoot all her cousins in archery.
She confidently and outspokenly aspires to emulate her female ancestors who assisted Chinggis Khan in conquering Asia (“the blood of all these earlier strong women flowed in my veins”).
Unfortunately, for this princess, “the days of strong women had ended once luxurious court life had begun.”
The Mongols, fattened, lazy and resting on their laurels, now prefer to tell stories of battles-past over lavish “orgies of excess” rather than engage in new wars, much to Emmajin’s restless discontent.
When she makes known her desire to “become a legend” like real-life women warriors Aiyurug Khutulun and Hua Mulan of China, the great Khan placates her by sending her on a secret mission to spy on a family of foreign merchants currently visiting the Mongol court.
Continued on April 18, 2011 in Daughter of Xanadu – Part 2
Discover more “Guest Posts” from Tom Carter with Is Hong Kong Any Place for a Poor American?
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