Yu Rong (right) shows her latest work to British illustrator Quentin Blake, an honorary professor of the Royal College of Art. [Photo provided to China Daily]
She believes Mulan is a first-class plot, and Qin "knows how to retell it with rhythm, structure and imagination".
Translator and British Museum researcher Helen Wang worked with Qin to create a concise and poetic narration that depicts Mulan as daring yet gentle.
A passage from Yu's book reads: "She went to the East Market to choose a fast horse, to the West Market to fit a good saddle, to the South Market to buy warrior's clothes and to the North Market to find a sharp lance. When Mulan returned at sunset, she looked every inch a warrior.
"On her last day at home, her heart filled with sadness, Mulan planted a peony in front of the house. The day came. Mulan the warrior set out with her horse."
Qin took inspiration from visits to sites of ancient battles and Henan province's Yuju Opera "to tell about the infinite possibilities for a woman's growth and to ascertain gender identity with pride", she says.
"I abandoned my inner novelist to make room for the illustrations. I kept cutting down the words and rewriting ... to only tell what the illustrations couldn't."