The prominent aspect of the Emperor is his vast amount of knowledge and justice; the Emperor is one of the most judicious characters in the series. Contrary to his exterior, the Emperor is frank about certain topics, as seen in telling Shang that his (Shang's) tactics of winning Mulan over are wrong. It is implied that he actually dislikes his consul Chi-Fu when he states that Mulan could have the misogynistic consul's own job. Though he is aware of the strict rules that surround a woman's involvement in the army, the Emperor is one of the first to recognize Mulan for her bravery. This shows that, regardless of what the rules may outline, he still knows when to give credit when it is due, making him a fair and reasonable man. The Emperor also cares for his subjects in a similar manner to a father, as evidenced by his addressing his subjects as being his "children" during the ceremony where Shan Yu was presumed killed. He is also fearless, even when facing death, as despite being threatened with death by Shan Yu unless he surrendered, the Emperor calmly refused to submit, comparing the action to a mountain refusing to bend in the wind. He also was shown to put his own people's protection above his own, as he stated that the Chinese Army should fend off the Huns instead of increasing security at the Forbidden City. The Emperor is also shown to take the threat of an invading enemy seriously instead of underestimating them, which is made especially apparent with his reaction upon learning that not only were the Huns invading China, but the leader of the invasion was Shan Yu.
The Emperor is an old, thin man with a long white beard and mustache. His eyes are black and his eyebrows are white and bushy. His hair is also white, though most of it is tucked into the hat or crown that he wears often. His hat is rectangular with a red base with a sky blue oval in its center, a yellow upper half, and a thin, rectangular, black strip of stiff cloth on the top. His earlobes are slightly elongated.
The Emperor dresses in elegant robes with black cuffs and furisode-esque sleeves and a wide, black obi-like sash. His upper robes are mostly yellow on both the inside and the outside, though the outside of his high collar is black. There is also a black and red crisscrossing pattern going over each of his shoulders. His lower robes are mostly brown, though they are tan at the base. A magenta "outline" of rectangular cloth is present over the front of the lower robes.
The Emperor appears near the beginning of the film and is seen holding a meeting with his generals. General Li reports that the Huns have invaded China. Though his consul, Chi-Fu, doubts that the Huns could get past the Great Wall, the Emperor takes the threat seriously, especially when he learns that they are being led by the warlord Shan Yu. The General offers to set up troops around the city to protect the Emperor, but the Emperor orders the General to protect the people instead. The Emperor also orders Chi-Fu to distribute conscription notices to every family in China, which would require one man from each family to serve in the army. Although the general believes that the current army would be enough to counter the threat, the emperor, not taking any chances, reminds him that "A single grain of rice can tip the scale. one man can mean the difference between victory and defeat."
Towards the end of the movie, the Emperor is captured by Shan Yu, as part of an ambush. Shan Yu attempts to force the Emperor to bow to him at the point of a sword, but the Emperor refuses to kowtow to the barbarian's threats (in the form of a metaphor that a mountain will not bow to the wind, no matter how hard it blows). Meanwhile, Mulan and Shang undertake a rescue mission to save him while Yao, Ling, and Chien Po disguise themselves as concubines. The three trick Shan Yu's henchmen, lulling them into dropping their guard. The Emperor is then able to escape to safety with Chien Po. After Shan Yu has been terminated, with considerable damage to the palace in the process, the Emperor walks down the stairs as Shang is about to pummel Chi-Fu, the smoke behind him clearing as though even it respects him and criticizes Mulan for impersonating a soldier, and quite a few other things including the damage to his palace. Nevertheless, he thanks her for saving the country. He bows to her as a way of showing her honor, with the rest of the crowd following suit. The Emperor first offers Mulan a position on his council, and then Chi-Fu's position after the bureaucrat claims that there aren't any open positions on the council. Though certainly flattered by the offer, Mulan politely declines the Emperor's offer, explaining that she'd rather go back home to her family. The Emperor accepts this, and in gratitude, he gives her the crest around his neck and the sword of Shan Yu as gifts to take home; he is initially stunned when she hugs him, but quickly shows warmth at it.
After she leaves, he subtly encourages Shang to follow her before bluntly telling him "you don't meet a girl like that every dynasty", before putting his hat back on and striding off, presumably to see to the restoration of his palace.
When the Mongols are threatening China, the Emperor arranges for an alliance with the neighboring kingdom of Qui-Gong. In order to solidify the alliance, the Emperor orders Mulan and Shang to escort three princesses to Qui-Gong. There, the princesses, his daughters, would be betrothed to the sons of Lord Chin, who adore the girls only for their good looks. However, the Emperor warns Mulan and Shang that if the task is not completed within three days, the alliance would crumble and the Mongols would certainly destroy China. After seeing Mulan and company off, the Emperor does not appear for the rest of the film.
The Emperor appears in the remake, portrayed by Jet Li.
The Emperor is the ruler of The Land of Dragons in Kingdom Hearts II.
In the second visit, the Emperor was encountered by Riku, in his Organization attire, whilst his country was under attack by the Storm Rider and an Organization member, Xigbar. Though it was assumed to be an attack, Riku's visit was to inform the Emperor of the dangers and assured that Sora, Donald, and Goofy would take care of things. In the end, following China's safety, the Emperor requested that Mulan served as his protector, besides Shang.
A metal plate depicting the Emperor is on the ceiling of the lobby in the Chinese Theatre in the interior queue for this attraction.
- The Emperor offering Mulan Chi-Fu's job in his court was a reference to the real-world inspiration for The Ballad of Mulan during the Sui Dynasty. Specifically, the Emperor, upon discovering that a woman was impersonating a soldier, was impressed when he learned that she did it out of devotion to her father that he exempted her father from service and then nominated her to his court. Unlike in either the Disney version or the original ballad, however, this woman didn't go to war, hence why she wasn't executed.
- Though the Emperor does not appear on Once Upon a Time, Mulan mentions him when telling her military past to Belle.