The Full Wiki

Mozi: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mo Di
Full name Mo Di
Born ca. 470 BCE
Died ca. 391 BCE
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Chinese philosophy
School Founder of Mohism
Main interests Moral philosophy, Social philosophy, Ethics, Logic
Notable ideas Mohism
This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.

Mozi (Chinese: pinyin: MòzǐWade-Giles: Mo Tzu, Lat. as Micius, ca. 470 BCE–ca. 391 BCE), original name Mo Di (墨翟), was a philosopher who lived in China during the Hundred Schools of Thought period (early Warring States Period), born in Tengzhou, Shandong Province. He founded the school of Mohism and argued strongly against Confucianism and Daoism. During the Warring States Period, Mohism was actively developed and practiced in many states, but fell out of favour when the legalist Qin Dynasty came to power. During that period many Mohist classics were ruined when Qin Shihuang carried out the burning of books and burying of scholars. The importance of Mohism further declined when Confucianism became the dominant school of thought during the Han Dynasty, disappearing by the middle of the Western Han Dynasty.[1] The Thousand Character Classic records Mozi's story that he felt sad when he saw white silk was dyed, which embodied his thought of austerity (simplicity, chastity).



There has been considerable debate about the actual name of Mozi. Traditionally, Mozi was said to have inherited the surname "Mo" from his supposed ancestor, the Lord of Guzhu (Chinese: pinyin: Gūzhú Jūn), himself descended from Shennong the legendary emperor. The descendants of the Lord of Guzhu had the clan name "Motai" (Chinese: pinyin: Mòtāi), which later was shortened to "Mo". However, modern scholarship suggests that "Mo" was not in fact the clan name of Mozi, as this clan name/family name is not encountered during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, but that "Mo" was rather the name of the Mohist school itself, derived from the name of a criminal punishment (tattooing of the forehead of criminals; "mo" literally means "ink"), usually inflicted on slaves. It signals the Mohists' identification with the lowest of common people. The actual ancestral name and clan name of Mozi is not known. It may be that, because he was born into the lower classes (which seems to be established), he did not have ancestral or clan names. During Chinese antiquity, the vast majority of the Chinese people, who were not related to aristocratic families, did not possess ancestral and clan names. And one final plausible source of Mozi's name may have been the philosopher's skin complexion itself, which is referred to as "dark" (lit. "black") in the text. "Mozi was going north to Qi and met a fortune teller on the way. The fortune teller told him: "God kills the black dragon in the north today. Now, your complexion is dark. You must not go north." (Bk. 12)


Most historians believe that Mozi was a member of the lower artisan class who managed to climb his way to an official post. Mozi was a native of the State of Lu (Today's Tengzhou, Shandong Province), although for a time he served as a minister in the State of Song.[2] Like Confucius, Mozi was known to have maintained a school for those who desired to become officials serving in the different ruling courts of the Warring States.[2]

Mozi was a carpenter and was extremely skilled in creating devices, designing everything from mechanical birds to wheeled, mobile "cloud ladders" used to besiege city walls (see Lu Ban). Though he did not hold a high official position, Mozi was sought out by various rulers as an expert on fortification. He was schooled in Confucianism in his early years but he viewed Confucianism as being too fatalistic and emphasizing too much on elaborate celebrations and funerals which he felt were detrimental to the livelihood and productivity on of common people. He managed to attract a large following during his lifetime which rivalled that of Confucius. His followers – mostly technicians and craftspeople – were organized in a disciplined order that studied both Mozi's philosophical and technical writings.

Mozi has been hailed as the greatest hero from Henan. His passion was for the good of the people, without concern of personal gain nor even of his life or death. His tireless contribution to society was praised by many, including Confucius' disciple Mengzi. Mengzi wrote in <MengZi.JinXin> that Mozi believed in love for all mankind. As long as something benefits mankind, Mozi will pursue it even if it meant hurting his head or his feet. Zhang Tai Tan said that in terms of moral virtue, even Confucius and Laozi cannot compare to Mozi.

His pacifism led Mozi to travel from one crisis zone to another through the ravaged landscape of the Warring States, trying to dissuade rulers from their plans of conquest. According to the chapter "Gongshu" in Mozi, he once walked for ten days to the state of Chu in order to forestall an attack on the state of Song. At the Chu court, Mozi engaged in nine simulated war games with Gongshu Ban, the chief military strategist of Chu, and overturned each one of his stratagems. When Gongshu Ban threatened him with death, Mozi informed the king that his disciples had already trained the soldiers of Song on his fortification methods, so it would be useless to kill him. The Chu king was forced to call off the war. On the way back, however, the soldiers of Song, not recognizing him, would not allow Mozi to enter their city, and he had to spend a night freezing in the rain. After this episode, he also stopped the state of Qi from attacking the state of Lu. He taught that defense of a city does not depend only on fortifications, weaponry and food supply. It was also important to keep talented people and to trust in them.

Though Mozi's school faded into obscurity after the Warring States period, he was studied again two millennia after his death. As almost nobody had tidied the texts during the last two thousand years, there was much difficulty in deciphering the texts. As a result, Mohism became the hardest philosophy within the Hundred Schools of Thoughts to study. Both the Republican revolutionaries of 1911 and the Communists saw in him a surprisingly modern thinker who was stifled early in Chinese history.


In contrast to those of Confucius, Mozi's moral teachings emphasized self-reflection and authenticity rather than obedience to ritual. He observed that we often learn about the world through adversity ("Embracing Scholars" in Mozi). By reflecting on one's own successes and failures, one attains true self-knowledge rather than mere conformity with ritual. ("Refining Self" in Mozi) Mozi exhorted the gentleman to lead a life of asceticism and self-restraint, renouncing both material and spiritual extravagance.

Like Confucius, Mozi idealized the Xia Dynasty and the ancients of Chinese mythology, but he criticized the Confucian belief that modern life should be patterned on the ways of the ancients. After all, he pointed out, what we think of as "ancient" was actually innovative in its time, and thus should not be used to hinder present-day innovation ("Against Confucianism, Part 3" in the Mozi). Though Mozi did not believe that history necessarily progresses, as did Han Fei Zi, he shared the latter's critique of fate (, mìng). Mozi believed that people were capable of changing their circumstances and directing their own lives. They could do this by applying their senses to observing the world, judging objects and events by their causes, their function, and their historical basis. ("Against Fate, Part 3") This was the "three-prong method" Mozi recommended for testing the truth or falsehood of statements. His students later expanded on this to form the School of Names.

Mozi tended to evaluate actions based on whether they provide benefit to the people, which he measured in terms of an enlarged population (states were sparsely populated in his day), a prosperous economy, and social order. Similar to the Western utilitarians, Mozi thought that actions should be measured by the way they contribute to the "greatest societal good for what we have agreed to in a social contract" With this criterion Mozi denounced things as diverse as offensive warfare, expensive funerals, and even music and dance which he saw as serving no useful purpose. Mozi did not reject to music in principle -- "It's not that I don't like the sound of the drum" ("Against Music") -- but because of the heavy tax burden such activities placed on commoners and also due to the fact that officials tended to indulge in them at the expense of their duties.

Mozi tried to replace what he considered to be the long-entrenched Chinese over-attachment to family and clan structures with the concept of "impartial caring" or "universal love" (, jiān ài). In this, he argued directly against Confucians who had argued that it was natural and correct for people to care about different people in different degrees. Mozi, by contrast, argued people in principle should care for all people equally, a notion that philosophers in other schools found absurd, as they interpreted this notion as implying no special amount of care or duty towards one's parents and family. Overlooked by those critics, however, is a passage in the chapter on "Self-Cultivation" which states "When people near-by are not befriended, there is no use endeavoring to attract those at a distance." This point is also precisely articulated by a Mohist in a debate with Mencius (in the Mencius) where the Mohist argues in relation to carrying out universal love, that "We begin with what is near." Also, in the first chapter of the writings of Mozi on universal love, Mozi argues that the best way of being filial to one’s parents is to be filial to the parents of others. The foundational principle is that benevolence, as well as malevolence, is requited, and that one will be treated by others as one treats others. Mozi quotes a popular passage from the Book of Odes to bring home this point: "When one throws to me a peach, I return to him a plum." One’s parents will be treated by others as one treats the parents of others. In pursuing this line of argument, Mozi was directly appealing to the idea of enlightened self-interest in social relations. Also of note is that Mozi differentiated between "intention" and "actuality" thereby placing a central importance on the will to love even though in practice it may very well be impossible to bring benefit to everyone.

In addition, Mozi argued that benevolence comes to human beings "as naturally as fire turns upward or water turns downward", provided that persons in position of authority illustrate benevolence in their own lives. Between the ideas of "universal" (jian) and "differential" (bie), Mozi said that "universal" comes from righteousness while "differential" entails human effort. Furthermore, Mozi’s basic argument concerning universal love asserts that universal love is supremely practical, this argument was directed against those who objected that such love could not be put into practice.

Mozi also held a belief in the power of ghosts and spirits, although he is often thought to have only worshiped them pragmatically. In fact, in his discussion on ghosts and spirits, he remarks that even if they did not exist, communal gatherings for the sake of making sacrificial offering would play a role in strengthening social bonds. Furthermore, for the will of Heaven (, tiān) was that people should love one another, and that mutual love by all would bring benefit to all. Therefore, it was in everyone's interest that they love others "as they love themselves." Heaven should be respected because failing to do so would subject one to punishment. For Mozi, Heaven was not the amoral, mystical nature of the Taoists. Rather, it was a benevolent, moral force that rewarded the good and punished the evil. Similar to the Abrahamic religions, Mozi believes that all living things live in a realm ruled by Heaven, and Heaven has a will which is independent from and higher than the will of man. Thus he writes that "Universal love is the Way of Heaven," since "Heaven nourishes and sustains all life without regard to status." ("Laws and Customs" in Mozi) Mozi's ideal of government, which advocated a meritocracy based on talent rather than background, also followed his idea of Heaven.

Works and influence

"Mozi" is also the name of the philosophical text compiled by Mohists from Mozi's thought. This text originally consists of 71 pages. During the Han dynasty Confucianism dominated China. As Mohism is against Confucianism, the text "Mozi" was neglected. During the Song dynasty, only 61 pages were left. Today, we have only 53 pages from which we use to understand this school of thought, as compiled by Sun Yirang. Because Mohism disappeared as a living tradition from China, its texts were not well maintained, and many chapters are missing or in a corrupted state. For example, of the three chapters "Against Confucianism", only one remains.

The collection of texts from "Mozi" is a rich source of insight into the early Chinese dynasties history and culture. Much of Mozi's arguments are supported with historical claims from even earlier records. His conversations with other renowned philosophers of that era are also recorded. From them, we can distinguish Mohism from other school of thoughts more clearly.

Mohism was suppressed under the Qin and died out completely under the Han, who made Confucianism the official doctrine. However, many of its ideas were dissolved into the mainstream of Chinese thought and re-examined in modern times. Sun Yat-Sen used "universal love" as one of the foundations for his idea of Chinese democracy. More recently, Chinese scholars under Communism have tried to rehabilitate Mozi as a "philosopher of the people", highlighting his rational-empirical approach to the world as well as his "proletarian" background.

There's a view claims that Mozi's philosophy was at once more advanced and less so than that of Confucius. His concept of "universal love" embraced a broader idea of human community than the Confucians, but he is less tolerant than Confucius in his condemnation of all that is not directly "useful", neglecting the humanizing functions of art and music. Zhuangzi, who criticized both the Confucians and the Mohists, had this in mind in his parables on the "usefulness of the useless". Of course, this insistence on usefulness comes from a time when war and famine were widespread and could well have made all the royal pageantry look frivolous. However, the above view is not very accurate. In fact, "universal love" (博愛) as well as "the world as a commonwealth shared by all" (天下為公) advocated by Sun Yat-Sen is Confucius's idea[3]. "Universal love" (博愛, Boai) in Confucianism is a little different from Mozi's "universal love" (兼愛, Jian'ai): in Confucianism it tends to be natural and fit for humanity, and in Mozi's idea it tends to be community oriented and non-differentiated for individual. By contrast, it seems that Mohism and modern Communism share a lot in ideals for community life.

See also



  1. ^ Fraser, Chris (2002). "Mohism". "The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy". 
  2. ^ a b Needham, Volume 2, 165.
  3. ^ Han Yu: "Universal love" (博愛, Boai) means Ren (Humanity) (韓愈: 博愛之謂仁).


  • Needham, Joseph. (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 2; History of Scientific Thought. Taipei: Caves Books Ltd.
  • Fraser, Chris. "Mohism," article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Further reading

  • Yi-pao Mei (I-pao Mei), Motse, the Neglected Rival of Confucius (1934, reprinted 1973), is a general study of the man and his age, his works, and his teachings, with an extensive bibliography.

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address