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Mohist and Mozi(Mo Tzu)

An Introduction to Mohist and Mozi(Mo Tzu)

Mozi (墨子 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.

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 (孤竹君), himself descended from Shennong the legendary emperor. The descendants of the Lord of Guzhu had the clan name "Motai" (墨胎), 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."

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. 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.

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 production 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 believe 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 philosopher 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.

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