UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Mozi 墨子 Poli, Maddalena

Description

Ancient Chinese philosophical text that would become foundational to the philosophical current known as Mohism. Attributed to a thinker known as Mozi, the text's importance lies in constituting the first extant challenge to ideas later labeled as Confucian. ___ The Mozi 墨子, also known as Mojing 墨經, is an text traditionally attributed to thinker Mo Di 墨翟. Very little is known about Mo Di. The biography recorded in the Records of the Historian 史記 one of the briefest, and presents Mo Di as a man from the state of Song 宋 (conquered by the Qin 秦 state in 286), who was skilled at defensive works and practicing frugality. He is said to have lived during or after Confucius’s times, in the 5th century BCE. The Yi wen zhi 藝文志, the oldest extant catalogue collected in the Hanshu 漢書 describes the Mozi as a book of 71 chapters 篇. The current edition is however of 53 chapters; Johnston (The Mozi, page xxvii) suggests that 18 chapters were thus lost between the Han and the Song dynasties (i.e., between the second and thirteenth century CE), but Bi Yuan 畢沅 (1730-1797 CE) annotated in the Lushi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 that “the book of Mozi originally had 71 chapters, today 16 have been lost” (Lushi chunqiu jishi 呂氏春秋集釋 15.363, 2009 Zhonghua shoji edition), suggesting that perhaps two more chapters were lost after the 18th century. Of these 18 chapters, there is only a record of 8 titles. No content has survived. ___ Little has emerged from ancient manuscripts that may help recovering missing steps in the formation of this text. Decades after the recovery of Xinyang 信陽 bamboo manuscripts (1957), Li Xueqin 李學勤 identified a handful of them as the Mozi. This content is not part of the received Mozi that we see today; it was recorded in an edition circulating until the Tang dynasty, but was later lost. According to preliminary introductions, the Anda University collection of manuscripts also include some passages related to the text of the Mozi (Huang Dekuan 2017). This confirms previous suggestions that at least part of the Mozi was composed during the Warring States era (453-221BCE), with then additional textual material that became part of what today is the Mozi. None of the authors of this text’s sections can be identified. ___ As noted in the scholarship (Johnston; Goldin), a peculiar feature of the textual history of the Mozi is its “disappearance” from the Qin dynasty (221 BCE - 206 BCE) onwards, until the text become widely available as part of the Daoist Canon 道藏, published in 1447. The records of commentaries are scarce, and the commentaries themselves have not been preserved (Johnston xxvii). Following this publication, it took another few centuries for Chinese scholars to rediscover this work. The major studies of the Mozi date to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911 CE). The current shape of the text is due to the work of the above mentioned Bi Yuan. Because of the secluded life of the text, it is very likely that the remaining 53 chapters correspond quite closely to what was catalogued during the Han dynasties. ___ The current structure of the Mozi is divided as follows: A) the Core Chapters, 1 to 7; B) the eleven “core” doctrines, from 8 to 39. each doctrine at some point included three sections (labeled as 上中 下). Of these 33 chapters, 25 only survive. C) the canons, 經 (two chapters); D) the explanations 經說, 2 chapters; E) three chapters, two referred as “the choosing” chapters, 取, and one named Geng Zhu 耕柱; F) four chapters in the form of dialogues, 47 to 50; G) the remaining chapters, eleven in total. ___ In terms of its content, the Mozi represents a set of ideas that are often considered to be a response to values later identified as Confucian. A central theme in the Mozi is that of “impartial caring” 兼愛, that is to say, the idea that individuals should care for each other impartially, regardless of one’s relationship to one another. Human are those who promote what is good for the world, not for oneself or one’s family (仁人之事者,必務 求興天下之利,兼愛下). The figure of Mozi was attributed frugality perhaps in light of the text’s arguments against lavish uses of music (非樂 in 3 chapters, of which one has been preserved), and in favor to moderating funeral rituals (節葬, originally 3 chapters of which one has been preserved) and expenditure (節用, two of three chapters have been preserved). The arguments are developed from the same logic: if something does not benefit all society alike, then the way in which it is conducted must be changed. For example, extravagant funerals should be encouraged if they enriched the poor, gave abundance, corrected perils and governed chaos (厚葬久喪實可以富貧眾寡,定危治亂乎,此仁也,義也). Because this is not the case, those in charge should discourage it. ___ Heaven is also a critical topic, which is addressed primarily in three chapters titled “Heaven’s Will” 天志. Heaven is also referenced in other sections of this work, but one ought not haste to find a unified conception of Heaven or other subjects, given that the “Mozi” almost certainly is the result of multiple hands. As it happens with many other ancient texts, it is more appropriate to talk of common themes shared across multiple chapters. On the basis of these three chapters, Heaven can be summarized as an entity that desires what is right over what is wrong (“Heaven desires righteousness and abominates unrighteousness, 天欲義而惡不義” Legge’s translation); it sets standard for ruling and proper government, and cares for all people, 天之愛天下之百姓. Because Heaven is unavoidable, one ought to take what it desires and wants as model, and act accordingly: “The will of Heaven to me is like the compasses to the wheelwright and the square to the carpenter, 我有天志,譬若輪 人之有規,匠人之有矩.” Because of this, Kirkland has defined the Mozi’s view of Heaven completely subservient to the socio-political philosophy of this text.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data

Rights

Attribution 4.0 International