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Philosopher Mo Tzu and Chivalrous Mohism in Chinese Culture

Definition and Founder of Ancient Philosophy Mohism

Mohism was a mysterious, chivalrous philosophical school that was in regard to society, politics, epistemology, logic system, geometry, geometrical optics, statics, mechanics, math, etc.  

It was a systematic organization that once was as flourishing as Confucianism in the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC). 

Mo Tzu (or Mo Zi), the founder and a great scientist, was the only great philosopher in ancient Chinese history who came from a peasantry family instead of a noble one.

The majority of the believers, the Mohists, came from the lower classes as well. They were strongly opposed of wars and Confucianism ideas, such as the hierarchy, ancestry, and complicated etiquettes.

Their ideas, and technologies were recorded in the book Mozi.

Various Weapons Invented by Mohists

Scaling Ladder to climb city wall
Rotating Transmitter 
Archery Shooter
Archery Tool
Handheld Archery Shooter
Mangonel
 

Mohism As A Mysterious and Chivalrous Organization

People within the Mohism were divided into two groups: scientists, theorists, thinkers and debaters were named “Mo Bian”, while righteous swordsmen and warriors were named “Mo Xia”.

 

They were subordinated their leader “Ju Zi”, and were extremely loyal, sincere, hard working, skillful, and chivalrous.

Hence, Mohism was an independent kingdom with strict discipline, strong belief, advanced scientific technologies and weapons, and countless brave and loyal warriors who were willing to sacrifice for their faith.

In the chaotic Warring States Period, Mohists had participated in many wars, all of which were helping small countries to defeat strong enemies. 

Well Trained and Brave Swordsman of Mohism

 

Declining of the Mohism 

Centuries later, the powerful Kingdom Qin defeated other empires and established the centralized and unified Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC), which respected the Legalism as official dominant philosophy. 

During these annexation wars, large numbers of those extremely talented warriors of Mohism sacrificed in the defensive battles helping small states.

In the year 134 BC, Emperor Liu Che promoted Confucianism, the long term enemy of Mohism, as the official dominant philosophy. 

Afterwards, Mohism started to decline and left few vestiges in Chinese history. They lived in seclusion and never had the opportunity to regain their prosperity.

About 100 years ago, the last generation of Mohists all sacrificed protecting their country from foreign invaders, afterwards, the chivalrous Mohism finally disappeared. 

Main Reasons for the Vanishing of Mohism

Mohists came from civilians and always represented common people’s interests. They strongly believed in their faith and dedicated their lives to protecting the weak ones. 

But their ideas were big threatening to emperors’ centralized power and benefits of the entire ruling class, such as everyone is equal and the emperor and officials should be elected, etc. 

Therefore, no matter how many of those Mohists had sacrificed and contributed, they had never been accepted by nobles and the ruling class, even by the nobles of those small countries that they had saved.

Another important reason was the difficulty of becoming a real Mohist: extremely brave, diligent and frugal, willing to sacrifice and contribute everything to the belief, etc. 

 

Great Philosopher Mo Tzu

Mo Di (about 476 BC — ?), also respected as Mo Tzu or Mo Zi, was the founder of Mohism, one of the four big philosophical schools in Chinese history. 

He was a great philosopher, scientist, logician, strategist, ideologist, and educationist, with high moral values.

He was the only great philosopher in ancient Chinese history that came from a civilian’s family, and represented the interests of ordinary people. In addition, he was also an exceptional, righteous pacifist, and a true hero.

Early Life and Study Experiences of Mo Tzu

Born into a peasant family, Mo Tzu learnt to read and write when he was little, and used to do carpentry works for living. 

Later, he decided to learn more knowledge about society and politics that can help people build a better world. Therefore, Mo Tzu left his family and learned Confucianism in another place.

However, most of Confucianist ideas, such as hierarchy and ancestry, were hard to accept. The ideal society that Confucius described was exactly Mo Tzu strongly opposed. 

Establishment of the Mohism

Because of the complete disagreement to the Confucianism, Mo Tzu started to create and  disseminate his own ideology. 

He represented people from lower classes, like peasants and handicraftsmen, from whom he gained large numbers of disciples and followers.

Soon, he established the Mohism, a part-political and part-philosophical organization, with strict rules and disciplines. 

Actions and Efforts to Stop Wars

Mo Tzu had traveled to many places in China, to try and persuade kings not to initiate wars.

Once, when he heard that the powerful Kingdom Chu was planning to attack a small country, he decided to stop this war, alone.

He went to the Kingdom Chu by himself, and told the king that he had amazing weapons that could defeat anyone.

Afterwards, Mo Tzu showed the King of Chu his advanced defensive instruments, and had beaten Chu’s technicians for nine times on simulated battlefield.

His outstanding engineering achievements and courage successfully stopped this big war, and saved countless lives. 

But he did not succeed all the time only by words. 

So he and his Mohists had participated in many wars to help weak countries to defend against the powerful invaders.

Mo Tzu Presenting His Advanced Defense Technologies to the King of Chu

Unaccepted Hero Mo Tzu and Declining of His Ideology

Mo Tzu’s mechanics and equipments for the wars were highly valued among those kingdoms; his political ideas, on the contrary, were never welcomed or accepted by any monarch. 

Among the great figures in the history of China, Mo Tzu was the first who entirely represented civilians’ interests.

This was an important reason that his philosophy had never been accepted by the ruling class, no matter how popular and respectful his Mohists were in the common people’s world. 

There’s no exact record in regard to when and how he left the world, but his advanced ideas and scientific achievements were well preserved and passed on for generations.  

 

Main Ideas of Mo Tzu

  • Value peace and equality; strongly oppose hierarchy and complicated etiquettes that Confucianism recommends. 

 

  • Emperors and ministers all should be elected, based on their talent and moral, instead of their family names. No one is born noble or humble. 

 

  • People should equally love each other; this kindness should surpass family and blood bonds, or class origins. 

 

  • Everyone should be practical and frugal, regardless of their fortune or social status.

 

Those elaborate, long and complicated funeral ceremonies that Confucianism valued are a waste of time, money, and resources. 

 

  • Denial of destiny.

 

People can get what they want through their efforts and hard working.

 

Destiny theory may wear down people’s wills and creativities, which is only good for the ruling classes to maintain their dominance. 

  • Heaven and nature have their own thoughts; supernatural, immortal forces, and ghosts do exist. People would be rewarded or punished based on their behaviors.

 

  • Military activities are for defending; attack and invasion are illegal and should be avoided. Defending invasions of tyrants are right and just, and should be supported.

 

Mo Tzu had written and left many practical defensive methods in regard to protect a city from attacking, which constituted a complete military defending system, including manufacture skills of weapon and equipment, construction and design of defensive structures on city wall and canals, formation and organization of warriors, etc.  

  • Human being's perception is originated from the existence of material objects.

 

  • Space and time are both limited and unlimited, based on different perspectives. Movement of things should be considered with time and space together, by observing their differences in time, and change of positions in space. 

 

  • In department of science, the Decimal System, circle, square, line and symmetric center were detailed documented.

 

Mo Tzu and his followers researched and applied the lever principle, pinhole imaging, direct ray, light and shadow imaging, pulley, transmission of sound; they also pointed out that force caused things to move, while resistance force made objects stay still.

Pinhole Imaging Documented in Book Mozi