Chivalrous Mohism and Philosopher Mozi

Unearthed Bronze Carriage of the Warring States Period

Unearthed Bronze Carriage of the Warring States Period — Nanjing Museum 

 

Ancient Philosophy Mohism and The Founder Mozi

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

In the flourishing Hundred Schools of Thought Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC), it was a systematic, philosophical organization that was as flourishing as Confucianism.

Mozi (or Mo Tzu), 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 to wars and Confucianism ideas, such as hierarchy, ancestry, and complicated etiquette.

Their ideas and technologies were recorded in the book Mozi.

 

Mohism As A Mysterious and Chivalrous Organization

People within the Mohist organization 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 to their leader “Ju Zi”, and were extremely loyal, sincere, hard-working, skillful, and chivalrous.

Hence, it was an independent kingdom with strict discipline, strong beliefs, 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 participated in many wars, all of which were helping small countries to defeat strong enemies. 

 Unearthed Weapons of the Warring States Period (Photo by Dongmaiying)

 

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 Legalism as the official dominant philosophy. 

During these annexation wars, large numbers of those extremely talented Mohist warriors 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. 

Afterward, 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, and their chivalrous organization finally disappeared.

Intense and Cruel War that Mohists had Participated

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 a big threat 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, frugal, willing to sacrifice and contribute everything to the belief, etc. 

 

Great Philosopher Mozi

Mo Di (about 476 BC — 390 BC), also respected as Mozi or Mo Tzu, was the founder of Mohism, one of the four big philosophical schools in the history of ancient China. 

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 family and represented the interests of ordinary people. Besides, he was also an exceptional, righteous pacifist, and a true hero. 

humble born great philosopher Mo Tzu

Early Life and Study Experiences of Mozi

Born into a peasant family, Mozi learned to read and write when he was little, and used to do carpentry work for a living. 

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

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

Well Trained and Brave Swordsman of Mohism

Well Trained and Brave Mohist Swordsman

Mozi's Establishment of the Mohism

Because of the complete disagreement with Confucianism, Mozi started to create and disseminate his ideology. 

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

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

Bronze Pliers of the State Qin — National Museum of China
Bronze Gear of the Warring States Period — Luoyang Museum

Bronze Pliers and Gear of the Warring States Period  (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Mozi's Actions and Efforts to Stop Wars

Mozi 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.

Afterward, Mozi showed the King of Chu his advanced defensive instruments and had beaten Chu’s technicians nine times on the 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

Mozi Presenting His Advanced Defense Technologies to the King of Chu

Unaccepted Hero Mozi and Declining of His Ideology

Mozi’s mechanics and types of equipment 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, Mozi 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 regarding when and how he left the world, but his advanced ideas and scientific achievements were well preserved and passed on for generations.  

Inlaying Gold and Silver Bronze Crossbow (Nu Ji) of the Han Dynasty

Inlaying Gold and Silver Bronze Crossbow (Nu Ji) of the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD) — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

 

Main Beliefs of Mozi and Mohist Doctrines

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

 

  • Like ancient sage kings, the monarchs and ministers all should be elected, based on their talent and morals, 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. This is a common benefit of the world.

 

  • 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 work.

 

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

Philosopher Mo Tzu Teaching His Students
  • Heaven and nature have their thoughts; supernatural beings, immortal forces, and ghosts do exist. People would be rewarded or punished based on their behaviors.

 

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

 

Mozi had written and left many practical defensive methods regarding protecting a city from attacking, which constituted a complete military defending system, including manufacturing skills of weapons and equipment, construction, and design of defensive structures on the city wall and canals, formation, and organization of warriors, etc.  

  • Human beings' perceptions originated from the existence of material objects.

 

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

 

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

 

Mozi and his followers researched and applied the lever principle, pinhole imaging, direct ray, light and shadow imaging, pulley, and the 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

Pinhole Imaging Documented in Book Mozi