Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Mozi (book)

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(trad.) Mo Di



Original title

Classical Chinese

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Philosophy books
Han Feizi, Mencius, Looking for God, Heidegger Gesamtausgabe, Primary Lessons in Christian

The Mozi (Chinese: 墨子) is an ancient Chinese text from the Warring States period (476–221 BC) that expounds the philosophy of Mohism. It propounds such Mohist ideas as impartiality, meritocratic governance, economic growth, and an aversion to ostentation, and is known for its plain and simple language.


The chapters of the Mozi can be divided into several categories: a core group of 31 chapters, which contain the basic philosophic ideas of the Mohist school; several chapters on logic, which are among the most important early Chinese texts on logic and are traditionally known as the "Dialectical Chapters"; five sections containing stories and information about Mozi and his followers; and eleven chapters on technology and defensive warfare, on which the Mohists were expert and which are valuable sources of information on ancient Chinese military technology. There are also two other minor sections: an initial group of seven chapters that are clearly of a much later date, and two anti-Confucian chapters, only one of which has survived.

The Mohist philosophical school died out in the 3rd century BC, and copies of the Mozi were not well preserved. The modern text has been described as "notoriously corrupt": of its 71 original chapters, 18 have been lost and several others are badly fragmented.


The Mozi, as well as the entire philosophical school of Mohism, is named for and traditionally ascribed to Mo Di, or "Master Mo" (Chinese: Mòzǐ 墨子), a figure of the 5th century BC about whom nothing is reliably known. Most sources describe him as being from the State of Lu, though one says that he was from the State of Song, and say that he traveled around the various Warring States trying to persuade their rulers to stop attacking each other. Mozi seems to have come from a humble family, and some elements of the book suggest that he may have been some type of artisan or craftsman, such as a carpenter. Some scholars have theorized that the name Mo (墨), which means "ink", may not truly be a surname, but is indicative of him having undergone the branding or tattooing that was used in ancient China as a form of corporal punishment for criminals.


The Mozi originally comprised 71 chapters, but 18 of these have been lost and a number of others are damaged and fragmented. The text can be divided into a total of six sections:

  • Chapters 1–7: a group of miscellaneous essays and dialogues that were clearly added at a later date and are somewhat incongruous with the rest of the book.
  • Chapters 8–37: a large group of chapters—of which seven are missing and three are fragmentary—that form the core Mozi chapters, and elucidate the ten main philosophical doctrines of the Mohist school of thought. Mozi is frequently referenced and cited in these chapters.
  • Chapters 38–39: two chapters—of which only chapter 39 survives—entitled "Against Confucianism" (Fēi Rú 非儒), containing polemical arguments against the ideals of Confucianism. These chapters are sometimes grouped with chapters 8–37.
  • Chapters 40–45: a group of five chapters, often called the "Dialectical Chapters", which are some of the most unique writings of ancient China, treating topics in logic, epistemology, ethics, geometry, optics, and mechanics. These chapters are dense and difficult, largely because the text is badly garbled and corrupted.
  • Chapters 46–51: six chapters—of which chapter 51, including even its title, has been lost—that contain stories and dialogues about Mozi and his followers. These chapters are probably of somewhat later date, and are probably partly fictional.
  • Chapters 52–71: a group of chapters—nine of which have been lost—known as the "Military Chapters", containing instructions on defensive warfare, supposedly from Mozi to his chief disciple Qin Guli. These chapters, like the "Dialectical Chapters", are badly damaged and corrupted.
  • Selected translations

    The damaged nature of the later chapters of the Mozi have made its translations highly difficult, and often requires translators to repair and re-edit the text before translating. The first Mozi translation in a Western language—the German translation of Alfred Forke—was done before these problems were well understood, and thus contains a large number of errors in the "Dialectical" and "Military" chapters. Only the late 20th century did accurate translations of the later Mozi chapters appear.

  • (German) Alfred Forke (1922), Mê Ti: des Socialethikers und seiner Schüler philosophische Werke, Berlin: Kommissions-verlag des Vereinigung wissenshafticher Verleger.
  • Y. P. Mei (1929), The Ethical and Political Works of Motse, London: Probsthain. Reprinted (1974), Taipei: Ch'eng-wen.
  • Burton Watson (1963), Mo Tzu: Basic Writings, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • A. C. Graham (1978), Later Mohist Logic, Ethics, and Science, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.
  • Ian Johnston (2010), The Mozi: A Complete Translation, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.
  • Many Mozi translations into modern Mandarin Chinese and Japanese exist.


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