(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)


Few facts are known about the life of Mozi (MOH-tsih), although tradition claims he was from the lower classes and worked as a carpenter. His teachings are preserved in a book, Mozi (fifth century b.c.e.; The Ethical and Political Works of Motse, 1929; also known as Mo Tzu: Basic Writings, 1963), compiled by his disciples. Based on this source, Mozi seems to have been a forceful, pragmatic thinker whose primary concern was to promote an ideal government that would bring the greatest good to the common people of China. In a time of growing religious skepticism, Mozi taught respect for spirit beings. He wanted both rulers and subjects to follow the will of heaven by practicing “universal love” and abstaining from offensive war.

Mozi’s ideal society is strongly hierarchical, with all members required to follow the examples of their superiors. Even the emperor is obligated to model himself on heaven. Mozi’s followers embraced this authoritarian model, swearing absolute obedience to their leaders.


For several centuries after Mozi’s death, his followers were renowned for their defensive military skills. Tradition claims they often rushed to save besieged cities. Mozi’s teachings advanced the development of Chinese logical thought and influenced later Chinese concepts of proper government.

Further Reading:

Fung, Yu-lan. A...

(The entire section is 508 words.)