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  • Born: c. 468 BCE
  • Died: c. 376 BCE

Mozi, or Mo Tzu, was a prominent scholar of China's Warring States Period. His teachings form the philosophy known as Mohism.

Like Confucius, little is known about Mozi's biography; he is mostly known only from a text, referred to simply as The Mozi, which purports to relate his philosophy. Legends differ as to his origins; he may have been from the State of Song, or like Confucius, from the State of Lu. Some sources suggest he may have been a former criminal, since his surname means "tattoo"; others suggest he was an artisan or carpenter, since much of his philosophy has very practical underpinnings. The sophistication of his thought has also led some to suggest Mozi may have been a direct student of Confucius.

Among his chief ideas was that violence, inequality, hardship and so forth derived chiefly from the human tendency to be partial. So long as people valued their own families, and their own states, over those of others, there would be disparity and conflict. His solution was for people to try to consider others as equal to, or the same as, themselves; in other words, to see an attack on another state as if it were an attack on one's own state, to appreciate the suffering of others by understanding the feeling of one's own suffering. Further, he suggested that an end to conflict would be a benefit to all.

While there are similarities and overlaps between the philosophies of Mozi and Confucius - e.g. in Confucius' idea of humaneness (仁, C: rén), which similarly advocated a "do unto others as you would wish to be done unto yourself" approach - Mozi critiqued social hierarchies and ritual customs which Confucius reinforced. Where adherence to ritual decorum or etiquette (礼, ), and to the five relationships, are central concepts in Confucianism, Mozi advised against confusing what is customary for what is right, and critiqued for example the lengthy (and thus inefficient & wasteful) mourning practices of the elites. While Confucius advocated adherence to cultural norms already well-established, Mozi called for questioning and reconsidering those norms in the light of what might actually be more moral, or more appropriate.


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 33-36.