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Mo Tzu Sayings ☼

The ancient Chinese philosopher Mo Tzu (470? – 391? BCE), also known as Mo-tzu, Mozu (Pinyin), Motze, Motse, Master Mo and more, taught universal love and concern. His teachings, called Mohism, challenged Confucianism for some centuries. Mo Tzu was drawn to common people and liked simplicity and straightforwardness in human relations.

Mo left the Mo-tzu, a work where his doings and sayings are found. Mohism split into three schools after Mo-tzu's death. His gospel of universal love and ascetic living soon became embodied in an organized church with a succession of Elder Masters.

He taught that worthy persons should be found and promoted into high positions. However, lower men tend to interpret "worthy men" as being members of "our party" or "one of us" quite readily.

One mark of being a worthy man in power is sorrow for being in a high, influential position. Through lack of such sorrow, some low-grade worthy persons may be detected - perhaps. Worthier worthy ones probably live so that the do not fall short and thereby sorrow, and may not be known to all and sundry either, according to the Tao Te Ching (Chap. 17, etc.). It says many best folks may not be ferreted out or fathomed.

1. Honoured mutual benefits if possible

Mo Tzu enunciates a principle that is called "honouring the worthy". (Book 2. 3). There are many problems around it, explains Hui-chieh Loy (in Defoort and Standaert 2013, 205-37).

As feudal lords do not love one another, they will fight in the fields. As heads of families do not love one another, they will usurp one another. As individuals do not love one another, they will injure one another.

[The many will oppress the few], the rich will insult the poor. . . . Because of want of mutual love, all the calamities, usurpations, hatred, and animosity in the world have arisen. Therefore the man of humanity condemns it. - Mo Tzu, in Wing-tsit Chan 1969, 213-214)

2. About finding worthy persons to promote into high positions for the good of the country

In the Mohist canon there is a tendency to see the problematic conduct of people as largely springing from wrong doctrine, tells Hui-chieh Loy further.

Musical displays of the aristocracy are condemned as immoral, Hui-chieh Loy sums up. (Chap. 32)

Heaven wants to have the world live and dislikes to have it die, wants to have it rich and dislikes to have it poor, and wants to have it orderly and dislikes to have it chaotic. Therefore I know Heaven wants righteousness and dislikes unrighteousness. - Mo Tzu, in Chan 1969, 218; (cf. JeeLoo Liu 2006, 117)

3. Merely persuaded people are ridiculed for being persuaded and possibly used

The duty of rulers is to seek out men of wisdom and virtue and employ them. "'Elevating the Worthy' . . . the policy of elevating worthy and capable people to office in government whatever their social origin is a fundamental principle of good governance," Hui-chieh Loy, summarises chaps 8-10. ✪ 


Being schooled or otherwise persuaded into a job may taste of being tricked, even though few manage to realise it at first.

If those on top honour unworthy men, the worthy are likely to suffer deprivations and more.

Chuang's forewarnings against being greatly useful may be meet with bafflement and ridicule.


Mo Tzu quotations, Mozi as quoted, Literature  

Defoort, Carine, and Nicolas Standaert, eds. 2013. The Mozi as an Evolving Text: Different Voices in Early Chinese Thought. Leiden: Brill.

Hui-chieh Loy. Nd. "Mozi (Mo-tzu, c. 400s–300s B.C.E.)." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

JeeLoo Liu. 2006. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy: From Ancient Philosophy to Chinese Buddhism. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Mei, W. P., tr. The Book of Mo Tzu. Source: "The Ethical and Political Works of Motse." (London: A. Probsthain, 1929.) Chinese Text Project.

Wing-tsit Chan. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton Paperback ed. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969.

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