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MO Zi-Precursor of modern Chinese Philosophy and Science-01: Cultivating The Self

MO Zi, the Chinese social and philosophical precursor.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is the second of a few posts dedicated to MO Zi and the school of thought that was formed around him, Mohism, we presented in the preceding post.

Here we start our first excerpt from the Mohist corpus with this text found in part one, the epitomes, chapter 2: ‘About Cultivating the Self’. Source: Ian Johnston’s 2013 Penguin Books English translation: ‘MO Zi, the Book of Master MO’, Penguin Classics. Pages 8, 9 and 10.

Let’s keep in mind that this movement flourished around 770–221 B.C.A., during the ‘Spring & Autumn’ and Warring States period in China!


II. Cultivating the Self 修 身.

2.1. For a noble man, although there is strategy in warfare, it is courage that is fundamental; although there is ritual in mourning, it is grief that is fundamental. In being in office, although there is learning, it is right conduct that is fundamental. It the root is not secure, there is no way for the branches and leaves to flourish. If one does not cherish those who are in near, one cannot induce those from afar to come. If one does not cherish one’s own family, one cannot devote oneself to outsiders. If one does not have an end and a beginning in the conduct of affairs, one cannot complete many undertakings. If one is obscure in raising something, one cannot be widely heard. This is why former kings, in bringing order to the world, certainly examined the near and solicited the distant. A noble man is one who examines the near and cultivates the self. If he sees conduct that is not cultivated, or if he is vilified, he reflects on his own mistakes. In this way, resentment is minimized and right conduct is cultivated. If slanderous and vilifying words do not enter his ears, if critical and offensive sounds do not issue from his mouth, if he doesn’t harbour thoughts of killing and maiming in his heart, then even if there are people who would slander and accuse him, they would have nothing to rely on.

2.2. Thus, a noble man’s exertions daily grow stronger, his aspirations daily grow higher and his accomplishments daily grow more flourishing. The Way of the noble man is this: when poor to display honesty and when rich to display right actions, to show love towards the living and to show pity towards the dead. These are four matters in which there is no place for him to be false; they are matters on which he must examine himself. What is stored in his heart is inexhaustible love. What is manifest in his behaviour is inexhaustible reverence. What comes forth from his mouth are words of inexhaustible refinement. If virtue extends to his four limbs, inheres in the flesh of his body and is not abandoned, even to the extreme of age, he is indeed a sage.

2.3. In one whose will is not strong, wisdom is not far-reaching. In one whose words are not trustworthy, conduct is not efficacious. One who has wealth but cannot share it with others is not worth befriending. One whose adherence to the Way is  not genuine, whose view of things is narrow and not broad, whose discrimination between right and wrong is not perspicacious, is not worth having as a comrade. When the root is not secure, the branches are inevitably endangered. When there is bravery without cultivation, there is inevitably indolence. When the source is turbid, what flows is not clear. When conduct is not trustworthy, reputation is not born out of nothing. Praise does not grow of its own accord. If merit is achieved, reputation follows. Reputation and praise cannot be empty and false. These are matters that should be looked at in oneself.

2.4. One who devotes his attention to words but is tardy in conduct will certainly not be listened to, even though he argues well. One who expends a lot of energy but brags about his achievement will certainly not be chosen, even though he works hard. One who is wise discriminates in his mind, but does not complicate his words. Exert strength, but do not brag about achievement. In this way, reputation and praise spread through the world. In speaking, devote attention to wisdom and not to amount; devote attention to clear analysis and not to eloquence. Not to be wise, and not to analyse clearly, but to be indolent in oneself is to take the opposite road. Goodness that is not paramount within the mind is not enduring. Conduct that is not debated within oneself is not established. reputation cannot be treated lightly and still be achieved. Praise cannot be sought cunningly and still be established. A noble man must match his words with his deeds. Nobody who concentrates on seeking profit and carelessly disregards his reputation can ever be deemed an officer of the world.


Original Chinese- 02章 修身原文 原文





An Illustration of the popular view of MO Zi, as champion of the people, himself of humble origin and figure of integrity and justice. A true people’s hero! Image Source: ©


Chinese text source: 🌿 About MO Zi : 🌿 About Mohism:
MO Zi-Precursor of modern Chinese Philosophy and Science-01: Cultivating The Self

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