The Ethical and Political Works of Motse Mozi

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The Ethical and Political Works of Motse [Mozi] Electronic republication of the translation by W. P. Mei (London: Probsthain, 1929) with modernized romanization and added notes Preface [Original]

Every civilization has its moulders and its spokesmen. While most recognized representatives of a culture have not been without their proper merit, many masterly and mighty souls have been allowed to sink into oblivion. In the case of China, Fate played her usual but tragic trick. While Confucius symbolizes to us the blooming flower of Chinese thought, Motse suggests but a faded blade. Yet what is, has not always been. At one time Moism with its forcefully stated doctrines on ethics, politics, economics, and religion seriously threatened Confucianism to become the representative Chinese view of life and way of living. As a matter of fact, Mencius tells us from his own mouth: "I am alarmed by these things and address myself to the defence of the doctrines of the former sages, and to oppose Yang (a follower of Taoism) and Mo."

Unfortunately for the intellectual world, Confucianism finally won out through suppression of its rival systems, including Moism. As a formal discipline, Moism has been left little noticed through all these centuries, but as an habitual way of life it has taken deep root in the soil of the nation and the fibre of the people. The vitality of the philosophy is further evidenced by the fact that Young China in her present period of unrest is again eagerly turning to her old teacher who taught under rather similar conditions over two millenniums ago.

By way of introduction, we have to be contented with these few words just to bring out the historical position and the living significance of our author. The life of the teacher and the development of his school would constitute a fascinating romance, while the organization of his doctrines would make for a beautiful system. This thrilling task and pleasant duty we have tried to execute, and the results are embodied in a companion volume, Motse, the Neglected Rival of Confucius. Therefore further remarks could only be made at the risk of tedious repetition of what we have already put very simply there on the one hand, and of distracting the reader's attention from following the philosopher himself on the other.

A few explanations on the translation, however, may not be out of place. Sun Yi-Jang's The Works Of Motse with Commentaries is universally adjudged the best among the Chinese texts of the Works. We have based our translation on his text and also our reading mainly on his commentaries. The few instances in which we have found it necessary to depart from his authority have been indicated in the footnotes.

The exclusion from the translation of the chapters in the Works that do not deal with ethical or political questions has been made both by choice and by necessity. As a glance at the "Table of Contents" will show, the chapters excluded belong to two groups, namely, the canonical chapters and their supplements and the chapters on military tactics. The latter group contain many obsolete terms and contribute little to make clear Motse's thought. Regarding the former group, besides the unsettled question as to their respective authorship, the few pages probably make the hardest reading in the whole body of Chinese literature. Even if one is sure of the meaning of their contents, which the present translator does not pretend to be, some other method than translation is necessary to convey the meaning intelligibly. As an excellent example we might cite Professor Hu Shih, who in his The Development of the Logical Method in Ancient China, attempted an exposition of some of the Moist canons.

The translation has been written quite independently. The result has been compared with the German translation of the complete Works by Professor Alfred Forke, which is the only other extensive translation of Motse in a European language. But on certain points, especially in his introductory essay, we have to disagree with his authority. At one stage in our investigation we tried to state the differences of opinion in their proper connectons, but later these notes appeared so laboured and suggestive of controversy that we decided to omit them altogether.

Regarding the English of the translation, we feel urged to repeat the explanation so often employed by translators. During the course of our work we have often had to face the dilemma between preserving the native colour and expression of the ancient Chinese author and employing modern idiomatic English. For evident reasons our decision has usually been for the former, sometimes, perhaps, at the expense of the latter. But we still hope we have succeeded in presenting the work in intelligible English.

The quotations from other works found in this volume are all translated from the respective Chinese texts. In the case of the numerous quotations from the Classics, we acknowledge the great pains taken by James Legge by giving reference to his translation of each passage, although we have very seldom been able to adopt his version without modification. This is done not only that the readers may be able to compare the different readings, but also that they may have the opportunity to get a view of the setting and significance of the passage where it is beyond the scope of the footnotes in this volume to make clear.

Besides my debt to Sun Yi-Jang as indicated above, I must take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Professor Lewis Hodous of Columbia University, who has patiently read over the MSS. in their first draft, and made numerous suggestions. I have taken advantage of a number of these. Dr. Berthold Laufer of the Chicago Field Museum has also spent time and given advice on the translation. To Professor J. H. Tufts of the University of Chicago, that high-minded and tender-hearted teacher, who not only gave constant encouragement throughout this undertaking but also spent his much needed vacation last Spring reading the MSS., I owe more than I can adequately express. Finally I want here to show my appreciation of the hospitality extended to me by the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., where I did a large part of this translation under very favourable conditions.

Y. P. Mei. LONDON.

July, 1927.

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